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4.1 out of 5 stars30
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 8 February 2006
If there is one album that would neatly justify the description 'not for all tastes' then this is it but for goodness sake folks don’t write it off just because you don’t get it!
For example one reviewer here says 'Better than anything the Grateful Dead ever did'. Such a comment would have any self-respecting old hippie tutting and shaking their heads. It’s nothing like the ‘Dead, it’s nothing like Cream. Believe it or not it actually has it’s own identity. To the reviewer who criticized the lyrical content. Please do your homework, they were written largely by Bo Diddley. Go accuse him of being lowbrow – see what response you get!
OK, so this album is clearly dividing opinion and maybe I'm not the best person to sum it up because I love it so but I felt the need to defend it from some of the attacks it has received here. About the audience participation: anyone who knows what it was actually like to be there, somewhere on the west coast, in the arena during one of those 'acid rock' gigs (hardly anybody called it that in those days) knows that audience participation was both such a new and an unusual thing that the musicians and the audience were learning as they went along. The most famous example I suppose being the ‘rain chant’ at Woodstock. Happy Trails contains one such segment that some reviewers seem to find objectionable. Why? What would you have done if you were there, NOT join in? I bet you would have ;-) It’s all about the time and the place. It's also one of my favourite parts of Happy Trails, building up the tension, finally exploding into a thoroughly expected but nonetheless satisfying guitar ambush. What’s not to love about that? Oh, I forgot it’s ‘one long yawn’ (another reviewer).
Damning with faint praise is one thing but putting something down because you don’t ‘get it’ just shows the ignorance of the observer. It really ill behooves anyone who doesn't understand the contemporary influences and surroundings of a recording, to pass such negative comment on something that was as carefully and lovingly crafted as this album. Remember the old saying about the sixties: ‘If you can remember it you weren’t there maan’. I'd like to add to that: If you think you know what you’re talking about, you probably don’t. That might apply to me too but this album is in my all time top ten. And no I didn't need drugs to like it! (although they might not have hurt...)
Cheer up folks and go with the flow.
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VINE VOICEon 3 December 2000
Who do you love and Mona are excellent examples of QMS live , the audience interaction is exciting and enervating, Cipollina's guitar playing is ecstatic and moving. Calvary is like a psychedelic spaghetti western and is quite in place and a good ol' boys yippee ay yay ending in Happy Trails means a great trip is guaranteed for all you heads out there :-)
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on 19 January 2011
This is simply the San Francisco live,'acid rock', sound at its best. Obviously comparisons with the Dead will be made but for reasons well expressed by the other reviewers here they are pretty meaningless. I can understand why opinions are divided over this album, indeed at first I didn't like it myself being unable to as we said then, "get my head round it". However, I persevered (probably because you had to like it to be cool then) and I am so glad I did. It is one of the great, maybe the greatest, guitar album(s) flowing in a way that no other has ever equalled. Don't look for structured songs here just, to quote the Airplane,"ride the music". One of the two or three albums that would be in my top ten whenever you asked me.
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on 23 November 2007
Bought this superb album when it was released and it has always divided opinion amongst all my friends as to its merits. Sure the vocals are unimpressive and at times the album labours. But this album contains in my opinion some of the finest structured guitar passages i have had the pleasure to listen to. The 5 minute Gary Duncan solo on When Do You love is simply amazing and still delights even today. Worth buying for that track alone. Other wonderful moments are Mona, Calvary and Maiden of the Cancer Moon. It does sound slightly dated but the lovely liquid guitar sound has only ever been emulated on early Country Joe and the Fish albums. Buy it and you will be in guitar heaven.
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on 20 October 2012
I can see why some people aren't that keen on Happy Trails, as 30-plus minutes of Bo Diddley rhythms won't be to everyone's taste. This occurred to me when I was subjected to a lengthy patch of some modern electronic stuff in the barber's the other day (some youngster might be able to inform me to which sub-sub-genre of 'dance' music it might belong), and nothing is quite so tedious as lengthy work-outs on one or two chords with a cement-mixer rhythm behind it, if you don't appreciate that particular brand of it. Each to his own; the various snippers seemed happy enough to work all day with it blaring out, as much as I found it a truly awful experience.

