Posts Tagged ‘Nicky Hopkins’

NICKY HOPKINS – Session Man

Posted: November 10, 2018 in MUSIC
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If there were a Top Ten of Rock Sidemen/Session men, Nicky Hopkins would be near the top of the list. Compelled out of health issues to work as a sideman early in his career, he became one of the premier keyboard players in the business. For over thirty years, he was the invisible piano virtuoso behind a legion of Rock bands, As the most in-demand player when a band needed his keyboard artistry to embellish their work. Hopkins worked with the creme de la creme of Rock groups (and their members): the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, the Jeff Beck Group, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane, the Steve Miller Band, the Jerry Garcia Band, and individually, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney. He also worked with Peter Frampton, Rod Stewart, Joe Walsh Gene Clark, Badfinger, and Joe Cocker among others.

Just a few of his mind-blowing contributions: “Salt of the Earth,” “We Love You,” “She’s A Rainbow,” “Stray Cat Blues,” “Street Fighting Man,’ “Gimme Shelter,” “Angie,’ “No Expectations,” “Cool, Calm. Collected,” 2,000 Light Years From Home,” “Child of the Moon,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” (organ), Jigsaw Puzzle, “Sympathy For the Devil,” You Got the Silver,” Monkey Man,” “Honky Tonk Women” ‘Live With Me,” “Stop Breaking Down,” “Shine A Light,” “Sway,” “Ventilator Blues,” ‘All Down the Line,””Tumbling Dice,” “Happy,” “Soul Survivor,” “Dancing Wih Mr. D.” “Fingerprint File,” and “Time Waits For No One,” all with the Rolling Stones. Then there was “Morning Dew,” with the Jeff Beck Group; “Revolution,” (single version) with the Beatles; “Wooden Ships,” and “Eskimo Blue Day,” with the Jefferson Airplane, ” Kow Kow,” and “Baby’s House,’ with the Steve Miller Band, “Barabajagal,” with Donovan, “Just For Love,” and “What About Me,” with Quicksilver Messenger Service; “Photograph,” with Ringo Starr; “Jealous Guy,” with John Lennon; “You Are So Beautiful,” with Joe Cocker; and “You’re In My Heart,” with Rod Stewart. The list goes on: Hopkins was a colossal talent. He never received proper royalties, he never received the recognition he deserved, but what he does have is the utmost admiration of everyone who was ever touched by his brilliant piano work.

This Backing tracks the song “Angie” with Piano player Nicky Hopkins Drums Charlie Watts Bass Bill Wyman. The track Angie was released on the Goat Heads Soup LP. This particular version with no vocal or guitar tracks features Nicky Hopkins on keyboards along with Charlie on the drums and Bill playing bass. “Angie” is about the end of a relationship, a romance gone badly, a lost love Elisa Edelman. It was written and composed primarily by Keith Richards. Urban legend has Mick Jagger writing the song for David Bowie’ s wife but the truth is Keith wrote the song for Anita Pallenberg. Keith had just ended a relationship with Anita. Nicky Hopkins was a long time friend & musical collaborator of the Stones plays a brilliant keyboard track which stands out in the song and along with Jagger’s vocals make’s this a magical song !

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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 .

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

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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.

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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

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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.

California Dreaming

The Quicksilver Messenger Service were a wild quartet of jamming longhairs whose finest hour would come on the album released in 1969 Happy Trails. With an evocative cover designed by the Charlatans’ George Hunter, that live album caught the intense and almost dangerous quality of San Francisco’s late Sixties sound. Grounded in the primitive stomping of drummer Greg Elmore, the interplay between Gary Duncan’s chugging rhythm guitar and John Cipollina’s quivering lead lines was thrilling and hypnotic.
From the seeds of the Byrds and the Buffalo Springfield – the hipper LA representatives at Monterey – came a new scene in Southern California, one that would dominate the sound of the LA canyons for several years.

