Sound — 10
The eponymous debut of Quicksilver Messenger Service gives you a strong taste of smooth acid rock jams that were well orchestrated and backed by powerful leads that guitarist John Cipollina would weave into the instrumentals. Quicksilver Messenger Service has been a bit overlooked in rock history not gaining as much success as their contemporaries Jefferson Airplane or Grateful Dead would but they did have a unique approach with their musical sensibilities. They were a rehearsed jam band rather than a free form jamming band like Grateful Dead in the studio and this leads to the precision and pleasant melodies and moods present here with so much fused together. You have classical leanings and jazz hints with the folk roots firmly in place and a key contributor Dino Valenti was part of the group but unfortunately arrested for marijuana before he would get a chance to record with them. Dino would bring that elegance and intricate sound later on and lead the group in more folk and protest songs when he would rejoin the band after the album "Shady Grove" with the addition of Nicky Hopkins. Dino Valenti as I've discussed before was a true folk troubadour, and one of the earliest performers in the revival, the only thing was that he never officially recorded back then albeit a 45 rpm single. Quicksilver was a well established band in the Haight Ashbury scene and were around there as long as Grateful Dead were, the band does offer their own unique spark that ignites frequently with swung rhythms and twanging guitar parts, the whole repertoire on here is just outstanding and arrives as a near pristine debut.
Lyrics — 9
Quicksilver gives their listeners a more accessible record here in a pop fashion while still not compromising on the whole psychedelic acid interludes that would appear on "Gold and Silver" and "The Fool." Songs like those two are teasers of the next album's long instrumental moods and technique that would appear on the next album, the masterpiece "Happy Trails." "Dino's Song" of course written by Dino Valenti is a great show of folk leanings that are apparent here, they do delve a bit into some psychedelic electric guitar effects and warbling but only in certain parts of songs, their is a great mixture here and it all is predominantly folk oriented but in well executed form. "Light Your Windows" is the sad love affair song that actually has some brilliantly written wordings and phrases with harmonious vocals. They channel this somewhat slight epic western feel but it would really start to get concentrated with psychedelia acid rock on the next album with more intense and harder instrumentation.
The band starts the whole album with a Hamilton Camp cover, which is more folk itself and reinvent it in rock psych style, it's impressively creative. "It's Been Too Long" is my favorite pop oriented track on the album with the whole band providing great vocals and drum and bass sections in a decisive form, the vocals on their are once again highly competitive compared to other groups with all members using all of their strength to deliver beautiful vocals together. What I really like about this album is the order of the songs, and what the songs consist of.
Quicksilver Messenger Service provided ground shaking original material for their debut, but what really makes the album interesting and, in my opinion, worthwhile, is their covers. They put their own spin on some blues classics, and turned them into psychedelic nirvana. Evidence of this is their rendition of folk artist Hamilton Camp's "Pride of Man," which marries a spicy mariachi groove to an acid rock guitar melody, and a very strong vocal performance. And the schizophrenic instrumental jam "Gold and Silver" is nothing less than the most awesome cover of all time. At six minutes, forty five seconds it features the best guitar work on the album, and some blazing, brooding guitar solos. The piano accompaniment and free jazz groove own the tune, but it's the guitar intercourse that makes this instrumental so darn sexy. The leads make me shiver, because they own so hard. The frequent, samba-inspired breakdowns don't hurt it, either. It easily contends for being the best song on the album, but that isn't saying much, because every song on here owns. "The Fool" is the real psychedelic counterpart to the whole album, it may be a bit lengthy and slightly spotty but it does deliver amazing technique and solos from Cipollina.
Overall Impression — 10
Quicksilver's are really unique band. You can't compare them with Jefferson because Jefferson's never been a jam band really, and you can't compare them with Grateful Dead because Dead always had big folk influence, which later prevail (after "American Rose"). This is Quicksilver's first album and it's full of sweet colorful 60s psychedelic improvisations, long jamming, catchy riffs, chilling melody and nice vocals.
This is must-have album for any '60s psychedelic rock fan, especially if ones so obsessed with San Fran scene as I am. I can imagine the joy of listening to this at some Fillmore gig in old San Fran. Too bad Quicksilver's never got fame they deserve, although they always had loyal following. I'm glad Gary Duncan is still kicking with Quicksilver and maybe one day I attend their gig, that would be so awesome! The debut of Quicksilver proves to be a memorable album in psychedelic rock history and even in such short length it manages to really give you a taste of the whole perfection and well planned jams that make a stellar album.
Undoubtedly, Quicksilver Messenger Service's music is very underrated in the classic rock catalogue, and even more overlooked. But even if no one really notices them, they probably redefined and epitomized the psychedelic genre, with a whirlwind of sound.