Posts Tagged ‘Capitol Records’

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A freshly minted reissue of The Band’s debut album, released as celebration of that record’s 50th birthday, was an absolute guarantee even before it was announced a few months’ back. It’s one of the most venerated rock records of the Woodstock era, analyzed to the level of work by Bob Dylan, the artist that this Canadian-American group backed for his first electric tours. And hearing it even today, the love for “Music From Big Pink” feels entirely justified. The Band crystallized a sound that groups like The Byrds and the Grateful Dead had been wrestling with for years: a muscular production informed by blues, soul, folk and country (a.k.a. the roots of American rock) that stayed true to all of the above genres and felt sharply original.

This new collection blows up the sound of Big Pink to THX levels via a stereo remix by beloved engineer Bob Clearmountain. To drive the point home, they’ve split the original LP up over four sides of vinyl to be played at 45 RPM. Clearmountain’s touch is surprisingly tasteful at times, emphasizing the album’s copious bottom end driven by Rick Danko’s fluttering bass lines, Levon Helm’s kick drum and the swarming organ parts played by Garth Hudson, while adding a healthy gleam to the whole thing. But when his hand gets heavy, it injects a feeling of sterility to some of the most vibrant sounds to come out of the ‘60s. And not just the strange injection of some studio chatter between a few tracks. “The Weight,” inarguably the best known song from this disc, feels pulled apart like taffy, losing much of the spirited energy of the original mix. The same goes for the two Dylan tunes (“This Wheel’s On Fire” and “I Shall Be Released”) that wrap up the album. Hudson’s clavinet interjections lose their quaint charm and become almost obnoxious and The Band sounds less like a band and more like a bunch of studio players seeking a paycheck instead of musical enlightenment.

The year 1968 is often regarded as the most turbulent time in our history as a nation. Pop culture of that year tended to reflect the rage felt by America’s youth over the developments of the day. This was well represented in the music found on albums like Electric Ladyland, Beggars Banquet, and through ground breaking musicals like Hair. But an album considered among many to be the best of the year, “Music From Big Pink”, was somehow able to indirectly capture that spirit by leveraging themes and musical concepts that are inherently “American.” This was done in a manner that was clever, thoughtful, approachably complex, and remarkably calm and measured.

Fifty years later the music found on “Big Pink” remains fresh and equally riveting. So it was only fitting that to celebrate this milestone, band member Robbie Robertson would lead a charge to use modern technologies to “revisit” the record and some of its better known outtakes. Working with legendary engineer Bob Clearmountain (Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones) he is about to introduce a remix that lifts the sonic quality of the record without sacrificing any of its integrity. The result is a musical experience that feels contemporary and clean with an expanded sense of dimension.

It’s been a busy year for Robbie Robertson. Just last month he auctioned off the 1965 Fender Stratocaster that he and Bob Dylan famously shared and that Robbie used on the “Big Pink”. Robbie listened in wonder as he described as only he can, how “Music From Big Pink”was put to tape and why it continues to influence scores of musicians. 

When this came out, records were still coming out in mono and stereo. And so these very definitive decisions had to be made. There was something exciting about that. Coming back to it, Clearmountain wanted to be extremely loyal to these recordings. He wasn’t interested in getting cute and putting special effects on things. He just wanted to give it more dimension and open it up in a way where you could hear more things, more detail than you ever could before. He nailed that. It was exciting all over again for me to revisit it with him.

When we went in to record “Big Pink”, we wanted to work at A&R studios in New York. That was known as the best sounding studio around and John Simon, our producer, really wanted us to work there. It had been the old Columbia Studio where some many great things were done. Phil Ramone at that time had taken it over and turned it around. So we go in and the engineers tell us where to set up and we do what they say because we want this to sound as good as it possibly can. We go into the first song and all of a sudden I have to stop everything. I said, “I’m sorry this doesn’t work for us at all.” They were like, “What do you mean? What’s wrong?” I said, “We can’t play like this. We need to see one another.” There are baffles, and I’m in one corner and he’s over there and we’re operating through headphones when we usually communicate the eye signals, and gestures, and looks. It’s a big part of our musical communication.

