Review: John Cipollina, Raven
Raven was a short lived band the original Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina put together in the mid ’70s. The band grew out of jams that took place at Cipollina’s studio in late 1975. They were together for about 10 months and played their last public gig in September of 1976. Raven was a large band with two guitar players, singers, keyboard players, and drummers and one bass player although not everyone showed up for every gig. Their first album wasn’t released until 1980, well after the band had split up and the year after Cipollina passed away. This CD of “Raven” is composed of the original album supplemented with additional studio and live tracks.
As evidenced on this CD Raven was a very solid rock band. Although Cipollina was a world-class, highly creative and unique guitar player, as with so many of his projects the emphasis here is on the band not on Cipollina as guitar hero. On the one hand, music is usually much more enjoyable when played by musicians who understand that bands tend to make better music when the emphasis is on the band and not on displays of individual ego. On the other hand, Cipollina is a much more interesting guitar player than Raven is an interesting rock band. He is the main (perhaps the only?) reason for listening to this CD and for most of the tracks he plays well within the confines of a rock band focused on songs rather than guitar breaks. He stretches out a bit on some of the later tracks, most notably “Razor Blade and Rattlesnake”, but for the most part “Raven” is a band album, not a guitar album.
For listeners who are interested in hearing more of Cipollina than can be heard on the first two Quicksilver albums, the live disc from the two disc “Lost Gold and Silver” collection is strongly recommended followed by “Copperhead“, an album from another of Cipollina’s bands and Dinosaurs, a terrific band made up of musicians who had played in the seminal late ’60s San Francisco bands. “Raven” is pretty much for completists only.
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