Crown of Creation

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Not to be confused with Crown of Creation (band).
Crown of Creation
JA Crown-Of-Creation.jpg
Studio album by Jefferson Airplane
Released September 1968
Recorded February – June 1968 at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
Genre Acid rock, psychedelic rock
Length

38:23

56:04 (2003 reissue)
Label RCA Victor
Producer Al Schmitt
Jefferson Airplane chronology
After Bathing at Baxter's
(1967)
Crown of Creation
(1968)
Bless Its Pointed Little Head
(1969)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[1]
Rolling Stone (neutral)[2]

Crown of Creation was released in September 1968, 10 months after After Bathing at Baxter's, and is the fourth studio album by the San Francisco psychedelic rock band, Jefferson Airplane. The band continues its development of psychedelic music which begun with their previous work, After Bathing at Baxter's.[3] The group had also been dabbling in electric rock with some references to science fiction intertwined in their messages. Musically, The Airplane expressed views regarding hippie ethos, left-wing politics, and anti-war messages.[4] For those reasons, they did not have a commercialized sound, and the singles the band released were not big hits. It would prove to be the pinnacle of The Airplane's psychedelic experimentation, for their next studio album, Volunteers, explored more into country rock and hard rock.[5]

Upon release, the album, itself, while not the group's most progressive work, was still a success and peaked at number six on the Billboard Pop Charts and was eventually certified gold. The opening single, "Greasy Heart", was released in April 1968 and became a modest hit on the Hot 100 charts.[6] Even though the album brought the band back into the Top 10, it remains Jefferson Airplane's most overlooked work.[7]

Background[edit]

Jefferson Airplane, prior to recording, had manager and promoter Bill Thompson purchase a large 20-room, three-story, home at 2400 Fulton Street near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco where the members would live communally. Costing $73,000,[8] the home, known as "The Airplane" or simply "The Mansion" included a refurbished basement with a built-in recording studio.[9] The band became a tight grouping and much of their composing began at their new headquarters. The combination of individuals continued the experimentation and visionary lyrical compositions that made them quintessential in the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene.[10] Writing was generally equal between the group members as they all took part in one or more tracks.[11] The band intended Crown of Creation to be their personal reflections on commercialism, crime, and coming of age in the face of the bohemian enclave assimilated with San Francisco during this period.[12]

Recording[edit]

Recording took place in early 1968 well into the summer in RCA studios in which the band included distorted sound effects and guitar sections, and tracks enriched in overdubbing.[13] Stylistically, it was their most widespread album to date, taking everything the band had attempted previously and developing to that point. The Airplane included heavy-rock jams similar to their live act, and folk-rock compositions, a nod to their work on Surrealistic Pillow.[11] Overall it was much more tightly structured than their previous effort. Track arrangements stand as complex and sophisticated further explaining why the band had no hit-ready singles.[9] Several guest musicians were involved in the development of the album including David Crosby, Bill Goodwin, and Tim Davis.[14] Jefferson Airplane was on a condensed schedule when considering their concerts and TV appearances. Sessions were completed in between their commitments, so recording was prolonged since they only had brief periods to finish.[15]

The Songs[edit]

"Lather", a song written by Slick, was inspired by the occasion of drummer Spencer Dryden, whom she was having an affair with, turning 30. At the time, that was considered that as old and the song references the turning of age and the difficulties of aging in a youth culture.[16] With the unfolding melody and chord progression, the young man is being pressured into the societal standards of growing older. Throughout, sound effects are dubbed in to coincide with a given lyric. For example, the line "commanding his own tank" is followed by the sound of a tank blast.[9]

Following "Lather", is Paul Kantner's/Marty Balin's psychedelic-romance "In Time".[7] The second track is soothing and is constructed around a dreamlike utopia with a profound sense of wonderment and innocence. Emotions are described with colors opening to a sensual environment. Vocals parallel the ambling bass line and echoing performed by Slick. This is also a prime example of the band's vocal harmony. An acoustic guitar is used to create the most mellow of the album's tracks.[17][6]

The David Crosby-penned "Triad" is the only track not at least partially composed by an Airplane member. "Triad" was previously rejected for release by Crosby's group The Byrds as being too risqué for its references to a three-way relationship.[18] Slick's interpretation of the acoustic ballad is sung confidently, disregarding any controversy within the lyrics. When Slick recorded "Triad", she sided with Crosby's eventual departure from The Byrds stating "...This is 1968, what do you mean you don't want me to play that? What is he saying that is bad? If two women want to live there, and he wants to live there, who cares? His band wouldn't let him and, yeah, I'll sing it!"[9]