They put off signing with a label for years to avoid the pressures of touring and consequently getting rushed by record companies into making albums not up to their own standards. Living on a ranch north of San Francisco in high style with their ladies, grass, guns and living out their space cowboy trips, QMS also benefited greatly from an abundance of local gigs they picked up in the absence of The Airplane or The Dead, whose unavailability was due to national tours and out of town engagements. And it was through this constant stream of live performances that afforded them the opportunity to tighten up every loose end in their repertoire while stretching out musically and evolving their sound beyond any reasonable set of expectations.

One of the most revered psychedelic bands from the 1960s and 1970s the great Quicksilver Messenger Service bossed the Bay Area as a live act in the hazy daze of acid rock. Alongside their friends and rivals the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver epitomised the free form sound of a heady era with the twin guitar attack of Gary Duncan and John Cippolina mixing up vibrato, reverb, finger picking and some of the most influential experimental passages in Californian rock – both men being West Coasters through and through. Co-founding member Dino Valenti (from Connecticut) brought in his own unique folk bag style, learnt in the coffee houses of Berkeley and New York City, and he introduced a blend of gothic traditional and beatnik poetry that made the group unique. With the added bonus of a dynamic rhythm section – David Freiberg’s sonorous bass welded to Greg Elmore’s metronomic punchy tom tombackbeat, this bunch of sharp looking hombres became regulars in Bill Graham’s Fillmore Scene as well as the Carousel and Avalon and slayed crowds at every major club and ballroom and outdoor festival they graced. They also left behind a quite splendid body of recorded work and also used the studio to mix live and pieces into their sound – especially on the classic Happy Trails – which gave them a wraparound sonic groove that has never dated.

Their career spans 1965 to this very day since Freiberg and Duncan still go out to thrill crowds as QMS. Always an outfit for the West Coast aficionado they have never really received the appropriate accolades, bells, gongs and whistles of others but that doesn’t matter because their music reigns supreme.

Quicksilver Messenger Service Find A ‘Shady Grove’

The original Quicksilver Messenger Service was a project dreamt up by Dino Valenti (aka Chester Powers among many alter egos). He wanted them to perform with then revolutionary wireless guitars and all manner of gizmos and female backing singers. Unfortunately Dino was busted in 1965 and the other members kicked their heels and rehearsed awaiting his release from Uncle Sam’s clutches. The original band included guitarist Jim Murray who can be heard on various unofficial and posthumously released live discs but our story should start with the self-titled debut (1968) which follows hard on the heels of their contributions to the movie soundtrack for Revolution. Boasting the classic quartet line-up Quicksilver Messenger Service consists of some gorgeously elegiac acoustic and electric pieces like the opener ‘Pride of Man’ (penned by London born Buddhist folkie Hamilton Camp) and ‘Light Your Windows’ as well as brilliantly conceived jam work outs, ‘Gold and Silver’ and ‘The Fool’ where the Duncan/Cippolina axis swap and trade lead lines with a jazzy fluidity.

Firmly entrenched in the San Francisco counter culture – they rarely strayed over the State line in fact –  Quicksilver won a reputation as hard living rascals with a penchant for firing off rifles at their nearby neighbours the Dead’s ranch squat. This rough image readily translates to the amazing Happy Trails (1969) and its deliciously kitsch cowboy artwork  for Globe Propaganda by George Hunter (a member of The Charlatans he) which references Dale Evans out on the range tune penned for Roy Rogers TV show. Side one of Trails consists of Bo Diddley’s ‘Who Do You Love?’ taken down so many avenues that it threatens to explode. Divided in to ‘Who’,  ‘When’ Where’  ‘How’ and ‘Which Do You Love’ with a mind-boggling return to the main theme, the band involve walking bass lines, Fillmore West audience participation and avant garde passages that are expertly cut up and edited to Dada effect – not to mention lung busting guitar lines like nothing else on earth.

Side 2 is more measured but equally inventive. Diddley’s ‘Mona’ kicks things off now and white boy blues doesn’t come any sharper.  Duncan’s ‘Maiden of the Cancer Moon’ and ‘Calvary’ are atmospherically charged and comparable to Ennio Morricone. All manner of percussive devices are employed and the vocals are damn fine to boot. Long considered a must have classic of the era we see or hear nothing wrong with that judgement. Fact, we love this album so much we’ve just stuck it on again!