The first song we recorded for “Big Pink” ended up being the first song on the record, “Tears of Rage.” When I think about it now, it was a very personal thing and it’s just coming back to me now that the record company was saying, “You really want to start your record with a long slow song?” And we said “I guess, yeah!” In the studio we started to run through it a little bit and were kinda getting use to the sound in the room and the next thing John Simon says is, “Wow, I’m really liking this.” So we ran it down, we recorded it a couple of times and then John said we should come in and listen to it to see if there were any adjustments we wanted to make. We went into the control room and that was the first time we heard the sound of The Band. That was our sound. It was us for the first time witnessing it. We had made lots of music with Bob Dylan and with The Hawks. But this was a whole different flavour. 

To do a song like “Key to the Highway” and it not be a shuffle was almost illegal. We took it and turned it inside out. It was something that I was feeling at the time. I said to Levon (Helm), “How does this feel to you?” And I played the rhythm in the way we did it for him. He said, “Man, let’s give it a shot!” But we were quite aware of some blues enthusiasts who thought that doing in that way with that boldness was almost a sacrilege and I like that!

That record, “Music From Big Pink”, was like rebelling against the rebellion, and the rebellion was this loud psychedelia, everything on 11. This was about going the opposite direction and trying to get just as much emotion out of the music as possible.

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beachboys

Some time in the spring of 1966, Al Kooper, a musician who’d recently supplied the signature organ riff to Bob Dylan’s ground breaking track “Like a Rolling Stone,” was invited to Brian Wilson’s home to hear some new Beach Boys music, an album called “Pet Sounds”, still a few weeks away from release. “He played it for me,” remembers Kooper, “and then he played it again, which did not bother me. Little did I know that it would receive more plays than anything else in my house for the rest of my life. It’s still my favourite album. Brian was in a world of music that no one else dwelled in.”

Al Kooper is not alone in his assessment. Mojo magazine has named Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys’ 11th album, the greatest LP of all time and Rolling Stone placed it at number two in its original top 500 list, just behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Conceived, written, produced and arranged by Wilson, with lyrics primarily by advertising copywriter Tony Asher – with whom Wilson had never previously collaborated – Pet Sounds was released by Capitol Records on May 16th, 1966, more than a half-century ago. Its impact has only swelled over the years and it was celebrated in 2016 by Capitol via Pet Sounds (50th Anniversary Collectors Edition), a box set housing four CDs and a Blu-ray audio disc. The package, which both reprises and expands upon The Pet Sounds Sessions, released 20+ years ago, includes the original album in stereo and mono, various other mixes, session outtakes and previously unreleased live recordings. It provides deep insight into the making of a landmark recording.

While much of the box set’ may appeal only to diehard fans and audiophiles, the original 13-track album, which features such Beach Boys classics as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No,” continues to find new fans. A key recurring plot point in 2015’s Brian Wilson biopic,Love & Mercy, revolved around the heady, intense Los Angeles sessions for the album, the creative genius directing the ace studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew while butting up against the other group members, who, the film alleges, felt that his new compositions were not representative of their trademark, best-selling sound. Those oft-repeated qualms, say Beach Boys Mike Love and Al Jardine, never existed.

Adds Love, “One thing I’ve been quoted as saying was, ‘Don’t fuck with the formula.’ But I never said that! It’s the most famous thing I said that I never said. First of all, I named the album. Second, all of us – Carl [Wilson], Al, Bruce, myself – all worked really hard on the harmonies. Pet Sounds is awesome for so many reasons. It was a big leap from where we were,” says Jardine. “We’d been out on tour for a long time [minus Brian, who’d stopped traveling with the band in 1964 to concentrate on writing and recording, his place in the road band taken by new recruit Bruce Johnston]. There was a lot of adjustment. But it wasn’t that we didn’t want to do it.”

