Tuesday, 9 June 2015

"Volunteers" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (2009 “The Woodstock Experience” 2CD Reissue – BOB IRWIN Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…It’s A New Dawn…” 

This is a clever reissue - pairing the sixth and much-loved "Volunteers" album by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE with their barnstorming and highly politicized live set at the legendary Woodstock Festival. And boasting top-notch BOB IRWIN audio mastering - it's beautifully presented too. Here are the peace, love and music details...

Released July 2009 - "Volunteers/The Woodstock Experience" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE on RCA/Legacy 88697 48240 2 (Barcode 886974824022) is a 2CD set celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the legendary Sixties festival (see list of other releases below). Inside a textured-feel outer card slipcase are two oversized 5" hard card replica sleeves - each with sepia-feel inner bags (separate liner notes too).

Disc 1 (75:26 minutes):
1. We Can Be Together
2. Good Shepherd
3. The Farm
4. Hey Frederick
5. Turn My Life Down [Side 2]
6. Wooden Ships
7. Eskimo Blue Day
8. A Song For All Seasons
9. Meadowlands
10. Volunteers
Disc 1 is the 10-track "Volunteers" album released on vinyl in the USA in November 1969 on RCA Victor LSP 4238 and February 1970 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8164.

11. Introduction
12. The Other Side Of This Life
13. Somebody To Love
14. 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds
15. Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon
16. Eskimo Blue Day
Tracks 11 to 16 are "Recorded Live At The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Sunday, August 17, 1969 - Part One".

Disc 2 (68:48 minutes):
1. Plastic Fantastic Lover
2. Wooden Ships
3. Uncle Sam Blues
4. Volunteers
5. The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil
6. Come Back Baby
7. White Rabbit
8. The House At Pooneil Corners
The 2nd CD is "Part Two" of the Woodstock concert and of the total live set - tracks 11, 12 and 14 on Disc 1 with 2, 5, 6 and 8 on Disc 2 are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED (the others have turned up on various compilations across the decades).

Quite apart from the aesthetically pleasing look of the outer card slipcase - both oversized card repro sleeves for the albums are gorgeous to look at and the recording details/liner notes impressively comprehensive. As with the other 4 releases in this series - the large foldout poster has a colour shot of the Woodstock crowd on one side (with the festival logo at the top) and a black and white quality photograph of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE by Amalie R. Rothschild on the flip. As fans will know some copies of the US gatefold original LP came with an insert - lyrics and the mock "Paz Progress" newspaper clippings - unfortunately it’s not included. There are liner notes on the "Volunteers" inner sleeve (doesn't say who wrote them) that includes comments from Reissue Producer/Mastering Engineer Bob Irwin about the recordings and Kaukonen's emergence as a lead guitar player in the band (he wrote "Turn My Life Down"). The colour shot of Grace on the rear of the card sleeve is also gorgeous...

The bloody and divisive debacle of the Vietnam War loomed heavily over both the record and their impassioned live set. But more than the politics and the fearless lyrics - rehearing the album now what hits you most is a triple whammy - the classiness of the songs, Jorma Kaukonen's superb guitar playing and the soulful trio of Grace Slick's voice with Paul Kantner and Marty Balin (Jack Cassidy on Bass and Spencer Dryden on Drums provide the rhythm section). Throw in superb audio quality (Produced by Al Schmitt onto to a then state-of-the-art 16-track system) and all it combines to pack a serious punch - even if the Sixties ideals may seem far-fetched in the appalling 2014 political landscape we find ourselves in more than 45 years later (when we really should have learned lessons by now).

It opens with the superb people-anthem "We Can Be Together" - but check out the traditional air "Good Shepherd" that follows - turned into the most stunning Rock song by clever funked-up arrangements. And their version of "Wooden Ships" co-written by Paul Kantner with David Crosby and Stephen Stills - famously predates the 1969 Crosby, Stills & Nash debut album version by months. It's just fantastic and to my ears actually better (Stills plays Organ on the song). "Volunteers" was gamely released by RCA as a 45 in October 1969 with its call-to-arms lyrics and frantic pace - "this generation got Soul...start a revolution..." The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia plays Pedal Steel and the distinctive piano runs of Nicky Hopkins add a lot too. Such a great album and one that still stands up...

The live set has the band (with Nicky Hopkins on piano) and opens with Grace greeting the crowd (title above) and then proceeds to rock into a completely wild cover version of Fred Neil's "The Other Side Of This Life". The audio as you can imagine flits between good and great - but even when they let rip on "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds" (ace drumming from Skip Spence) to my ears Bob Ludwig has completely captured the loose and explosive nature of the band. And die-hard nuts will die for the near sixteen minutes of the Previously Unreleased "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" on Disc 2 - all wild guitars and wailing. "Come Back Baby" is an old Blues tune rearranged by Kaukonen into an 8-minute Jefferson Airplane boogie romp.

I've loved this whole series of CD reissues (see reviews) but this is a jewel never mind a crown of creation. Recommended big time...

PS: the 5 titles in The Woodstock Experience CD Reissue Series are:
1. Jefferson Airplane - uses the "Volunteers" album and has an 8-track live album recorded 17/8/29
2. Janis Joplin - uses the "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!" album and has a 10-track live album recorded 17/8/29
3. Santana - uses the "Santana" debut album and has an 8-track live album recorded Saturday 16/8/69
4. Sly & The Family Stone - uses the "Stand" album and has a 9-track live disc recorded 17/8/69
5. Johnny Winter - uses the "Johnny Winter" album and has an 8-track live disc recorded 17/8/69

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