Quicksilver Messenger Service has never gotten the full credibility they deserve. A lot like what Thin Lizzy did for Hard Rock, Quicksilver Messenger Service is one of those bands who works wonders for Psychedelia, but never got famous enough to be noticed for how good they really were. Blending instrumental virtuosity with soaring melody, and marrying country rock to jazz, psychedelic rock has never sounded more awesome. Having one big live album, Happy Trails, Quicksilver’s studio work has gone quite unnoticed throughout the last few decades. And while Happy Trails was trippy, acidic, and an all out live freak show, Quicksilver’s self-titled debut record was a nod towards country rock and folk, yet exposing that stimulus in the most rocking way possible. Founding member, Dino Valenti was incarcerated during the making of this record, so any ideas he had were written to his band mates from prison, and the band took his ideas and made them into one of the coolest debut albums of the late 60’s. Like most of the other music exploding from that era, most of this six-track record was probably fashioned and produced with the help from “experimental substances”. Namely, drugs were definitely a part of what the album is. But even if the band was stoned out of their right mind, I wouldn’t want this record to be made any other way. Because let’s face it, addicts or not, most of the musicians from that time were geniuses. And the drugs only helped them to further their artistic creativity.
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. Add a trumpet section in the verses and some really cool drumming, and you’ve got a killer psychedelic tune. 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.
Even if the covers surpass the original material, the conventional material isn’t too shabby at all. The successor to ‘Pride of Man’, the highly imaginative “Light Your Windows” gives it’s big brother a run for its money. Combining the acid jazz trip on the verses, with mellow “ahhhhh’s” and acoustic chord progressions, with some powerful vocals, and turning it into a more upbeat chorus that sounds as if were pulled from the Rabbit Hole in Alice in Wonderland. Beautiful acoustic piece, and regarded by many QMS fans to be the best song on the album. ‘The Fool’ is a twelve-minute-plus freak out jam which can get a bit boring at times, for its dragged out length and how it generally follows the same guidelines as every other song on the album, but for the most part contains some very cool guitar work, and cool vocal effects. “Dino’s Song”, which is the band’s way of paying homage to their convicted frontman/ songwriter, is probably the weak point on the album, but not bad. It actually is a formidable song on its own, but is rather boring compared to the rest of the record. But it does feature a catchy melody, and some pretty acoustic guitar playing.
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. Whether it be the pure ownage of their guitar interplay, the marriage of samba grooves (which Santana clearly found a place in), to trippy, acidic, rocking psychedelic guitar, or the juxtaposition of musical taste, their debut record isn’t as polished or clean cut as their epic Happy Trails, but pretty darn close. It’s not perfect, but rock is never meant to be. And if you are a fan of southern hard rock, reminiscent of the Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, or even the Eagles, you’d probably take a liking to Quicksilver Messenger Service’s music. Because whether or not an imprisoned songwriter wrote this when he was stoned, or not, this is by far some of the greatest, yet underrated music in the classic rock catalogue. It has Entwistle’s official seal of approval.