Collectors' Choice Music simultaneously released four archival live albums by Jefferson Airplane in 2010, and three of them were recorded in the fall of 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco. But there are big differences between the first two, Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/15/66: Late Show -- Signe's Farewell and Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66: Early & Late Shows -- Grace's Debut, and the third, Live at the Fillmore Auditorium 11/25/66 & 11/27/66: We Have Ignition. As their titles indicate, the first two albums chronicle the weekend in October when original female singer Signe Anderson made her last appearance with the band and Grace Slick, her replacement, made her first. The Anderson album is bittersweet, and the Slick album is somewhat tentative, as might be expected. But the third album, although recorded only six weeks later, follows a crucial experience for Jefferson Airplane: they had spent most of the time in between in Los Angeles recording their second studio album for RCA Victor Records, Surrealistic Pillow. Indeed, from the superior sound quality of this two-CD set, it would not be surprising to discover that RCA's engineers followed the band north with a portable tape machine to cut its Thanksgiving weekend shows for a possible live album never released at the time. Here, Jefferson Airplane play many of the songs from Surrealistic Pillow, as well as songs that were recorded at the sessions but left off the album ("Go to Her," "JPP McStep B. Blues," and "In the Morning," all of which turned up in their studio renditions on the 1974 rarities LP Early Flight). So, spread across the several sets are multiple versions of "Plastic Fantastic Lover," "White Rabbit," "She Has Funny Cars," and "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds," sounding much as they do on Surrealistic Pillow, except that the live performances are more enthusiastic. Also included are the rarely performed Surrealistic Pillow songs "DCBA-25" and "My Best Friend," as well as songs that had been in the band's repertoire earlier, either from the debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off ("It's No Secret," "Bringing Me Down") or folk material adapted to electric rock ("High Flyin' Bird," "The Other Side of This Life"). The only thing that's missing, amazingly, is a performance of what would soon be the band's biggest hit, "Somebody to Love." Within months of the release of Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane had retired many of the album's songs from their live shows or developed arrangements very different from those heard on the LP. This collection presents them fresh from the studio, often sounding, if anything, better than on the not-yet-released album that would mark Jefferson Airplane's commercial breakthrough.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2