Jim Murray - vocals, guitar
John Cipollina - vocals, guitar
Gary Duncan - vocals, guitar
David Frieberg - bass, vocals
Greg Elmore - drums
Dino Valente - guest vocals, tracks 8-10
This run of five shows opening for Jefferson Airplane offers a fascinating glimpse into early Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band was still a quintet, with Jim Murray as primary lead vocalist. Although they had begun developing original songs, were still playing cover material in concert. The repertoire veered toward electrified covers of contemporary folk and blues songs, with a heavy nod to Bo Diddley. The unique, intertwining lead guitar sound of Cipollina and Duncan was already becoming quite distinctive, and one can clearly hear why Quicksilver was being considered one of the most exciting bands in San Francisco at the time.
Because so much of their material from this era remains unreleased, these shows provide a wealth of songs that were previously unavailable commercially. Several classic songs that did appear on their first and second albums are heard here in embryonic form, still ripe with potential. In all reality, these QMS sets help to capture a turning point not only in their contemporary music scene, but in the general culture as well. Artists were just beginning to embrace spontaneity and experimentation in their work, and these 1967 sets reveal the band taking their earliest steps in that direction. To help put these shows in context, the first QMS album was still a year away, and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow LP had been released that same month, bringing the San Francisco music and dance hall scene into the national spotlight for the first time.
The set features several interesting blues arrangements that the band often performed during this era, such as Willie Cobbs' "You Don't Love Me" (later immortalized by The Allman Brothers Band), which kicks off the set in fine, high-energy fashion. Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Workin'" gets a similar treatment later on in the set. "I Hear You Knockin" and "All Night Worker," two songs that never made it on a QMS album, are also performed. The band did release Buffy Saint Marie's "Codine" on a rare movie soundtrack called Revolution, but it pales in comparison to the extended arrangement performed here.
Perhaps the most fascinating song of this set, though, is the embryonic version of the band's classic instrumental "Gold And Silver." At this point in time, it had still yet to develop into the improvisational vehicle it would eventually become - there were no drum solos or flights into the cosmos - but the tune is still thoroughly engaging and full of potential. Cipollina and Duncan's intertwining leads soar over the propulsive rhythm section of Frieberg and Elmore. The set-closing "Mona," on the other hand, does indeed head into new territory. Here one can clearly hear the birth of the sound the band would eventually explore in-depth on their classic Happy Trails album. Clocking in at over eight minutes, this is the original quintet in fine form, bending a rather simple Bo Diddley number into true a psychedelic treat. Enjoy.