Shady Grove finds Britain’s very own keyboards legend Nicky Hopkins involved in proceedings while Just For Love heralds the overdue return of Mr Valenti. There is also the fine reunion period of Solid Silver to consider. We can offer a brace of terrific compilations. The introductory Classic Masters is a 24-bit remastered 12-track set that will have you hankering for the period of the Human Be-In and the lysergic fresh air of those sizzling sixties. Masters of Rock: Quicksilver Messenger Service (2003) is another fine way to discover these fleet-footed acid rock pioneers with well known gems fixed next to epics like ‘California State Correctional Facility Blues’ and the hipster head anthem ‘Joseph’s Coat’.

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As the 1970s signalled changes in personnel and a new mood in the air Quicksilver took stock and branched out with both Duncan and Cippolina embracing solo projects like the magnificent offshoot band Copperhead and Freiberg throwing in his lot with his old pals in Jefferson Airplane and then Jefferson Starship, although they all continued to play impromptu shows with their kindred soul brothers in the Dead. Often described as hippies with rifles this lot knew about image but their music flowed organically. They still sound like Messengers from the gods.

The late 1960s and early ‘70s were golden years in the history of San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. 45 years later, they were following up the album that would, much later, be certified as their one gold disc in America, ‘Happy Trails.’ They did so with a record that would continue their run of four US top 30 placings in a row with a US chart debut on January 24, 1970, ‘Shady Grove.’

It’s an album that’s also of interest to Rolling Stones fans, because from this third studio release onwards, the band’s personnel was enhanced by the arrival of one of the most in-demand keyboard players of his generation, the late Nicky Hopkins. His presence, which also included work on harpsichord, cello and celeste, was an admirable addition to the band’s existing sound, based on the guitar and vocals of John Cipollina and the viola, bass, guitar and joint vocals of David Freiberg. Greg Elmore added percussive inspiration.

QMS had debuted with a self-titled album in 1968 that complemented the experimental rock milieu of the day, and made some chart inroads, peaking at No. 63. Their first top 30 showing came with that ‘Happy Trails’ follow-up at No. 27. ‘Shady Grove’ went a little higher, at No. 25, after which ‘Just For Love’ peaked at No. 27 and ‘What About Me’ No. 26. It was a remarkably consistent run, all achieved by four releases inside a two-year span.

‘Shady Grove’ was, again, the work of a band confident that their audience would make an adventurous sonic journey with them, even if they were in the process of moving from their psychedelic beginnings into a more pop-oriented sound.

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A key influence on QMS (along with countless others) at this time was Bo Diddley, whose amplified cigar box and ever-shifting shuffle beat lent itself easily to interpretations of extended electric guitar-based improvisations with its simplicity, buoyant consistency and hard, sawn-off jagged primitivism that allowed itself to be employed as if it were some new aural material which was highly conductive to electricity and malleable enough to stretch out into spaced-out plasticity. And in the hands, heads and hearts of QMS, two of his numbers would turn into sprawling epics. A cover of his “Who Do You Love” (credited on the original album as “Who Do You Love Suite” and comprised of six separate ‘movements’) spanned the entire first side of “Happy Trails.” The entire album was recorded live at The Fillmore East and West in 1968, and the sparks just flew all over the place.

