Grace Slick - vocals; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
The late October 1966 Jefferson Airplane Fillmore recordings are fascinating historical documents, capturing the band just days before they began recording their classic Surrealistic Pillow album, right at the transition point when Grace Slick joined the group. This early February 1967 run, a mere three months later, is perhaps even more interesting, as it captures the band within days of that album's release.
In concert, Grace Slick is beginning to display a much stronger, more charismatic stage presence; and instrumentally, the band has become significantly more aggressive and adventurous, particularly Kaukonen and Casady, who are already beginning to propel the group's sonic directions into areas previously unexplored. This is a magic moment in the band's history, occurring just prior to "The Summer of Love." Within the next few months, the band would begin gaining international attention, and consequently, experience countless new pressures and difficulties that would ultimately cause this classic lineup to splinter into various factions. For a brief time, however - captured clearly on the recordings during this run - Jefferson Airplane's music was truly a group effort and almost perfectly balanced.
For decades, a compilation of recordings from the February 5 evening show and the four songs from this February 4 afternoon show have circulated together, as Bill Graham provided a composite of this material to KSAN radio for broadcast. With Graham's unedited master reels of the performances from this run logged, it is now possible to notate the five Jefferson Airplane sets accurately.
During the studio sessions for Surrealistic Pillow, the band had rearranged Darby Slick's composition, "Somebody To Love," as a showcase song for Grace. By increasing the tempo and adding harmony vocal arrangements, they had transformed the song which would soon catapult the band onto the charts. The recording begins with one of the earliest documented live performances of this new arrangement. The set continues with an outstanding instrumental jam; led by Jorma and Jack, the band forges into deep improvisational territory. This is a fascinating exploration that reveals just how much the band's music had progressed over the past few months. Already well respected for their outstanding vocal arrangements, the band was now becoming distinguished as highly original musicians, as well. Next up is "3/5 of a Mile In 10 Seconds." After several months of development, including a finished studio session, this had now become one of their most powerful concert staples.
The set concludes with Donovan's "Fat Angel" which has also progressed considerably over the past few months. This song, with its lyric "Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time," was now drawing even closer to becoming the charged, improvisational vehicle it was destined for; things were just getting ready to take off.
Written by Alan Bershaw