on January 30, 2006
Reviewing this album under normal criteria is difficult. Recorded live on what must have been some fairly rudimentary equipment in San Francisco's Matrix Club in 1966 the sound quality is much better than you could reasonably expect, but still pretty basic. And the group? Well they can certainly play but their sound is closer to a highly competent, left field "garage" band than the sophisticated musical interactions of Jefferson Airplane which, of course, with the exception of Grace Slick, they're not. And the songs? Well, here's where it gets more interesting for in amongst a lot of fairly mediocre stuff there are several excellent and insidiously unforgettable workouts, in particular "Arbitration", "Grimly Forming" & "Sally Go Round the Roses", all of which have a driving power that's up there with the best from mid 60's San Francisco.
So, star rating so far?... probably three. But that's not really what's going on here. First off this is one of the very few recordings of "hippie" music at a time when it was at its most determinedly innovative. Listen to some of the rudimentary but creatively wonderful guitar solos & arrangements and you're plugging into something quite unique... a live recording of a band that's pushing the boundaries out into uncharted areas. And then there's Grace Slick herself, stamping her vocal authority over it all and pushing the music even further out through her still unsophisticated but soaring range that makes you realise why San Francisco's best group wanted her out front. Plus, if that's not enough, you get her very different and intensely delivered original versions of the two "killer" Airplane songs - "White Rabbit" & "Somebody to Love" - that were to catapult them and her to international fame.
This is, quite simply, history in the making captured, like very few albums before or since, in all its raw, flawed and intense glory. For anyone seriously interested in the era or the roots of San Francisco's catalytic impact on 1960's music it's not only essential but a five star gem.
on June 6, 2006
When I was a kid back in the tumultuous Sixties only audiophiles could afford decent sound equipment. The rest of us were reduced to putting the microphones of our cassette recorders up against the speakers of our AM radios if we wanted to record our favorite songs. The resulting tapes always sounded like they'd been recorded in a storm drain, but there was an authenticity to those crummy recordings that no amount of high-tech can ever match. We LOVED those songs, we WANTED those songs, and by God we were gonna HAVE those songs.
Listening to these early Great Society recordings gives me the same feeling. The Great Society has acheived a near-mythic status as the proto-Jefferson Airplane in the collective memory of the San Francisco-Flowers-In-Your-Hair veterans brigade. It is hard to admit that The Great Society was "such a half-assed band," as Grace Slick described it. It's a certainty that there are scores of dusty reel-to-reels of better and more deserving unknown bands of that era hidden in broom closets throughout America.
But The Great Society had two things going for it that no other Frisco bar band of the era could match, those being a repetiore of good songs (and not just "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" either), and Grace Slick. The raw musicianship of The Great Society puts you in mind of your college roommate who played Bob Dylan tunes all day on his $75 beach guitar. Like him, at least they tried really hard to sound like something. Still, they are utter tyros. Their sincerity is wonderful, and their ability to sample varied phrases from others' songs is effective, but it doesn't make them at all "innovative" or "the first psychedelic band of the era" as other reviewers would have it. If they had been they would have had their own fifteen minutes of fame and not been a mere footnote to the Airplane. Darby Slick, the band's second most talented musician/composer, vanished from the commercial music scene to reemerge years later after studying music in India. Tentative though sloppy elements of Indian ragas do pepper The Great Society's songs, predating even George Harrison's experiments with The Beatles, but they are the attempts of a dedicated amateur. In the intervening decades Darby developed his talent, and did invent "the Slick," a unique type of fretless guitar. As a matter of fact, Jerry, Darby and Grace Slick were inspired to form the band only after seeing the Jefferson Airplane perform live at the Matrix where the tapes that make up this disc were recorded. The Airplane essentially created and then discovered them. Shortly thereafter, the Airplane shanghaied Grace. Yes, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but that doesn't mean your favorite band won't steal your lead singer.
Grace both overwhelms and uplifts her woefully untalented bandmates. Her singing is like a blast of raw power that completely swamps the reedy background notes of The Great Society. Amazingly, that voice alone manages to move The Great Society from their garage to your cousin's wedding. It is also, before years of alcohol, cigarettes, drug abuse, and overuse, clear as a bell, smoother than milk, and mesmerizingly erotic. Hearing Grace on this disc left no question as to why the Airplane had to have her.