Cipollina and Duncan exchange solo and rhythm duties on “Happy Trails” so effortlessly that despite the production’s extreme stereo separation (Duncan on the left channel, Cipollina on the right) it’s never anything but a seamless series of intuitively placed fits of opposing forces with an undying attraction to each other. At times Duncan’s rhythm is a fat, toned-down punk buzzsaw working as a wash against Cipollina’s agile counterpointing and sometimes Cipollina’s solos are the smallest of strategic rhythmic strokes while Duncan’s rhythm playing at times appears more like solos rendered in shorthand. These free-flowing qualities were accented with carefully controlled, soaring feedback and stinging arpeggios of the purest tones. These numerous and spectacular displays of twin guitar exchanges are supported by the impeccably synchronised rhythm section composed of David Freiberg on bass (and accompanying brusque vocals) and the perfectly restrained drumming of Greg Elmore. This backing was uncluttered and tough enough to allow the group’s paces to ebb or flow at a single moment’s notice: as gracefully evident in the manner in which “Who Do You Love” constantly shifts, unfolds and turns into passages both reflective and active. By the time they reach the middle passage (subtitled “Where You Love”) they’ve brought it all the way down to so the guitars are now more a cross-stitching of muted, across the bridge picking approximating the tinkling of mechanical chimes. Volume control knobs on guitars are tweaked to neatly stagger the otherwise feedbacking sound signals into blocks of zapping noise. A wafting current of slight feedback tilts into the near-quietude as the appreciative Fillmore audience starts clapping along in time with the bass drum, and soon it’s all panning from speaker to speaker: yelps and cries from the stage and audience until what was once Bo Diddley has now been reduced to the simplest elements of communal grooving and joy AND the group are in no hurry to fall back into the song until the last grunt, handclap and cry has been squeezed out. But they do when Cipollina tears a single, screaming note outta his SG with a twist of Bigsby whammy bar to signal the lurch into the breakneck pace of “How You Love”: a showcase of his quickly incisive and multi-directional arpeggio’d notes that scatter and flee to all four corners of the Fillmore but always regroup back into the ever-ascending main riff. After they cool off during Freiberg’s bass solo spot, they’re quietly circling back over “Who Do You Love” proper. All is simmering until they finally decide to go for broke one final time. Before they hit a final cluster of building crescendos, Freiberg and at least two other members have been vocally going for it by yelling bits of the lyrics over the tumult of guitar riffs and Elmore’s now constant swish of cymbals. But after a series of short solos and heat-generating noise and whining feedback, it elegantly drops off…to roars of applause.

The announcement “This here next one’s rock’n’roll” begins side two with the other Bo Diddley interpretation, “Mona.” Thudding tom-toms and Freiberg’s throb/pulse bass line propels the track as ringing feedback trails off from Cipollina’s amp and juxtaposed against Duncan’s rhythm riffing grind-outs. Eventually dropping down in volume so that an amp hissing like a street sweeper in the distance is audible, Cipollina switches to wah-wah and adjusts his loose guitar cord and the energy is crackling just as sharply. The tom-tom heavy main refrain returns and the band jumps in, only to see things halt and head immediately into “Maiden Of The Cancer Moon.” The two solos that erupt on this track are nothing short of volcanic and although this was a Duncan composition, it appears that the solos are pure Cipollina in full flight/total heat complete with hallmark whammy bar, distortion and howling feedback. It continually returns to a shaded riverbank at dusk where cool respite is found — but the calm is soon interrupted by an irritable scratching guitar pick run up against the grain and full length of a guitar neck with accompanying swooping, sonorous feedback. There’s a final low throttling of guitar that’s about the nastiest sound on the entire album, falling into the quiet whistling down the desert winds of the live in the studio instrumental, “Calvary.” For years I always misinterpreted it as “Cavalry” because its near-Morricone spaghetti western instrumental feel creates instant vistas of adobe villages, Spanish tiled rooftops and horse charges under the burning desert sun (But a cry of “Call it anything you want!” towards the end was probably an auto-suggestive incentive.) But the scope and depth of its impressionism of “Calvary” does intimate a musical interpretation of SOME vast human struggle in the desert. This epic sweeps across the deserts as much as the howling winds and droning dust/freakstorms of dark conflict that build and rage throughout with ever-reoccurring dark squalling of feedback as vibrato’d, piercing feedback like teams of whinnying, ghostly steeds. Some eons later, the dense clouds finally subsist and dissipate and guitar playing from an indefinite past age emerges as gentle scratchings of acoustic guitar, wood and flints are picked up from the scattered debris, before the final gusts blow it all away…

The lazy western campfire of “Happy Trails” ends the album on a heartwarming note as clip-clop percussion, piano and drawling vocals from Greg Elmore bids the listener farewell. Whistling takes us down the dusty trail, as jingling spurs head into the distance of a brightly setting sun on the plains, closing a unique album that was like no other.

Matthew Sweets Essential 90s Albums Artist-Approved Expanded Edition 180-Gram Vinyl Double LPs!

