Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Stills’

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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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A deep rift defined the early relationship of guitar gods Stephen Stills and Neil Young. It complicated their first band, Buffalo Springfield, as well as their subsequent four headed-monster, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The conflict worked to their great advantage, however, in their fiery instrumental interplay. Their dynamic came to a thrilling head on the classic CSNY live album, 4 Way Street  , released in 1971. While the first disc of the double set focused on acoustic tunes, the second saw the band charge through a sustained electric foray. All the songs in the second half featured glorious solos but the greatest, and longest, could be found in 13 and 14 minute takes on Neil Young’s “Southern Man” and Stills “Carry On”. Throughout each, the guitarists thrust and parry, using their instruments as emotional swords. Stephen Stills would spin a dominant solo over the riff while Young would answer back with sniping licks. Then they’d reverse those roles. At times, the players chime, at others clash, creating a play of synchronicity and tension as compelling as a pas-de-deux.

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Love the One You’re With” is a song by folk rocker Stephen Stills. It was released as the lead single from his debut self-titled studio album in November 1970. The song, inspired by a remark Stills heard from musician Billy PrestonStills then wrote the song after being inspired by the tag line — “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” which was a frequent remark by the musician ,  Stills asked him for permission to use the line in a song and Preston agreed . It became his biggest hit single in early 1971.  David Crosby and Graham Nash, Stills’ fellow members of Crosby, Stills & Nash, provide background vocals on the song. The song has been covered by a number of artists .

His conventional, blues-informed voice seems slight compared to the more distinct, upper register harmonies demonstrated by the rest of the vocal powerhouse. Despite demonstrating his immense songwriting talents both with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young and its predecessor Buffalo Springfield, the industrious Stills struggled to shake the inferiority complex saddled on him by others in the ‘70s.

Released via Atlantic Records, Stephen Stills debut solo album boasts a droolworthy list of players helping to bring Stills’ vision to life: Eric Clapton, Rita Coolidge, Mama Cass Elliot, Jimi Hendrix, Booker T. Jones, Ringo Starr. Crosby and Nash also appear and, given their joint contributions, polyamorous hit single “Love The One You’re With” and the empowering Earth anthem “We Are Not Helpless” deserve consideration if not automatic inclusion in the CSN discographical canon. Bookending the album, both are big, bright, and beauteous pop imbued with all the exuberance of this period in music.

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.

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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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From the preliminary planning stages of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the musicians had always planned to pursue solo projects in conjunction with working together. Following the monumental success of the debut album in 1969 and its follow-up, “Déjà Vu”, in 1970, brought Neil Young into the fold, each of the band members remained quite active on their own. By 1973, a wealth of solo material had been released and each of these musicians had established themselves as individual songwriters and musicians. Crosby, with help from many of the San Francisco elite, had released his first solo album,  “If Only I Could Remember My Name”. likewise for Graham Nash, who released his first solo album “Songs For Beginners”, and was working on a second album. Crosby and Nash also released an impressive duo album during this time. Stephen Stills and Neil Young were even more prolific, with Stills releasing two impressive solo albums as well as a double album with his own band, Manassas, and Neil Young pumping out songs at an amazing rate, including the most popular album of his career, “Harvest”. By 1973, the clamoring for these four musicians to again work together was at an all-time high, but their well-publicized personality clashes made it seem unlikely that this would happen anytime soon.
That same year, Stills took to the road with an outstanding band, Manassas, which also featured ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and several members of The Flying Burrito Brothers. booked to play two gigs at San Francisco’s Winterland on October 4th and 7th. Surprises were in store both nights, but the October 4th gig turned out to be the most delightful. Following a lengthy set by Stills and Manassas, which featured two highly-charged electric sets and a semi-acoustic set in the middle featuring Flying Burrito Brothers classics, the audience was charged up and cheering for more.
When Stephen Stills returned to the stage with David Crosby and Graham Nash in tow, the audience was ecstatic! The trio hadn’t shared a stage since 1970. Strapping on acoustic guitars, they first delight the audience with two staples from their debut album: “Helplessly Hoping” and “Wooden Ships.” The harmonies are ragged and the delivery unrehearsed, but regardless, just having these musicians playing together again, and more importantly, obviously enjoying it, was a cause for celebration. This remarkable acoustic set continues with the trio performing a lovely take of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird,” after which Stills switches to piano for “As I Come Of Age,” a number he often performed with CSN&Y on the 1970 tour and recorded for his first solo album.
The personality clashes between Stills and Young were the most publicized of all and had been going on since the Buffalo Springfield days, so when Neil Young walks out to join the other three, the crowd goes nuts. The musical chemistry between Stills and Young had always been undeniable, but many believed they’d never see the two on the same stage again, so this was indeed a monumental moment. Young was just about to release his controversial “Time Fades Away” album, but in typically unexpected style proceeds to play nothing from this album, instead performing three new songs, “Roll Another Number,” “Human Highway,” and “New Mama.” The middle song was rumored to be the title song of a potential third CSN&Y project, while the other two would be destined for “Tonight’s The Night”, an album that wouldn’t see the light of day until June of 1975.
Graham Nash next gets the spotlight, and he too debuts new songs, “And So It Goes” and “Prison Song,” both destined for his second solo album, Wild Tales. Crosby follows with a rare acoustic performance of “Long Time Gone” before they close the set with Stills’ “Change Partners,” the single from his second solo album.
These performances are unique and the chemistry between these musicians was obviously still intact. Following these shows, all four members expressed a strong desire to tour together acoustically. It wouldn’t come to pass, but this was likely the spark that ignited the idea of touring together the following year, which is when they would indeed get back together and perform before the largest audiences of their career.