The songs themselves are certainly deserving of some serious attention, whether covers or originals, both in choice or composition. "Sally Go Round The Roses" has a disturbing and hypnotic undertone. "Father Bruce" is a topical pop-rocker celebrating the immortal Lenny. Grace's cover of "Nature Boy" shows she can easily handle a true standard even with truly substandard backing. And of course, "Somebody To Love" (written by Darby) and "White Rabbit" (written by Grace) became the best-known Summer of Love classics. "Somebody To Love" sounds less dynamic in the hands of The Great Society, but the original "White Rabbit" has a less structured, more improvisational, and trippier feel to it than the Airplane's version. However, just because they are the original versions doesn't mean that they are necessarily "better" versions; but they are different. Given what the Airplane did with them, it would be interesting to see what another band might do with the rest of The Great Society's playlist.
THE GREAT SOCIETY is a curio recording, but one that's indispensable if you want to feel the experience of the earliest days of Acid Rock; and well worth it if you want to experience Grace Slick at her purest.
on August 23, 2006
Grace Slick & the Great Society, a band that deserves a lot more credit than people, Grace included, give it. I found this band completly on accident and... I must say, it was the best mistake I ever made.
I am a fan of Jefferson Airplane, and though, I agree that this band is not as sophicticated as Jefferson Airplane, it is, indeed an important one. After listening, it was clear to see that Jefferson Airplane might not have been what they were without this band. It was deffenatly an experiment, but one that pushed boundaries, something that not too many are brave enough to do. The songs are edgy for it's time and obvioiusly a building block for Grace Slick's later greatness.
This group litterly became one of my favourites over night. It puts me in an indescribable mood that I have yet to feel from any other musical group. Yes, to most they sound mildly amiturish, but, it's their unknowingness and ability to experiment and improvise that truely makes them great. It's basically a must have for anyone who is a serious fan of the '60's San Fransciso musical scene.
on April 9, 2005
Being quite the fan of Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane, and other 60s groups, I bought this album only having heard two songs on it--"Daydream Nightmare" and "Outlaw Blues". At first I was a little puzzled--The Great Society sounded different than any band I'd ever heard before. After listening to it about two more times, I realized this uniqueness was a good thing! They sound a little rougher than your average 60s band, and they were--Grace, her first husband, and her brother-in-law assembled this band out of a few of their friends and it only was around for about a year. The Great Society definitely isn't a band for everyone, but if you love interesting-sounding music, want to hear some of the earlier forms of psychedelic rock, or are just curious about how Grace Slick sounded before the *smoother* recordings of Jefferson Airplane, this is the band for you!
A quick review of all the songs:
Sally Go 'Round the Roses: A great way to open this CD. Pay special attention to the instrumental break in the middle--it's amazing! (Any time this group does an instrumental solo, it will be VERY good.)
Didn't Think So: In my opinion, one of the weaker songs on this album, but a fine song just the same.
Grimly Forming: An overall fantastic song to listen to with intriguing lyrics and another great instrumental section. (I love the tambourine--it adds an interesting air to the song.)
Somebody To Love: Yes, here it is--the ORIGINAL version of the Jefferson Airplane hit, written by Darby Slick, Grace's brother-in-law. This has a much less *psychedelic* sound than the JA version, but they're both equally as good.
Father Bruce: This is a very catchy song written about Lenny Bruce as if he were a preacher. Fun to sing along with.
Outlaw Blues: This is a cover of a Bob Dylan song, I think. Grace's voice on this is incredible.
Often As I May: Another fun song that's almost as catchy as Father Bruce.
Arbitration: This song is mostly some great instrumentals but features some singing from David Minor (he did rhythm guitar, I believe.)
White Rabbit: Yup, another original version of a JA song! This song's about 6:20 because there are 4 minutes of great guitar/sax playing at the beginning. Almost better than the JA version!
That's How It Is: A cheery song with fun words. You'll definitely be singing this one aftewards.
Darkly Smiling: This is another "weak link" on the CD. (There aren't many, thankfully!) It does have some interesting lyrics, though.
Nature Boy: Grace's singing/recorder playing make this song memorable.
You Can't Cry: This is a fun rock song, with the usual great guitar playing from Darby Slick.
Daydream Nightmare: This is one of the more *psychedelic* and dark songs on the album, with great bass and guitar playing and more of Grace's recorder. This is definitely not a song to skip over.
Everybody Knows: Also a fun rock song, and yes, another catchy one.
Born To Be Burned: This song is a little less exceptional, but it does have a good bass line, and some good guitar.