And Happy Trails does hammer away relentlessly. Still, I'm a sucker for that West Coast guitar sound, and John Cippolina perhaps was the San Francisco guitarist who encapsulated the essence of it best of all. His solo on 'Maiden of the Cancer Moon' still grips me as it did some 40 years back when I first heard it. Gary Duncan was no mean guitarist either, and he had a good voice too, barking out Bo Diddley's lyrics with enthusiasm. 'Calvary' is a fascinating instrumental with Latin overtones that ends up in a barrage of feedback; it could have slipped into melodrama with its tolled bells at one point, but keeps within the bounds of good taste. It also slips nicely into the title track, an incongruous and delightfully silly cowboy song which ends what was a pretty lengthy LP.

I must admit that I don't play the 'Who Do You Love?' suite in full that much; I usually programme it to omit the audience chanting in the middle. Greg Elmore's drumming isn't well recorded, which gives it a much more leaden feel than on other QMS albums.

And so, a classic? For me, it's one of its time, and one that has stood up pretty well over the decades. It has its faults, but where it's good it is indeed good.
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on 31 May 2000
This album is very experimental to say the least..... The albumhas few singing parts to be fair, but the long psychedellic leadbreaks, influenced no doubt by Spanish and Indian classical music alike, are superb and haunting. This record is definately not the sort of record I'd buy if I was looking for something with many short and catchy tunes. But for mellow moods or psychedellic moods this album is really something very special. I can think of very few songs with lead guitar as varied and surreal as that found on this album. "1983" by Hendrix, and "Through with you" by the Lemon Pipers are the only two that come to mind immediately. To sum this review up, a must for fans of psychedellia and 60's music.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 November 2013
If Pepper is the most overrated 60's album, this is one of the most underappreciated. I bought it because NME said it was good circa 1975 and I was amazed. And I remain delighted at this beautiful and evocative disc, the fluid guitar combo of Cipollina and Gary Duncan thrills me as much now as it did then, in its way as lovely as Duane Allman and Clapton on 'Layla' though utterly different and of its time. The 'Who Do You Love' side is a treat, stretching it to nearly half an hour, in fits and starts, crescendo and lull, evoking the sagebrush country of Nevada where I lived from 1981-83 in a way Proust would recognise (just one Cip tremelo does it for me, still). This is the quintessential live Quicksilver sound: tight, sort of Tex Mex more than San Fran and different from the other Bay bands...maybe the Spanish flavour of the original California. And the rest, well 'Mona' has the piercing, eloquent guitar pairing and is sweet where the voice is sour, 'Calvary' like a clarion in the wilderness and the whole summing up the west ...well in the way the cover does, really. In fact, the cover captures the mood beautifully: psychedelic yet rooted in something older, very much of the Old West and the newer, 1960's wild. Nothing else is quite like it and it's one my Desert Island Discs that's for sure, maybe my One. Luckily it's not the Dead (bless 'em) or Airplane (them too) OR QMS as one can have them all ....and I love them all. This is the one I play most, though. Everyone should at least TRY it!
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on 11 December 2014
I was going to order this as I'm a big QMS fan but googled a thread ref its sound quality and was astonished to find a lot of info on this on a remaster sound forum set up by Steve Hoffman in the States. As a result I checked out the Culture Factory website which tells you how they remaster their cds. First they receive a DAT tape (48khz sampling) or a CDR (44.1khz sampling) or an online digital file from the record company which owns the master tapes.

Firstly, one doesn't know when the digital copy supplied was made from the original master tapes, maybe mid eighties, mid nineties or whenever. As Capitols are licensing the tape to another company to retail, Capitol aren't going to go to the considerable effort and cost of taking brand new digital transfers with state of the art adc converters etc. to then give to another company to make money from the new transfers. They're going to save that for themselves and re-issue the product as a proper remaster.

