Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Surrealistic Pillow


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

An OFF THE CHARTS side one with more tubey magic than you probably ever imagined! We always have fun playing a great copy of the psychedelic ’60s masterpiece, because the sound gives you so many of the qualities we love about good ol’ analog. No one’s recording albums any more with this kind of richness, sweetness, and warmth, that’s for sure! Drop the needle on My Best Friend or Today to hear that trippy Sixties San Francisco sound at its best. 

I don’t know how many more Hot Stamper copies we’ll be able to dig up, as these are getting harder and harder to come by — not to mention more expensive. Decent looking original pressings sell for good money these days, and not too many of them sound all that good. Add in the groove damage and surface noise that plague most of them, and you can see why it’s hard for us to continue picking them up and hoping for the best.

It’s An Uphill Battle Every Time

This album is an exceedingly difficult nut to crack — no matter how many copies we have, no matter how much information we have to work with. Play the typical copy and you’ll likely run for cover — we heard played copies that were aggressive, shrill, lifeless, dull, thick, veiled, bass-shy — you name it, we heard it. Not only that, but as a rule these early pressings are BEAT TO DEATH. Finding a copy that sounds any good and plays Mint Minus Minus or better is a real challenge.

But we didn’t give up. We knew that the best pressings of this album have tubey magic in spades. Undaunted, we kept up the search and eventually found some OUT OF THIS WORLD Hot Stamper copies.

Almost every pressing you’ll ever find suffers from at least a bit of harmonic distortion — some MUCH worse than others. We were convinced at one point that it was on the tapes, but after playing these super clean copies, we now know that not to be the case.

Tubey Magical Beyond Belief

The highs on side one superb. They’re not gritty, just extended with much less distortion than your average pressing. Today has some of the best bass defitnion we heard on our shootout. And, the vocal dynamics are off the charts. This was by far the best sounding side one we heard. Wow! A+++ tubey magical sound from start to finish.

Side two rated just shy of two pluses. D.C.B.A. on this copy has plenty of energy and extension up top. Just listen to the baritone guitar, the one that opens the track that sounds almost like an acoustic upright bass played with a pick. It’s jumping out of the speakers. Not many pressings have this kind of life or punchy bottom end. Embyonic Journey is a knockout with better vocal presence, and little, to no distortion. With a triple plus side one, and this side two being almost two plus, you can bet this change your expectations of Surrealistic Pillow from now on.

No Other Game In Town

If you love this album as much as we do, you’ll understand why we went to all this trouble to find great pressings. There is NO OTHER GAME IN TOWN for this album — the Sundazed Mono pressing can’t handle the rock songs, and I’ve never been a fan of the DCC. The typical pressing isn’t going to get you too far — we estimate you’d have to find at least twenty clean originals to find one that sounded anything like this… good luck with that! Leave the hard work to Better Records and spend your time enjoying the ultimate Surrealistic Pillow — not searching for it.

AMG Review

The second album by Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow was a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia, and it hit — literally — like a shot heard round the world… The second album by Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow was a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia, and it hit — literally — like a shot heard round the world; where the later efforts from bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and especially, the Charlatans, were initially not too much more than cult successes, Surrealistic Pillow rode the pop charts for most of 1967, soaring into that rarefied Top Five region occupied by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on, to which few American rock acts apart from the Byrds had been able to lay claim since 1964. And decades later the album still comes off as strong as any of those artists’ best work. From the Top Ten singles “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” to the sublime “Embryonic Journey,” the sensibilities are fierce, the material manages to be both melodic and complex (and it rocks, too), and the performances, sparked by new member Grace Slick on most of the lead vocals, are inspired…