on August 25, 2003
I'll leave the critical reviews to those who made their opinions known under the prior release of this CD. Suffice to say this is a very good, underrated album in the JA/JS canon. The query here is "Why should I buy this CD"? Simply put, the remastered 24 bit sound is ASTOUNDING. The interplay between Casady/Kaukonen/Dryden is now revealed with a clarity that finally makes a definitive case for the trio being the premier musicians of the SF rock scene. The muddiness of the prior releases, even the problems with the mid 90's "remasters", is almost completly removed, with only the slightest tape hiss to distract you during some of the quieter sections. Thankfully, the vocals of Slick/Balin and Kantner are also revealed in all their glory, leaving no doubt as to the quality that needs to be re-discovered about JA. If you have a high-end stereo system this release is a must buy, and not a bad bargain those who don't.
on December 9, 2003
'Masterpiece' is a ubiquitous word, but it's the only one that properly describes this album. This is the definitive album from five extremely talented Californian hipsters known as Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady and Spencer Dryden all merged their creative strengths together to turn rock music into something revolutionary and monumental.
First of all, this re-mastered version is a real treat. Super sound quality, bonus songs and a detailed booklet full of rare photos and liner notes. The band had already set the world on fire with their first three albums, showing their remarkable, divine vocal harmonies, and CROWN OF CREATION proved their excellence even further.
They open the album with three of the most magnificent ballads ever written. "Lather", "In Time" and "Triad" are all unbelievably beautiful and soothing. Grace's "Lather" is based on drummer Spencer Dryden. Spencer was about to turn thirty at the time, hence the line "Lather was thirty years old today". It's also based on a little incident that occured with Jack Casady. Jack was given a pill by a drug guru named Owsley, but he made the pill much too strong, and Jack totally went berserk when he took it. He was arrested for running naked on the beach and drawing pictures in the sand, which is also referred to in the song. And as for the song itself, Grace sings it in a way that just sends shivers down your spine, amongst many strange sound effects and some peaceful acoustic guitar. The hauntingly graceful "In Time" is even better, and it's probably my favorite Airplane song ever. The choruses are pure bliss, with Kantner, Slick and Balin ALL singing in harmony, combining their voices in such a way that it sounds like the essence of beauty itself.
"Triad" was written by David Crosby, but it's hard picturing him singing it better than Grace does here. Her crystalline vocal cords have never sounded better, and she delivers an extremely emotional performance that really touches the depths of your heart. In particular, listen to the way she sings the line "We love each other, it's plain to see" and tell me that isn't the loveliest voice that you've ever heard in your life.
Kaukonen's "Star Track" features some of the most blistering wah-wah guitar licks ever put on record. They're fast, vicious and totally chaotic. Indeed Jorma was one of the most overlooked guitarists in the world. Balin's vocal on "Share A Little Joke" is rapturous, especially that middle section ("...Your eyes are never tired, your mind is on fire..."). Like Grace, he manages to practically give you goosebumps with his singing. That's enough proof that nobody could rival the Airplane when it comes to vocal harmonies (except the brilliant Simon And Garfunkel).
"Chushingura" is the only weak spot on the album, as it's just a bunch of weird sounds. "If You Feel" is an upbeat rocker with glorious vocals and a marvelous melody. Some have said that the title track was plagiarized from a novel called "The Chrysalids", but I couldn't care less because the song is so great. The tandem vocals of Jorma and Grace on "Ice Cream Phoenix" are yet another highlight, and Grace's battle cry of "Still not cry when it's time to go" is indeed very hypnotic. And speaking of Grace, her "Greasy Heart" is a moody tune that talks about how women try too hard to make themselves look good. A little known fact is that she's actually singing about HERSELF on this one. She was a model before she became a singer, so she understood about all that stuff. In the liner notes, she even says "It sounds like I'm pointing fingers in the song, but I'm actually living it".
So that leaves the gloomy, hypnotic "House At Pooneil Corners", an eerie number that tells about the end of the world. And I do mean EERIE. Everything about the song is very dark: the bass line, the organ, the sound effects and, above all, the intoxicating vocals. The lyrics are brilliant, too. This is a song that really makes you think: is the destiny of mankind doomed forever? Creepy stuff.
