Posts Tagged ‘ 1973 ’

Chris Darrow “Chris Darrow”

By the time Chris Darrow entered Trident Studios in London to record his self-titled debut solo LP, he was already an accomplished, respected, and in-demand musician. As a member of the wonderful genre-bending Southern California psych band Kaleidoscope he had already contributed his talents to their first couple of albums, 67’s Side Trips and 68’s A Beacon from Mars–two excellent psych-rock albums that were some of the first to incorporate world music forms from all over the globe. After leaving Kaleidoscope he was recruited by The Nitty Gritty Dirt band, playing on 68’s Rare Junk, 69’s Dead and Alive, and 70’s Uncle Charlie and His Dog Teddie. After leaving The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band he found work as a session musician–playing guitar, banjo, fiddle, dobro, mandolin, bass, keyboards, and singing on a handful of wonderful albums, including Hoyt Axton’s Joy to the World, James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James, John Fahey’s Of Rivers and Religion, and more. Chris Darrow had established a reputation as a musical force to be reckoned with.

Darrow had already released his first self-titled solo LP in 1972 with Artist Proof, and his sophomore LP was released by United Artists in 1973. With a sound heavily influenced by and rooted in the traditional American musical forms Darrow loves so much–country, blues, jug-band, cajun music, bluegrass, and fiddle tunes–Chris Darrow comes out of the gate showcasing a list of influences nearly as long as the list of instruments which Darrow had already mastered. However, like a master craftsman he weaves it all together to form a musical tapestry of his own creation, allowing all the elements to work together seamlessly and create a cohesive and creative whole. Perhaps his greatest achievement with this album was the way in which it predicted the shift towards the more complex and genre bending approach we would come to see undertaken by singer songwriters in the years and decades following its release.

The highlight of the album, opening track “Albuquerque Rainbow”, sounds like that great lost “Exile On Main Street” outtake with Gram Parsons singing lead that we’ve been praying for all these years. Opening with just Chris and his guitar, this song is about as close to a perfect combination of country and rock as this record contains, matching tasteful pedal steel ornaments on an acoustic guitar driven tune with a catchy hook and Allman Brothers influenced harmonized guitar leads. With its easy going feel-good early 70’s rural vibes and upbeat tempo this song,which makes for a perfect addition to any road trip soundtrack, will not leave your head soon after you hear it.  “Take Good Care of Yourself”, with some exceptionally fine old-timey fiddling, anticipates the bluegrass/reggae sound that fellow Kaleidoscope member David Lindley would hint at on several of his future solo releases.

“Whipping Boy”, another Darrow original, is a blistering blues rocker with raunchy slide guitar and a driving rhythm that features some extra funky bass playing. When Darrow twangs out Listen here/I don’t care/I don’t wanna be your whipping boy he sings it like he means it and lays it on thick. Darrow’s voice really shines and imbues the song with a level of legitimacy and depth–Darrow didn’t just take inspiration from traditional American music; he played it, loved it, and most of all felt it. “Hong Kong Blues”, a Hoagy Carmichael cover, ventures into more typical singer songwriter territory with just Darrow’s voice and a piano accompaniment that sounds a lot like “Sail Away” era Randy Newman. It serves as a nice contrast to the other tracks, asking the listener to take a seat and enjoy the story. “Faded Love” is a beautiful, wonderfully written tune that sounds like an a cappella Appalachian ballad that’s been graced with subtle instrumental shades of the far east. A lone forlorn flute lilts above the track, singing the bittersweet song of a broken heart. “To What Cross Do I Cling” kicks off with a riff straight from the swamps of bayou country, bringing a much appreciated, laid-back Excello vibe to the tune that could easily satisfy any gumbo cravin’. Add some Clarence White influenced tele twangin’ and you’ve got one smoking tune that goes down like a good shot of Whiskey–warm, easy, groovy.

The other standout track among the set is Darrow’s version of the bluesy old-timey standard “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down”. This remake of the traditional American tune ends up sounding like Crazy Horse jamming with John Hartford–peppered with bluesy guitar runs, twangy telecasters, and dueling old-timey fiddles. The end result is wonderful, one of the best versions of the tune around. Coming up with a creative and compelling way to present traditional tunes can be tough for a rock musician, but Darrow’s work-up of the song is as fresh as the water from an Appalachian spring.

