"After his double-LP triumph with Manassas, Stephen Stills became a much less prolific songwriter. Perhaps he unconsciously perceived he had nothing else to prove, and this began to limit his output. It wasn't that he still didn't produce good work... you can't argue with songs like 'Dark Star' and 'Southern Cross'... it's just that there wasn't as much of it.Most Stills aficionado's consider his second effort with Manassas to be a disappointment, though that conclusion is certainly relative to its predecessor. After Manassas dissolved as a band, Stills reprised an eclectic mix of his earlier collaborations with David Crosby and Graham Nash, Manassas, and Buffalo Springfield in an engaging 1974 live LP... so nothing new was coming out. The album being reviewed here followed, and is considered to be Stills' fourth 'solo' LP, but a review of the detailed liner notes reveal it to be a collection of songs gleaned from 1971 to 1975 that, for whatever reason, never made it to disc. Nearly every song involves a completely distinct cast of musicians. On 'As I Come of Age' for example, we have Crosby, Stills and Nash on vocals and Ringo Starr on drums. On the remainder of the CD, there are no less than 5 other drummers featured: Conrad Isadore, Jimmy Fox, Russ Kunkle, Dallas Taylor, and Tubby Ziegler, and much overdubbing is noted. There is an assortment of over a dozen vocalists credited, many contributing to only one song. This was hardly a band coming together in one studio to record a set of new compositions. That being said, this is not a poor production. There are deficiencies, but it is the last of Stills' collectable solo efforts. The biggest problem with the album is the lack of any cutting edge rock numbers. By the time 'Cold Cold World' and 'Myth of Sisyphus' roll around, most people are definitely feeling the blues, or a bit drowsy. The strongest rock songs on the LP are the Stills-Donnie Dacus composition, 'Turn Back the Pages', which reached number 84 on the national charts in the summer of '75, and 'Shuffle Just As Bad', best described as... well, a shuffle. There are no 'Go Back Home's or 'The Treasure's to blow the lid off the pot. There are a couple upbeat numbers, such as 'To Mama From Christopher and the Old Man', 'First Things First' and 'New Mama' to help lighten the load, but otherwise the song selection is rather subdued, or blues oriented. Many Stills fans resent the presence of Dacus on this, and the subsequent 'Illegal Stills' album, but I find his intense leads provocative, especially on the 1974 live set. In a way, Dacus proved to be a much more compatible foil for Stills than Neil Young, or even Chris Hillman, who too readily stood in the shadows on rhythm guitar, supporting Stills' leads in Manassas. Further, Dacus' and Hillman's presence reveals Stills' willingness to share the spotlight, a trait critics often contend Stills is lacking.There do seem to be two themes dominating the songs. One is changes. Stills hints at an awareness that his era of prolific songwriting is fading, hence his choice to 'Turn Back the Pages' in his songwriting catalog, raiding the vault for this disc. Consider these telling, autobiographical phrases from 'My Favorite Changes': "This is my favorite set of changes, already good for a couple of songs, thought I might play them one more time and over again", and "Makes me go back to the trouble I got into, trying to live up to what they said I lucked into at twenty-five", and "But here I stand tryin' so hard to find, one more clever line, for this song of mine, but I can't seem to find, anything that will rhyme, with my favorite changes". Sounds like an artist having a hard time keeping the pen to the songwriting grindstone, doesn't it? Ironically... aren't those some great lyrics?The other theme is family life. At this point in his life Stills was nursing what would become a short-lived marriage, and enjoying the arrival of his son, Christopher. Songs such as Stills' cover of Neil Young's 'New Mama', 'To Mama From Christopher and the Old Man', and lyrics from songs such as 'My Favorite Changes' ("And this part reminds me of my lady, she loves me, she's waitin' at home, and the baby she's makin', I tell you it's frightnin' how she trusts me so...") clearly mark the point where this singer-songwriter's life was at. Such diversion probably isn't the most fertile soil for cutting edge rock and roll, so perhaps this accounts for the album's lack of an edge.Nonetheless, this is an engaging CD. A number of these songs, such as 'Turn Back...', 'My Favorite Changes', 'In the Way', 'First Things First', 'As I Come of Age', and 'Myth of Sisyphus' could have easily claimed a spot on any of Stills' other solo productions. There are some weaker compositions, in particular 'Love Story' and 'Cold Cold World', but even those songs have their redeeming moments. This is certainly a 'must-own' for any avid collector of Stephen Stills. Oh, and one nice 'extra': lyrics are included!"
