Sound — 10
The long instrumental psychedelic jams would be an important persona achieved by Quicksilver Messenger Service, their debut gives some flashes of it with more accessible shortened and slightly pop folk arrangements with country hints at times. "Happy Trails" being released in 1969, the year after the debut, draws upon some of those prophetically dark and epic country western acid hints that flair up during certain parts. The album itself is a saga of hard rock psychedelia in a western tone, the ending song "Happy Trails" titled after the album closes that on a mellow note and as a farewell, seemingly out of place compared to the blazing intensity that you just experienced from the whole work, but it's not too far off or out of place; the western hints as the cover and concept intends are implemented throughout in little nuances all part of the main theme. This album captures the band in their live concert essence with all the bravado they possess, which would deem themselves legendary status as one of the best bands in the bay area with Cipollina's moments shining through and Gary Duncan's contributions of stark beauty in vocalization and rhythm guitar contributions.
Lyrics — 10
The introduction starts off with that wailing bended guitar and opens with one of the most iconic riffs ever. The whole first side is just such an impressive and innovative way to cover a song, they emphasize on all the rhythms Bo Diddley gives in the song, they break it down from the pulsing rhythm to all the possibilities they can arrange it to. The whole medley of "Who Do You Love" starts with the song and goes into a range of different tones and unheard of daring terrain, the first part moves into the soloing of "When Do You Love" with brilliant jazz like noodling somewhat nodding towards Holdsworth capturing more dreamy unbelievable lengths that the electric guitar can reach. "Where Do You Love" has the audience participating in clapping with more unique effects of bass and guitar picking effects drenched in feedback. "How Do You Love" brings the whole theme of the main song back with more bursts of wild enigmatic playing that Cipollina has to release like built up tension. "Who Do You Love (Part 2)" is the main conclusion to the whole first half of the album and the main Bo Diddley suite, offering pianissimo lyrics with the momentum building up till all the vocals are screaming whilst Elmore is pounding away on the drums ending in a furious raging seemingly precarious instrumentals.
"Mona" is another Bo Diddley song in same style and close resemblance and beat and the effects of the guitar match the same distorted effect which would segue with the rigorous "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" and "Calvary;" all performed together live. "Mona" delivers the edge and guts up in your face manliness with excellent guitar effects. "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" is one of the best guitar solo songs in the universe simply because of the dramatic screaming and other emotions that are released from the guitar from bursting solos that just scream depression from the calm, breaking the soft moody chasms that interval each time the banshee guitar screams the main solo in dramatic effect, reminding me of the cover of a man leaving his woman behind and all he owns to seek fortune. "Calvary" then comes in, with its mystical effects of feedback and epic bass drum pounds with more glorious and impossible solos on the guitar that merge an otherworldly soundscape, giving an ominous tone of the gruesome wars fought in times not too long ago, "Calvary" gives more country influence nods towards a darker side of Ennio Morricone compositions in western style theatrical music, it's not classified as rock jazz, blues etc, it just is on its own a glorious piece showcasing the epic side of western style acid rock if that's what you can call it while the flamenco type guitar is strumming away, it's an acid Spanish instrumental that is just unheard of, this whole vibration sets the band apart, distancing them from all of their contemporaries with those tubular bells that chime in and beautiful group vocals.
More rhythms and vocals begin to exacerbate towards the ending with a psychedelic wind blowing guitar feedback drone that gives the ominous foreground of the end with whammying feedback and drone continuing with that dire apocalyptic hum; suitable to end a never before done theme in rock. These guys did it, they managed to create another work that set them apart from anything else with acoustic strumming and more strange effects, it's just a mix of blues rock psychedelic styles fused with folk and Morricone western styled acid rock, but it's nothing like any of that and it still can't be characterized under anything specific, dreamy gypsy feelings and strange acid effects with hard rock guitar solos that are their own. The whole "Calvary" just leaves you breathless with the group returning to their folk leanings, with some kind of hand drum being played amidst the chaotic ending and beautiful harmonics pulled.
Overall Impression — 10
Mostly recorded live, the first side of the record consists solely of a lengthy (almost half an hour) interpretation of Bo Diddley's rock and roll classic "Who Do You Love," where the whole band (guitarists Gary Duncan and John Cipollina, bassist David Freiburg and drummer Greg Elmore) are able to show off their instrumental virtuosity. The second side bizarrely starts with another Bo Diddley cover, but is also notable for some experimental psychedelia. The album is often considered one of the highlights of the whole '60s San Francisco scene, and reached number 27 on the pop album charts. The first side of the album is composed of one song, with various extensions, additions and adaptations of "Who Do You Love," by Bo Diddley.
Quicksilver moves from "Who Do You Love," "When Do You Love," "Where Do Yo Love," "How Do You Love,""Which Do You Love" and finally finishing with Part 2 of "Who Do You Love," to tie it all together. It's everything you would expect of a psychedelic release of this genre. But you won't find the thundering guitars you might expect. The guitars are mixed low, as if you're in a room with the ceiling no more then eight feet high. There is no lead by design, each member adds the effects and efforts of their instrument to the ambiance of the whole ... Blending, mixing, playing and bouncing off of each other.
There are some very fine chord changes that have a definite line of demarcation brought on by the rhythm guitar. The drumming is something else, and when you have a chance to dig Greg Elmore, a smooth smile will cross your face. No lie, Greg sounds like he's using cardboard boxes as drums, they are perfectly understated, designed to carry the time at heartbeat level. It's not until the beginning of the song "Calvary" that he steps out at all, and even there he is restrained. Side two, which begins with 'Mona," a piece of San Francisco musical history, and though it's not, side two has the feel of being a live recording. There are nice sustained guitars trailing off in various directions, taking your head here and there, only to bring you back ... Before they take you off on another journey.
There was serious studio musical experimentation going on here, and it's a shame that this star burned out so quickly. The whole album is another legendary and nearly impossible masterpiece of it's time like "In the Court of the Crimson King" and it can carries the band further from their debut, the main tracks that could stand out are "Calvary" and "Maiden of the Cancer Moon," this whole effort seems ambiguous but it's all well intended to display an epic sensation of bright emotion and depiction as the album cover insinuates with well timed soloing and calculated moments to let all the band members shine through in a way that isn't boring at all and in the least bit pretentious, it just is what you get.