Of course echoes of Darrow’s previous groups abound–the old-timey depression-era string band send-up “We’re Living On $15 A Week”, which calls to mind  The Jim Kweskin Jug Band and their rural romps, makes use of one of Kaleidoscope’s favorite tropes. The end result sounds somewhat similar to “Baldheaded End of A Broom” off of A Beacon From Mars or any number of tunes by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Unfortunately the album’s closing track “That’s What it’s Like to Be Alone” leaves a bit to be desired. The track kicks off with a harpsichord and ends up sounding like a mutant attempt at baroque pop that falls just a bit short of the mark.

All in all Chris Darrow is an excellent albeit overlooked country-rock record from the heart of the genre during its heyday. It is also a unique and compelling artistic statement from a wonderfully gifted musician, and stands up as one of the most interesting singer-songwriter LPs of the era. Musically speaking, a wonderful point of comparison to Chris Darrow would be Dillard & Clark’s excellent first LP The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark, the main difference being (aside from the fact that Darrow was operating as a solo musician and D&C as a duo) that Dillard & Clark created a country-rock classic by coming at the genre from the angle of bluegrass, while Darrow created his own unique country-rock statement coming largely from the angle of blues and pre-bluegrass old-timey American music. The more stripped down intimate sound of old-time and blues music lends that feeling of intimacy and suits Darrow’s songs and voice. It sounds as if his intonation and diction had been reached by years of singing traditional American songs, including a cappella mountain ballads, southern blues, jug band tunes, gospel tunes, traveling medicine show music, bluegrass and folk. Although many of the tunes on Chris Darrow contain full band arrangements, featuring contributions from a handful of wonderful musicians (including members of Fairport Convention), ultimately it is Darrow you feel the connection with–and that’s the way it was intended to be.

Sadly, copies of the album didn’t fly off the shelf like hotcakes. Maybe his music was too ambitious, too richly textured and multifaceted for some fans of the emerging singer-songwriter genre that was streaming out from the West Coast, dominating the FM airwaves and selling millions of pairs of bootcut jeans. Darrow soldiered on, providing a fine follow-up, Under My Own Disguise, that was even more deeply rooted in bluegrass and old-time music. He continued working as a session musician, playing on fine albums of all shapes and size, even hitting the road to backup players such as Linda Ronstadt and John Stewart, pausing every now and then to release an album of his own material. In 1994 young friend and neighbor Ben Harper released a cover version of “Whipping Boy” on his album “Welcome to The Cruel World” that brought Darrow and his tune a little extra attention. In 2009 Everloving Records out of Los Angeles, California reissued remastered versions of both Chris Darrow and Under My Own Disguise in a limited edition deluxe box set that includes a 48 page book and 180 gram vinyl along with copies of both albums on cd as well. This is the set to get as the packaging and presentation really does justice to the material. If you’re low on dough, a BGO twofer is available that includes both of the albums conveniently placed onto one compact disc. Enjoy

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“Albuquerque Rainbow”

:) Vinyl Box Set | 2009 |Everloving Records | buy here ]
:D CD Reissue |  2008 | Beat Goes On | buy here ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | UA Records | search ebay ]

Alain Goraguer “La Planéte Sauvage” (Fantastic Planet Original Soundtrack)

Alain Goraguer first made a name for himself as a sideman and arranger for Serge Gainsbourg, including the arrangement for Gainsbourg’s 1966 Eurovision grand prize winning song “Poupée de cire, poupée de son”.  In 1972 he scored the bizarre and moving French language animated feature “Le Planet Sauvage,” released in the States as “Fantastic Planet.” The soundtrack blends funky psyched out jazz with gorgeous woodwind, choral, and string arrangements. There’s also a few subtle appearances by the theremin.

The main descending theme appears many times, mostly on the flute or sung by an ominous choir. The standout example of the theme is “Le Bracelet,” layering clavinet and vibes under a breathy flute, with spooky pauses thrown in. If you brave the chaotic opening of “L’oiseau”, you’ll hear some beautifully dissonant glissando strings which break into an incredible version of the main theme, this time over a major key. Tenor sax solos make brief appearances here and there and there are some songs that could be outtakes from Obscured By Clouds or Dark Side of the Moon. The solo on “Générique” would be a dead ringer for Gilmore if not for the sighing strings beneath it.

