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In 1972, Stephen Stills formed a new band called ‘Manassas’ and on April 12th they released their debut double LP of the same name.
The album debuted on the Top LP’s chart for the week ending April 29th, 1972 and eventually peaked at #4 in June. Stills‘ album shared the Top 10 with an album by David Crosby and Graham Nash (Graham Nash David Crosby) and an album by Neil Young (Harvest), and as you know, all were members of the quartet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Manassas marked a critical comeback for Stills, calling it a “sprawling masterpiece” and Rolling Stone saying it was “reassuring to know that Stills has some good music still inside him”.

By 1972, what we call classic rock was pretty much peaking—though nobody at the time knew it. Except maybe Stephen Stills. The band and double-album he piloted and released that year—both named Manassas—now seem pivotal. Manassas brilliantly summed up the remarkable 1960s creative surge that revitalized rock’s roots and encouraged experimentation just when it was at its crest.

The top-flight outfit Stills assembled in late 1971 and named for a bloody two-part Civil War battle (the album’s cover shot was taken on that battlefield) could nimbly navigate damn near every polyglot style rock was evolving– from blues “Jet Set” to bluegrass “Fallen Eagle”, country rock “Don’t Look At My Shadow” to Caribbean beats “Medley”, folk-rock “Johnny’s Garden” to metal “Right Now”. Jamming out complex, textured arrangements in the studio, they successfully translated them to stages in Europe and the US. But Stills always felt that Manassas struggled for recognition because his handlers wanted him back in the gold rush that Crosby Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) generated.

So it all begn when Hillman and Stills accidentally crossed paths in Cleveland, they both glimpsed opportunity. Stills’ bounteous talents and fierce competitive drive almost ensured he would overshadow nearly any setting he was in, but he was discouraged by his solo ventures. He needed a creative ally he respected, someone who’d push back but not combust or split.

A few weeks later, Stills called Hillman and invited him down to Miami’s famed Criteria Studios, where engineer-producer Tom Dowd had shepherded Derek and the Dominos‘ monumental jam-fuelled Layla sessions the year before. As it happens, the producers for what would become Manassas worked on it too.

The stage was set to replace the sterile studio feel Stills hated with the onstage improvising looseness he loved. He had his co-pilot.

Chris Hillman, who may be rock history’s best-ever second banana after dealing with McGuinn and Parsons were hard-to-beat baptisms of fire was secure enough in his own creativity to deliver. He would co-write two songs for Manassas (Both of Us, It Doesn’t Matter), help Stills wrangle others into shape, and supply his subtle, pure-toned harmonies throughout.

As Stephen Stills explained, “I basically wanted a partner, somebody who had a sense of songs. Chris invented the phrase ‘lyric police,’ and was a tremendous help. But I was still on that real powerful, energetic ‘Let’s go, I know what I’m doing’ kinda thing. Chris realized it was my band, and that was OK for him.”

From the shambling Burritos came two key talents.

Violinist Byron Berline was a bluegrass vet who’d clocked time with stars like Bill Monroe and Dillard and Clark. Fallen Eagle, a breakneck bluegrass protest song against ranchers killing our endangered national symbol, puts his dazzling, keening fiddle and Hillman’s virtuoso mandolin in the forefront.

Al Perkins learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at nine, mastered the dobro and pedal steel, performed with country and western bands, then shifted gears to tour his native west Texas as a rock guitar slinger. He supports or duels with Stills on all his axes. On Jesus Gave Love Away For Free, his aching steel solos swell and sigh; on Don’t Look at My Shadow, they glide with glee. On “Jet Set,” he plugs into effects to go grungy and deliver slashing, whiplash blues in Duane Allman fashion to counter Stills‘ gurgling wah-wah. He plays both steel and guitar on Song of Love.

Perkins, Stills, and Hillman take their guitar army acoustic for “Johnny’s Garden”, where their loosely braided, ever-shifting lines gently nudge Stills‘ yearning vocal.

