Aug. 24th, 2015

csberry: (pumaman)

And this is where the music love ended. A month ago, I had Santana's debut, CSNY's Deja Vu, and then this album on my Spotify playlist. After grooving along with the first two albums, Jefferson Airplane jolted my enjoyment. I found myself constantly rolling my eyes during Surrealistic Pillow because of how cheesy-folk it sounded to me. That impression now dominates my feelings on Surrealistic Pillow; I don't like it because it seems too poppy folk and...lame.

So, this album has been an ignored collection of songs at the end of my “Current Rolling Stone Albums” playlist on Spotify. “Oh, it's Jefferson Airplane, I need to go back to the top of the playlist for Santana again.” Now that I've finally posted reviews of the three previous albums on that playlist, I am only focusing on Surrealist Pillow. With this new spotlight on the album, I decided to read up on some reviews to see what it is about the album that I had been missing with my cold listens. It seems the album is praised as bringing psychedelic folk-pop to the mainstream and that it was “groundbreaking.” I am absolutely willing to vouch that this album has enough pop sheen on it to sell records. Maybe I just gotta chalk my feelings on this album along with my general disinterest in late 60's folk of The Mamas & Papas, The Byrds, et al. CSN(Y) have been able to separate themselves from their contemporaries thanks to my listening to the Rolling Stone Top 500 Albums list, but Jefferson Airplane isn't going to distinguish themselves with this album other than the breadth of styles is certainly wider on this album than I recall from their peers.

You get plenty of folk harmonies with acoustic guitars, you have the two popular rockers with Grace on vocals, there's an instrumental, and then there's whatever comedic folk thing “Plastic Fantastic Lover” is. I look at the list of songs I liked and now like below and liking 6 of 11 songs is pretty good. But when there are 3 songs I just plain want to skip over, it seems to pull the whole album down for me. I rather enjoy listening to just those 6 songs better than I do the full 11.

Songs I Knew I Liked: “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”

Songs I Now Like: “Today,” “D.C.B.A.-25,” “How Do You Feel,” and “Embryonic Journey”

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: “My Best Friend,” “Comin' Back to Me” (epic folk song about Hobbits in love, I think), and “Plastic Fantastic Lover”
csberry: (pumaman)

Depending on the day, Aja is my favorite album of all time or in the top 3. So, I, of course, was annoyed to see it here at 145 and not in the top 100 on the list. I love this album with my whole being. It encapsulates a world which I started creating in my childhood in the late 70s. This life of a bachelor spending his sunsets with the sun reflecting off the ocean, driving fast cars on tight roads, and having sophisticated drinks with his social scene. I fell in love with the singles from this album which I heard on the radio. I know of no one from my childhood who owned or played this album around me. It wasn't until after college, when visiting a friend (Danny Walker), that I found out who the band was that did “Black Cow,” “Deacon Blues,” “Peg” (I thought it was Doobie Bros because of the Michael McDonald), and “Josie”.

Yes, I understand how some people don't like how much the pair spent in the studio; how songs were re-recorded over and over in various alternative takes trying to find just the right sound. Yes, this is the strongest that jazz had played in Steely Dan's sound and it was a softer jazz. There is no denying that this album belongs in the category of “yacht rock”. But, most of those above reasons are why I love Aja. Donald and Walter's efforts to create a perfect idyllic album fits perfectly into my own soundtrack for my childhood idyllic adulthood.

But before we get the whole jazz thing blown too much out of proportion, one cannot deny the funkiness of “Peg” and the rhythm section of nearly every song. It is no wonder that “Peg” is but one of several Steely Dan songs which have been repeatedly sampled in hip-hop since De La Soul's Three Fee High and Rising. As a bass-loving guy, I am grateful with how high in the mix the bass gets in most of the songs. The groove laid down stutters, stops, slips, slaps, and swaggers out of the speakers. The drumming/percussion on Aja is and should be studied and copied by those learning to drum. Between the syncopated jazzy flourishes and the funky thumping, the percussionists get to demonstrate their chops with some style.

When Nigel was a baby and had difficulty sleeping, I would throw him into the back of my car. As I pulled out of the driveway, Aja went into the CD player. I would make my way to the Parkway, where the street lights shining in would add to the soothing music and vibration of the ride. I would make my way out to the Huntsville International Airport, do the loop through the drop-off area, and then head right back home. That trip and Aja is about 45 minutes long and so the CD finished as I returned home on my street (although there were two times it ended as I got onto my driveway).

Songs I Knew I Liked: EVERYTHING

Songs I Now Like: Nothing new

Songs I Don't Want to Ever Hear Again: None

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Cory Berry

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