Posted: October 17, 2018 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Click to view larger image

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE” Live At The Old Mill Tavern ” March 29th 1970

QMS are/were a great guitar band, the first three albums are a guitarfest but 1970 QMS are not that band. While I accept Dino Valenti was a good singer here he definitely dominates the main parts of this set. A lot of this album is material which was still to be released but on the band’s standard track “Mona” Cippolina does not get enough chance to shine (the band was down to one guitarist). Nicky Hopkins plays as good as ever on keyboards.
The last tracks are two jams with James Cotton on harp which at 15 mins is a classic West Coast work out. It is worth it for that alone.

The Quicksilver line up during this era was: Dino Valenti, Gary Duncan, John Cipollina, David Freiberg, Greg Elmore and Nicky Hopkins. This is the line up that recorded “Just For Love” and “What About Me”.

The sound quality is actually rather good for a 40 year old soundboard reel to reel tape recording. It does take a few minutes for the bass to get dialed in the mix. There were a few audio gremlins happening that night on stage as well. These are discussed in the booklet accompanying the release. The recording could also use a bit more low end. Still, this is definitely one of the best sounding Quicksilver archive releases. It pretty much blows away the Bear label releases.

The total playing time is just over 65 minutes. The majority of songs are from the Dino era so if you don’t like those, you might want to look elsewhere. Most of the songs are very well played versions with the exception being the first version of Baby Baby. There is a reference to Edward during one of between song breaks. It’s a shame that something from Shady Grove isn’t among the song lists. Blues legend James Cotton joins in the the last two jams. There were three jams on the circulating copies. All in all, a cool performance from the Old Mill .

Click to view larger image

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE –  Live At My Father’s Place Rosyln NY January 31st 1976

Click to view larger image

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE – Fillmore Auditorium: 5th February 1967

One of the very earliest known live recordings by this psychedelic jam band, legends who conquered San Francisco and later the world, Quicksilver Messenger Service! 
Features the rare Jim Murphy-led 5 piece line-up laying down the acid blues grooves the band would follow throughout their career with tracks such as Suzy Q, Smokestack Lightnin, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,Hoochie Coochie Man, and more! .  The performance is typically good from that period. QMS was like other bands (Steve Miller Blues Band, Santana Blues Band  as they were originally named) early on during that time–heavily indebted to the blues–but the blues songs are played with excitement with several good guitar solos/duels. Murray’s vocals and harp playing don’t distract from the performances. And Freiberg plays his viola on a couple of tunes. And with songs that appeared on their first album, this is a real time machine before the Dino Valenti era and the band’s sound changed.
Available on both CD and gorgeous 2LP vinyl set!

The band that became Quicksilver Messenger Service originally was conceived as a rock vehicle for folk singer/songwriter Dino Valenti, author of “Get Together.”” Living in San Francisco, Valenti had found guitarist John Cipollina and singer Jim Murray. Valenti’s friend David Freiberg (joined on bass, and the group was completed by the addition of drummer Greg Elmore and guitarist Gary Duncan As the band was being put together, Valenti was imprisoned on a drug charge and he didn’t re-join Quicksilver until later.

Click to view larger image

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE  – Fillmore Auditorium:  5th November 1966

Nice package of good quality recording from 1966 of embyronic Quicksilver Messenger Service, then formed less than a year and already a bay area favourite.

This is absolutely terrific and a must for fans of Quicksilver Messenger Service especially their earlier pre-Dino Valenti days. There’s been a glut of live QMS CD’s lately, and a few have been “OK” but this is the best yet. Jim Murray’s excellent vocals really make you wonder what they would’ve been like if he stuck around. The songs are shorter than their later lengthy explorations, but there’s enough classic Cipollina guitar solos to satisfy his disciples. It comes is a nice digipak with an insert. There was a superb 2LP set back in the day called “Maiden Of The Cancer Moon” that was a terrific performance by the four piece line-up that recorded their first album, housed in a beautiful jacket with decent sound for the day. I had been hoping and praying that someone would release those tapes on CD one day. Well that day has come with the excellent 2CD digipak set “Live At The Fillmore June 7, 1968′” the best live document of that era since “Happy Trails” .Greatly expanded with far better sound, except for a rough “Pride Of Man” opener where the sound mixer was getting his bearings. Both of these recent archival releases are essential for any fan of QMS.

Jim Murray – vocals, percussion; John Cipollina – guitar, vocals; Gary Duncan – guitar, vocals; David Freiberg – bass, vocals; Greg Elmore – drums

Image may contain: 1 person, playing a musical instrument, on stage and guitar

Along with contemporaries Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service were among the earliest of the San Francisco “Summer of Love” bands who frequented the Avalon, the Fillmore and other area venues. Originally conceived as a band to back San Fran folk-rocker Dino Valenti (best known for writing The Youngbloods’ classic “Get Together”), the band, Quicksilver Messenger Service, had to go on without their frontman in 1965, when Valenti got busted for drugs and sent away to prison. He was in and out of jail for the next two years, and after a failed attempt at forming a band called the Outlaws with Gary Duncan, Valenti officially rejoined Quicksilver in 1970. By then, the group had already built a sizeable following as one of the Bay Area’s hottest club bands.