Jack Casady's bass playing had been developed to the point of becoming one of the most distinctive sounds at his position.[5] For the track "Star Track" Casady utilizes the wah-wah pedal and bass line with his hollow bodied Gibson E to create a unique sound that goes hand in hand with the fast-paced vocals. "Star Track" features the most extensive interplay of instruments on the album. Chord ranges are borrowed by Gary Davis's piece "Death Don't Have No Mercy". It also, again, ponders the topics of love, life, and time. Much of the same concept goes into the development of the humorous "Share A Little Joke" track.[9]

"Chushingura" ends the A-side and is the shortest of all the album's tracks. It is a brief experimental electronic composition that contains no lyrics, but the fuzz distortion is highly associated with acid rock and the After Bathing At Baxter's track, "A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly". Although brief, "Chushringa" was pioneering in the way it was one of the first to attempt electronic music on a rock album.[5]

The B-side of the album begins with a track reminiscent of the group's folk rock compositions from their first two albums. "If You Feel" has another appearance of the wah-wah pedal that compliments the vocals on the song. It calls the listener to love whenever and wherever one can and desires.[6]

The title track and second single is one of Paul Kantner's best preserved anthems from the band. The song's rhythm had been played by Kantner ever since his military school days and finally makes an appearance on the album. Its energy reflects the time period in which it was encased. The meaning is supposed to derive from life being created and destroyed through lengths of time, over and over again. Kantner took some phrases from the science-fiction novel The Chrysalids and slightly modified them for the composition. When asked in a 1996 interview regarding his use of other's work, Kantner says "I have thousands of influences in literature and find it a turn on to leave a little thing like that for people to find...".[9]

On "Ice Cream Phoenix", the group recorded something different compared to anything else they had performed. Slick's profound vocals are evident on "Ice Cream Phoenix" which reflects on love and how much time one actually has to be able to love another. It expresses the desire to be accepted the way the individual is perceived and not be forced into changing. It is evident as one of the few tracks on the album to showcase the vocal harmonies and their range unlike on the others where the Airplane focuses on the complexity of their instrumentals.[4]

The first single which was released prior to the album, "Greasy Heart" continues on a similar direction with its social commentary of "Ice Cream Phoenix, except in this instance the only vocals predominant are Slick's. Slick's lead performance is considered her best since the top ten hit "Somebody to Love". A piece about pretentious phonies and heavy use of makeup to hide one's true self, Slick actually states the track reflects herself.[19] What makes Slick's performance dominant among the rest is how expertly she prolonged particular words like, for instance, "slow" on the line "he wants to sell his paintings, but the market is slow". Even the basic pronouncement of phrases like "automatic man" which, through its exaggeration, creates a memorable vocal by Slick.[20]

Crown of Creation ends with "The House on Pooneil Corners", a dark, acidic piece mirroring the traumatic events of 1968, particularly the assassination Robert Kennedy, one of the few politicians The Airplane tolerated. This track holds similar themes to their previous album's piece "The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil". Overall, with increased amplifiers and disorientating guitar riffs, "The House on Pooneil Corner" reiterated the dread and bleakness the band felt regarding conflicts of the period.[9]

Release[edit]

Crown of Creation was released in September 1968 to the United States on stereo as RCA LSP-4058 and on mono as RCA LPM-4058. It would be the last Jefferson Airplane album to be released as mono.[21] The group continued to struggle on the singles charts. Slick's composition and opening single, "Greasy Heart", stalled at number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release in April 1968. The single fell off the charts in three weeks. The album cover artwork featured the band members' images duplicated in slightly different positions. In the background, there is a mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion courtesy of the USAF. Designing was produced by John Van Hamersveld in Los Angeles.[22] Vinyl release included a "Brumus sheet", which offered song lyrics, and credits with an image of Robert Kennedy's dog. The title track and second single, "Crown of Creation", fared better on the singles chart, but still only reached number 64. As for the album, chart wise, it was a success for the band as it marked a return into the Top 10, peaking at number six. Jefferson Airplane would continue the pattern of only faring well on album releases. Thanks to the then new FM Radio, the band received airplay for lengthier tracks and whole albums which kept them relevant, especially in the counterculture of the US.[23][9]

