Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE
The Essential Jefferson Airplane
RCA/Legacy

Essence-of-the-'60s hippies wave their freak flag for posterity

Jefferson Airplane were a San Francisco folk-rock band who in their hitmaking phase comprised two clandestinely showbiz vocalists (Grace Slick and Marty Balin), a snazzy enough guitarist who never did anything else with his life (Paul Kantner), a clunky drummer in a scene rife with them, and Hot Tuna. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers still busy symbolizing the Summer of Love almost four decades later, they released this two-CD compilation in honor of the BMG-Sony merger, and it's not bad. The Airplane wrote some good tunes, even if they oversang and overarranged them. And while they could get pretty ridiculous--anyone for "Have You Seen the Saucers?"--they adapted better than many competing ex-folkies to the psychedelic space jam that was the Haight-Ashbury ballrooms' enduring footnote to musical history.

Blender, June 2005