The rest of the cast came from Stills‘ solo albums and tours.

Bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels brought the Caribbean feels Stills craved, as the burbling line on “Song of Love” demonstrates. But he could nail the bottom hard on blues-rockers like “Jet Set.”

Keyboardist Paul Harris, a session vet, could play almost any style; with Hillman’s adept rhythm guitar, his keys became the session’s sonic glue. Latin percussionist Joe Lala co-founded Blues Image (Ride Captain Ride) and sang with gritty, soulful conviction. He vocally challenges Stills on Cuban Bluegrass, and delivers the pulsating Latin rhythms Stills adored throughout.

Drummer Dallas Taylor was Stills’ running buddy—and a wild card. He played on CSN’s first two albums and tours; they fired him because his substance abuse rivaled the Grievous Angel’s. But this bad boy had exactly what Stills wanted on drums: he could float, dance, or slam it home.

What was slated to be Stills’ third solo album had morphed completely. The band’s chemistry clicked almost instantly, and its boundless energy and chops meshed with Stills’ vision and discipline. A few weeks of jamming out arrangements fused the wildly diverse material and sounds into a sum greater than its parts. They came out of it as a fierce, tuned machine.

No wonder Bill Wyman, who co-wrote Love Gangster with Stills and played bass for the track, said he’d leave the Stones to join Manassas. Hillman understood why: “We were always more of a band than people thought. Stills wouldn’t have been the same without us, that’s for sure. Manassas was the best band Stills ever played in.”

The album ends with a final stark jolt. Blues Man finds Stills alone with an acoustic guitar, like the host of a wild party sitting amid the wreckage after it’s over. He channels everything he ever absorbed from his revered blues masters into his gritty, anguished vocal and nimble fingerpicking to sketch a raw, painfully dark elegy for three of his friends. Jimi Hendrix, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), and Duane Allman had all recently died.

On stage, Manassas gained fame for its nearly three-hour shows opening with an opening rock set, followed by Stills playing solo acoustic, Hillman and Perkins playing bluegrass, and the band then returning for country, more rock and an acoustic finish. After touring, Hillman took several weeks away to record a reunion album with the Byrds, his pre-Burritos band.

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Déjà Vu might be the preferred choice of critics, no doubt due to the presence of Neil Young, but CSN, the trio’s glorious debut is arguably a much superior representation of their sound, and certainly a much purer one. And while some have described CSN as the ‘60s first true ‘supergroup,’ the same title could also be applied to Cream, who’d already formed and broken up long before Crosby, Stills and Nash had even made their first recording.

David Crosby, having been kicked out of The Byrds during recording sessions for 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers, loitered around Laurel Canyon, pondering over his next move. It wasn’t until he hooked up with GrahamNash (ex-Hollies) and Stephen Stills that the idea of forming a new band became a real possibility.

Nash remembers: “We were in Joni’s living room – or was it Cass’s kitchen? – and David and Stephen began singing “You Don’t Have To Cry.” I asked them to sing it again then I added my harmony to it. The heavens opened: it was an unbelievable sound and we knew we had to make music together.”

In England they approached Apple, the independent label founded by The Beatles, but were rejected after hearing what they were given. CSN returned to America where, thanks to the enthusiasm of David Geffen and AhmetErtegun, CSN were subsequently offered a contract with Atlantic Records, the same label that would soon sign Led ZeppelinStills dominated the recording of the album. Apart from drums, handled by Dallas Taylor, he played nearly all of the instruments on the album. Nash played acoustic guitar on two tracks and Crosby rhythm guitar on a few. Stills played all the bass, organ, and lead guitar parts, as well as acoustic guitar on his own songs.

Recorded at Wally Heider’s Studio III in Los Angeles in early 1969, and released in May that same year, Crosby, Stills & Nash would go on to eclipse anything by The Byrds, The Hollies, or even BuffaloSpringfield. Also, by employing their surnames in the band’s title, instead of adopting an actual name, such as The Zombies, Jefferson Airplane etc, meant that CSN were already destined to stand out.

