A band known for their formation during the sixties with helping the onset of the psychedelic scene, Quicksilver Messenger Service’s seventh album (first with keyboard player Chuck Steaks), Comin’ Thru is brain child of guitarists Dino Valente and Gary Duncan. Although the band’s most notable albums such as their self-titled album (1968) and Happy Trails (1969) show progressive notions of San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, Comin’ Thru shows more of the band’s musical influences of blues, jazz and folk. This album doesn’t follow a typical Quicksilver song montage of jamming then losing your mind for an allotted amount of time, but don’t get me wrong, it holds true to the psychedelic rock ideas of say the Dead or Jefferson Airplane.
The album’s front runner, Doing Time in the U.S.A., a song chronicling different themes regarding the law being broken has an almost Dicky Betts southern rock feel to it. Doing Time in the U.S.A. has somewhat of an ode to the Rolling Stones when Dino Valente recites in his most Jagger-esque voice, “…I can’t get no, satisfaction;” this being ironic seeing as how the band’s former organist, Nicky Hopkins, was doing work with the Rolling Stones at the time. Whether or not this is an actual response to the Stones classic is unknown, but in a genre where underlying song connections run wild, one can only imagine.
Quicksilver’s jazz influences are recognizable within moments of the first horn solos found on Chicken. Sonny Lewis (saxophone) and Pat O’hara lay down a dueling solo of lows and highs that make this soulful jam extremely tight. As always twang blues guitar riffs are found throughout, most present on Mojo and Changes. Mojo, a song about what else than a man’s swagger, libido, has that psychedelic song formation found in their earlier albums. Ending the song via a line-up of solo’s starting from guitar to trumpet to bass then on to keyboard the band obtains a type of “jam feeling” usually only found in live performances. Stressing the difference between this album and their popular titles is the production of keyboard player Chuck Steaks. His approach to keyboard is much more up tempo and “wild” compared to a more classically trained Mark Naftalin.
The albums organ solo’s reflect this greatly with a Bernie Worell style to them, most recognizable on Doing Time in the U.S.A and Don’t Lose It. Many regard Comin’ Thru as a lesser work of Quicksilver Messenger Service since the band would fall apart near the end of the decade and many of the original members were not part of the album’s production (John Cippollina, David Friedberg & Jim Murray).
An album that holds two sides of the love, hate spectrum: Some feel the horn work is used to compensate for a less talented band, then others feel it was innovative thinking (the band looking for a new sound). Some feel as though the use of a less classically trained pianist was by default (due to the band is disarray), while others feel it adds an element unknown style (coming from the school of thought that, the less classically trained you are, the more unique your style is). Let’s not hang signs, just listen.
1. Doin' Time in the U.S.A. (Gary Duncan) 4:15
2. Chicken (Traditional, Arrangement by Dino Valenti) 4:03
3. Changes (Dino Valenti) 4:15
4. California State Correctional Facility Blues (Dino Valenti, Gary Duncan, Greg Elmore, Chuck Steaks) 6:10
5. Forty Days (ino Valenti, Gary Duncan, Greg Elmore) 5:31
6. Mojo (Dino Valenti) 5:34
7. Don't Lose It (Dino Valenti, Gary Duncan) 5:57
* Dino Valenti – Vocals, Guitar, Congas
* Gary Duncan – Guitar, Vocals
* Greg Elmore – Drums
* Chuck Steaks – Organ
* Mark Ryan – Bass
* Ken Balzell – Trumpet
* Dalton Smith – Trumpet
* Bud Brisbois – Trumpet
* Pat O'Hara – Trombone
* Charles C. Loper – Trombone
* Sonny Lewis – Saxophone
* Donald Menza – Saxophone