Happy Trails (album)

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Happy Trails
Quicksilver Messenger Service-Happy Trails (album cover).jpg
Live album by Quicksilver Messenger Service
Released March 29, 1969
Recorded 1968
Genre Psychedelic rock, acid rock
Length 48:41
Label Capitol
Quicksilver Messenger Service chronology
Quicksilver Messenger Service
Happy Trails
Shady Grove
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Head Heritage (very favourable)[2]
Rolling Stone (positive)[3]
Sputnikmusic 4/5 stars[4]

Happy Trails is the second album of the American band Quicksilver Messenger Service. Most of the album was recorded from two performances at the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, although it is not clear which parts were recorded at which Fillmore. The record was released by Capitol Records in stereo.

Side 1[edit]

The first side of the album is the "Who Do You Love Suite", a recorded live performance of the band's extended version of Bo Diddley's song, "Who Do You Love?" The movements of the suite are given separate titles and writing credits. This performance has received high praise:

  • "The perpetually inventive chops of QMS are what is truly on display here. The musicians' unmitigated instrumental prowess and practically psychic interaction allow them to seamlessly weave into and back out of the main theme." (Lindsay Planer, All Music Guide) [1]
  • "They use the infamous Bo Diddley rhythm not as a crutch, not as something for the rhythm section to play with while the lead takes it; Quicksilver finds dimensions of that "bump buddy bump bump — bump bump" beat that no one has even suggested before, as they stretch it, bend it, move around it, as a motif or a bridge, as an idea rather than as a pattern." (Greil Marcus, in Rolling Stone.) [3]

Other reviewers have been less enthusiastic:

  • "In reality it's an excuse for an extended solo from (mostly) guitarist John Cipollina which ranges from bluesy licks to...almost nothing else. [...] In addition to serving mainly as a vehicle for Cipollina's technically-proficient but unimaginative guitar work (he'll play the kind of repeating arpeggios or repeating string bend licks so incessantly it's easy to understand why punk rock by-and-large eschewed and abhorred the guitar solo), the song's head features unimaginably dull vocals; the arrangement pretty much stinks of white imposter blues[.]" (Elliot Knapp) [5]
  • "Trying to sit through these jams and pay attention to them is, however, a totally useless idea—and it only makes matters worse. If you have, for some unexplainable reason, purchased this album, never make the mistake of paying attention to it. [...] [T]his album manages to, indeed, epitomize all the worst excesses of American hippie music, and never concentrate on the best." (Odds and Sods) [6]

"[T]he ever-modest [John] Cipollina" said "'it was just a two-chord jam.'" (Mick Skidmore, April 2001, Notes to Acadia CD "Copperhead") [7]

Who Do You Love Suite[edit]

1. Who Do You Love? (Ellas McDaniel) (a.k.a. Bo Diddley) This is a straightforward rendering of the song in Quicksilver's rock/blues style.

2. When You Love (Gary Duncan) A guitar solo by Duncan in a style somewhere between jazz and rock (described as "Bloomfield-like" [3] ) with a walking bass line by Freiberg.

3. Where You Love (Quicksilver and Fillmore audience) Some apparently improvised guitar and bass plucking and sliding, with feedback, handclapping and audience participation 'almost like a "found object" out of Dada.' [3]

4. How You Love (John Cipollina) A rock guitar solo by Cippollina.

5. Which Do You Love (David Freiberg) A bass solo by Freiberg.

6. Who Do You Love? (Part 2) (Ellas McDaniel) A slower, quieter reprise of one verse of the Bo Diddley song, leading to a pianissimo ensemble vocal, and a finale in which "they hit it all at once, guitars harder and harder. Elmore pounding, voices screaming; everything working." [3] For this finale, Elmore changes to a back-beat, while Duncan and Freiberg still play the Bo Diddley beat and Cippolina plays a lead against the melody, resulting in a polyrhythmic rock sound.

The recorded live performance of the "Who Do You Love Suite" was almost 27 minutes long, and some of Gary Duncan's solo ("When You Love") was excised, perhaps because a side of an LP can contain approximately only 25 minutes of music. At the end, Bill Graham announces, "Quicksilver Messenger Service."

Side 2[edit]

Greil Marcus, writing for Rolling Stone, noted that the record has another side but "it took me two hours to even get to the other side." [3]

The second side of the album contains "Mona", another Bo Diddley song, and two compositions by Duncan, "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" and "Calvary", all of which segue. The three songs were originally parts of a single continuous live performance. Both Cippollina and Duncan take a guitar solo on Mona. Following them is a version of "Happy Trails", the theme of Roy Rogers's television show, written by Dale Evans. The live recording of "Calvary" was abridged shortly after the end of "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" and a studio version was recorded and substituted. The ironic comment at the beginning of side two, "This here next one's rock 'n' roll," was also added in the studio.

