Given the wealth of San Francisco’s hometown talent, Quicksilver Messenger Service was hard-pressed to compete with ʼ60s contemporaries like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Nevertheless, their fiery live shows and individual assets—the spindly solos of guitarist John Cipollina, the mournful vocals of Dino Valenti and keyboard contributions from veteran session player Nicky Hopkins—gave them a formidable finesse that attracted their own following.
The group is in fine form on Live at the Old Mill Tavern, a rare showcase for the six-piece lineup that convened following the release of Quicksilver’s classic Shady Grove. Inexplicably, none of that album’s material appears here; instead, Quicksilver offers several new songs in typical freewheeling style. The Bo Diddley beat of “Mona” recalls their seminal “Who Do You Love,” while the yet-to-be-recorded “The Truth” foretells their later hit “Fresh Air.” The tentative “Subway” and two loose jams with harmonica virtuoso James Cotton borrow a blues groove, with ample improvisation to spare.
Nevertheless, these extended excursions indicate that it was probably best to be there in person. Consider this a curio for the collection.
– Lee Zimmerman