Not all Beach Boys fans did initially fall for it though. On its release, Pet Sounds, despite garnering raves from the nascent rock press, It was a lesser performance than most of their previous albums, among them 1965’s Beach Boys Party! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights). Whether or not Brian Wilson and the other Beach Boys felt they’d created a defining work, Capitol Records balked, its executives complaining that the new music – much of it lush, soft, ambitious and introspective, Brian’s response to the Beatles’ new, more sophisticated direction on Rubber Soul – was too far removed from the music the public had come to expect from them.

“We played the album for Karl Engemann, the A&R [artists and repertoire] guy at Capitol responsible for the Beach Boys,” says Love, “and he listened and said, ‘Gee, guys, that’s great, but couldn’t we get something more like “California Girls” or “I Get Around” or “Fun, Fun, Fun”?’” The label’s solution was to tack on to the end of the album’s first side the group’s most recent hit single,  “Sloop John B.” Stylistically, it seemed at odds with Wilson and Asher’s more reflective compositions, among them “That’s Not Me,” “I’m Waiting for the Day,” “Here Today,” “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” “You Still Believe In Me” and the achingly beautiful, Carl Wilson-sung “God Only Knows,” a romantic gem that Paul McCartney has cited as one of his favourite ever songs. The album also included two instrumentals, a head-scratcher to the company brass who’d only seen the Beach Boys as a vocal group.

“It didn’t meet their expectations so they took Pet Sounds off the market and quickly put out a best-of album that took the wind out of our sails,” says Jardine. “We really didn’t have a chance to exploit it or perform it.

Brian raised the bar with Pet Sounds,” says Jardine. “People play off that ingeniousness that he has. He hears things and phrases things in a way that you wouldn’t expect.”

For Brian Wilson, who turned 78 on June 20th, 2020, the album represents part of a continuum, the latest development in his evolution as an artist. By the time Pet Sounds was released he was deeply involved in perfecting his next masterpiece, the single “Good Vibrations,” which he’d hoped to include on the album but continued to fine-tune for months. “I decided to experiment with a new kind of music,” Wilson said. “I was young and creative and we really did good. I’m glad that people still like the album.

Announcing McCartney III, to be released December 11th on Capitol Records across digital platforms, on CD, and on LP manufactured by Third Man Pressing. Vinyl configurations will include Third Man Edition of 3000 hand-numbered red vinyl copies sold on the Paul McCartney webstore, a ‘333’ Edition sold only via ThirdManRecords online store and limited to 333 copies on yellow-with-black-dots vinyl composed from a “regrind” of 33 McCartney & McCartney II records. 

2020 marks 50 years since Paul McCartney released his self-titled first solo album. Featuring Paul playing every instrument and writing and recording every song, McCartney’s effortless charms have only grown in stature and influence over time. The chart-topping album would signify not only a creative rebirth for Paul, but also as a template for generations of indie and lo-fi musicians seeking to emulate its warm homespun vibe and timeless tunes including “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “Every Night” and “The Lovely Linda”. 

The 1970s saw Paul forming his second band Wings and dominating the charts, stages and airwaves of the world, with multiple #1 singles, sold-out world tours, multi-million-selling albums including Band on the Run, Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, London Town and more.  In 1980, 10 years from the release of McCartney, Paul wrapped up the decade of Wings with the surprise release of his second solo album, the electronic-tinged McCartney II. Once again featuring Paul entirely on his own, McCartney II would come to be regarded as a leftfield classic, with classic cuts such as “Coming Up”, “Temporary Secretary” and “Waterfalls”.  

The 1980s saw Paul start again, this time kicking off an unprecedented solo run. The following four decades would see Paul’s iconic and legendary status grow exponentially, with solo masterpieces including Tug of War, Flowers in the Dirt, Pipes of Peace, Flaming Pie, Memory Almost Full and New, and massive live shows the world over — actually setting the World Record for the largest attendance at a concert. In 2018, 54 years since The Beatles first hit #1 on the Billboard Album Charts – Paul’s Egypt Station would be yet another historic #1 McCartney album.