"Maiden of the Cancer Moon" is an instrumental written by Duncan. The lead guitar is played by Cipollina. This is clearly a scored piece, as opposed to the improvisational guitar playing on "Mona." One description of it says "attitude filled hard rock with that tough guy, slick style of guitar playing that makes you stomp your feet in the middle of class." [4]

Duncan's instrumental composition "Calvary" was called the "F-Sharp Thing" by the band.[8] This music has been described as "acid-flamenco",[3] but it is definitely not flamenco music. It's also been called an "Ennio Morricone-flavored Spanish instrumental[.]" [5] It does resemble orchestral or symphonic music, and it is not readily classifiable as rock, jazz or blues. In the studio, Quicksilver took the themes of Duncan's piece and redid them with an extended introduction, a different cadenza by Duncan, guitar and bass feedback, a brief interlude that rises out of the feedback, and a closing melody, played staccato, that fades out. There are a variety of percussion instruments used besides the standard drum kit: piano (apparently played by pressing all its keys simultaneously with a piece of wood or something), tympani, a tam-tam, a whip, tubular bells, bar chimes (or perhaps the newly invented mark tree), a triangle or a bell, and güiro. In addition, Duncan lays down his electric guitar to play an acoustic guitar during the brief interlude, and then takes up the electric one again. The band also sings wordless vocals in harmony, Duncan shouts, "Call it anything you want!", and the track begins and fades out with "shhh" vocals. The album sleeve says that "Calvary" was recorded "live" at Golden State Recorders, presumably meaning that none of this was overdubbed and it was played by the four members of the band only.

As a coda, the band sing the theme tune from Roy Rogers' western television show, which lends its title to the album. "Happy Trails" is also different from the other songs on the album. It has "clip-clop percussion, piano and drawling vocals by Elmore[.] " [2] It's "a sweet, slightly corny way to end things." [9] "It clears the sonic palette and also bids adieu to this particular fab foursome of psychedelia." [10] There is no bass played on this track; Freiberg plays a honky-tonk piano part.

Other reviews[edit]

  • "The album's mesmerizing power remains as true as ever. The George Hunter cover painting is also indispensable." [11]
  • "Cipollina and Duncan exchange solo and rhythm duties on "Happy Trails" so effortlessly that despite the production's extreme stereo separation (Duncan on the left channel, Cipollina on the right) it's never anything but a seamless series of intuitively placed fits of opposing forces with an undying attraction to each other. At times Duncan's rhythm is a fat, toned-down punk buzzsaw working as a wash against Cipollina's agile counterpointing and sometimes Cipollina's solos are the smallest of strategic rhythmic strokes while Duncan's rhythm playing at times appears more like solos rendered in shorthand. These free-flowing qualities were accented with carefully controlled, soaring feedback and stinging arpeggios of the purest tones." (Julian Cope) [2](This review gives a much longer description of all the music on the record.)
  • "If you thought that Frances the Mute or Deloused in the Comatorium by The Mars Volta was the most experimental rock album so far, Happy Trails will most likely make you think otherwise." [4]

Track listing[edit]

Side 1 – Who Do You Love Suite
  1. "Who Do You Love (Part 1)" (Ellas McDaniel) – 3:32
  2. "When You Love" (Gary Duncan) – 5:15
  3. "Where You Love" (Greg Elmore) – 6:07
  4. "How You Love" (John Cipollina) – 2:45
  5. "Which Do You Love" (David Freiberg) – 1:49
  6. "Who Do You Love (Part 2)" (McDaniel) – 5:51
Side 2
  1. "Mona" (McDaniel) – 6:53
  2. "Maiden of the Cancer Moon" (Duncan) – 2:54
  3. "Calvary" (Duncan) – 13:31
  4. "Happy Trails" (Dale Evans) – 1:29


Awards and accolades[edit]

In 1992, the album was certified gold (over 500,000 copies sold in the US) by the Recording Industry Association of America.[12] In 2003, the album was ranked number 189 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] It was #44 in Rolling Stone's "50 Coolest Records." [13] "Mona" by Quicksilver was ranked number 88 on the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone.[14]

CD Rereleases[edit]

"Happy Trails" was remastered and rereleased in audiophile versions of June 2012 (a “mini LP” on CD) and January 2013 (HQ vinyl). An English version came out in 2010. Japanese versions surfaced in 2008 and 2009. Capitol Records released a CD version in 1994.[15]


Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1969 Pop Albums 27

Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
1969 "Who Do You Love" The Billboard Hot 100 91