The late 1960s and early ‘70s were golden years in the history of San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. On 24 January 1970, they entered the American charts with the follow-up to the album that would, much later, be certified as their one gold disc there, Happy Trails. They did so with a record that would continue their run of four US top 30 placings in a row with a US chart debut, Shady Grove.
Listen to Shady Grove right now.
It’s an album that’s also of interest to Rolling Stones fans, because from this third studio release onwards, Quicksilver’s personnel was enhanced by the arrival of one of the most in-demand keyboard players of his generation, the late Stones alumnus Nicky Hopkins. His presence, which also included work on harpsichord, cello and celeste, was an admirable addition to QMS’ existing sound, based on the guitar and vocals of John Cipollina and the viola, bass, guitar and joint vocals of David Freiberg. Greg Elmore added percussive inspiration.
The band had debuted with a self-titled album in 1968 that complemented the experimental rock milieu of the day, and made some chart inroads, peaking at No. 63. Their first top 30 showing came with that Happy Trails follow-up at No. 27. Shady Grove went a little higher, at No. 25, after which Just For Love peaked at No. 27 and What About Me No. 26. It was a remarkably consistent run, all achieved by four releases inside a two-year span.
Shady Grove was, again, the work of a band confident that their audience would make an adventurous sonic journey with them, even if they were in the process of moving from their psychedelic beginnings into a more pop-oriented sound.
Quicksilver Messenger Service’s Shady Grove can be bought here.
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