This is probably the earliest known professional live recording of the band, made in 1966 at the Fillmore Auditorium. Less than a year old at the time of this recording (though some of their members had begun working together in 1963), the band was still finding its way through a maze of old blues tunes, early psychedelic drug influences and originals they were writing at the time.

Their musicianship is remarkably strong on this early recording, especially considering other popular bands breaking through the Bay Area club scene at the time could barely play. Quicksilver’s version of “Susie Q” was completely lifted almost note for note some years later by another Bay Area-based band: Creedence Clearwater Revival. There was an obvious interest in Muddy Waters‘ music, with the band performing two covers of his songs at this show: “I Got My Mojo Working” and “Hoochie Coochie Man.” But not everything here works. The band’s attempt at a pop ballad, “Stand By Me,” lacks cohesive direction and suffers from horribly off-key vocals and out of tune instruments.

Guitarist John Cipollina (whose younger brother would become the bassist in Huey Lewis and the News), spearheaded the band’s idea to use dual lead guitars and would eventually leave Quicksilver in 1970 to form his own band, Copperhead. In 1989, he died at the age of 45 from emphysema, aggravated by years of respiratory problems. Bassist David Freiberg eventually left to join his friends in the Jefferson Airplane in 1972, morphing into the Jefferson Starship around the same time.

During this unique time in the history of American rock music, there were few groups that played as prominent and formative a part in developing the “San Francisco sound.” Here’s a chance to experience the band in all their early, unvarnished glory – indispensable.

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE  –  Live at the Fillmore: 7th June 1968

Songs from “Unreleased Gold and Silver” and the superiorly recorded “Maiden of the Cancer Moon – originally on Psycho Records. Also some from a bootleg called “Smokin Sound” its nice to hear “Pride of Man” despite the huge drop out in sound after Cipollina’s solo. All of this is pretty well recorded, I have to say. Not bad for tapes of the age they are. Duncan is too loud in the mix, as another viewer remarked. However one can appreciate this if one remembers how Duncan used to live in the shadow of Cipollina. Of course the reason that is was that Cipollina had “that sound” which distinguished him from so many other players of that time. Duncan, the great player that he was, could not compare to that. Its widely know too that Cipollina’s amplification live was a fearsome beast,

This recording, taken from a two-night, four-show run, with Quicksilver opening for Electric Flag and Steppenwolf, is essential concert listening. Fans of the quartet lineup that recorded the first QMS LP and Happy Trailswill love these sets, as they took place right between the production of those first two LPs.

On this set, the first LP material is represented both by their cover of Hamilton Camp’s “Pride Of Man” and their own “Dino’s Song.” These were both regional hits in California at the time, and easily accessible for new audiences, which New York City was for QMS in 1968. We’re also treated to a cover song, “Back Door Man,” that was recorded during the first album sessions, but rejected in favor of original material. Here it is played with aggressive enthusiasm. Even though the setlist is relatively tame, the band is obviously giving it their best in order to win over the NYC audience.

They return to the first album for their set closer, “Gold And Silver.” This number is one of the finest performances by the original band ever captured on tape. this song is just as infectious. With blazing guitar solos interweaving, powerful counterpoint bass playing and the unusually swinging drum rhythms, this tune truly smokes. If the audience wasn’t convinced of QMS’ originality prior to this song, this final number must have finished the job – and this recording stands as proof.

They close with another tour de force, Bo Diddley’s “Mona,” which includes some inspired jamming with hints of “Maiden Of The Cancer Moon” and “Calvary”, clocking in at twelve minutes altogether. This is not only another hot performance, but gives one great insight into where they would be heading musically on their next album, Happy Trails.

John Cipollina – guitar, vocals; Gary Duncan – guitar, vocals; David Freiberg – bass, vocals; Greg Elmore – drums

QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE   – Live At The Winterland Ballroom 1st December 1973

Previously unreleased live recording of a gig from around the band’s ‘Coming Thru’ album. The show clocks in at over an hour, as I soon there realized that I was definitely getting the most out of this disc’s four tracks (of a total of eight) that ran over the eight-minute mark. The suitable opener – the nine-minute “Losing Hand”, “Mojo”, [always like hearing QMS play this tune], one that I’m vaguely familiar with “The Hat” and the wailing “Who Do You Love”.

This performance was taken from a December 1st, 1973 concert at Winterland in San Francisco, which had Quicksilver Messenger Service headlining a bill that also included the Sons of Champlin and John Cipollina’s Columbia label recording group, Copperhead. There is some extant film footage of the Copperhead and QMS sets, which can be found on the expanded, two DVD reissue of the documentary John Cipollina: Electric Guitar Slinger. The film of QMS performing “Who Do You Love?” is also posted on Youtube.