Right from opening Acoustic Guitars of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written about Judy Collins) and when those magical three voices blend – you realise you’re in the presence of something very special. Although the song is 7:24 minutes long , Its a marathon-like ode to his failed relationship with singer Judy Collins. Progressive-folk, raga, country-blues, even Spanish lyrics, “Suite” is an opus that takes the listener on a personal and deeply moving journey, and remains the one song that CSN should be best remembered for. Nash’s catchy “Marrakesh Express” might seem a bit twee now, at least to modern ears, yet back in the day, even a title such as that meant it was fully loaded with all manner of connotations. It’s followed by the stunning ethereal beauty of “Guinnevere” sashaying into your living room with a softly plucked Acoustics. Then you get hit with the full harmonious power and beauty of those three voices as a wall of one. When the trio first got together in Joni Mitchell’s house – they noticed the ‘timber’ of the combo.

Stills’ “You Don’t Have To Cry” is the song which started it all, and is a delightful country-blues number complemented by some exquisite three-part harmonies, followed by the trippy “Pre-Road Downs,” written by Nash, and which closed side one of the original record.

Flip the disc, and we begin with the iconic “Wooden Ships,” which would turn up on the Jefferson Airplane album “Volunteers” in November of 1969 (it was a co-write with Paul Kantner) and I’ve always loved both versions – a strange hybrid of Soulful Rock that seemed to belong to California in 1969. CSN’s original take is shorter and amps up the Guitar and Organ . The bass and rhythm section is so warm and sweet but it’s the Stills vocal followed by Crosby and back again that impresses . The lyrics describe a handful of survivors living in a post-apocalyptic world. The song was included in the Woodstock movie, thus helping to propel the group’s popularity ever further. The gentle “Lady Of The Island,” written by Nash, is a delicate love-song devoted to JoniMitchell, while “Helplessly Hoping” picks up where “You Don’t Have To Cry” left off, full of delicious harmonies and subtle acoustic guitar.

Henry Diltz - Crosby, Stills & Nash 1

Crosby’s “Long Time Gone” had been floating around David’s head for a while, before nailing the master (a very early demo was included on the Voyage box set). Stills explained the process: “So with a song like “Long TimeGone,” I’d say, ‘Cros, go home.’ David would come back in the morning, and I’d say, ‘So, how do you like your song?’”

Clearly, Stills’ experience working in various studios over the years, meant that he knew exactly what to do when it came to overdubbing his instruments, as evidenced on “49 Bye-Byes,” a tune practically built from the ground up thanks to Stills’ knowledge of recording technology.

On the cover the members are, left to right, Nash, Stills, and Crosby, for no particular reason, the reverse of the order of the album title. The photo was taken by their friend and photographer Henry Diltz before they came up with a name for the group. They found an abandoned house with an old, battered sofa outside, located at 815 Palm Avenue, West Hollywood, across from the Santa Palm car wash that they thought would be a perfect fit for their image. A few days later they decided on the name “Crosby, Stills, and Nash”. To prevent confusion, they went back to the house a day or so later to re-shoot the cover in the correct order, but when they got there they found the house had been reduced to a pile of timber

Dallas Taylor can be seen looking through the window of the door on the rear of the sleeve. In the expanded edition, however, he is absent. The original vinyl LP was released in a gatefold sleeve that depicted the band members in large fur parkas with a sunset in the background on the gatefold (shot in Big Bear, California), as well as the iconic cover art. A long folded page inside displayed the album credits, lyrics, track listing,