Hard as it is to believe, it’s only been two years since Egypt Station went #1–and it was only last year that Paul’s Freshen Up tour played its last show before Covid hit pause on live music, a legendary blowout at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Paul hadn’t planned to release an album in 2020, but in the isolation of “Rockdown,” he soon found himself fleshing out some existing musical sketches and creating even more new ones. Before long an eclectic collection of spontaneous songs  would become McCartney III: a stripped back, self-produced and, quite literally, solo work marking the opening of a new decade, in the tradition of 1970’s McCartney and 1980’s  McCartney II.

Recorded earlier this year in Sussex, McCartney III is mostly built from live takes of Paul on vocals and guitar or piano, overdubbing his bass playing, drumming, etc. atop that foundation. The process first sparked when Paul returned to an unreleased track from the early 90s, When Winter Comes (produced by George Martin). Paul crafted a new passage for the song, giving rise to album opener Long Tailed Winter Bird—while When Winter Comes, featuring its new 2020 intro Winter Bird, became the new album’s grand finale.

Speaking about III, Paul said: “I was living lockdown life on my farm with my family and I would go to my studio every day. I had to do a little bit of work on some film music and that turned into the opening track and then when it was done I thought what will I do next? I had some stuff I’d worked on over the years but sometimes time would run out and it would be left half-finished so I started thinking about what I had.  Each day I’d start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up, it was a lot of fun.  It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job.  So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album.”

Long Tailed Winter Bird and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes bookend McCartney III’s vast and intimate range of modes and moods, from soul searching to wistful, from playful to raucous and all points between — captured with some of the same gear from Paul’s Rude Studio used as far back as 1971 Wings sessions. And Paul’s array of vintage instruments he played on the new album have an even more storied history, including Bill Black of Elvis Presley’s original trio’s double bass alongside Paul’s own iconic Hofner violin bass, and a mellotron from Abbey Road Studios used on Beatles recordings, to name but a few. 

In keeping with McCartney & McCartney II’s photography by Linda McCartney, the principal photos for III were shot by Paul’s daughter Mary McCartney—with additional photography by Paul’s nephew Sonny McCartney as well as photos Paul took on his phone (it’s a family affair).  The cover art and typography is by celebrated American artist Ed Ruscha

McCartney and McCartney II each saw Paul open up a new decade with reinvention, both personal and musical. Just as McCartney’s 1970 release marked Paul’s return to basics in the wake of the biggest band break-up in musical history, and the 1980 avant-garde masterpiece McCartney II rose from the ashes of Wings, McCartney III finds Paul back on his own, turning unexpected circumstances into a personal snapshot of a timeless artist at a unique point in history.

McCartney III will be released December 11th on Capitol Records manufactured by Third Man Pressing. Vinyl configurations will range from standard 180g to a Third Man Edition of 3,333 hand-numbered red vinyl copies, a ‘333’ Edition sold only via Third Man Records online store and limited to 333 copies on yellow-with-black-dots vinyl created using 33 recycled vinyl copies of McCartney and McCartney II, a U.S. indie retail exclusive pressing of 4000 hand-numbered white vinyl LPs, and more.

Travelin' Man by Bob Seger on Amazon Music - Amazon.com

Bob Seger knew all about disappointment, after years of struggling to find a wider audience. the album “Beautiful Loser”, released in April 1975, unfolded as a rumination on those feelings.

The title track, a microcosm of hopelessness, speaks to all of it: “The original concept came from Leonard Cohen’s line, ‘He’s reaching for the sky just to surrender,'” Seger told Rolling Stone in 1976. “You know, people who set their goals so low that they’ll never be disappointed.”

Seger’s hard-charging brand of heartland rock had already attracted a locally fervent audience in Michigan, But the next six studio projects never got any higher than No. 171. (Seger’s most recent release, 1974’s Seven, hadn’t charted at all.) His life in music was at a crossroads, and Seger had clearly begun to worry about about giving in.

As that worry took root, he struggled to move forward with the title track. A key voice of reason got things back on track. “I wrote five different ‘Beautiful Loser’s before I settled on one for the record, There was a ballad, a blues – I couldn’t find the right tone for the song. So, I played it for Glenn Frey, an old friend, to get some advice. He was the first person to ever hear it. And he loved it, so I stuck with the song until it all got pieced together.”

