Tuesday, July 24, 2012

189 Happy Trails. What's not to love?




Album: Happy Trails
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Genre: Rock
Year: 1969

Tracks

  1. Who Do You Love? - Part 1
  2. Where You Love
  3. How You Love
  4. Which Do You Love
  5. Who Do You Love - Part 2
  6. Mona
  7. Maiden of the Cancer Moon
  8. Calvary
  9. Happy Trails

It might not look like it but the first side of this album is made up entirely of one song. Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love is given an extended work out by Quicksilver with the result broken up into separate tracks for convenience (and to cunningly give the individual performers songwriting credits and therefore more money). The 25 minute song was recorded live in front of some lucky buggers at the Filmore who got to see a truly great band jam some blissful extended rock and roll that blisters along without ever losing its way and disappearing up its own psychedelic bottom.

Some people might hate the idea of one song stretched out to nearly half an hour with two extended guitar solos, a bass solo and a strange spacey bit in the middle. There are those who would see this as nothing short of hell but personally it's my idea of a great time. I not only enjoy this version I've got several Quicksilver Messenger Service live albums and bootlegs that let me experience even longer versions. I can listen to John Cippolina play all day (and some days I have).

But for those of you who dread the idea of an entire album side made up of nothing but Bo Diddley fear not! Side two contains more live extended musical performance but only the first 7 minutes is a Bo Diddley song (Mona) the rest are original compositions including the 13 minute Calvary which features a lot more soloing.

Okay it's dreadful if you hate this sort of behaviour but one thing is for sure: it's the best way of capturing guys like Cippolina and the rest of Quicksilver. To this day I have never understood why more albums from jam bands weren't recorded live. The Grateful Dead put out some terrible studio albums but were brilliant in front of an audience. I will never understand why they bothered with the stale studio environment which brought out their worst when they could have exclusively used recordings from onstage where they were at their best.

Quicksilver Messenger Service have been overshadowed by other bay area bands like The Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and  Big Brother and The Holding Company but they deserve to be more widely heard. They played an incredibly exciting brand of live rock and roll which doesn't work on radio but is just fantastic on albums like this. And if you really loathe extended soloing then you can at least appreciate the short sung version of Happy Trails that finishes the album off and wishes you well, granted the vocalist is clearly drunk and can't sing but at least it doesn't have an extended bass solo.

Highlight: Who do you Love?
Lowlight: Happy Trails

Influenced by: Bo Diddley
Influenced: The Bay Area

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Certainly it's devotees are lost in the foggy halcyon days of yore, fondly remembering their first time listening to it - sitting around their dorm rooms high on hashish, which may have made this much more listenable."

-Everyone who doesn't like this album seems to think that everyone who does only appreciates it because they were stoned teenagers when it came out. I consider myself a devotee and I first heard it in my late twenties and have never listened to it (or any album) under the influence of anything stronger than caffeine.

So are these trails happy or not? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. So how psychedelic is this album? And generally how does this compare to the Grateful Dead?

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    Replies
    1. It's not especially psychedelic and probably a bit more rock and blues (although there are spacey bits on the first side). It's different to the Dead mainly because Quicksilver takes definite turns to solo when they're playing. The Dead tended to jam together but Quicksilver have spaces for different players to shine. The lack of songwriting ability is also telling. The Dead could jam a good blues song but could also write some very strong material. These guys don't have the writing ability and their finest moments are all covers.

      Still highly recommended though.

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