ONE OF THE BEST FROM THE CSN PARTNERSHIP
o dubhthaigh | north rustico, pei, canada | 01/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As Crosby wandered about as El Dopo, Nash took photos of himself, and Young set about betraying all ala Jean Genet, Stills got himself together, must have swallowed some pride and produced a CD that was, is and remains a sobering account of one's life. More rocking than Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks," this effort laid it out as finely as anything he would ever do what it meant to live one's life with careful reflection.
All the songs here are extraordinary, and his tendency towards excess seeps out only with "Love Story", and that suits the song just fine.
Ringo is along for the ride here, Donnie Dacus proves to be an excellent foil for Stills, and nods to Neil in the form of the best version ever of "New Mama" round out an album that begins on a great song "Turn Back the Pages" moves through the brilliant "Favourite Changes" and fulfills everything Stills was capable of.
CSN was in free fall. Stills seemed to have nowhere to go with the dissolution of Stills-Young, and faced with this precipice, summoned forth all of his strengths. His guitar playing, particularly his otherwise annoying wah-wah, was at its very best. His voice was terrific, and perhaps this is really his highwater mark as a solo artist."
This kept me going
Syl Nathan | Flushing, NY USA | 11/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When this album was first released, I was in high school. I was going through a real mind bending relationship with a girlfriend who told me she loved me but in reality, did not. One night, I was trowling around the FM dial (anyone remember REAL FM?) when "Turn Back the Pages" came on, which caused me to both choke back tears and rock out at the same time. At that moment, I became a loyal Stephen Stills fan, and this is in my top 10 favorite albums of all time. This album literally got me through high school, and several of its tunes are self-anthems to me. Today, I'm a working musician and SS remains one of my biggest influences. Thank you, Mr. Stills, for this classic piece of work."
Not quite up to Stephen Stills and Mannassas...
o dubhthaigh | 06/30/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
".... but one star? I just washed my vinyl copy with Disc Doctor today and this is still one sweet album. I haven't heard it much in the last few years- I kind of overdid it back in '75-'76. Love Story, My Angel, Favorite Changes, First Things First and so on. I loved the Clapton comparison below- very true. Too bad Stephen sort of burned out as an important writer. Make no mistake, this guy was every bit Neil's equal and more in his prime. Donnie Dacus? Just a very good musician on this album. Unfortunately, this is Stephen's last really good solo album, so don't fail to grab it. I'm just sorry you can't grab some nice new vinyl to really capture the soul of the performances."
Talk about an excellent underrated album
Hawke and Dove | Scottsdale, Arizona United States | 11/13/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for accessible rock that gets repeated airplay on the FM dial, look elsewhere. If you're looking for good, honest sincere music that gets better and better with each listen, check out Stills. For me, all 12 songs have their place depending on the mood and situation of the moment. There is no filler. Mostly relaxed (but never sickening and syrupy) songs with nice guitar work, vocal harmonies and lyrics. I recall listening to this when I was 18 years old and not being all that impressed. In-fact, I was bored with it. Now I am 35 and have been taking up acoustic guitar and have tried this album again. Wow! Talk about night and day in terms of listening experience. Everyone and their brother may go on and on about Eric Clapton but I think I prefer to listen to Stills. Stills music is more challenging than Clapton's and requires more listens than Clapton's to fully appreciate the work BUT Still's music has more "staying" power than Clapton's (ie, it's much harder to get burned out on Still's than Clapton). What you get here is an album with 12 good compositions and no major hits. Put it in and listen from start to finish."