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Music Review: Stephen Stills – Right By You

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Stephen Stills spent the early eighties involved with Crosby, Stills & Nash. He finally released his only solo studio album of the decade in July of 1984. Right By You would be his last release for a major label and the last one to reach the American charts.

In many ways the album was a product of its time. The disco era was winding down but synthesizers and programmed percussion were in style and they adorn a number of his songs here.

As with many of his solo albums there is both good and bad. In fact, this is the last album by Stills which I own on vinyl. The first side is excellent and I don’t know if the material was recorded in the sequence it plays, but it seems as if he ran out of ideas after the first five songs.

Nevertheless, he assembled a stellar cast of musicians to provide support. Guitarists Jimmy Page and Bernie Leadon, mandolin player and vocalist Chris Hillman, keyboardist Mike Finnigan, drummer Joe Lala, and old friend Graham Nash are all on board.

Side one is consistently strong. “50/50,” co-written with Jo Lala, uses brass to fill out the sound and has a wonderful Latin flavor. “Stranger” is a nice pop rocker and proves that an eighties-synthesizer sound can be quite good when used properly and creatively. “Flaming Heart” features the dual guitars of Stills and Page. “Love Again” is a very catchy tune and is another example of an eighties sound that works well. “No Problem” is blues with a strong rhythm driving it along.

The second half of the album is a very different affair. Stills' cover of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is representative of the material's problems. He just tries too hard, which only proves that Young’s own simple version was definitive. The remaining songs are just forgettable.

Right By You continued his trend of producing inconsistent albums. And if you are planning on listening to some Stephen Stills music this is not the place to start. Today it remains just a stop in his musical journey and is only for serious collectors of his music who must have everything.

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