The truly dedicated listener will likely want the 2006 HDCD expanded edition, which includes early takes of “TeachYour Children,” “Song With No Words,” “Do For The Others,” a tender folk ballad by Stills, and a cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” the group continued recording that year and the HDCD disc has four bonus tracks come from those sessions. “Do For The Others” would eventually show on “Stephen Stills” – his debut solo album from late 1970. The second it opens – you can hear why its been included on this Expanded CD Edition – not only is this song gorgeous to listen too – it’s beautifully recorded – essentially a Demo with Stills on Lead Guitar while the other two harmonise. It’s a genuine wow. Second up is another harmony winner in “Song With No Words” where they “dah dah” the melody that would eventually appear on David Crosby’s magnificent “If I Could Only Remember My Name” debut solo album in 1971. Truly beautiful is the only way to describe the Trio doing Fred Neil’s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'” made famous by Nilsson’s cover as used in the movie “Midnight Cowboy”. Crosby describes it in the liner notes as “Stills at his best…” There’s a demo of the “DéjàVu” classic “Teach Your Children” which is nice but nothing as good as the magical trio that preceded it. Fans will know that there are five other ‘outtakes’ from the period on the “Carry On” 4CD Box Set (1991) – one day we might get a Deluxe Edition 2CD set covering the event in its entirety.

While Crosby, Stills & Nash can never betray its hippie, idealistic origins, the record itself provides a timeless window into the lives of three young men whose unique, creative chemistry would inadvertently give rise to a whole new musical genre, one that included Poco, America, and most famously, The Eagles.

Years afterwards, Crosby would go on to sum up that special chemistry: “For whatever reasons, I think you get very few records like that in your life, which you can put on twenty years later and they still hold up. To this day, that first record comes on, and you don’t want to take it off or skip a tune. You just want to let it run.”

  • David Crosby – vocals; guitars on “Guinevere”; rhythm guitar on “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone”
  • Stephen Stills – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion all tracks except “Guinevere” and “Lady of the Island”
  • Graham Nash – vocals; rhythm guitar on “Marrakesh Express” and “Pre-Road Downs”; acoustic guitar on “Lady of the Island”
  • Dallas Taylor – drums on “Pre-Road Downs,” “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” and “49 Bye-Byes”
  • Jim Gordon – drums on “Marrakesh Express”
  • Cass Elliot – backing vocals on “Pre-Road Downs”

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By 1972, what we call classic rock was pretty much peaking . Stephen Stills along with the band and double-album he piloted and released that year both named “Manassas” brilliantly summed up the remarkable 1960s creative surge that revitalized rock’s roots and encouraged experimentation just when it was at its crest. Manassas marked a critical comeback for Stills, calling it a “sprawling masterpiece” with Rolling Stone magazine saying it was “reassuring to know that Stills has some good music still inside him  .Who knows? But an era was indeed ending. And nothing Stills has done since approaches the epic scale and artistic heights of Manassas.  The four suites of music correspond to the four sides of the album’s original LP release , The Raven , The Wilderness, Consider, and Rock and Roll is Here To Stay. The songs are thematically grouped: part one (side one on the original vinyl release) is titled “The Raven” and is a composite of rock and Latin sounds that the group would often perform in full live. “The Wilderness” mainly centers on country and bluegrass with Chris Hillman and Al Perkins  talents coming to the forefront , with the track “So Begins the Task” later covered by Stephens Stills old flame Judy Collins . Part three, “Consider” is largely folk and folk-rock. “Johnny’s Garden,” reportedly for the caretaker at Stills English manor house and not for Lennon as is often thought, is a particular highlight. Two other notables from the “Consider” section are “It Doesn’t Matter” (later redone with different lyrics by the song’s uncredited co-writer Rick Roberts on the first “Firefall album and “Move Around “ which features some of the first synthesizer used in a rock context. The closing section, titled “Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay,” is a rock and blues set with one of the landmarks of Manassas short life, the epic “The Treasure.” A sort of Zen-like meditation on love and “oneness,” enlivened by the band’s most inspired recorded playing it evolves into a bluesy groove washed in Stills fierce electric slide playing.

