It’s easy to forget how different the bands that made up the San Francisco zeitgeist of the mid-’60s were.?Jorma Kaukonen may have deserved to stand on stage with Garcia and Santana, but he never was the spiritual center of the Airplane…that role belonged to a former model, whom history remembers as Grace Slick. So what ties the bands together, other than youthful radicalism??I’d propose that all the San Fran bands had one thing in common: they were as much about what they listened to as what they played.? Record-collection-ism, if I might coin an expression, is alive and well today in the likes of Yo La Tengo and any DJ.
Into this mix comes the long-running “The Essential” series, a most-obvious series of greatest hits.? Our compilation producer’s (Bob Irwin) use of two discs ensures nothing critical has been left off, and the sequencing is decent, albeit front-loaded, likely a status of the near-chronological organization of the discs.? Conveniently, the track list features the song’s top chart placement, including “Somebody to Love”‘s #5 on the pop charts.? The strangest choice is a pretty but misinformed take on Stephen Still’s “Wooden Ships”, which takes the folk song to unreasonable heights.
Long after the Matrix, the Fillmore and Winterland were abandoned or razed, these songs may not matter as much as the band itself did, a shame considering their mastery of Carrolian deviance in a world that prefers Shellian horror.? It’s equally difficult to imagine the market for this record; while it’d suit a house party, those who are truly interested probably already own Surrealistic Pillow.