More than that, Frey convinced Seger to remain true to this quieter, more personal tack. “If he hadn’t come, seriously, I probably would have put out another record like Seven – basically all rock ‘n’ roll, with maybe one ballad,” said Seger. “But Frey liked it all. He said, ‘Go with it, man. Do something diverse.'”

The version of Bob Seger ultimately embraced by the masses first came into focus here, with reflective ballads like the title cut claiming just as much prominence as rockers like “Katmandu.” This is the record Seger was touring on when the game-changing ‘Live Bullet’ was recorded

Seger recorded the ballads with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and the rockers with the Silver Bullet Band, setting a new pattern. Either way, he rarely went off topic on Beautiful Loser, taking a notable breather with a furious one-take update of Tina Turner’s “Nutbush City Limits.” Even “Jody Girl” a character sketch that had nothing to do with his career struggles, is almost unbearably quiet.

“It’s a concept album, to a degree,” Seger acknowledged in a 1975 radio interview. “The other seven songs all have a connected theme: It’s basically life on the road and my concept of what a winner or a loser is in life, as opposed to just the music business. Some of the songs talk about how we maintain our sanity – some of the songs are darker, about the loneliness.”

Beautiful Loser ended up opening a whole new area of introspection in Seger, not just thematically but in the way he approached every part of his craft. Already emerging as one of rock’s most heartfelt songwriters, he began re-thinking his approach on stage, too. “The worst thing that happened to me,” he told Marsh, “was that I got blown away by guitar – and for about four years, I lost myself in lead guitar. I sort of stopped being a songwriter, stopped being creative and just tried to be a lead guitar player more than anything else.”

After a four-album career-opening run on Capitol, Seger signed with Palladium Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. run by his manager Punch Andrews. Three underperforming albums later, Warners rejected the downbeat Beautiful Loser out of hand. He returned to Capitol Records, setting the stage for a huge breakthrough.

Along the way, Seger tacitly admitted that the answers might remain elusive. On “Fine Memory,” he leaves the final lyric unsung – never repeating “I think I’m gonna take it with me.”. “Sailing Nights” found him feeling utterly adrift. Still, Seger seemed more resolute than ever on escapist-themed tracks like “Travelin’ Man” and “Katmandu.”

Why “Katmandu”? Seger he later told the local magazine that the capital city of Nepal, located in the Himalayas between China and India, was “a very mysterious and beautiful place in a lot of ways, like another planet for me.”

Beautiful Loser appeared set to live up to its name. The album had only middling sales, and the title song failed to reach the Top 100. But the material found new life out on the concert trail, setting the stage for Seger’s career-making moment with 1976’s classic album “Live Bullet”.

Some 300,000 of the first half-million copies sold in Detroit alone,  Live Bullet just kept going, eventually becoming certified platinum five times. As its star rose, so did Beautiful Loser, whose songs dominated the setlist.

 

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Quicksilver Messenger Service – 1968 – The original band formed in 1965 featured revered lead guitarist John Cipollina, Gary Duncan (guitar), David Freiberg (bass), Greg Elmore (drums) – (with Jim Murray and Skip Spence added on guitars). Dino Valenti, who may have had a hand in the band’s formation, was arrested on marijuana possession and spent two years in prison. Spence left to drum on Jefferson Airplane’s debut album in 1966 and was co-founder of Moby Grape, and Murray left after the Monterey Pop Festival. Quicksilver Messenger Service was the best Acid Rock dance band of the 60s honing their skills at the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore West.

Quicksilver Messenger Service  eventually signed on with Capitol Records in 1967. The core group made only two albums together, its finest: “Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968), and “Happy Trails,” (1969) with stellar songs such as “Pride of Man,” “Dino’s Song,” “The Fool,” “Who Do You Love,” and “Mona.” Cipollina’s ravishing improvisations on “The Fool,” and “Who Do You Love,” for example, set him apart from most other guitarists of the late 1960s. If you ever saw the band live at the Avalon or Winterland, you know that Cipollina could slay you with his spires of tremolo. He had a unique tone that could not be duplicated… Duncan left in 1969 owing to substance abuse issues and general exhaustion and was replaced by ace British session man Nicky Hopkins who contributed masterful piano work on the band’s third and most successful album” Shady Grove,” (1970). Valenti and Duncan returned in 1970 playing on “Just for Love,” (1970) with Valenti taking lead vocal on Fresh Air,” the group’s biggest hit single, and “What About Me,” (1971).

After Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins departed later in the year, Quicksilver carried on with Duncan, Elmore, Valenti, and Freiberg, adding Mark Naftalin (Freiberg was replaced by Mark Ryan when the former was arrested for illegal possession of marijuana).

There were two less successful albums with this configuration: “Quicksilver,” (1971)) and “Comin’ Thru,” (1972). A reunion album “Solid Silver,” (1975) included Cipollina and Hopkins and a host of other Bay Area musicians. The band made one final appearance at Winterland in late December – Cipollina’s last hurrah with the band he founded. Quicksilver Messenger Service carried on for another four years before disbanding… But the band will be remembered for its first two albums – and the wonderful chemistry sparking Cipollina and Duncan’s sublimely beautiful guitar improvisations.

In 1967 – “Dino’s Song,” Live unreleased version recorded at the Fillmore. One of the finest, achingly beautiful, love songs ever written (by Dino Valenti), Originally on the band’s self-titled 1968 debut, one of the finest of the era. This band had few peers and it’s, always a delight to hear Gary Duncan and john Cipollina play in tandem. But a little sad now with their passing.

Beck

Beck has announced the upcoming release of his new album “Hyperspace”, accompanied by the release of a brand new single ‘Saw Lightning’.  The track is an eclectic, percussive-heavy alt-pop ditty with some lovely slide guitar, riddled with melancholic harmonica and schizophrenic lyricism – another incredible addition to Beck’s extensive back catalogue of experimental jams.

Co-produced by Pharrell, who also contributed drums and mumbles, the track sets a seriously hyper-energetic tone and will satiate the hunger of any Beck fanatic in the lead up to the album release.

Hyperspace will mark Beck’s 14th album release, following the success of his Grammy-winning 2017 record Colours. No release date is set yet however, you can expect it to arrive at “some point in the space-time continuum”, according to Capitol Records

The Decemberists  have shared the second single from their forthcoming eighth studio album, I’ll Be Your Girl, out on March 16th via Capitol Records.

Their first single, “Severed,” saw the band taking on a radical new electronic, synth-pop sound as they name dropped unexpected influences like Roxy Music, New Order and Depeche Mode, and they even said it started as a punk song. Synths follow the band into their new single “Once In My Life” though the acoustic guitar-led intro and outro give off the familiar comfort of a traditional Decemberists track. However, sandwiched in between the song’s edges is a spacey, synth-driven track that somehow manages to coexist with the indie-folk balladry of front man Colin Meloy’s lead vocals.

Meloy said the track was elevated by the band in the studio and he commented, “We were playing that on the road as a folk-rock anthem thing, but bringing in that obliterating synth really took it somewhere different. The whole band really stepped up and transformed these arrangements.”Image may contain: shoes

New album ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ available March 16th:

This thing, this molten piece of spectacular extravagance, is available for pre-order now and will ship no later than June 15th, 2018. No fear: each pre-order will come with a digital download of the album that can be redeemed on March 16 (the four extra tracks will be available for digital download on the shipping date).

FEATURES:
• Sixteen songs — all eleven of the album tracks + four exclusive tracks from the IBYG sessions
• Eight  7” vinyl records, each a different color
• Nine sleeve pinwheeling, heavy duty cardstock book with slide-out record jacket pockets, full color art from Carson Ellis and paper engineered pop-up elements
• Full color booklet SIGNED BY THE BAND
• Lives tidily inside a hefty chipboard slipcase.