The songs which deviate from variations on the main theme are the most interesting, with “Conseil de Draags” and the breathtaking psyched out waltz “Le Fusées” definitely some of the best of the 25 songs here. The jazzy “Strip Tease” comes to life in a brilliant mix of flute and sax in the middle section, married beautifully to the animation in the third act of the film.

Perhaps because of it’s function as a film score it may come across more progressive than intended, but I think it’s that twist that allows the music to stand on it’s own. It’s masterfully written and has not one boring moment. I highly recommend watching the film at least once. And see how long it takes before you start whistling the main theme.

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“Strip Tease”

:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Pathé | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download here ]

Zerfas “Zerfas”

Until recently this one was completely unknown to me; I bought it after reading a glowing recommendation from a Rising Storm commenter (nice to see the process working in both directions.) Gratifyingly, it turned out to be as good as its reputation.

It’s better still for being a vanity release from a bunch of unsigned but clearly precociously talented teenagers. It was lovingly cut over six months in 1973 at the tiny 700 West Studio in New Palestine, Indiana, using a four-track 3M recorder, plenty of overdubs, a lot of homemade wine and a hell of a lot of creative ingenuity. There’s no need for me to give a detailed historical perspective of the band, the album or the studio here, because it’s all available at the excellent website dedicated to 700 West and I couldn’t improve on that compiler’s excellent job.

Interestingly, the band members chose to add colour to their 1969-British-prog-rock style songs with the techniques of 1967 psychedelia, and the album stands as a fine psych/prog artefact despite being several years behind the timeline. The fun starts with “You Never Win”, which opens with a fade-in backwards version of the closing fade-out – a simple but brilliant idea. “I Don’t Understand” launches with an eerie half-speed recording of small children’s voices, whilst the meandering instrumental heart of “Hope” is washed by shoreline effects. Much use is made elsewhere of backwards voices, backwards instruments, fade-outs, fade-ins, wild stereo panning, ring modulators, tape loops and leftfield echo effects, and even a blast from an elkhorn. However, the underlying compositions don’t rely solely on these touches for interest; the eight songs, all originals, offer an engaging variety of styles from the “Born To Be Wild” knockoff of “You Never Win” through the cosmic boogie of “Stoney Wellitz” to the lush progressive soundscapes of “Hope”, culminating in “The Piper” which appropriately recalls Pink Floyd’s earliest stoner offerings. The playing and singing are excellent throughout, especially considering the tender ages of the musicians; Herman Zerfas’s keyboards in particular are exceptional.

The word on the street among other reviewers of this album is that it’s the record the Beatles might have made if they’d stuck with the psychedelic formula after Pepper. Personally, I don’t buy this; these youthful compositions lack the distinctively whimsical signatures of the mature Lennon, McCartney and Harrison. To my ears there’s some Floyd influence, some Grape, some Dead, some Steppenwolf, some Allmans, maybe even some Steve Miller, but really such comparisons are unnecessary. This is a fine album by a fine band in its own right, and should be respected as such.

Finally, be sure to ignore the CD release by Radioactive, which is purportedly mastered from vinyl and has a poor sound to suit. The Digipak CD from Lion Records of Germany is another bootleg to be avoided.

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“Stoney Wellitz”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2008 | Phoenix | buy here ]

uReview: The Allman Brothers Band

12345678910 (48 votes, average: 8.02 out of 10)
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These guys any good? Is this album a good choice for a start? Where’s the sweet spot?
I need schooling on these Brothers.

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“Come And Go Blues”

;) MP3 Album | download here ]
:) Orig Vinyl |1973 | Capricorn | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Kinky Friedman “Sold American”

Most country music is geared toward tear-in-the-beer stylings, but no other country album makes me sob into my Budweiser quite like Sold American. And not because it’s overtly sad – Kinky Friedman is a fearless humorist who turns racist rednecks and rough treatment into comedic gold – but because too much of this 1973 album still rings true nearly four decades later. In the vein of comedians like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, Friedman shines a bright light on the bigoted, hypocritical underbelly of the land of the free, and uses every taboo word in the book to get the effect he’s after.