So, Culture Factory get a digital transfer of unknown vintage and then stuff it into a digital workstation running at 96khz/24 bit performance. However, if you start with 44.1khz or 48khz sampling, then all you can do is to upsample it to 96khz. No more information or resolution. it's still a 44.1 or 48khz letter in a 96khz envelope. They then de-noise, compress and tinker digitally with the tonal balance. Then the digital files are downsampled back to 44.1khz cd standard to provide the ''new'' master for cd. The description ''96khz/24 Bit'' refers solely to the spec of the Alesis workstation they are using and in a UK Court of Law to put ''96 Khz/24 Bit Remaster'' is outright misrepresentation.

Just like taking an old house with rotting wooden window frames, cracked and missing render on the walls and just slapping a new coat of paint on it and suggesting it's a new building. According to the Steve Hoffman forum , this '''re-master''' by those who own it reckon it's very loud and extremely compressed with a very bright, treble dominant quality which members rate as extremely fatiguing to listen to or just unlistenable. Buyer beware!

Culture Factory have re-issued several classic albums this way, including all of Quicksilver's studio albums and forum members say they have yet to hear any Culture Factory release that surpasses other cd versions already out there. Stick to the version you have and wait for Capitol to issue a new remaster from the original tapes. If you want a slightly better sounding version than Capital's seek out Repertoire's version from 2000 (German re-issue label) which forum fans say is the best out there currently.

In the meantime, check out the recent QMS release, ''Winterland November 1968'' cd on Sonic Boom from a FM broadcast from 7th of that month. Happy Trails used recordings from Fillmores East and West from a total of four shows (two from each venue) in early November 68. In John Cipollina's last interview he states that most of 'Trails' came from one of the two nights at the Fillmore East. So to have 70 minutes drawn from both early and late sets from 7th at their home turf venue is to have an alternative 'Happy Trails plus'. It's a decent recording considering its origin and is most welcome. Check out also the'' Live at the Fillmore June 7th 1968'' double cd on Purple Pyramid which also shows the band on fine form in decent sound too.

POSTSCRIPT

I had ordered up this C.F. 96khz ''remaster'' and the Repertoire version just before reading the forums but was unable to cancel/adjust order in time. So I now have the Capitol USA cd standard version bought in the late 90's but maybe issued in the early 90's??, the Repertoire German re-issue from 2000 remastered by Eroc and this Culture Factory version. The differences are quite interesting.

The Culture Factory version is about 7.5dB louder than the Capitol USA standard version. I think they have also passed the digital tape they were given through a secondary, more aggressive noise reduction system than that originally used by Capitol to make the original digital master. It uses almost certainly the same digitised version taken by Capitol (in the late 80's/early 90's??) from the production masters. One can tell this as on both the Capitol and the CF version there is about ten seconds of background grunge noise on the left channel right at the start of track 1. By increasing the level up by 7.5dB, CF have limited/compressed the hell out of it. So it is loud, quite bright and harsh. It is also in comparison to the Capitol original cd, markedly less transparent to the source tape and less solid to listen to. By that I mean that the Capitol cd has a solidity and substance to the sound whereas the CF version has a hollowness/empty sound - the notes sound like a ghostly version of the original. Soundstage depth is inferior to the Capitol one too but even on the Capitol one it's not great to start with. It is after all a live recording from 1968! At first I thought the C.F. version was out of phase but it wasn't but the difference between in/out wasn't much (usually more noticeable on other music) which I guess is down to all the ''re-mastering''(tinkering) they've done to it. Difficult sound quality to describe but very easy to recognise. Think low rate mp3 versus cd on a decent hi-fi. Basically it sounds horrid and I can't imagine anybody choosing this version as being better than the standard capitol USA cd. CF claim audiophile remastering - this cd is -as other people say- effing unlistenable. Their 96khz claim is a bucket of bullsh*t.

The Repertoire (German re-issue label) version on the other hand has been licensed via EMI Electrola, the German subsidiary of Capitol/EMI. The usual practice with overseas subsidiaries of record companies is the original production masters stay in the country of origin (this case the USA as QMS were American and recorded there) and copy two-track production masters were sent to other countries. The copy production master two-track held by EMI Electrola does NOT have the ten second background grunge noise found on the Capitol USA and C.F. remasters. The German copy tape must be a duplicate of the original USA tape so the original must not have the noise either. This grunge must have been inadvertently added due to faulty equipment/poor remastering when Capitol USA did the first and probably only digitising of the original analogue USA production masters.