You definately need these Artist-Approved 180-gram vinyl double LP reissues*. Loaded with extra tracks 100% Analog Re-mastered from THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. Packaged in “Old-Style” tip-on deluxe gatefold jackets printed by Stoughton featuring faithfully restored original album art!

“Altered Beast” is available in late August. “Girlfriend” and “Son of Altered Beast” are shipping in late autumn 2018. 100% Fun available now! ,*Son of Altered Beast is a single not double LP. All fully artist-Approved Expanded Editions. Intervention Records and Matthew Sweet are proud to introduce an amazing NEW Artist-Approved reissue series, Matthew Sweet 1991-1995!

In 2018 Intervention is releasing 2-LP Expanded Editions of Sweet’s 90’s power-pop classic Trilogy, Girlfriend, Altered Beast and 100% Fun, plus the Son of Altered Beast 7-song EP, which appears on vinyl for the very first time!

Each Expanded Edition double-LP set of the three classic studio albums is loaded with extra tracks. So many of these songs are either appearing on vinyl for the very first time or seeing official release for the very first time. And for Sweet completists, these LPs are the most extensive collection of extra tracks compiled and packaged with the studio albums the songs were recorded for!

The original 15-song repertoires for Girlfriend and Altered Beast are for the first time spread across three LPs sides for maximum sound quality and the ability to PLAY LOUD!

The jacket art for Matthew Sweet 1991-1995 has been faithfully restored by IR’s art director Tom Vadakan. The three Expanded Editions feature beautiful “Old Style” gatefolds printed onto heavy blanks and film laminated by the wizards at Stoughton Printing. Son of Altered Beast features a single-pocket “Old Style” GATEFOLD jacket by Stoughton as well.

With the wind in his sails stirred up by the success of his previous album Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet did what any young musician in his position would have with the follow up: he went for broke. He wrote more daring arrangements that brought in a country element to his power pop attack, dove deeper lyrically and, most importantly, roped in a bunch of his musical idols to join in the fun. The liner notes for Altered Beast read like a who’s who of the pop and post-punk universe with regular collaborators Ivan Julian and Richard Lloyd joined by Big Star’s Jody Stephens, Mick Fleetwood, pianist Nicky Hopkins and Elvis Costello’s drummer Pete Thomas.

Their collective work has never sounded better than it does on this remastered vinyl pressing from the ever-reliable Intervention Records. The album is wisely stretched out to a double LP, with the fourth side taken up by a batch of studio outtakes, some previously unavailable here in the States. They flesh out the story nicely, with even more of Sweet’s ‘70s rock acumen and ‘80s punk playfulness coming to the fore. It all sounds more remarkable than ever thanks to the work of mastering engineer Ryan K. Smith. Every song sounds like it is bursting out of its seams and ready to flatten a major metropolis.

Quicksilver Messenger Service Find A ‘Shady Grove’

The late 1960s and early ‘70s were golden years in the history of San Francisco rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service. On January 24th, 1970, they entered the American charts with the follow-up to the album that would, much later, be certified as their one gold disc there, “Happy Trails”. They did so with a record that would continue their run of four US top 30 placings in a row with a US chart debut, “Shady Grove”.

Quicksilver’s personnel was enhanced by the arrival of one of the most in-demand keyboard players of his generation, the late Stones alumnus Nicky Hopkins. His presence, which also included work on harpsichord, cello and celeste, was an admirable addition to QMS’ existing sound, based on the guitar and vocals of John Cipollina and the viola, bass, guitar and joint vocals of David Freiberg. Greg Elmore added percussive inspiration.

The band had debuted with a self-titled album in 1968 that complemented the experimental rock milieu of the day, Their first top 30 album showing came with that Happy Trails follow-up. Shady Grove and with a remarkably consistent run, the band released “What About Me” and “Just For Love” all four releases inside a two-year span.

“Shady Grove” was, again, the work of a band confident that their audience would make an adventurous sonic journey with them, even if they were in the process of moving from their psychedelic beginnings into a more pop-oriented sound.

Quicksilver Messenger Service