"All right, it's a matter of taste, granted, but Stephen Stills is a guy who, for me, works best when he's with others who hold their own with him. When he calls all the shots, you get albums like this one, which have a few great songs and a LOT of misfires. Steve the Street Preacher testifying about "What-We-All-Need-To-Do-Brothers-And-Sisters" was a lame act back in 1971 when he recorded "Relaxing Town," "Word Game" and "Ecology Song," and the passage of time hasn't helped it any. On the other hand, when Stills kept it simple, he hit home runs; "Marianne" is a honey of a song with a great slide riff moving it fast and flowing; "Singin' Call" is one of his finest lyrics and his performance here is gentle and knowing (Check out his re-do of it on the out-of-print STILLS ALONE CD---it blows this version away!); and the man will ever be one of the best (and most underrated) guitar-pickin' dudes around. This isn't a bad album, mostly, but beware of the "masterpiece" tag; this isn't a masterpiece by a long shot."
Waiting In The Color And The Noise
Glenn Barker | San Francisco | 01/10/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This was a much-maligned album, but nonetheless spent a great deal of time on my turntable. In those days, I couldn't get enough of Mr. Stills and his illustrious pals.
While the album contains several gems, it also included quite a few duds. I wasn't one to complain back then, but I can also see why the critics were in such an uproar. Cheesy horns, falsetto singing, and throwaway lyrics had no place on an album made by the guy who brought us For What It's Worth, Bluebird, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, and Love The One You're With.
Change Partners gets things off to a big start. It's swinging 3/4 time, soaring chorus, and gorgeous pedal-steel from Jerry Garcia make this a monster track, and the lyrics were especially wry. It seems that Graham Nash took "Love The One You're With" a little too seriously, and made off with the one Stills loved. Stephen gets his revenge by making the woman out to be a country-club debutante who saves herself for no one. Touche.
Know You Got To Run, Stills' ode to his pal Neil Young, proves to be one of his strongest vocal takes, and is also another great set of lyrics. The banjo and guitar interplay shows Stills at his folky best, and the overall tone of the song is sufficiently dark, effectively conveying the gloom that often beset his friend.
Sugar Babe should have been a hit, but was overlooked by DJs. It had a soulful feel to it, enhanced by the Hammond B3. The big, beautiful suspended chord at the end is a touch only Stills could have thought of.
Singin' Call is a subtle gem that never seemed to show up in his live set. Too bad, as this was a real showcase for Stephen's considerable vocal chops.
Word Game is a blistering Dylanesque rant against racism that, while not his best lyric, is one of his very best acoustic guitar workouts. Who but Stills ever applied banjo-frailing to the guitar, and made it sound like this?
From here, things start to go downhill in a hurry, and it's evident that Stills should've waited until he had more top-notch cuts before calling it a wrap. His desire to step into R & B is understandable, as Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears were all the rage at that time, showing that white boys could pull it off. Unfortunately, the material just isn't strong enough to make it work, and Stills' horn charts left much to be desired. Critics looking for someone to dis found this an easy mark, and Stills' reputation for big ego and ostentatious displays of wealth didn't help any, and the knives came out.
In spite of the inconsistencies of this album, I would recommend it. The high points are as thrilling as anything else Stiils recorded, and should be considered a high point in the music pantheon of that time."
Writing, guitar and and vocal excellence !!
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Stephen Stills is one of the GREATS that have been unjustly overlooked by the listening public due to the poor response of music critics. Everyone who hears this CD coming from my speakers are completely awe struck by the crisp sound of the guitar work, the solid melodic singing and the intelligent lyrics. Judge for yourself. This one belongs in everyone's comprehensive music collection. All tracks are quite listenable and most are very memorable !!! You'll be humming these songs for days. Buy it !!"
Stills continues to knock em out...
Booby Slimm | London, England | 08/18/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"By the time his sophomore set, Stephen Stills 2, was released, Stills had driven the Buffalo Springfield to folk rock highs, joined Al Kooper on the successful collaborative jamming lp Super Session and co-founded and written and performed most of the music for the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young. Not long after the success of the Wall of Sound Setphen Stills, Stephen still had a mass of songs to get out. He had a backlog dating back to his jamming sessions with his close friend Jimi Hendrix (many still not released - possibly some of the best 'lost' and certainly more interesting songs to never be released from this era) and many more written on a recent sell-out tour with the Memphis Horns. What this album represents is a snapshot of Stills at work and play from 1971. It is a great album but if you want his masterpiece go check out Manassas from the following year.
It is unfair to criticise Stephen over this album as his work rate and output was incredible - he was still only 26 by this album and was admired by, and played with, people like Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and Joni Mitchell in this year.
So to begin the album, 'Change Partners' is a pretty folk-gospel tune with another of those wonderful tunings by Stills, which gave such charm to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes or the guitar on Mitchell's Carey from her album 'Blue'. It would not sound out of place on his debut. And great emotional Stills singing on this.
Nothing To Do But Today - great title, nice electric tone on his guitar and sounds like Manassas doin their blues things - runs out of steam at end, which brings us to
Fishes and Scorpions - one of Stills' best songs. Great twelve string work (like Deja Vu titletrack) and excellent Clapton song - one of the great Clapton solos - sounds like Blind Faith. And a resonant great vocal. Sounds suspiciously like a drug song to me (by the sound) and carries on another of Stills' recurring metaphors for women etc in it).
Various songs on the album are self-indulgent though still worth hearing. Bluebird revisited, Ecology Song, open Secret and Sugar Babe are all decent songs but try too hard to carry themselves and fail in the process. And, sadly, lyrically (Bluebird excepted) they are really quite bad. A pity that the perfect 'Bluebird' had to be tainted by this reinterpretation bu then this is 'his' song so he did have the right to do so. Most of these songs have dated badly.
Relaxing Town is a great rocker with more reference to Mayor Daley (like Nash's Chicago) and has a goovy solo. Sadly it has dated again and sounds rather ranting - akin to the acoustic Word Game. But Word Game is a great song and it is not like Dylan though it is similar - this is a cheap shot to say as so many people sang in this style in this era it is not just like Dylan. It's also like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Jim croce etc etc etc etc... And has a great tune and tuning.
Singin' Call is the best tune in my opinion. Quietly threatening to steal the show this is a beautiful emotional song and with Stills you can tell when he means what he sings and when he is being a consummate showman. like the great 'So begins the task' on Manassas this is a lovely song that picks you up and rolls you gently down the river and valleys Stills sings about. And great crosby singing on the chorus - surely an invention of his (it sounds like it)
So worth buying. Any major critics should really try wriitng like Stills and realise how good he actually is and how these are great tunes. A sadly majorly underrated genius. he should be up there with Young and others."
A still, small voice
Erica | Washington State | 04/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Dated, muddy, and moving, this is CSN boiled down into honesty and the breath of an entire era. Tunes like the bitter, quirky "Change Partners", the quinessential 60's ethos of "I've Got Nothing To Do But Today", the exquisite "Singin' Call"--which sounds as if it was indeed recorded in a canyon at dusk--all underscore Stephen Still's lovely clarion voice, and are unmistakable emblems of those days and the California wilderness that inspired him. And you'd be hard-pressed to find a more sere and bitter lyric than this one on the 6th track: "Still, my heart is an open secret....Someone, tell me: have I been gifted or robbed?""