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Album Review

San Francisco Bay Area acid rock guitarist John Cipollina (1943-1989) was a member of many rock groups in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, most notable among them Quicksilver Messenger Service. Cipollina never really had a solo career, but his discography does list one album under his own name, sort of, a record usually referred to as John Cipollina Raven. It isn't actually a solo disc, either, however. In late 1975, a year in which he had already participated in a Quicksilver reunion (Solid Silver) and served as a member of Man (Maximum Darkness), Cipollina hosted the first of a series of rehearsals at his studio that resulted in the formation of Raven, a new band made up of Bay Area stalwarts who, like him, had been members of other area bands. Pianist Nicky Hopkins, for example, had been in Quicksilver, while singer/keyboardist Jim McPherson had been in another Cipollina-led band, Copperhead, a couple of years earlier. But in addition to Cipollina, the other main member of Raven was guitarist Greg Douglass. The band rehearsed for six months and then played, according to annotator Mike Somavilla, "at best, maybe, 11 shows" at such venues as the Keystone nightclub in Berkeley, CA. Then they drifted apart. That probably would have been it, except that in 1980 Cipollina sold some of the group's demos to the West German label Line Records, which issued them as an LP under the name John Cipollina Raven. Now, the British Acadia label has undertaken a fresh assessment of the material on this disc, titled Raven, retaining seven of the tracks from the earlier version, resequenced with seven new tracks, some of them recorded live. They reveal Raven to be a band of between five and seven pieces, depending on the track, that plays densely arranged '70s album rock in a style roughly similar to that of Jefferson Starship, but without that band's distinctive vocals. Some of the musical elements are distinctive, however, starting with Cipollina's stinging guitar playing and Hopkins' bright piano runs. The sound quality sometimes betrays the rudimentary character of the sessions, but this is clearly a talented rock band that had promise for a successful run if somehow it could have gotten past this point. That, of course, is largely the story of Cipollina's journeyman career in general and of some of the other musicians in the band.

Biography

Born: 24 August 1943 in Berkeley, CA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

As a founding member and lead guitarist for Quicksilver Messenger Service, John Cipollina helped shape the psychedelic sound of San Francisco in the 1960s. Most musicians on the scene were folkies who eventually turned acid rock, but Cipollina and fellow guitarist Gary Duncan were hard rockers when they formed Quicksilver Messenger Service in the mid-'60s. The band's self-titled 1968 debut brought them some attention, but it was the live, louder, and looser follow-up that made Cipollina a guitar...
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Raven, John Cipollina
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