16/3/16 – Stephen Stills – First Album – 1970

Album Of The Day

Stephen Stills Album Cover 1970Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young released Déjà Vu in March 1970 with the album going all the way to the top of the US and the Australian charts, reaching No.5 in the UK. Stephen Stills debut album was released in November 1970 opening Side 1 with the hit single, Love The One You’re With, the album made it to No.3 in the US, charts, the single No.8. The album was dedicated to and released a month after the death of Jimi Hendrix, featured on the track Old Times Good Times. The album also features Eric Clapton and Ringo amongst the ususal subjects, Nash and Crosby, Dallas Taylor, Rita Coolidge and John Sebastian. Cass Elliot, Claudia Lennear, Turtles drummer, Johnny Barbata and Booker T. Jones. Future Manassas bassist Calvin Samuels plays most of the bass.

Do For The Others, easy acoustic and percussion follows on from the powerful first track and you wonder why this song might be second, but it’s 1970 – that’s why. Stills’ soulful songs suit the gospel choirs Church (Part of Someone) and sit much more easily than when Nash uses the same idea. His voice sits comfortably in the track, a stirring anthem. Curtis Mayfield might have found a place on Old Times Good Times along with Booker T, and Jimi. Eric Clapton plays on Go Back Home with some wah-wah Cream sounds and a nice solo but with two giants in Hendrix and Clapton, the tones make you wonder why they don’t sound as good as they do on their own records?

Two of my favourites songs are next – Sit Yourself down might have inspired The Black Crowes all by itself and you realise how effortless it was for artists like Stills to write and sing songs like this, Cass and Claudia make it cool. To A Flame lets you immerse yourself in the era with a song that could easily have been sung by Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams or any easy crooner of the day. There’s some fine orchestral arrangements by Arif Mardin. Ringo plays some impressive creative drums patterns.

Black Queen is a showcase for Stills’ bluesy tuned down acoustic guitar playing. Cherokee finds that seventies flute, electric citar guitar and brass and breezy groove. The album ends with a sincere We Are Not Helpless, backing singer is Sherlie Matthews, Ringo on drums again.

Listen to this album five times in a row, that’s all it will take and you will fondly embrace its sincerity. Different to Nash, different to Crosby, what a partnership  they made, Stills the passionate musician, Crosby and Nash with beautiful harmony voices contrasting Still’s growl. It was Atlantic records boss Ahmet Ertegun that suggested Neil Young came in to join them adding his impossible voice and musicianship to their delicate balance to enormous success. The aftermath of Déjà Vu was the incentive to immerse themselves in their own personal creative goldmines.



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