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A lot had changed since that surge began. Rock went from being a marginal sideshow for major record labels to a billion-dollar industry. Freewheeling entrepreneurs with “big ears” yielded to corporate types focused on market share and growing profits. “Supergroups” manufactured by producers and agents who headlined arena shows became the standard of success. The top-flight outfit Stephen Stills assembled in late 1971 and named for a bloody two-part Civil War battle (the album’s cover shot was taken on that battlefield) could nimbly navigate damn near every style rock was evolving– from blues “Jet Set” to bluegrass “Fallen Eagle” , country rock “Don’t Look At My Shadow” to Caribbean beats “Medley”, folk-rock “Johnny’s Garden” . Jamming out complex, textured arrangements in the studio, they successfully translated them to stages in Europe and the US. But Stills always felt that Manassas struggled for recognition because his handlers wanted him back in the huge selling rush that Crosby Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) had generated.

Whatever the reason, Manassas remains one of rock’s half-forgotten treasures. But it’s possibily the best album and band Stephen Stills ever helmed.

Born in Texas, Stephen Stills was raised in Florida, Costa Rica, and the Panama Canal Zone as his military family rotated through duty stations. He absorbed all sorts of music along the way, and learned to play them on guitar, keyboards, bass, banjo, and assorted percussion instruments. The rootless kid found his mooring in sound. He beat up his family’s furniture until his dad finally got him drums to go with his drumsticks. After a week of college, he quit to be a musician.

His scuffling path through the folk revival introduced him to dozens of players, like Richie Furay and Neil Young, who’d become his creative network. It also put him into play at the onset of rock’s 1960s creative surge. He was in Los Angeles trying to peddle his songs when he turned down a slot with the corporately manufactured Monkees (he recommended Peter Tork instead), and jumped headlong into the exploratory waves with his tempestuous Buffalo Springfield.

The Buffalo Springfield surged into the national Top 40 charts with Stills’s brooding track “For What It’s Worth” . In the studio, on tracks as radically distinct as Kind Woman, Rock and Roll Woman, and Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing , they probed the new ideas firing young musical imaginations from London to California. Live, the band crackled with guitar-hero firepower, when Stills and Young opened up in redoubtable jams.

His songs were innovative, superbly crafted, stylistically diverse “Bluebird” is a stellar example of his fondness for complex structures. His lyrics could be elliptical or nakedly autobiographical; often infused with dark romance his confessional story-telling updated his beloved blues. Onstage, he hurled himself at the microphone, when he wasn’t prancing or dancing; he was so intense, his full-throated vocals seemed to come somehow from his entire body.

Bandmate Richie Furay called him “the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield.”

The unstable chemistry and battling egos that fired the Springfield’s creative ambitions inevitably blew it apart. But the band had barely disintegrated before Stills was off solidifying his guitar-hero credentials on Super Session, with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. On “Season Of The Witch”, Stills dialed up a distinctive voice on the wah-wah pedal Jimi Hendrix turned him onto, floating sweet nothings and yearnings tinged with acerbity.

Thanks to his network, a series of incidents drew Crosby Stills and Nash together.  Their 1969 debut release met with critical hosannas and gold-record status, and marked the dawn of that industry the supergroup, with high-powered handlers and big-ticket arena tours. Ironically, today it can sound like an almost-solo Stills album, so completely did his songwriting and talents he played nearly all the instruments dominate it.

Graham Nash said, “Stephen had a vision, and David and I let him run with it.” Or maybe he just steamrolled over them. A year after the second album “Deja Vu” , what was now CSN&Y exploded, and all its members then released their solo albums. Stephen Stills went gold, He also scored a big hit “Love The One You’re With”and was the only album ever to feature both Eric Clapton guesting on “Go Back Home” and Jimi Hendrix on Old Times Good Times.

Stills even describes himself as “aggressive,” “obnoxious,” and the like, all meaning he’s a control freak—an auteur, if you like. In those days, he was usually packing an enviable pocketful of new tunes. He could out-sing almost anyone and play one-man band if he wanted. You can see how he’d be a hard guy to face off with about creative issues.