Despite Repertoire working from a copy production master which possibly was only digitised by EMI/Electrola as late as 1999/2000 when Repertoire licensed the digital recording, their version is audibly superior to the Capitol USA cd version. Admittedly, it is about 4.5dB louder than Capitol's but I think the noise reduction sensitively and sensibly used has contributed a little to that. It seems marginally cleaner than Capitol's but not anything like C.F.'s brilliant shiny chrome polish on the sound. The Repertoire version doesn't sound compressed or limited although I guess a little has been applied. As other forum members state, Eroc has done a good job of sensitively tweaking the sound slightly so that in every respect it is audibly a bit more solid and transparent with slightly better depth than the Capitol USA one. On my £8K hi-fi system it does sound the best of the three cd versions I have. The improvement over the Capital cd isn't huge but definitely audible. If I already owned the Capitol cd and wasn't a huge QMS fan, I might not think the Repertoire one worth the cost for the small improvement. I might be inclined to wait -sigh- for Capitol to remaster it themselves. Unless, of course you are a huge QMS fan, which I am, so have bought three versions. The C.F. version is best suited as a mug coaster.

On a final note, the C.F. added value version -apart from the ''re-mastering'' claim (which wouldn't stand up in an English Court of Law)- is the nice cardboard sleeve and the Japanese style obi. Even on the obi they can't get it right. They print the tracks for the Who Do You Love Suite and have left off track one so their Track One (actually track two) shows track two's timing and so on until they correctly show Side two tracks and timings from Mona onwards.

Surely it's about time that Capitol USA remastered the album from the original live masters (not the production masters) and also included a second cd with other songs they played live that weren't used like Smokestack Lightning, Pride of Man, Acapulco Gold and Silver etc. from the recorded four shows. QMS were a scorcher of a live band with the twin guitars of Duncan-Cipollina. This quartet in '68 many commentators believe was the quintessential SF band. This, their only 'official' live album deserves better.
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on 29 January 2014
First, my hat off to 'See Why' for his excellent review. I have the original vinyl album in a storage shed with most the rest of my belongings back in the States, and reading that review made me so want to hear it again, I'm going to buy a new (CD) copy. This is one of the favorite albums of my youth; I can still "play" most of the songs, complete, in my head, I listened to the album so many times - and it was fresh every time I played it. Re the live tracks - The live version of almost any song is bound to lose some of the sophistication, for lack of a better word, and sound quality that can be achieved with long hours in the studio - but you DO recapture some of that energy and excitement that would have been in the air at the concert, now so many years ago. This really is a classic - far and away the best album Quicksilver ever did.
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2005
I recently pulled this out off the shelf where it had lain unplayed for - oh, maybe 20 years. Usually when I do this, I smile with nostalgia - and then cringe.
But this album is still superb. It is the definitve West Coast psychedelic rock album. Beats anything the Grateful Dead ever did - and British bands were never really good at improvising.
"Who do you love" is a 25-minute improvisation on the classic Bo Diddley song. It has excellent dynamics, superb guitarwork from both John Cipollina and Gary Duncan. The audience participation section is weak - if you just listen to the hand-clapping and ignore the subtle tension the band are building up, which explodes into a blistering solo from John Cipollina.
Side 2 consists of 3 songs, "Mona", "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" and "Calvary", that need to be listened to as a single piece. The dynamics here are very different, even though "Mona" is another Bo Diddley song. The music here floats and flows, underpinned by shimmering guitar. As "Cancer Moon" ends in a soft haze of feedback, "Calvary" comes in, soft, beautiful, almost poignant; it builds up in power, with lightning flashes of feedback reflecting a storm of anger. A few moments of chaos, before peace and silence settle. This is superb piece by any standards. To call it "tedious noise" (previous reviewer) is sheer nonsense. Hint: look up what "Calvary" means!
This is not blues rock, so if you're expecting something like the best of Cream, forget it! This is psychedelic (mind-expanding) rock; you need to allow yourself to float in the stream with it, not consume it. This is at times ferocious, other times delicate and subtle. This is rock improvisation of the highest order.
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