Reviews by jfclams
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The second Valenti/Duncan/Elmore Quicksilver effort is definitely not as intriguing as the first, but taken on its own, roughshod, renegade terms, it doesn't hurt to take a few spins and hear their last gasp. Large banks of horn session players were brought in to give more creedence to their ramshackle take on Latin, funk, and jazz rock grooves - usually sifted through the hazy outlaw Valenti filter, who is at his most sardonic point here - but their time had long past come and gone, and this album sorely reflects that.
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Appropriate title for an album that in a lot of ways, was made 20 years too early, and in others, definitely lives up to its zany standard. The Pink Fairies basically picked up from where the Deviants, a notorious underground psychedelic act in the U.K., left off and made three quizzical records with moderately shifting lineups. For the debut, they were a four-piece, anchored by the double drum attack of John "Twink" Alder and Russell Hunter. More than the last two albums, Never Never Land reflects the psych past that they came out of, and blends it with burgeoning punk and hard rock elements with the same sort of indie sensibility which colleagues Hawkwind were pursuing. And it usually works well. Even when presented with dead ends, the band seems to crank back up again on another groove with no issue. There are some high water-marks, specifically the title-track's inital gentle rhythms which lead into a heavier finishing kick, "Uncle Harry's Last Freak Out" - which by sheer length is meant to be the focal point - and "Teenage Rebel", which appears to draw massive inspiration from Deep Purple's "Speed King". Or how about "War Girl", which is endlessly fascinating on so many levels, and defies description? As stated before, this is a bit stop-and-start in places, but taken on its' own terms, is an album that should be more celebrated than it is now.
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Half of the band exited leaving only Valenti, Duncan, and Elmore to record Quicksilver with Mark Ryan on bass, and Mark Naftalin on keyboards - and with most of it went the mysterious Western space cowboy image and music. Supposedly. This late-period effort is a surprisingly strong rebound from the rambling tangents of the Hawaii albums, even though it is arguably as weird mood and feel-wise. The arrangements seem sharper this time around, with the Valenti-Duncan partnership finding its own, tested groove separate from what QMS had originally established. Especially in this record's mid-section, with dark, lean showcases like "Play My Guitar" stacked neatly by more adventurous tracks like "Rebel" and "Fire Brothers". It doesn't all go down that smoothly, for the last track "The Truth" is an extended disappointment, and there's no indication that any music here comes within hailing distance of being essential.
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Something tells me they could have saved everyone the trouble and instead of two albums just released one double album since we are talking about music that came from the same sessions. Of course, there is one shining exception - Hopkins' piano ballad "Spindrifter", which is so clear, concise, and thoughtful it doesn't deserve its' place on this greasy QMS record. Valenti and crew are trying to further refine their hippie/soul/groove thing, but too often the basic ideas weren't that great. The us-against-the-world title track was an admirable try, however.
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The first of two "Hawaii" albums, delineated as such because the band recorded them there, at the whim of Dino Valenti, the mercurial folk singer who finally returned to the group he originally formed. So too, had guitarist Gary Duncan. With these two back in the fold, there seemed to be talent boiling over and time ripe enough for a huge breakthrough. Instead, these two albums, although they have their moments, are high up there on the self-indulgent scale. Of the two, it's Just For Love that still contains the strongest link to the jam-heavy past, featuring a Cipollina-authored piece that's up there with Quicksilver's best instrumentals ("Cobra"), along with "Gone Again", where Valenti's wailing vocal wafts through the hazy musical smoke. "Fresh Air" sounds like a Santana track that has been given some band-centric quirks, with Cipollina and Hopkins solos, and the "have another hit..." refrain. The band attempts the same trick with "The Hat" in a softer, country-blues style which never really develops over the course of its' ten and a half minutes run time. "Freeway Flyer" is an OK garage-rocker, while two-part versions of "Wolf Run" and the title track round out the album, not doing much of anything but adding some atmosphere.
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