The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane appeared under my Christmas tree, I am guessing in 1970. It was a present from my grandparents. As I had all their studio albums, it sat on the shelf for years. However, I remain impressed that my grandparents knew of the Jefferson Airplane and would actually go out and purchase one of their albums. It probably helped that the group was not pictured on the cover.
A great deal happened to the Airplane between the release of the studio albums Volunteers in 1969 and Bark in 1971. So gentle readers let me present to you, in as few words as possible, a historical review of those wacky psychedelic practitioners, the Jefferson Airplane, 1969-1971. Woodstock, Altamont, Marty unhappy, Paul lucky, Grace pregnant, no touring, Spencer gone, Joey C, Blows Against The Empire, Hot Tuna, Marty really unhappy, and the Vietnam War keeps rolling along.
The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane was released to fill space between albums given all that was going on with the group. This release is a compilation of their best known songs. I understand the idea behind the title but thought it was kind of dumb in 1970 and actually still do. As far as the music goes there are many essential tracks from the psychedelic era. At the time I felt that many of the songs were not as powerful as when released in their original studio album contexts. Their albums up until that point were consistently excellent and these songs were all parts of that creative wholeness.
This album has improved with age. As the songs are presented chronologically, it provides a good introduction to the Jefferson Airplane and the music of a bygone era. I now find that I play this album more than the studio releases.
The placement and selection of the songs was brilliant. Two of the most memorable psychedelic songs in music history, “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit” are separated by the beautiful ballad, “Today.” They really fit well together and the transitions from one to the other serve to highlight the strengths of each song. Likewise, “We Can Be Together” and “Volunteers” are presented back to back as the final tracks on the album. The group tended to perform them that way in concert and the power and anti-establishment sentiment of each make both more effective.
It was a generous album in its original vinyl context as it contained fifteen tracks. “It’s No Secret,” “Embryonic Journey,” “The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil,” “Crown Of Creation,” and “Chushingura” transport the listener back to a musical time long gone. “Lather” was a song Grace Slick wrote for Spencer Dryden who was turning thirty which was considered old in rock ‘n’ roll age. Today her daughter is approaching forty.
The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane has gone from a filler album to an important part of the group’s legacy. It contains a number of individual tracks for the soul and mind. And no I never did play it for my grandparents.