“Kinky Friedman… is on his way to becoming the first Texas-Jewish country music star,” proclaims Newsweek from the back of the album cover. And if the delicious absurdity of that statement appeals to you, the songs surely will too. ‘We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To You’ recounts Friedman being slurred and insulted out of a “bullethead cafe” by an intolerant restaurateur. ‘Highway Cafe’ has a chorus of “oh make it a corned beef on rye” and features two rednecks recounting a fatal trucking accident with infectious dumb laughter (“AHAHAHAHA AHEEHEEHEEHEE”). ‘Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed’ is an anti-feminist rant the likes of which is unimaginable today, while the title track is a wistful, beautiful ballad about a fading America, that could serve as the theme song for PBS’ Antiques Roadshow. Like the rest of Sold American, ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’ is both lovely and ludicrous.

In 2006, Friedman mounted a serious, and seriously offbeat, campaign for governor of Texas. Campaign slogans included “He ain’t Kinky, he’s my Governor” and “My governor is a Jewish Cowboy” and Friedman qualified himself thusly: “Musicians can run this state better than politicians. We won’t get a lot done in the mornings, but we’ll work late and be honest.” He pulled a respectable 12.6% of the vote and finished fourth out of six candidates. Friedman might be a funny Jewish cowboy, but he’s a also a thoughtful, driven Texan who has made Lone Star statements like “If you ain’t Texan, I ain’t got time for you.”

Like his politics, Friedman’s music might appear silly, but it’s ultimately serious stuff. His band featured top-notch Nashville session musicians like guitarist Norman Blake and pianist David Briggs, and this music is as polished as a new mandolin. But nobody else in Nashville (or anywhere else for that matter) was singing ballads about Texas Clock Tower shooter Charles Whitman or suggesting we roll Jesus into a big fat doobie and get high on religion. Friedman’s funny, but in the end the joke’s on us – racism, mass murder, religious intolerance, misogyny, hyper-materialism. Kinky Friedman may have held his fun house mirror up to this country in 1973, but the songs remain the same…

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“Sold American”

:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Vanguard | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Vanguard | buy at amazon ]

The Byrds “Byrds” (’73 Reunion)

The announcement of the reunion album featuring all five original Byrds raised expectations to the point where whatever emerged was almost bound to be an anticlimax. (Imagine the effect of the Beatles reforming around the same time, if you will.) Despite a general thumbs-down from the critics, fan loyalty and eager anticipation made the new long-player highly successful at the record store: in the States, the biggest-selling new-material Byrds album since Turn, Turn, Turn. Subsequent reviews expressed varying degrees of disappointment, but recent re-evaluation with almost forty years of hindsight portrays the project as fascinating historically and not without merit artistically. Interest in it has never waned and it’s been re-released on CD no fewer than four times. The Wikipedia article on it is almost a book.

The theory behind the reunion varies. According to one version, the famously unreticent David Crosby visited Roger McGuinn in mid-1972 and panned the well-loved White/Battin/Parsons Byrds lineup, saying, “you’ve done some OK stuff but you’ve also done stuff that is pretty bad. Please stop doing it under the Byrds name”. Crosby then suggested reforming the original band to record an album showing where the founder members “are at today”. Another version has the ever-opportunistic David Geffen seeing the lucrative potential of a reunion and planting the suggestion in McGuinn’s mind, noting that McGuinn himself had become dissatisfied with the long-standing lineup and replaced Gene Parsons with salaried sessioneer John Guerin. Either way, McGuinn acquiesced and the other members, all having found themselves between longterm engagements, followed.

The nature of the final work supports the first theory: the album is The Crosby Show in almost every respect. Although on the surface democracy seems to be served by each of the four principals furnishing two original compositions, two of the three accompanying covers are Neil Young songs and the third is by Joni Mitchell, both being longtime Crosby cronies (though Clark takes lead vocal on the Young ditties). It’s been suggested that the other three writers were saving their best material for their own solo projects, but though none of their offerings is a blockbuster they’re all engaging enough, especially Gene Clark’s delicate “Full Circle” and Dylanesque “Changing Heart” and McGuinn’s ersatz-traditional “Sweet Mary”. By contrast, Crosby’s “Long Live The King” is characteristically ebullient, while his “Laughing” is itself actually a cover of the original that appeared on his sublime 1971 collection If Only I Could Remember My Name. Crosby also has the sole production credit; the only tracks that show real spirit in the lead vocals are his; and in the cover photographs he’s the only one who really looks like he wants to be there. (Chris Hillman looks like he’d rather be anywhere else at all.)