Crown of Creation was released on compact disc on August 11, 2003. Four bonus tracks are included such as the Frank Zappa, Grace Slick cowritten track "Would You Like A Snack?".[24] Other tracks include the mono single mix of "Share A Little Joke", the previously unreleased eight-minute song, "The Saga of Sydney Spacepig" and "Ribump Ba Bup Bup", which is a combination of noises, sound effects, and pop culture catch phrases. Along with the four bonus tracks is a hidden track called "Candy Man".[25]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Lather" ([26]) Grace Slick 2:57
2. "In Time"   Paul Kantner, Marty Balin 4:14
3. "Triad"   David Crosby 4:55
4. "Star Track"   Jorma Kaukonen 3:11
5. "Share a Little Joke"   Balin 3:09
6. "Chushingura" (instrumental) Spencer Dryden 1:20
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "If You Feel"   Balin, Gary Blackman 3:21
2. "Crown of Creation" (lyric based on John Wyndham's "The Chrysalids"[27]) Kantner 2:54
3. "Ice Cream Phoenix"   Kaukonen, Charles Cockey 3:02
4. "Greasy Heart"   Slick 3:26
5. "The House at Pooneil Corners"   Kantner, Balin 5:54
August 19, 2003 CD bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. "Ribump Ba Bap Dum Dum" (instrumental) Dryden, William Goodwin 1:32
13. "Would You Like a Snack?" ([28]) Frank Zappa, Slick 2:40
14. "Share a Little Joke" (single version B-side RCA #9496) Balin 3:09
15. "The Saga of Sydney Spacepig"   Dryden 7:55
16. "Candy Man" (hidden track) Rev. Gary Davis 2:25

Personnel[edit]

Additional Personnel[edit]

Production[edit]

  • Al Schmitt – producer
  • Richie Schmitt – engineer
  • Maurice – 8-Track
  • Hiro – cover and back photo
  • USAF – bomb photo, sometimes attributed to the Hiroshima detonation, but is in fact one of the US desert testing explosions.
  • J. Van Hamersveld – album design, art direction
  • Bill Laudner – road manager
  • Chick Casady – equipment manager
  • Bill Thompson – manager

Charts[edit]

Album

Year Chart Position
1968 Billboard Pop Albums 6

Single

Year Single Chart Position
1968 "Greasy Heart" Billboard Pop Singles 98
1968 "Crown of Creation" Billboard Pop Singles 64

References[edit]

  1. ^ Eder, Bruce (2011). "Crown of Creation – Jefferson Airplane | AllMusic". allmusic.com. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Miller, Jim (26 October 1968). "Jefferson Airplane: Crown of Creation : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. Retrieved 30 May 2014.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  3. ^ "After Bathing at Baxter's". last.fm. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b William Ruhlmamn. "Jefferson Airplane - Biography". albumlinernotes.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Bruce Eder. "Crown of Creation - Review". allmusic.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c "Jefferson Airplane - Crown of Creation". guitarinternational.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "40 Albums Baby Boomers Loved". rollingstone.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Bill Thompson Dead at 70". sfgate.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Alex Tamarkin. "Got A Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane". Google.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Scenes of San Francisco Rock". rockument.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  11. ^ a b "Product - Crown of Creation". Sundazed.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Crown of Creation". britannica.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Jefferson Airplane". warr.org. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Crown of Creation - Back cover (credits)". 
  15. ^ "Jefferson Airplane - Reviews". willardswormholes.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Song Facts - Lather". songfacts.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Song Meaning - In Time". songmeanings.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  18. ^ "Jefferson Airplane - History". jeffersonairplane.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  19. ^ "The Airplane". reocities.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Crown of Creation - Rollingstone Review". rollingstone.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ Crown of Creation:Front cover
  22. ^ Crown of Creation:Rear cover
  23. ^ "Jefferson Airplane - Chart Listings". billboard.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  24. ^ "Crown of Creation - Bonus Tracks". discogs.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  25. ^ "Guide Required Listening". Google.com. Retrieved March 1, 2015. 
  26. ^ The song "Lather" was written in part for drummer Spencer Dryden's 30th birthday, and in part for bassist Jack Casady's arrest for nudity at Santa Cruz.
  27. ^ "Sampled with permission and most appropriately from John Wyndham's 'The Chrysalids', written specifically, originally, and humorously/ironically for and at the request of The Hubert Humphrey campaign for President, 1967 or -8 or so" - Kantner, Paul (2003). Lyrica - Paul Kantner's Theory of Everything. Little Dragon Press. 
  28. ^ Frank Zappa is credited as the "leader" on "Would You Like a Snack?". Zappa bandmates Art Tripp, Ian Underwood and Don Preston also appear. Zappa released a song by the same name on 200 Motels, which is completely unrelated to the Jefferson Airplane track. The melody of that track is from Zappa's "Holiday in Berlin" composition, whereas the Jefferson Airplane track is an original composition. "Would You Like a Snack?" was first issued as part of the Jefferson Airplane Loves You box set in 1992. [1].
  29. ^ Drummer and co-founder of The Steve Miller Band.