Monday, August 8, 2016

Great Lost Band Members # 25 Signe Toly Anderson


    This series has lain dormant on here for a couple of months while the Maverick one has counted down, but with that in turn coming to its close and having personally listened to the first Jefferson Airplane album this afternoon and done some further investigation from there, it raises its head here again.

That's first JA record is a very fine, freewheeling album and it doesn't feature Grace Slick. Slick probably became the defining figure in that particular band but at this point was still a member of The Great Society, from where she decamped later on in the same year, 1966 to replace Signe Anderson. Anderson was the Airplane's original female singer until she quit the band after the release of Jefferson Airplane Takes Off  to concentrate on motherhood and family as a matter of choice over a career in music.

The album is a fascinating listen for anyone, like myself, much taken by the band's best songs, but less so by their psychedelic and intellectual indulgences. Here, their scope and ambition is utterly focused. They're essentially Marty Balin's band and a pretty disciplined outfit all round with Anderson taking a greater support role than Slick would ever be satisfied with. Listening to it is somewhat akin to listening to Fairport Convention's first album before they became overtly folk and when the influence of the West Coast and specifically Jefferson Airplane themselves was most explicit in their music. Ironically Fairport sound more psychedelic than folk while Airplane are more folk than psychedelic, at least on this particular album.

Anderson has a sweet, beguiling voice, not a million miles from Slick's delivery without her lance-like qualities In some ways her singing is also reminiscent of Beatnik Queen Judy Henske's warbling manner. The songs I've included here for the most point find her playing second fiddle to Balin although the last track Chauffeur Blues was her party piece and the last song she sang onstage for the band before her departure.

Anderson died, at the start of this year, ironically on the same day as Paul Kantner, another key member of the band. There's a great interview with her here where she tells her side of the story should you be interested in knowing more. The Jefferson Airplane were a band of note even before Slick joined and there was a fork in the road before they realised it and shifted a gear forward towards history. This album is the living evidence.

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