The live performance itself is stunning. One of the complaints leveled by some reviewers of the Valenti QMS lineups, is that his frontman act reigned in the jamming facet of the band. Not so here. Perhaps it was the energy of the double drum kits, or the challenge of playing before a large Winterland audience with promoter Bill Graham cracking the whip, but Duncan and Cipollina take no prisoners here, pushing the music higher and higher. The band is tight and the playing is energetic and focused. The highlights include an excellent take on the blues standard, “Losing Hand”, done in a Latin jazz rock arrangement similar to “Fresh Air”, a scorching version of Valenti’s “Mojo”, and a 19 minute jam up on “Who Do You Love” that includes a spacy psychedelic section.

The Band of John Cipollina – guitar, Dino Valenti – lead guitar flute, congas, & vocals, David Freiburg – keyboards, Mark Ryan – bass and Greg Elmore – drums.  a tandem drum kit battery, and Harold Aceves in the drum seats. Gary Duncan – bass, guitar, vocals;

Headlining a bill that featured Sons Of Champlin and John Cipollina’s band, Copperhead, this Quicksilver Messenger Service recording proves that even at the tail end of their years on Capitol Records, this was a band that was far more compelling onstage than they ever were in the studio. Few QMS live recordings are known to exist from the 1972-’73 era and this one, recorded in December of ’73, captures the band just before they initially split up. By the early 1970s, Dino Valenti was essentially the bandleader and was providing the vast majority of their material. However, on this performance, the original members, Gary Duncan, John Cipollina, David Frieberg and Greg Elmore are all on board, maintaining a strong link to their past. The core band is augmented by a second drummer and a percussionist. Mark Ryan takes the bass responsibilities, allowing Frieberg to concentrate on piano and keyboards. Although Gary Duncan was often ill during this era, his distinctive guitar playing is often full of fire and John Cipollina is also in fine form. On many of these songs, they bring an improvisational approach to the instrumental sections that are quite captivating, lending a balance to the groups more song oriented sound. The band still has plenty of creativity here and this set is remarkable and surprising in a number of ways.

The first surprise is the opening number, where they apply a prototype Quicksilver-style arrangement to “Losing Hand,” a piano based blues written by Ray Charles. Never recorded by the band, this rarity is a very impressive performance that finds a nice balance between the raw aggressive feel of Happy Trails era material and the more polished rock oriented sound of the later albums. Another rarely performed tune, “Play My Guitar,” a song from the 1971 Quicksilver LP follows, featuring trademark psychedelic guitar from Duncan and Cipollina that smokes the studio version. At this point, everyone is fully warmed up, so they sink their teeth into “Mojo,” the strongest rocker on the band’s final Capitol album, Comin’ Thru. The sparks fly as they burn through this number for nearly 10 minutes, allowing Duncan and Cipollina to fully flex their impressive guitar chops. They may have been nearing the end, but onstage Quicksilver still had tremendous energy.

To close the set, they deliver a nearly 40 minute continuous sequence that begins by coupling one of their most beloved songs, “What About Me” with an intriguing take on the Just For Love album track, “The Hat.” The crowd roars its approval in all the obvious places during “What About Me,” which features plenty of Valenti’s penetrating vocals. Midway through its dreamy flow, the band drops way down while Valenti improvises. Although no recordings have ever surfaced of Valenti’s early years on the folk circuit, this little sequence gives one a fleeting glimpse of his root sound and style. Eventually the group transitions into “The Hat” – 10 delightful minutes revolving around a relaxed infectious groove. They might not be recognized for it, but this same groove and nearly identical guitar riffs fueled several mid-’70s hits by other artists. Just when one expects them to end this remarkable sequence, Duncan starts veering off, with the rest of the group following his lead. As they continue the familiar sound of “Who Do You Love” emerges and they are suddenly blazing into a ferocious jam.

After several minutes, Duncan takes the lead vocal and it sounds as if we have journeyed back to 1968. With two drummers, as well as a percussionist, the rhythm section provides a strong foundation so that Duncan and Cipollina can cut loose. And cut loose they do with blazing guitar solos and plenty of improvising for the next 5 or 6 minutes. This is a cosmic performance in every sense of the word, with blazing guitar solos and a pummeling rhythm that must have convinced any doubters that this band could still pull it off.

Following this initial onslaught, the band heads into a spacey vamp with the guitarists adding creepy processed guitar effects, which build into a barrage of controlled noise, before unexpectedly, they stop! However, they are not finished and begin slowly building back up. Right before the 15-minute mark, they rip back into “Who Do You Love” proper, still blazing with energy. They are playing so furiously, that Duncan forgoes singing on the reprise and instead lets the guitars do all the talking, before bringing the night to a close with a big crescendo-style ending. It’s a remarkable performance that shows this final incarnation of the original group in a most positive light.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.