(Plus a few special secrets)

“Once In My Life” is the first song on I’ll Be Your Girl. I imagine you’ve felt this way, or are maybe feeling this way right now. It’s a pretty universal sentiment, I think. Embrace it. Hope you enjoy the song. – Colin Meloy

The Decemberists are back! Their band members include drummer Joen Moen, guitarists Chris Funk and Colin Meloy who takes lead vocals, multi-instrumentalist Chris Funk and Nate Query playing bass.

This year sees the release of their latest album; I’ll Be Your Girl. And so, you can catch them showing off their new material Fans are all very excited to get their hands on The Decemberists tickets,

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Quicksilver Messenger Service Follow The ‘Happy Trails’

This was the day 49 years ago that San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service unveiled their finest hour, at least in commercial terms. March 17th, 1969 marked the release of ‘Happy Trails,’ their second album for Capitol Records and their one LP to win gold certification in America. When it comes to groups graced with two lead guitarists, one often earns more ardor than the other. Sometimes that’s understandable, like when one player takes more of the solos. But in a case like Quicksilver Messenger Service, it’s a mystery. In their heyday, John Cipollina tended to get more attention than Gary Duncan, though they both made dazzling contributions to their albums and concerts.

Cipollina’s distinctly ringing tremolo, a kind of sonic special effect that achieved a shivery resonance on the highest notes. In fact, Duncan has his own distinct tone and his overall work showed nearly as much invention and scope as his partner’s. You can hear their interplay best in the band’s oceanic jams,

Quite unusually for a sophomore record, ‘Happy Trails’ was a live album, taken from performances by the band at the famed Fillmore East and Fillmore West venues. Even more ambitiously, the first side of the disc was a suite of songs, running more than 25 minutes in total, based around the theme of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love?’, in no fewer than six episodic interpretations. Quicksilver’s version divided into seven sections, with different sub-titles. One dubbed When You Love, featured a long, and highly creative, five-minute jaunt from Duncan that drew from jazz as well as psychedelia, underscored by a Latin-influenced bass line. It’s forceful and ruminative at once. Cipollina took the reins during the How You Love segment, letting his chilling tremolo spin through loop-de-loops, broken by distinct cries phased to shoot back and forth between the speakers.

The first and last of these were versions of the song itself, with notable roles for the band’s guitarists John Cipollina and Gary Duncan. The first even nudged into the Billboard Hot 100, reaching No. 91. But the middle passages were all written by the members of QMS themselves, titled (with a hint of humour) ‘When You Love, ‘Where You Love,’ ‘How You Love’ and ‘Which Do You Love.’

Quicksilver goes into it at full speed,” wrote Greil Marcus in his Rolling Stone review at the time, “John Cipollina’s guitar alternately harsh and sweet, clashing with Gary Duncan’s rhythm, Greg Elmore’s drumming simple and solid, never an iota of sloppiness, not a note missed.”

Who do you love and Mona are excellent examples of QMS live , the audience interaction is exciting and enervating, Cipollina’s guitar playing is ecstatic and moving. Calvary is like a psychedelic spaghetti western and is quite in place and a good ol’ boys yippee ay yay ending in Happy Trails means a great trip is guaranteed for all you heads out there

This is simply the San Francisco live,’acid rock’, sound at its best. Obviously comparisons with the Dead will be made but for reasons well expressed by the other reviewers here they are pretty meaningless. I can understand why opinions are divided over this album, It is one of the great, maybe the greatest, guitar album(s) flowing in a way that no other has ever equalled. Don’t look for structured songs here just, to quote the Airplane,”ride the music”. One of the two or three albums that would be in my top ten whenever you asked me.

The second side of ‘Happy Trails’ started with another gem from the Bo Diddley catalogue, ‘Mona,’ and three more band compositions including Duncan’s 13-minute instrumental ‘Calvary.’

The album artwork was designed by Globe Propaganda, described as “an advertising agency specializing in hip, progressive material.” Soon afterwards, Globe designed covers for the Charlatans and It’s A Beautiful Day. 23 years after its release, in 1992, ‘Happy Trails’ went gold, testament to the lasting contribution of Quicksilver Messenger Service as was the fact that it landed at No. 189 on Rolling Stone’s all-time top 500 albums.