Released just nine months after “Surrealistic Pillow” in 1967, “After Bathing at Baxter’s” didn’t produce any followup single hits and thus didn’t do nearly so well on the charts as its predecessor. But it’s great. Some of these songs were live show staples, and maybe they’re more successful that way – “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil” being one example, and the combination of “Won’t You Try” and “Saturday Afternoon” being another. Those are such fantastic settings for the improvisation and experimentation that the band was so good at live that it can be a little hard to hear them cut down to almost-single length for an album, having heard the more elaborate versions for years.
In fact, I didn’t own a vinyl copy of “Baxter’s” until just a few years ago, and that was the very reason: I loved the versions of some of these songs that appeared on “Bless Its Pointed Little Head” and some live bootlegs that were out there, and later on the Monterey and Woodstock collections; I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the studio versions.
How many times in this blog am I going to have to say I was wrong? (With regard to the Airplane, or at least two of its members, there’s going to be a big “I was wrong” coming up when I get back to Hot Tuna.) I was wrong. This album is excellent. Even the little audio verité nonsense of “A Small Package of Value Will Come To You, Shortly” is somehow enjoyable (and I quote the title constantly when shipping things to people). There’s a nine-minute instrumental (“Spare Chaynge”) that never outstays its welcome. “Young Girl Sunday Blues” manages to stretch out and capture that Jefferson Airplane energy in a studio recording.
Even though I paid an amount for this ($18 – it’s pretty pristine), I haven’t given this enough play, at least in part because it keeps getting overshadowed by my love for certain other Airplane records.