Just two months after their historic appearance at the Woodstock Festival, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were scheduled to play their first-ever gigs at Bill Graham’s Fillmore West and Winterland. CSNY was forced to postpone the show, and Janis Joplin and Santana stepped in to replace them, along with the original billing of Blues Image and John Sebastian. The poster, however, had already gone to print.

The posters artists and designer Greg Irons moved to San Francisco in 1967 and roamed around Haight-Ashbury with his sketchbook, creating images he would later use in his posters. As usual, promoter Bill Graham needed a poster in a hurry, and Irons succeeded in producing one overnight. As his talent as a draftsman developed, a distinctive line quality and refined sense of balance set Irons‘ posters apart. His cartoonist inclinations are often evident, and he became one of the seminal figures in underground comics. Greg Irons also found work producing album graphics and book illustration, but it was the art of tattooing that became his passion.

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Crosby Stills Nash & Young star in a VH1 documentary from 2000, The original purpose of the channel was to build upon the success of MTV by playing music video’s but targeting a slightly older demographic than its sister channel, focusing on the lighter, softer side of popular music. More recently, much like MTV, VH1 has been in the area of music-related programming, such as the series “Behind The Music” series as part of the channel’s current focus on popular culture.

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.

Stephen Stills has never been reluctant to raise his voice in song when he sees “something happening here/what it is ain’t exactly clear.” On December 5th, 1966, Buffalo Springfield recorded those now-classic, and often-repeated words, from Stills’ song “For What It’s Worth.” Although the song quickly became a protest anthem echoing across city streets and parks where demonstrations against the Vietnam War were erupting, Stills wrote the song about the protests over curfew laws that the city of Los Angeles had imposed in November 1966 in an attempt to regulate noise and traffic congestion near clubs, such as the Whiskey Au Go Go, on Sunset Strip.

Almost fifty years later, Stephen Stills has looked around him to see a similar, but much uglier, scene. Fifty years ago, protestors and police didn’t see eye-to-eye on an ordinance that would have changed urban policy and affected a small number of individuals. The protests raised far deeper questions, though, about free speech, civil discourse, respect for others, as well as the easy acceptance of violence to resolve political issues. Even more, though, each side’s refusal to see the other as human enabled each side so readily to embrace violence against each other.

Almost fifty years later, the loss of civil discourse in an election year, the steady and willing ability to avoid seeing each other as fellow humans struggling to find our way, the steady and willing embrace of violence as an almost immediate response to conflict, the readiness to see anyone unlike ourselves as a hated other, and the hatred bred by fear of others gave Stills fertile ground to write a new single, “Look Each Other in the Eye.”

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Fifty years ago this Saturday, Stephen Stills, then a member of Buffalo Springfield, was on his way into Hollywood to hear some live music on the Sunset Strip. But in one of those defining rock & roll moments, what he encountered was a rally: hundreds, if not thousands, of kids protesting about a new curfew and the imminent closing of one club, Pandora’s Box, by way of a fake “funeral” for it.

“The commercial merchants on Sunset Boulevard in a certain area decided that the element of young people on the street every night was not conducive to commercial enterprise,” Stills said in a 1971 interview. “A bunch of kids got together on a street corner and said we aren’t moving. About three busloads of Los Angeles police showed up, who looked very much like storm troopers. … And I looked at it and said, ‘Jesus, America is in great danger.'”

