running_man | Chesterfield Twp., MI | 05/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"'Right By You' was Stephen Stills' reward for the yeoman effort he put forth on the 1982 Crosby, Stills and Nash reunion disc. Prior to his second reunion with Crosby and Nash, Stephen had produced two commercial duds in 1978, 'Illegal Stills' and 'Thoroughfare Gap'. Although both albums featured some tantalizing tracks, the disco groundswell engulfing popular music was making Stephen's patented folk-rock-blues sound passe. Rather than sticking with the formula he had used with CSN and Buffalo Springfield to revolutionize rock music 16 years previous, 'Right By You' took on the post-disco sound dominated by a heavy use of synthesizers and electronic percussion. Although Stephen's trademark sound and composing style is able to penetrate through the fog, this weak release would prove to be his last solo effort for seven long years, and his last on a major label.
Stills was not foreign to making the right use of synthesizers. The track 'Move Around' from the epic 1972 'Manassas' recording was a pioneering effort, surrounding surreal lyrics with a similarly rich and mysterious melody. On 'Right By You', Stephen finds at least two tracks suited to the synth sound, the only single from the disc, 'Stranger', and the wonderfully structured 'Love Again'. Both are robust songs, and Stephen proves he still has a knack for turning a great lyric ("mutual attraction can be so distracting" and "faith can be your best friend, and love is an accident of faith"). Seperating these two tracks are the other two winners from the disc, the opener, '50/50', penned by Stephen and Manassas percussionist Joe Lala, and track three, 'Flaming Heart', a raw country-rock tune penned by Ray Arnott. While '50/50', declaring a committment to egalitarian love, is a horn-driven number, 'Flaming Heart' relies on the dual lead guitars of Stills and, believe it or not, Jimmy Page. There is great diversity in mixing these two numbers with the synth dominated 'Stranger' and 'Love Again', demonstrating Stephen's many faceted talents.
There are several other decent numbers on the disc, but nothing approaching the four aforementioned nuggets. Side one of the original vinyl offered another dimension in Still's stable, a gritty, blues-oriented tune called 'No Problem'. Jimmy Page appears again on the bluesy title and closing track. Sandwiched between is the weakest stretch on the disc. 'Can't Let Go' isn't a Stills composition, and the lead vocal is shuffled to keyboardist Michael Finnigan. 'Grey To Green' is a smooth but undistinguished acoustic piece, and 'No Hiding Place' brings Manassas co-founder Chris Hillman back to play mandolin and offer vocals on this traditional country/bluegrass number. You'll wonder why the two couldn't come up with a better song to celebrate their reunion.
In the 1970's Stephen decided to cover a Neil Young composition on all of his solo discs. On 'Stills', Stephen offered 'New Mama', and on 'Illegal' he set down 'The Loner'. On this disc he offers 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', but it's overproduced. The simplicity that was nurtured by Neil's version will break your heart each time you listen to Stephen's.
'Right By You' was one of the last vinyl discs I ever purchased, and it stands in my mind as the virtual end of the Stephen Stills era. 1991's 'Stills Alone' is a nice disc that has it's moments, but it's like Arnold Palmer on the Senior's Tour: a shadow of a former greatness. It's hard to imagine many people reaching for 'Right By You' when inspired to take in some of Stephen's work. That being said, for Stephen's core fans, this disc still represents a significant portion of his body of work, and no Stills collection is complete without it. The disc is out-of-print and copies are hard to come by, so I used a cassette version to produce my review. While tape hiss may tempt you to boo and hiss, it's comforting to be able to enjoy these tracks for less than $100."
Stephen Stills, mid-'80s style; an underrated record!
Dave | United States | 05/03/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With his 1984 album "Right By You", Stephen Stills adopted such common mid-'80s trappings including in-your-face synthesizers and electronic drums/ percussion, and on 'side 1' of the album, he proves he can put them to excellent use. The haunting, edgy pop-rocker "Stranger", and the minor-keyed, Latin-flavored dance-pop tune "50/50" are infectiously catchy gems. "No Problem" is simply awesome--a rousing, impassioned rant, with exciting, gutsy vocals from Stills and an irresistible rhythmic feel. "Flaming Heart" is a super-fun bluesy rocker--Jimmy Page offers a somewhat rote-sounding guitar solo on it, but it's a minor gripe. "Love Again" leans a little too much toward generic '80s synth-pop, but is still really catchy.
'Side 2' is sort of the 'ballad side', and there we get a nicely effective cover of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", with Stephen adding additional lyrics. On the other hand, there's also the sub-par "Can't Let Go" with a pathetically overwrought, super-slick "soul" vocal from Mike Finnigan. But there's also an excellently done slow blues number with the title track. And the country-western tune "No Hiding Place" has a catchy singalong chorus, even though it does get repeated a couple times too many to annoying effect. "Grey To Green" is a pleasant mid-tempo ballad, although it's got some corny lyrics.
So, all in all, "Right By You" isn't as great as earlier Stills albums such as "Stephen Stills" or "Stills", but any true fan will find it a solidly worthwhile and underrated effort by a tremendous artist.