As for the bonus cuts, they're not all that great. They're basically just a bunch of weird sound effects, and it sounds like the band were just killing time in the studio. But the sound quality and the booklet are definitely worth having.
So yes, I consider this to be in the top five greatest rock albums ever made. Listen to it and you'll see why.
on November 15, 2005
Recently I stumbled across an old vinyl copy of this album. Id heard 'Surrealistic Pillow' and loved it, but I'd read that this album was not up to that same standard. These reviews were so wrong, this album is brilliant! It captures Jefferson Airplane at their premium best, during the height of the San Francisco music revolution. The songs delve deep into the mystical psychedelic world of space and science fiction, creating sounds that are still undeniably unique today.
The album was especially important for Jack Casady, whose bass lines have been compared to The Who's John Entwistle. Around this time Casady also helped Jimi Hendrix with the recording of `Electric Ladyland'. On many of the tracks, Casady's bass sounds like a second lead instrument, accompanying Jorma Kaukonen on lead guitar. Grace slicks vocals play a bigger role than on `Surrealistic Pillow', which many fans will find rewarding. Her intimidating tone becomes something that we all know and love about the Airplane.
So if you are thinking about this album then go ahead and get it. It stands the test of time; along side so many great albums from this period. Even the old vinyl copy sounds great after thirty seven years.
on December 10, 2002
Crown of Creation represents the high water mark of San Fransisco's Jefferson Airplane.More elegant, complex and cohesive than "After Bathing at Baxters" (although that is indeed a fine album)and simply having better songs and purpose than "Volunteers" this disc is a must have.
The thing that really seperated the Airplane from the rest was the fact that everyone in the band was exceptional at what they did ( and I have still yet to hear a better, more original and more important bass player than Jack Casady) and all were at the top of their game at the same time, and this disc was recorded just before it all began to fall apart.
Regal and majestic, instruments and voices present us with one of the most powerful documents of an era.A group of young people fired and inspired by the times they were living in producing an anthem for those times and ours.A time capsule of joy and wonder poisoned by the reality of the war in Vietnam and the war at home.
on July 3, 2002
The Airplane's fourth album literally picked up where #3 ('After Bathing at Baxters') left off. 'Baxters' was brilliant with its suite-like format, and almost exclusively electric, whereas their earlier work (especially 'Surrealistic Pillow') had been a bountiful mix of electric and acoustic songs. 'Crown of Creation' re-visits the mixture of electric/acoustic elements, but with a thicker reverberant sound such that the helpings of acoustic guitar are presented as a highly charged urban electro-apocalyptic sound space. All the songs are stunningly original.
Those vestiges of folk rock that had been expunged from the sound of 'Baxters' again flicker in 'Crown', but this is still their new sound. JA changed engineers after 'Pillow'; the new guy (who lasted at least through the 5th album, 'Volunteers') was seriously enamored of a higher horsepower feel, which here (whether the group is playing hard or acoustic rock) never lets up. From the vantage of his control room ('conning tower'), he sonically crafted the Airplane into a different sort of band, quite likely at their behest.
Here JA continued to make a strong case for being the greatest of the 'revolutionary' bands [the MC5, and CJ & the Fish notwithstanding]. They plumbed a wider gamut of emotion, invoking a deeper sense of tragedy, also rejoicing in the [somewhat tarnished?] beauty of it all, than probably any similar band, other than [possibly] the United States of America. [The USofA album, amazing as it is, was but a one-off'er.]
The youthful exuberance and idealism of 'Pillow' and 'Baxters' is still present here in transfigured form. With 'Crown', the Airplane gain greater mastery [to paraphrase Blake*] of the craft of metaphorically using corrosives to cleanse the doors and windows of perception, thereby revealing and reveling in a world beyond our customary boundaries [and not just those prevalent around 1969]. "Don't change before the Empire falls . . . you'll laugh so hard you'll crack the walls!" ["Greasy Heart"]
*[E.g. see "Auguries of Innocence" and "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", in 'William Blake: Complete Writings', edited by Geoffrey Keynes.]
"Lather" Satire that is both biting and tearful. The lead guitarist approaches genius in his ability to mirror the mournfulness of the moment via his instrument's tone settings and his expressive playing. Slick's vocal manages to convey the private sort of horror of the events taking place.
