During the course of his career Stephen Stills has been a member of three groups. Buffalo Springfield found him sharing creative leadership with Neil Young and, as time passed, Richie Furay. The eternal Crosby, Stills & Nash are basically three solo artists creating music and then coming to together to record and tour. The short-lived Manassas was a band in the classic sense of the word, but Stills was in complete control. Their debut release was also one of his finest achievements.
Stills put together what was just about a perfect group. Chris Hillman was on board as the rhythm guitarist, mandolin player, and probably more importantly as a vocalist. Old friends Fuzzy Samuels on bass and drummer Dallas Taylor also signed on. The rest of the band consisted of steel guitarist and vocalist Al Perkins, keyboardist Paul Harris, and percussionist Joe Lala.
Released in April of 1972, their self titled debut album was one of the better releases of the decade and remains a good listen over 35 years later. It was one of very few double albums which actually deserved two discs.
The concept of the album is easier to follow on the original two-record vinyl release. It was divided into four sections, each of them subtitled and comprising one side of the record. It also originally came with poster, photos, and handwritten lyrics — so take that CD lovers.
Side one is “The Raven” which is mostly blues with a jazzy feel in places. “Jet Set (Sigh)” is a great blues/rocker and “Both Of Us” is a wonderful, poignant ballad.
Side two, “The Wilderness,” has a country flavor. The real treasure is “So Begins The Task” which combines Stills' acoustic guitar with the steel virtuosity of Perkins. “Fallen Eagle,” “Colorado,” and “Don’t Look At My Shadow” all feel Chris Hillman’s gentle touch.
Side Three, “Consider,” goes in a rock/folk direction. “It Doesn’t Matter,” is really the essence of Hillman and “Johnny’s Garden” is an ode to John Lennon. “The Love Gangster,” co-written by Stills and Bill Wyman, is about what you would expect from the Rolling Stones bassist as it deals with the subject of sexual prowess.
Side four is “Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay” and the title is self explanatory. “Blues Man” is a nice tribute to Jimi Hendrix, Al Wilson, and Duane Allman. “The Treasure” is eight minutes of Stephen Stills at his rock ‘n’ roll best.
Manassas remains a superior slice of seventies rock ‘n’ roll. I wonder what these guys are doing today?