Father: A FANTASTIC way to end the album! This song is a nearly-seven minute long instrumental that builds up to an amazingly frantic crescendo. Not a song that will keep you bored!
on November 11, 2003
This is Gracie before she was knee deep in the hoopla...before the Airplane before the Top Ten hits. Her voice is perfect- raw, sincere, dreamy, surrealistic. This CD takes you back before the 60s' San Francisco music scene became a tourist attraction. It shows why Grace is one of the most innovative rock n roll vocalists of all time...Somebody to Love, Sally Go Round the Roses, Father Bruce...this CD is a trip.
on January 18, 2007
This is one of my favorite albums with a fabulous recording of white rabit, not to mention someone to love and saly go round the roses...if you love grace slick's voice you will love this
on December 28, 2009
I had the originial album, (what happened to it ? who knows) the 2 songs missing from the originial was Somebody to Love, and White Rabbit. I think it had something to do with RCA not releasing them to Columbia records. Anyway this cd holds up to time very well. Grace is just AMAZING....singing almost all the songs live at a club date that maybe 100 people attended. The Great Society in my opinion was fresh, origional, innovative, and sooooo unique. Grace is just haunting, listening to this cd sends chills up my spine. Raw talent, before all the drugs and booze. Listen to Sally Go Round the Roses,Darkly Smiling, Nature Boy. The garage element just adds to it's uniqueness. I love female singers, and I think I heard most of them but Grace Slick in the mid 60;s was just truely a voice from the heavens. This cd proves that . RAW, HONEST,POWERFUL,and TRUELY Grace Slick. If you a fan BUY THIS CD...............
on June 22, 2010
Prior to being in the Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick fronted a band called The Great Society, which included her then husband, Jerry Slick, on drums, and her brother-in-law, Darby Slick, on guitar and vocals. From what I've read, the group was inspired to form after seeing the Jefferson Airplane, which is ironic insofar as Grace subsequently left The Great Society to join the Jefferson Airplane after their original lead singer, Signe Toly Anderson, left the band following the birth of her first child. You might also be surprised to know that two of the Jefferson Airplane's most popular songs, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" originally were created by The Great Society. The CD, "Collector's Item" reportedly was made from two live recordings in 1966 at the Matrix Club, in San Francisco, which initially were released separately on vinyl as "Conspicuous Only in its Absence" and "How It Was." Admittedly, there is a garage band quality to many of the songs on this CD, but that is an essential part of its beauty, at least to me, because it underscores the extent to which the musical sound the band was seeking to create was raw, fresh, and improvisational, and based more on a communal "zeitgeist" rather than their technical musical proficiency. For those interested in catching a glimpse of the roots of the San Francisco rock scene of the mid to late 1960's, this is a valuable CD. In addition to "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," this CD compilation includes a number of other really good early psychedelic songs, including "Sally Go Round the Roses," "Grimly Forming," Often As I May," "Arbitration," "Darkly Smiling," "Born To Be Burned," and "Father." Grace Slick definitely was one of the best female rock vocalists of all time, and her singing is in fine form on this CD, which she has the lead vocal on for all but two songs ("Arbitration" and "You Can't Cry") as well as the last song on the disc, "Father," which is a pure instrumental number that has no vocals. Highly recommended.
on February 7, 2005
"Grace Slick and The Great Society" - this album IS the sixties! If you remember the sixties or ever wondered what they were, listen to this album. Nothing you may have listened to or heard from that time period compares to these tracks.
I will only mention two tracks, and these two are more than enough to justify buying the entire cd: "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love". If you think you know these two songs, think again. You probably remember Grace's version of them with The Jefferson Airplane. After you listen to her live versions on this album with her brother's band "The Great Society", you will never again think of The Jefferson Airplane's renderings. These tracks are diamonds!
I highly recommend that you get this cd, not for your "collection", but to listen to and enjoy again and again and again. And you won't need me to coxe you to play it . . . you'll be addicted to it's magic and probably encourage your friends to get their own copies.
Grace Slick, wherever you are, thanks for performing and recording the tracks on this "live" album way back in the day. Your vocals, and the bands instrumental creativity will outlive us all for many many decades yet to come. :)
A well assembled seventeen track compilation of Grace Slick's work. Did not realize at first that this was in, reality - a live CD recording - looks to be the exact (same track listing) as the band's 'Live At The Matrix' disc that took place in 1966 - no complaint there. Some Jefferson Airplane tunes here as well as songs from her pre-Airplane one-lp band, Great Society. See my review of their 'Born To Be Burned' CD. Most enjoyable cuts are the rocking "Sally Go 'Round The Roses", "Outlaw Blues", "Daydream Nightmare" and the 'original' edits for "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", which sound a bit more folk-ish but still great. A nice little rarity for long time Airplane fans, fanatics and die-hard collectors. A definite should-have.