Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Fillmore Auditorium - November 6, 1966

And so begins the final installment of my Quicksilver Messenger Service concert recordings from 1966-1968, when the band was indisputably at the height of their powers. While you won't see a great deal of variation from the material that's been posted previously, different versions of the same songs often are at the very least worth listening to for the sake of comparison. While Quicksilver might not have had the deepest of repertories, their ability to reinterpret blues and early rock 'n' roll tunes in psychedelic fashion - not to mention their deftness at performing self-composed mind-expanding epics - remains quite impressive more than 40 years later.

QUICKSILVER CIRCA 1967 (L TO R): GARY DUNCAN, JIM
MURRAY, JOHN CIPOLLINA, DAVID FREIBERG, & GREG ELMORE

This particular performance marked the conclusion of a three-day series of concerts staged at the original Fillmore Auditorium (not to be confused with the Fillmore West, established in 1968) on November 4, 5, and 6, 1966. Impresario Bill Graham typically scheduled weekend gigs so there would be early and late shows on Friday and Saturday and one afternoon show on Sunday, the day on which this engagement took place. As discussed in the post for the recordings from November 5, QMS served as one of the opening acts for Muddy Waters during these concerts, thus accounting for renditions of "Got My Mojo Working" and "Hootchie Cootchie Man" (sic) that were nods to the influence of the legendary blues singer.


SAME GUYS, DIFFERENT PHOTO

JIM MURRAY & JOHN CIPOLLINA JAM AT THE HUMAN BE-IN,
SAN FRANCISCO, GOLDEN GATE PARK, JANUARY 14, 1967

The first of those aforementioned tunes is a little sloppy but still way better than what more narrowly-focused white blues interpreters are usually able to pull off. As far as I'm concerned, Quicksilver's interpretation of "Hootchie Cootchie Man" is the most original ever done, and this version compares favorably with its counterpart from the previous day. The same assessment applies to blues standard "You Don't Love Me" and oldie-but-goodie "Suzy Q." Their signature slowed-down take on "Codine" and the psychedelicized folk rock of "Pride of Man" foreshadow the material that would appear on record during the next couple of years, while then-incarcerated lead singer Dino Valenti's "Stand by Me" typifies the band's well meaning but not always successful forays into doing sensitive material. The band saves their best for last, however, with a magnificent embryonic version of "Mona" that clocks in at nearly nine minutes and includes some breathtaking interplay between John Cipollina and Gary Duncan's shimmering guitars. Although this performance might not get as far out as the more fully realized "Mona-Maiden of the Cancer Moon-Calvary" suite on Happy Trails, few other bands were exploring this kind of musical territory in 1966 as successfully as Quicksilver Messenger Service. 


JOHN CIPOLLINA & JIM MURRAY AT THE
MONTEREY POP FESTIVAL, JUNE 17, 1967

1. Got My Mojo Working
2. You Don't Love Me
3. Hootchie Cootchie Man
4. Suzy Q
5. Codine
6. Stand By Me
7. Pride of Man
8. Mona

NOT A POSTER FOR THIS SHOW BUT STILL COOL ANYWAY

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Winterland - December 31, 1967


If I had been a countercultural type living in the Bay Area and looking for something to do on New Year's Eve 1967, you probably could have found me at this concert. Recorded not long before the release of their debut album, the proceedings find Quicksilver Messenger Service fully adapted to being a four-piece unit and proving that Jim Murray's contributions to the band were sometimes interesting but definitely not essential. Overall, this is a fantastic show even if the sound quality - featuring occasional dropouts and poorly miked drums - leaves a bit to be desired.

DAVID FREIBERG, JOHN CIPOLLINA, & GARY DUNCAN (CLOCKWISE FROM
BOTTOM RIGHT) UNDER WRAPS WITH GREG ELMORE IN THE BACKGROUND



Things start out with an "Instrumental" that fades in and is admittedly just bluesy noodling, but it's noodling of the highest order nonetheless. The energy quotient increases considerably with a fiery take on the first album's centerpiece, "Pride of Man," while the nine-and-a-half-minute performance of "Who Do You Love" that follows (as well as "Mona-Maiden of the Cancer Moon" later in the set) provides a sneak preview of the direction the group would pursue more fully on Happy Trails. Even though Jim Murray's harmonica is noticeably absent on "If You Live," Gary Duncan is more than up to the task to handle the song's vocals. I always thought that "It's Been Too Long" was one of Quicksilver's more underrated songs, and here it's in particularly fine form. The band's cover versions of other blues songs are generally more to my liking, but I must admit that the fierce guitar work on "Smokestack Lightning" and "Back Door Man" makes them both worth a listen. "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" sounds great like it usually does and, in addition to a few notable tracks by the Charlatans, serves as one of the best examples of Haight-Ashbury merging with the Wild West. As long as you're OK with drum solos, "Gold and Silver" will appeal to those who enjoy a bit of jazz-influenced psych. Among the many live recordings of "Dino's Song" that I've heard over the years, I would have to say that this is the best of them all - just listen to John Cipollina going crazy on his guitar throughout the performance. If only it had been recorded a little better.

QMS FLANKING HARVEY BROOKS (CENTER) IN THE RECORDING STUDIO

1. Instrumental
2. Pride of Man
3. Who Do You Love
4. If You Live
5. It's Been Too Long
6. Smokestack Lightning
7. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
8. Gold and Silver
9. Dino's Song
10. Back Door Man
11. Mona-Maiden of the Cancer Moon

Quicksilver Messenger Service - Fillmore West - November 9, 1968



QMS (L TO R): DAVID FREIBERG, GARY
DUNCAN, GREG ELMORE, & JOHN CIPOLLINA

OK, I'll admit that there is not a great deal to write about here, but I'll give you my two cents' worth on this pair of tracks, which come from the time when Quicksilver was extensively recording their live shows for material that would appear on Happy Trails. Taped on November 9 (or possibly November 10), 1968 at home turf venue Fillmore West, neither "Smokestack Lightning" nor "Suzy Q" as heard at this concert are particularly noteworthy performances. The former is not necessarily played badly, but it just doesn't rank as highly as other blues covers for which the band was better suited. This version of "Suzy Q" may have been one of the last times that Quicksilver played Dale Hawkins' signature tune. Considering its sluggish execution, it certainly sounds like they were sick and tired of doing it.




1. Smokestack Lightning
2. Suzy Q