Yet he knew he needed feedback. He wanted to improvise with players whose ideas and chops stood up to his own. Then he could let jamming unleash creative interactions to enrich his ideas. That was how he worked during the Buffalo Springfield’s best days.

A twist of fate gave him his shot. In 1971, he was coasting along on a lackluster but lucrative tour when he happened to cross paths with Chris Hillman. As Hillman recalls, “Stills was playing a concert in Cleveland with the Memphis Horns. I was sitting in the audience, going, ‘Jesus Christ. They’re making 25,000 bucks and they’re shitty. The Burritos are way better than this.’ I went backstage, and that’s when we renewed the friendship.”

Their bond dated back to 1960s LA, when Hillman—among the most catalytic figures in rock history—got Buffalo Springfield the gig as the Whisky A Go Go’s house band. That launched them on the road to stardom.

Besides, Stills knew that Hillman was far more than a catalyst. After a whiz-kid run as a bluegrass mandolinist, he played innovative bass, doubled on guitar, sang lead and harmony, and co-wrote songs with the Byrds. When Roger McGuinn unceremoniously dumped his friend Gram Parsons after “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” , Hillman left, and the Flying Burrito Brothers were born. Parsons and Hillman penned a few matchless songs that other composers would likely swap body parts for, like “Wheels” and “Sin City” .

But the Grievous Angel was riding hard on the road to ruin; sloppy business dealings, erratic performances, and over-the-top drug use and boozing got him fired from his own group before the album “Burrito Deluxe” was released in early 1970. Hillman tried steering the band, but its personnel kept changing; the near-chaos made the Flying Burritos musically unpredictable and financially disastrous.

So when Hillman and Stills again crossed paths in Cleveland, they both glimpsed opportunity. Stills’ bounteous talents and fierce competitive drive almost ensured he would overshadow nearly any setting he was in, but he was discouraged by his solo ventures. He needed a creative ally he respected, someone who’d push back but not combust or split. Chris Hillman, who may be rock history’s best-ever second in charge dealing with McGuinn and Parsons was secure enough in his own creativity to deliver. He would co-write two songs for the Manassas “Both Of Us” and “It Doesn’t Matter” , help Stills wrangle others into shape, and supply his subtle, pure-toned harmonies throughout.

As Stills explained, “I basically wanted a partner, somebody who had a sense of songs. Chris invented the phrase ‘lyric police,’ and was a tremendous help. But I was still on that real powerful, energetic ‘Let’s go, I know what I’m doing’ kinda thing. Chris realized it was my band, and that was OK for him.”

A few weeks later, Stills called Hillman and invited him down to Miami’s famed Criteria Studios, where engineer-producer Tom Dowd had produced the Derek and the Dominos’ monumental jam-fuelled “Layla” sessions the year before. As it happens, the producers for what would become Manassas worked on it too.

Image result for stephen Stills Manassas

From the shambling Burritos also came two key talents. Violinist Byron Berline was a bluegrass vet who’d clocked time with stars like Bill Monroe and Dillard and Clark. The Track “Fallen Eagle” , a breakneck bluegrass protest song against ranchers killing Americas endangered national symbol, puts his dazzling, keening fiddle and Hillman’s virtuoso mandolin in the forefront.

Al Perkins learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at nine, mastered the dobro and pedal steel, performed with country and western bands, then shifted gears to tour his native west Texas as a rock guitar slinger. He supports or duels with Stills on all his axes. On “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free”, his aching steel solos swell and sigh; on “Don’t Look At My Shadow” , they glide with glee. On “Jet Set” he plugs into effects to go grungy and deliver slashing, whiplash blues in Duane Allman fashion to counter Stills’ gurgling wah-wah. He plays both steel and guitar on “Song Of Love”.

