Crown of Creation is the fourth studio album by the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, and was released by RCA Victor in September 1968. It saw the band continuing their development of psychedelic music from their previous album, After Bathing at Baxter’s.
While failing to eclipse Surrealistic Pillow (1967) from a commercial standpoint, the album was a considerable success in comparison to its immediate predecessor, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Pop Charts and earning a RIAA gold certification. Its two singles (“Greasy Heart”, released in April 1968, followed by the title track in November) were modest hits on the Hot 100 chart.
Prior to recording, the group had their manager and promoter Bill Thompson purchase a large 20-room, three-story, home at 2400 Fulton Street directly across from Golden Gate Park in San Francisco where the members would live communally. Costing $73,000, the home, known as “The Airplane House” or simply “The Mansion” included a refurbished basement with a built-in recording studio. 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.
Writing was generally equal between the group members as they all took part in one or more tracks. 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.
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. Stylistically it was their most diverse 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. 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. Several guest musicians were involved in the development of the album including David Crosby, Bill Goodwin, and Tim Davis. 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 in which to work. (by wikipedia)
Crown of Creation appeared ten months after their last album, After Bathing at Baxter’s, and it doesn’t take the same kind of leap forward that Baxter’s did from Surrealistic Pillow. Indeed, in many ways, Crown of Creation is a more conservative album stylistically, opening with “Lather,” a Grace Slick original that was one of the group’s very last forays (and certainly their last prominent one) into a folk idiom. Much of what follows is a lot more based in electric rock, as well as steeped in elements of science fiction (specifically author John Wyndham’s book The Chrysalids) in several places, but Crown of Creation was still deliberately more accessible musically than its predecessor, even as the playing became more bold and daring within more traditional song structures. Jack Casady by this time had developed one of the most prominent and distinctive bass sounds in American rock, as identifiable (if not quite as bracing) as John Entwistle’s was with the Who, as demonstrated on “In Time,” “Star Track,” “Share a Little Joke,” “If You Feel” (where he’s practically a second lead instrument), and the title song, and Jorma Kaukonen’s slashing, angular guitar attack was continually surprising as his snaking lead guitar parts wended their way through “Star Track” and “Share a Little Joke.”
The album also reflected the shifting landscape of West Coast music with its inclusion of “Triad,” a David Crosby song that Crosby’s own group, the Byrds, had refused to release — its presence (the only extant version of the song for a number of years) was a forerunner of the sound that would later be heard on Crosby’s own debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name (on which Slick, Paul Kantner, and Casady would appear). The overall album captured the group’s rapidly evolving, very heavy live sound within the confines of some fairly traditional song structures, and left ample room for Slick and Marty Balin to express themselves vocally, with Balin turning in one of his most heartfelt and moving performances on “If You Feel.” “Ice Cream Phoenix” pulses with energy and “Greasy Heart” became a concert standard for the group — the studio original of the latter is notable for Slick’s most powerful vocal performance since “Somebody to Love.” And the album’s big finish, “The House at Pooneil Corners,” seemed to fire on all cylinders, their amps cranked up to ten (maybe 11 for Casady), and Balin, Slick, and Kantner stretching out on the disjointed yet oddly compelling tune and lyrics. It didn’t work 100 percent of the time, but it made for a shattering finish to the album. (by Bruce Eder)
Marty Balin (vocals, guitar)
Jack Casady (bass)
Spencer Dryden (drums, keyboards, vocals)
Paul Kantner (guitar, vocals)
Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals)
Grace Slick (vocals, keyboards)
∞ – percussion
Gary Blackman (nose solo on 01.)
Charles Cockey (guitar, vocals)
David Crosby (guitar)
Tim Davis (percussion)
Bill Goodwin (talking drums)
Dan Woody (percussion)
Gene Twombly (sound effects)
01. Lather (Slick) 3.01
02. In Time (Kantner/Balin) 4.13
03. Triad (Crosby) 4.56
04. Star Track (Kaukonen) 3.10
05. Share A Little Joke (Balin) 3.97
06. Chushingura (instrumental) (Dryden) 1.18
07. If You Feel (Balin/Blackman) 3.21
08. Crown Of Creation (Wyndham/Kantner) 2.54
09. Ice Cream Phoenix (Kaukonen/Cockey) 3.01
10. Greasy Heart (Slick) 3.25
11. The House At Pooneil Corners (Kantner/Balin) 5.51