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Music Review: Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills 2

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Stephen Stills returned with his second solo album a mere seven months after his first. It didn't have the consistency of his self-titled debut and while there are certainly a number of strong tracks, there are some misses as well.

Stephen Stills 2 has not aged as well as some of his other early releases. The lyrics of several songs are products of their time and, as such, have lost some relevancy today. It was also a time when groups like Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears were enjoying tremendous commercial popularity and Stills deciding to add brass to some of the tracks here was a reaction to their success. This decision took him outside of his comfort zone. I would like to hear this material stripped back to basics.

When Stephen Stills is good, however, he is very good. “Change Partners” is quirky, sarcastic, and thoughtful. Jerry Garcia contributes some pedal-steel guitar and Stills gives a fine vocal performance while the chorus puts the song over the top. “Singin’ Call” is a long lost Stephen Stills masterpiece, subtle and gentle with a wonderful beauty to the vocal. “Marianne” is the kind of pop/rock at which he was so good at creating at this point in his career. It contains some nice slide guitar and a vocal falsetto. “Fishes and Scorpions” may have been written by Stephen Stills but Eric Clapton’s solo on it is classic.

2010 is a long way from 1971 and some of the tracks which resonated thirty-nine years ago don’t fare as well today. The preachy nature of “Relaxing Town” and “Word Game” sound a little self indulgent today. The first is a ranting and rocking diatribe about Mayor Daly of Chicago and the second is a lesson concerning racism. Likewise “Ecology” sounds dated both in lyrics and the use of a horn section. “Bluebird Revisited” is a reworking of his Buffalo Springfield tune. Sometimes a person should leave well enough alone as the added orchestration makes me yearn for the original.

I bought my vinyl copy back in 1971 and remember it being in heavy rotation at my college radio station at the time. It is still worth a listen or two, but with the technology of today I would advise pulling the better tracks from the album and adding them to a best-of compilation.

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About David Bowling

  • don berry

    ancient review, but…..as for Word Game sounding “a little self indulgent today” (2010) I would differ and say it is actually every bit as relevant today as it was in 1971. The difference is “the children growing up” ended up not being fed up, but instead fell victim to the propaganda and false history and instead of being children of change, we have become nothing more than good little consumers led around by fear. It is actually a shame more people did not pay attention.