"In Time" Not necessarily a drug song . . . it could be meditation, lovemaking, the beginnings of a waking dream . . . this one progresses slowly, passionately, beautifully. "Look further on past the surface . . . orange, blue, red & green are the colors of what I feel, and my mind you know it starts to reel in time."
"Triad" A Byrds' song which never made it onto their albums, with wondrous, slow acoustic guitar accompaniment; singer Grace really shows us the love.
"Star Track": "If your head spins 'round, try to see the ground if you can". 'Nuff said.
"Share A Little Joke" Exceedingly mournful song [sung by Balin]. Recollection of loss of innocence begins its recovery.
"Chushingura" Short, marvelous space-rock instrumental, rivaling the Stones' "2000 Light Years from Home".
"If You Feel" Great up-tempo [acid-dance] tune. Things turn optimistic on this one, though destructive at the same time [as in the idea that one thing must be destroyed, that the 'new' might emerge]. This song is a strange and stunning psychological mix, as lead singer Marty Balin simultaneously conveys mournfulness with a sense of overarching joy. Revel in this one if you will, as things really let loose from the get-go.
"Crown Of Creation" Begins the Airplane's own miniaturized 'Book of Revelation': a brilliant song drenched to the bone with their own brand of counter-cultural, apocalyptic imagery.
"Ice Cream Phoenix" More hints of an impending apocalypse [personal or universal?].This one is a little ponderous melodically, the lyrics are a bit prosaic in spots; but the messages they lay on us glow with a seeming immense importance.
"Greasy Heart" Grace gets funky and very satirical! "Woman with a greasy heart . . . automatic man!"
"The House At Pooneil Corners" Pithy, probing psychological tour de force. Steps up the tone of "Crown of Creation" in terms of the massiveness of its message, but here it's turning more personally hopeful at junctures. As tremendous an ending as was "Lather" a great beginning.
on September 10, 1999
I am reading all the great "Bathing at Baxter's" reviews so I decided to replay both Baxter's and "Crown of Creation" and, sorry folks, but Crown IS the crown of JA's creations. Baxter's has the music, indeed, but Crown has BOTH the music and the definite lyrical edge. It's dark, and deep...very very deep..."soon you'll attain the stability you strive for in the the only way that it is granted, in a place upon the fossils of your time." Is this not just as relevant today as it was back then? Is that not the mark of great lyrics? Check this out, "You and me we keep walking around and see all the bull(bleep) around us...try to keep our minds on what's going down, can't help but see the rhinoceros around us...." The reference to Ionesco and the whole absurd choo-choo train is unmistakable. "Lather" DEFINES Jung's Puer Aeturnus ( eternal child ), and turns it on its head. "Greasy Heart" may be the only really dated song ( along with the cover, maybe - there are still alot of those mushroom makers floating around, maybe in less secure hands now ), but Gracey's ascerbic rantings against the shallowness of our relationships is perhaps even more relevant today. And then they throw in the weirdness of "Triad" and the hum-this-tune-all-day-in-your-head "If You Feel" just for good measure. I hate to burst your bubble Baxter bretheren, but "Waiting" ( as great as it was ) was just a warm up for what was to come next.
on January 22, 2006
I was lucky enough to see the Jefferson Airplane at the Filmore East several times (I'm 56) during their heyday. Since I'm an accomplished drummer, I was eager to see/listen to what I thought was one of the best rhythm sections I had ever listened to in populer music. I was never let down. For, even to this day, Jack Casady remains one of the finest electric bass players that ever lived. Period. Just listen to his bass lines on "After Bathing at Baxter's" many inspired tracks. He was doing things with feedback, harmonics and counterpoint that were way ahead of the time. Why do you think Jimi Hendrix wanted him as his bassist? Now listen to "Crown of Creation". Jack's bass lines in "Lather" are magnificent! His tone is so subtle. For me, the absolute essence of the electric bass sound (and remember, this is BEFORE Jaco) is his playing on "Triad". His execution and fingering are perfect. His timing is sooooo in the pocket, and his overall "sound" is distinctive and unusual. But, always clean. Jack Casady spoiled me because as a drummer, I always wanted to gig with bass players that were that fluid and tonal. So, buy this CD and listen to some of the best rock music (60's or otherwise) that you'll ever hear.