Perkins, Stills, and Hillman take their three guitar army acoustic for “Johnnys Garden”, where their loosely braided, ever-shifting lines gently nudge Stills‘ yearning vocal. The rest of the band came from Stills‘ solo albums and tours. Bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels brought the Caribbean feels Stills craved, as the burbling line on “Song of Love” demonstrates. But he could nail the bottom hard on blues-rockers like “Jet Set”.

Keyboardist Paul Harris,was a session vet, he could play almost any style; with Hillman’s adept rhythm guitar, his keys became the session’s sonic glue. Latin percussionist Joe Lala co-founded Blues Image “Ride Captain Ride” and sang with gritty, soulful conviction. He vocally challenges Stills on the song “Cuban Bluegrass” , and delivers the pulsating Latin rhythms Stills adored .

Drummer Dallas Taylor was Stills’ running buddy—and a wild card. He played on CSN first two albums and tours; they fired him because his substance abuse rivaled the Grievous Angel’s. But this bad boy had exactly what Stills wanted on drums.

What was slated to be Stills‘ third solo album had morphed completely. The band’s chemistry clicked almost instantly, and its boundless energy and chops meshed with Stills‘ vision and discipline. A few weeks of jamming out arrangements fused the wildly diverse material and sounds into a sum greater than its parts. They came out of it as a fierce, tuned machine. No wonder Bill Wyman, who co-wrote “Love Gangster” with Stills and played bass for the track, said he’d leave the Stones to join Manassas. Hillman understood why: “We were always more of a band than people thought. Stills wouldn’t have been the same without us, that’s for sure. Manassas was the best band Stills ever played in. Image result for stephen Stills ManassasThe album ends with a final stark jolt.  “Blues Man” finds Stills alone with an acoustic guitar, He channels everything he ever absorbed from his revered blues masters into his gritty, anguished vocal and nimble fingerpicking to sketch a raw, painfully dark elegy for three of his friends. Jimi Hendrix, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), and Duane Allman had all recently died. They weren’t the only ones: Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison were among the others. Many were wondering if rock’s creative surge had run its course.

Who knows? But an era was indeed ending. And nothing Stills has done since approaches the epic scale and artistic heights of Manassas.

csnydeja vu

Déjà vu is the second album by Crosby, Stills & Nash, and their first in the quartet configuration of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released on 11th March of 1970 by Atlantic Records, Recorded July – December, in 1969  at Wally Heiders Studio C in San francisco and Wally Heiders Studio III in Los Angeles  . Its catalogue SD-7200. It topped the pop album chart for one week and generated three Top 40 singles: Woodstock“, “Teach Your Children, and Our House. In 2003, the album was ranked #147 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Along with many other people, I had hoped that the addition of Neil Young to Crosby, Stills, and Nash would give their music the guts and substance which the first album lacked. Live performances of the group suggested that this had happened. Neil Young’s voice, guitar, compositions and stage presence added elements of darkness and mystery to songs which had previously dripped a kind of saccharine sweetness. Unfortunately, little of this influence carried over into the recording sessions for Déjà Vu. Despite Young’s formidable job on many of the cuts, the basic sound hasn’t changed a whit. It’s still sweet, too soothing, too perfect, and too good to be true at times.

Take for example all of side two. Here we have a splendid showcase of all the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young strong points — precision playing, glittering harmonies, a relaxed but forceful rhythm, and impeccable twelve-string guitars. David Crosby’s “Deja Vu” fails totally to capture the eerie feeling that accompanies a real deja vu experience. “Our House” by Graham Nash is a flyweight ditty with nothing to say and makes this clear through its simpering melody. Steve Stills’ “4+20” conjures up some quiet enigmas, but with such tepid questions at stake, who really cares? Neil Young’s “Country Girl” continues his tradition of massive production numbers which includes the masterful “Broken Arrow” and “Down By The River.” But compared to his earlier work, the piece is sadly undistinguished. In both this song and the next one, “Everybody I Love You,” Young’s voice is absorbed in the major key barbershop harmonizing of the other singers. C, S, N and Y

The heralded leather cover turns out to be nothing more than crimpled cardboard. fake leatherette! The grainy portrait of the “Old West” characters on the cover looks less like Billy the Kid, the James Gang and Buffalo Bill than the waiting room for unemployed extras for Frontier Atmosphere Inc. “Now then, which of you desperados is next?”

