32 well-chosen tracks spanning the Airplane's entire flight, with notes by the band's biographer, Jeff Tamarkin! Includes the hard-to-find single versions of Martha; Have You Seen the Saucers?; Share a Little Joke , and Mexico , plus White Rabbit; It's No Secret; Volunteers; Lather; We Can Be Together; Watch Her Ride; Good Shepherd; 3/5 of a Mile in Ten Seconds , and more.
Filling the double-disc void left by the excellent but sonically inferior and out-of-print 2400 Fulton Street: An Anthology, The Essential Jefferson Airplane digs deeper into the San Francisco bands catalog than the many single disc collections available. Less expansive, but with better sound than the three disc box set, Jefferson Airplane Loves You, this 32 track compilation covers the bands seven albums and two live offerings, giving nearly equal time to all. Not held in as high esteem as their Bay Area compatriots the Grateful Dead, the Airplane successfully combined Marty Balins expressive voice on such lovely folk-tinged love songs as "Comin' Back to Me," the apocalyptic visions of "Wooden Ships" (co-written by the Airplanes Paul Kantner with David Crosby and Stephen Stills), the edgy, psychedelia of "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" and the politically charged rallying cry of "Volunteers." Singer Grace Slick provided a photogenic focal point and dynamic interplay that meshed perfectly with the bands three male vocalists.
Disc one clocks in at a relatively anemic 50 minutes, leaving nearly an unused half hour that could have included such influential album tracks as the bands version of Donovans "The Fat Angel," "Wont You Try/Saturday Afternoon," "Triad," and "Wild Thyme." Regardless, this is a well-chosen selection (with first-rate liner notes from J.A. historian Jeff Tamarkin) that highlights the Airplanes diverse influences as it echoed and exemplified the turbulent end of the '60s/beginning of the '70s. --Hal Horowitz
Recommended Jefferson Airplane Discography