Within weeks of this event, Stills had written – and Buffalo Springfield had recorded a song inspired by that night, “For What It’s Worth.” With its emphasis on Stills‘ spooked voice, drummer Dewey Martin’s ominous snare drum and Neil Young’s warning-bell two-note guitar part in the verse, the track became the band’s only hit, peaking at Number Seven in the spring of 1967. Yet equally striking was its sound: The eerily quiet song captured the uneasy mood of the moment that extended beyond Los Angeles to Vietnam, and lyrics about “a man with a gun over there” and “young people speaking their minds/Getting so much resistance from behind” were the sound of the rock counterculture cementing its socially conscious voice.

“For What It’s Worth” has transcended its origin story to become one of pop’s most-covered protest songs – a sort of “We Shall Overcome” of its time, its references to police, guns and paranoia remaining continually relevant. The Staple Singers were among the first to cover it, in 1967, but since then, it’s been recorded by a mind-bendingly diverse number of acts: Ozzy Osbourne turned it into a grim stomper, Lucinda Williams into a ghostly ballad, Kid Rock into a classic-rock homage, Rush into a swirling soundscape, Led Zeppelin (in live bootlegs) into languid blues. (Robert Plant also cut a version with his pre-Zep band, Band of Joy.) Public Enemy even sampled it on 1996’s “He Got Game.”

According to BMI, the song’s publishing house, “For What It’s Worth” been played 8 million times on TV and radio since its release. In 2014, it came in at number three on Rolling Stone’s readers poll of the best protest songs. “The way it’s written, it’s so open to interpretation,” says Heart’s Ann Wilson, who released a cover last year on her first EP with side project the Ann Wilson Thing. “It’s so open that it’s brand new today. The main hook, ‘Everybody look what’s going down’ – you can apply that, to say, the current election. The song is going, ‘What the hell is this?’ You can apply the song to any situation in any decade.”

By 1966, the situation in Los Angeles was tense. An increasing number of club goers was descending on the Strip, irritating area residents and upscale boutiques, and the LAPD instigated a 10 p.m. curfew for anyone under 18. On the night of November 12th, a local radio station announced there would be a protest at Pandora’s Box. According to reports, a fight broke out for reasons having nothing to do with the curfew; a car carrying a group of Marines was bumped by another vehicle. Egged on by that fight, the protesters (some of whom carried placards that read “We’re Your Children! Don’t Destroy Us”) trashed a city bus and threw bottles and rocks at storefronts.
Approximately 1000 young music fans gathered at the Pandora’s Box club on Sunset Strip to protest a 10pm curfew imposed by local residents during the The “hippie riots” in L.A. on November 12th, 1966.
“It was really four different things intertwined, including the war and the absurdity of what was happening on the Strip,” Stills later told The Los Angeles Times. “But I knew I had to skedaddle and headed back to Topanga Canyon, where I wrote my song in about 15 minutes.” The folk-blues feel of the song harked back to Stills‘ days in the Greenwich Village folk scene.
As anyone who’s heard it knows, the phrase “for what it’s worth” appears nowhere in the song. According to one legend, Stills played it for one of the group’s managers, prefacing it with, “Let me play you a song, for what it’s worth.” Buffalo Springfield singer-guitarist Richie Furay recalls he, Stills, and Young playing new material for Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun, a major supporter of the Springfield. “Ahmet had come to Los Angeles and we were at Stephen’s house,” Furay recalls. “At the end of the day, Stephen said, ‘I have another one, for what it’s worth.'”
On December 5th, only a few weeks after the Strip mayhem, the Springfield went into an L.A. studio to lay down the song in a one-day session. Young credited engineer Stan Ross with the song’s spare, almost sinister arrangement. “Stan came in and said, ‘You gotta do this one thing to the drum, the snare,'” Young said in Jimmy McDonough’s bio “Shakey”. “Took a broom, a guitar pick and mixed that in so it’s got that sound – of a guitar pick going through a broom, on the straw. That was it.” Added Stills later, “Neil came up with the wonderful harmonics part with the vibrato. The combination of the two guitar parts, with my scared little voice, made the record.”
Furay admits he didn’t hear anything special in the song at first: “I was more into the electric work, like ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Rock & Roll Woman,’ that phase of where we were,” he says. “I didn’t hear it, but Stephen felt the pulse of it and there you go.”
Everyone else knew the song was special, and the single was rush-released with an amended title, “(Stop, Hey What’s That Sound) For What It’s Worth,” at Ertegun’s suggestion. The song was also added into new pressings of the band’s first album, replacing another Stills original, “Baby Don’t Scold Me.”