The sound of the album is also heavily redolent with Crosby’s aural fingerprint. Acoustic guitars predominate, with the electrics and bass mostly mixed way back and only Hillman’s vibrant mandolin and Clark’s plaintive harmonica forefronted strongly as solo instruments. Apart from “Laughing”, all the songs have short, terse arrangements, never really catching fire. While Crosby’s lead vocals soar, Clark’s and Hillman’s are more subdued and McGuinn’s particularly sombre. The block harmonies are immaculate but display the sweetness of CS&N rather than the engaging rough edge of latterday Byrds. One is led to conclude that with this album Crosby finally achieved, albeit temporarily, belatedly and with questionable success, the domination of the Byrds that he’d craved during the classic years.

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“Full Circle”

:D CD Reissue | 2004 | Wounded Bird | at amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1973 | Asylum | search ebay ]

The Sir Douglas Band “Texas Tornado”

I recently finished reading Jan Reid’s (cowritten with Shawn Sahm) new Doug Sahm biography, Texas Tornado: The Times & Music of Doug Sahm out now from The University of Texas Press. This post isn’t so much a review of the album above, but more of a short audio compendium to the book, highlighting some of Doug’s favorites, standards, where he came from and what he inspired.

Read our book review at Aquarium Drunkard.

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Doug Sahm – Sometimes You’ve Got To Stop Chasing Rainbows

“Why can’t you just groove!”

:D Texas Tornado | 2006 | Collectors Choice | at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Gene Parsons “Kindling”

Kindling

Sometimes it’s the less visible members of a great band who turn out to be the most interesting. Gene Parsons was the drummer with the Byrds from 1968 to 1972. If you’ve ever even heard his name, there’s a fair chance that you’ll confuse him with his near namesake who was with the same band less than a year and achieved a disproportionate notoriety. It’s indicative of Gene’s character that when Chris Hillman quit the Byrds to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram, Gene refused the invitation to accompany him, choosing to stay with the seemingly over-the-hill outfit out of loyalty, particularly to close friend Clarence White, rather than take a giant leap with the hotly-fancied new boys.

Gene’s career continued to be defined by his unassuming, sensitive personality. When Roger McGuinn finally fired Gene and Clarence before the ill-fated reunion of the original band, Gene went into Warner Brothers to record an album of the songs he’d been unable to persuade McGuinn to perform with the Byrds. The project had support from Clarence throughout, with guest appearances from legendary bluegrass artists Vassar Clements on fiddle and Ralph Stanley on vocal. But the biggest surprise was the appearance of Gene Parsons, lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who beside thumping the tubs proved to be a butt-kicking five-string banjoist and also contributed acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, harmonica and bass. Gene’s earnest vocals front seven originals plus covers by Lowell George, old partner Gib Guilbeau, Stanley and Skip Battin. The feel of the album is as refreshingly homespun as might be expected, with an air of bluegrass that predates the genre’s eighties traditionalist revival and compares with the slick commercial country rock then being produced by the various other Byrds alumni and their contemporaries. The sparse, bright production by Russ Titelman is exemplary.

The album garnered strong reviews from Rolling Stone and other music press biggies and might have prefigured a profitable, if appropriately low-key, solo career for Gene, but shortly after its issue Clarence White was killed and, in despair at the loss of his friend and collaborator, Gene withdrew from his Warners contract and retired to his California farm to concentrate on developing the Parsons-White String Bender. It would be three years before he ventured on a stage again, joining the reformed Burritos for a three-year tenure during which Gene finally found peer acceptance in a group milieu as composer and vocalist. Since then he’s continued to make public music at intervals whilst devoting his main effort to production and further development of the String Bender. He still has the trademark “soup strainer” moustache and professes contentment with life in a style typical of the man.

Kindling has been reissued by Sierra Records as The Kindling Collection, which bookends the whole album with seven neglected Parsons originals from the Byrds’ albums and four more from the later Burritos era. Clarence White features heavily on the former cuts and Sneaky Pete Kleinow on the latter, and the whole package is an excellent chronicle of Gene’s first-division career.

