Quicksilver is Dino Valenti’s album. He wrote all the songs but two (by drummer Gary Duncan), he takes the vocals with that quavering breathy echo-laden whine which metamorphoses into an acceptable shout when he gets to screwing it on. But ’tis not on the basis of vocal or instrumental talent alone that Dino has assumed such a heavy role in the band’s music. Above all, he is an enthusiastic practitioner of the Good Time Rock Star Ogle, a showman, a front man who steals the limelight but lacks the class to pull it off.
Quicksilver’s real value lies in the instrumental talents of David Freiberg, Greg Elmore, Gary Duncan and John Cipollina, Despite an overall messiness that can be distracting, their talents shine through to offset Dino’s vocals and make Quicksilver an album worth the attention of your ears, if your ears are attuned to the rolling gait of classic San Francisco rock & soul, as mine are.
Of nine tracks, only two bring but the band’s best feature: hard Hot Tuna-style rock. Conveniently, they are the first tracks, “Hope” and “I Found Love” (the latter written by Duncan). “Rebel,” by pushing the concept of atmospheric, echo to its limits, succeeds because the technique is appropriate to the vehicle, a neo-nostalgic Dixie lament, but otherwise this persistent feature serves only to mask what might have been attractive ballads, had Dino and his magic mike gone easy on the distortion. As to basic musical structure, little is new, without the aid of Nicky Hopkins, Mark Naftalin, and a full horn section led by Martin Fierro which graced their last album, What About Me, the embellishments are lacking, alas.
Lyrically, the “What About Me” theme predominates, with snoots being cocked at the Death Structure, statements of cultural revolutionary zeal being made, problems of freak existence examined, values affirmed, etc. All heady stuff, but somewhat short on novelty-value. The cover art says much by depicting pastorally naked hippies (complete with Renaissance pubecovers) threatened by a monstrous hawk and its buddy the wolf, only slightly larger than life, as befits such an ignobly perfidious scavenging beast.
It grieves me to say this, since I’ll take Quicksilver’s good intentions and real glow-power potential over a hundred hoarily decadent Phase Four evil-rock bands, but Quicksilver is mediocre, and ain’t that a shame?