If there is a wandering minstrel for a generation, some would think it would be Stephen Stills. He was a founding member of Buffalo Springfield,Crosby, Stills & Nash, Manassas and has had a great solo career to date.

Stephen Stills is one of the few rock artists who can claim to have grabbed the elusive brass ring of critical and commercial success not just once or even twice, but three times.

The first time was as a group member of Buffalo Springfield and writer of their 1967 hit “For What It’s Worth,” taken from their acclaimed first record. After Buffalo Springfield folded, he formed one-third of supergroup Crosby Stills and Nash, whose definitive performance at Woodstock in 1969 helped rocket their debut album release into multiplatinum orbit. And finally, just to make it perfectly clear he wasn’t simply riding the coat tails of others, in 1970 Stills released his first solo effort, which went to No. 3 on the album charts and spawned a Top 20 single, “Love the One You’re With.”

All milestones for sure, but these three classics have tended to obscure the rest of Stephen Stills’ work. And that’s unfortunate, because in Stills’ canon is an often overlooked gem in many ways the equal of his other projects: an album called Manassas, made by a band of the same name.

This seven-piece aggregation was assembled by combining players from Stephen Stills’ road band with others from the last incarnation of the Flying Burrito Brothers, which included ex-Byrds’ bassist Chris Hillman. So, though Stills was the acknowledged leader, officially Manassas has always correctly been referred to as a band — one with a “benevolent dictator” perhaps, but a band nonetheless.

The musicians’ wide range of experience enabled them to move between various forms of American popular music, integrating rock, pop, country, blues, Latin rhythms and other bits as well. This was very much in evidence on the group’s 1972 self-titled release, an album with so much good material that it came out as a two-record set. Even the names of the songs gave clues as to the variety found in the grooves: “Cuban Bluegrass,” “Colorado,” “The Love Gangster,” “Blues Man.”

One could hear the influences weaving in and out of the mix, courtesy of: Al Perkins’ pedal steel; Joe Lala’s percussion work; the tight-but-loose rhythm section of bassist Calvin Samuels and drummer Dallas Taylor; the stellar presence of keyboard ace Paul Harris; and the tenor harmony voice and rhythm guitar of Chris Hillman.

And let’s not forget Stephen Stills himself, writing and singing the songs, and playing his distinct lead guitar style, tying it all together. Even the first side is cut together as a seamless medley like production, with the other sides thematically arranged for maximum effect. Overall, think the Eagles meets Santana meets Johnny Winter, with bits of the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies in places.

Still, you have to wonder why this went under so many people’s radar, especially with the gap left by the break up of CSN  (and Young) in 1970. There could be a number of reasons.

First, there might have been some confusion as to what this actually was: a third Stephen Stills album or something else? After all, even the cover sports Stills’ name large above the Manassas logo.

Second, it was released in April of 1972, and shortly thereafter the band went off to tour Europe. Some of the television appearances they made while over there show that when they got warmed up, they were as good as or better than most of their contemporaries. After returning to the U.S., Manassas had to make time to accommodate Chris Hillman’s commitment to prep for a Byrds’ reunion tour starting in October, which might have slowed their momentum. Finally, although Manassas did make the Top 10 in the album charts that year, it contained no successful single. But the Crosby and Nash duo effort released around the same time contained a Top 40 single, “Immigration Man.” Perhaps more significantly, Neil Young’s 1972 best-selling chart topper Harvest featured the singles “Heart of Gold,” which went to No. 1 in the charts, and “Old Man,” which reached the Top 40.

Eventually, various outside factors, including Hillman starting the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and Stills and  reuniting Crosby Stills Nash and Young for a major world tour in 1974, would cause Manassas to officially call it quits in late 1973.

At least they left behind one great album to document their short existence, and maybe one day Manassas will take its place alongside Stephen Stills’ other, more famous contributions to rock ‘n’ roll.

 

Stephen has reached  71 on his last birthday. Stephen Stills is able to claim that he played at the 3 most important music festival of the 60’s. Monterey International Pop in 1967, Woodstock in August of 1969 and Altamont in December. of 1969.

On his first solo album “Stephen Stills”, he had both Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton play for him. And he’s ‘Still’ playing.

Is there anyone piece of his work that is your very favorite?