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The late October 1966 Jefferson Airplane Fillmore recordings are fascinating historical documents, capturing the band just days before they began recording their classic Surrealistic Pillow album, right at the transition point when Grace Slick joined the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.
The February 5 afternoon show continues showcasing some of the bands new material, such as "She Has Funny Cars," "White Rabbit" and Jorma's arrangement of "Come Back Baby." However, with the exception of the above mentioned songs, the group focuses more on material from the first album for this performance. One of the most interesting aspects of this set, in fact, is hearing how the band, now featuring Grace Slick, tackles this earlier material. They don't stray far from the past arrangements, but here the instrumental attack has become more aggressive (especially Jack Casady's bass playing) and the vocals are becoming more expressive and powerful.
Rather than striving for perfect harmony, Marty and Grace are learning to sing around each other, enhancing each others phrasing as they go. Not unlike the musicians, improvisation is becoming part of their vocal approach. This is not to say vocal harmony is out of the picture, however - quite the opposite. On songs like "Runnin' 'Round This World" and especially "It's No Secret," the harmonies are stronger and more compelling than ever; the beautiful vocal texture was definitely an edge the Airplane had over most of the Bay Area bands at that time. There were many great innovative bands during this era, but with the exception of Big Brother's Janis Joplin, few San Francisco bands had the vocal presence of Jefferson Airplane.
Written by Alan Bershaw