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Released during the dimming days of the “peace & love” decade of the 1960s, the Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers was, arguably, both one of their best albums and one of their most controversial. The band’s leftist, anti-war politics shone brightly in the lyrics of songs like “We Can Be Together” (in which the label tried to censor the word “motherfucker) and the title track while songs like “Good Shepherd” and “Eskimo Blue Day” evinced more of a “back to the land” Earth goddess vibe. Musically, Volunteers ranged from hippie folk and psychedelia to anthemic hard rock.
The album extended the band’s string of five straight Top 20 albums, peaking at #13 on the Billboard Top 200 while the title track rose to #65, quite an accomplishment for a politically-charged song at the dawn of the AOR era. The label’s ad for the album certainly didn’t help its commercial prospects – I’m sure that the band’s high-profile performance at the Woodstock festival a few months previous did more for Volunteers – the ad’s graphic showing little more than a photo of the LP cover, the band’s name in too-large type, and an out-of-the-place copy of Dan O’Neill’s “Odd Bodkins” comic.
Volunteers would be the last album from what is considered to be the band’s classic line-up, drummer Spencer Dryden forced out and replaced by Joey Covington. Singer Marty Balin would also leave soon thereafter, and before the 1971 release of Bark, the band’s sixth Top 20 LP in a row and the first for its RCA-distributed Grunt Records vanity label. Considering how little effort or thought went into the ad design for Volunteers, or even the album cover artwork of Bark, it’s not sure if the band was too stoned to realize that they were being dissed by the label.