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“Monument”

:) Vinyl | 1973 | Warner Bros | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 1995 | Sierra | buy from sierra ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Loudon Wainwright III “Attempted Mustache”

attemptedmustache

This is good singer-songwriter fare that’s well worth seeking out (and a pretty easy find too). Loudon Wainwright III had been kicking around for some time, releasing a few critically acclaimed folk albums throughout the early 70s. Attempted Mustache (his 4th LP) is one of Loudon’s finest efforts, a loose, low key affair with brutally honest lyrics and even a few shambolic, drunken performances that are highly entertaining. So while the playing and atmosphere is relaxed, this LP features some of Loudon’s best loved songs, a few that rank as true classics. Columbia released this very solid, musical album in 1973 (Loudon’s prime years), as he was just coming off the fluke hit “Dead Skunk.”

The album opens with “Swimming Song,” a very personal composition with clever lyrics. For this track Loudon’s ex-wife taught him how to pick the banjo. Towards the end Doug Kershaw adds some wonderful colors with his superb fiddle work. All in all, a brilliant performance that captures the man at the top of his game. Other great numbers are “A.M. World” (drunken country-rock), “Come A Long Way” (fragile Americana), “Nocturnal Stumblebutt” (sexually charged singer-songwriter nonsense) and “Lullaby” (melancholy folk-rock). These tracks rank as some of the finest unsung singer-songwriter material from the era but the humorous, looser cuts such as the live, talking-blues of “I Am The Way”, the modern/indie sounding “Dilated To Meet You” and rocker “Clockwork Chartreuseare” are almost as good.

Some reviewers have criticized Loudon’s work for being too emotional or overly sensitive but I think Attempted Mustache sounds great, especially all these years later. More of a hard luck hero than a James Taylor, Loudon delivers the goods on Attempted Mustache.

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“The Swimming Song”

:) Vinyl | 1973 | Columbia | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download at amzn ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Manassas “Pieces”

Pieces is just what the title says, but shouldn’t be discounted. The original Manassas album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers.
Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the lost 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), and what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stills 1 & 2, the largely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band like Manassas.
I can’t imagine Stills had heard the original Fox On The Run by Manfred Mann, which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard, before writing Like A Fox. Even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, the chorus is still hard to listen to under the circumstances. The bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans” is bluegrass cooler than I’ve ever heard, a song that I wish had spawned an entire record’s worth.
“I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues proves Stills true worth.
Al Perkins on steel

Pieces

Pieces is the perfect name for this new Manassas outtakes collection from Rhino.  Nobody had combined country, rock, salsa, blues, and bluegrass like Stephen Stills’ powerhouse 7-piece that formed out from the wake of CSNY and the Burrito Brothers, and their eponymous album was a disconnected smattering of “pieces” itself. This new hodgepodge of unheard treats may be scattered, but it’s right in line with tradition and kicks ass like any Manassas fan would expect.

Pieces collects some leftovers from the Miami sessions that led to the first album (“Witching Hour” “Like A Fox”), warmups and ideas intended for the 2nd Manassas album, Down The Road (“Lies” “Love and Satisfy”), as well as what Stills refers to as “Chris Hillman and Byron Berline teaching me bluegrass” (“Panhandle Rag” “Uncle Pen”). Other tracks are electrified covers from Stephen Stills 1 & 2, the hugely successful solo albums that gave Stephen the freedom to form a band with Doug Sahm level schizophrenia.

There are a number of gems here; “Witching Hour” and “Sugar Babe” are easy classics. Stills throws together the chorus of “Like a Fox” last minute and presages  Manfred Mann’s “Fox On The Run” (which the Country Gentlemen would turn into a bluegrass standard) word for word. Only problem, even with Bonnie Raitt lending her voice, I can’t hear past the Manfred version to this one. On Side B, the bluegrass numbers have no knockout picking, but it’s a treat to hear Stills and Hillman harmonize on “Uncle Pen.” “Do You Remember The Americans,” however, is cooler grass than I’ve ever heard. I wish Stills had recorded an entire album in this vein. “I Am My Brother” is a sick solo blues to prove Stills’ immense talent and soul.

This is a no-brainer for Stills, CSNY, Byrds, Burrito, or rock music fans.

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“Do You Remember the Americans?”

:D CD Compilation | 2009 | Rhino | buy at amazon ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]