Jefferson Airplane

Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66: Late Show: Signe's Farewell

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The historical significance of this archival live recording is signaled in the subtitle, "Signe's Farewell," as this performance by Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on October 15, 1966, marks the final one for the band's original "girl singer" (as Marty Balin puts it), Signe Anderson. It is also the first concert recording from the Airplane's early days to see release, and it gives a better sense of the group than its then-recently issued debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. That studio recording gave the impression of a somewhat lightweight folk-rock ensemble, but from the opening nine-minute instrumental "Jam," the live Airplane heard here is much closer to the style of the other San Francisco bands playing the city's ballrooms around the same time. It is also very much a band led by Balin, whose high-tenor wail dominates the vocals, notably on a version of the yet-to-be-recorded "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" that is slower than the one soon to appear on the second Airplane album, Surrealistic Pillow. And it is already recognizable as the group that, two and a half years later, would issue its first live album, Bless Its Pointed Little Head, already boasting a cover of Donovan's "Fat Angel" (with its tribute line, "Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time"), which at this time had only just appeared on his Sunshine Superman LP. The version of Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour" is a welcome surprise (annotator Craig Fenton quotes Balin as saying it was worked up as a potential New Year's Eve number), but unfortunately is incomplete "due to original source material." Balin's stage announcement about Anderson's departure is brief but gracious, and she follows it appropriately with her showcase number, "Chauffeur Blues," which demonstrates her vocal power. Pipes she had, but not the charisma (and hit songs) Grace Slick was about to bring to Jefferson Airplane, so this album gives a sense of what the band was just before its career changed dramatically.

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