There is much on this album of real merit. “Helpless,” “Carry On” and “Teach Your Children” are excellent songs,and really well performed. Crosby, Stills and Nash — plus or minus Neil Young — will probably remain the band that asks the question, “What can we do that would be really heavy?” And then answers, “How about something by Joni Mitchell?”

Déjà vu was greatly anticipated after the popularity of the first CSN album and given the addition of Young to the group. Stills estimates that the album took around 800 hours of studio time to record; this figure may be exaggerated, even though the individual tracks display meticulous attention to detail. The songs, except for “Woodstock”, were recorded as individual sessions by each member, with each contributing whatever was needed that could be agreed upon. Young does not appear on all of the tracks, and drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves are credited on the cover with their names in slightly smaller typeface. Jerry Garcia played pedal steel on “Teach Your Children” and John Sebastian plays harmonica on the title track.

Four singles were released from the album with all but the last, “Carry On,” charting . The popularity of the album contributed to the success of the four albums released by each of the members in the wake of Déjà vu Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush2, Stephen Stills’ self-titled solo debut, David Crosby’s “If I Could Only Remember My Name“, and Graham Nash’s “Songs for Beginners.

The album ranked at No14 for the Top 100 Albums of 1970 The album was reissued on compact disc on September 6,th 1994 after being remastered from the original tapes at Ocean View Digital by Joe Gastwirt

clearlight

Clear Light were a Prime Example of L.A./West Coast psychedelia containing virtually everything one could want in an album from that time period. I still get goose bumps just thinking about this one. Possibly second-tier but decidedly not second-rate. An antidote to those burnt out on the Doors.

In 1966, The band Brain Train formed and was managed by Sunset Strip hipster Bud Mathis. They recorded one single – “Black Roses”,written by Wolfe Dios – before changing their name to Clear Light and signing to Elektra Records. The Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild took over management of the band.

The core members of Clear Light were Bob Seal, lead guitarist and vocals, Robbie “The Werewolf” Robison, rhythm guitar and vocals, Doug Lubahn bass and vocals, Dallas Taylor drums, and Michael Ney on, unusually, another set of drums.  The original line-up was featured in the 1967 motion picture The President’s Analyst,with Barry McGuire cast as their leader and vocalist  They soon added Cliff De Young on lead vocals  this version of the band seen on their only album cover. However, sometime during the recording process, often described as “brutal”, Paul Rothchild was not happy with Robison’s guitar playing skills and pressured the group to remove him- he was replaced by keyboard player Ralph Schuckett.

A notable track from the Clear Light album, was “Mr. Blue,” a psychedelic version of a folk song written by Tom Paxton and a popular request on underground radio at the time. Lasting over six minutes, the rather sinister, psychedelic song is considered a classic of the genre. Its lyrics, which alternate between spoken word and song, include verses opening with such lines as, “Good morning, Mister Blue, we’ve got our eye on you,” “Step softly, Mister Blue, we know what’s best for you,” and “Be careful, Mister Blue, this phase you’re going through ..

The album also included a reworked version of “Black Roses”, released as a single, and some of guitarist Bob Seal’s psychedelic folk-rock songs, namely “With All in Mind” and “They Who Have Nothing.” It had some success in England, but was largely ignored in the U.S, After having started work on a second album the group disbanded in 1968. Two tracks from the sessions for the second album surfaced in 2006, “Darkness of Day” and “What a Difference Love Makes”; the latter showed the group moving into more commercial territory due to Kortchmar’s influence.