on May 28, 2007
Another of the albums that became a turning point in my life. The other reviews state everything about the album I could say. Let me just second the reviewer Pearl Drummer and say that Jack Casady is absolutely the BEST BASSIST ever, before or since (and completely underrated). His playing on the title track is so dense and complex that I never tire of hearing it. I wish I knew enough about engineering to separate it out so I could listen to it alone.
on September 9, 2003
On their fourth album, Jefferson Airplane starts finding their political voice. Marty Balin, the band's founder and leader who once wrote a majority of the material, finds himself increasingly relegated to the sidelines. Luckily, his harmony vocals help make the political minded title track ("You are the crown of creation and you've got nowhere to go.") and the apocalyptic "House of Pooneil Corners" shimmer with power and energy. But, more and more, members of the band are singing solo, as Grace ("Greasy Heart", David Crosby's "Triad", and the childlike ode to ageing, "Lather"), Jorma ("Star Track") and Marty himself ("Share A Little Joke") step out on their own on individual tracks. Paul Kantner was beginning to assume the band's leadership, and the tender yet profound song "In Time" shows he can write first-rate material as well. On Crown of Creation, the Airplane are at the height of their powers, lyrically and musically, and all of the tracks work to perfection, even "Chushingura", the track of acid-oscillations inspired by Nirvana in Norse mythology. Sadly, the band would record just one more album (Volunteers) before Marty's exit, never to reform in this configuration again. The Airplane would eventually crash and burn in the early seventies, but several of it's most creative members would soon board a Starship to explore new galaxies and boldly go where no band has gone before.
on September 27, 2000
On my first listen, "Crown Of Creation" did not seem quite as powerful or full-tilt as "Baxter's"; my father remembers that when it originally came out in '68, he was disappointed that the album seemed a bit of a downer after the euphoric heights of its predecessor (back in the 60s, the zeitgeist of the times seemed to promise that each successive album release would be more and more "out there", so it seemed a bit ominous when all of the "bad trip" albums of '68--The White Album, "Beggar's Banquet", "Crown", etc.--came out). However, now that the 60s have played themselves out and one has the chance to look back in hindsight, "Crown" seems as incisive and darkly crafted look back at its year as "Baxter's" was for the Summer Of Love. Musically, it is a hybrid of "Pillow"'s acoustic balladry and pop sensibilities with "Baxter's" experimental hard psych: you know this is a whole 'nother kind of Airplane release when the first three tracks ("Lather", "In Time" and "Triad") are acoustic, meditative, and thoroughly unsettling in their lyrical bent. "Lather" is one of Slick's very best compositions, a foreboding look at a man (modelled after drummer Spencer Dryden) whose tug-of-war between innocence and old age mirrors that of the counterculture at the time. David Crosby's gorgeous ballad "Triad" continues the theme; Slick delivers a spine-shivering vocal performance here, as a cry for sexual freedom is turned into a piercing look into the soul. Even Marty Balin sounds pensive and forlorn on the slowly building "Share A Little Joke", and the side closes with the eerie "Chushingura", which slides its way into the fabric of the album as an underlying chill. The original album's side two is filled with catchy, explosive hard rockers like "If You Feel", Slick's cynical "Greasy Heart" and the title track; they all feature prime examples of the Airplane's blend of dextrous rhythm work (Casady is a mind-blower on this one) and exultant three-to-four-part harmonies, topped off by Kaukonen's furious wah-wah guitar. Kaukonen's own two compositions are the weakest here, although they continue the mood of the album and are tricked up by his playing. The apocalyptic sci-fi sequel to "The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil", "The House At Pooneil Corners", closes the album in powerful style, as Kanter moves ever closer to the politicized direction he would take in the next few years. Unlike the simplistic sloganeering of "Volunteers", however, "Crown" makes a far more elegantly ambiguous mark on the listener, using subtler musical touches and lyrical turns of phrase to reflect the mood of San Francisco in 1968, one torn between the lingering psychedelic freedoms of '66 and '67 ("Triad", "If You Feel"), and the oppression of an engrained society both from within the new counterculture ("Greasy Heart") and without ("Lather", "House"). In many ways, this is the finest statement the group ever made, although "Baxter's" still outstrips it IMO for sheer daredevil ecstasy (and "Baxter's"--or "Pillow", for that matter--was not without a lyrical edge of its own).