We don’t know anyone who’s heard this album, much less owns it, so we have no idea whether the electronic drums that saturate all but the last two tracks sounded this awful in 1984. It should go without saying, yet we’ll say it anyway, that the percussion combines with the period keyboards and Latin rhythms for a truly aggravating listening experience. Lionel Richie could get away with these arrangements, and we’re not saying that in a bad way.
The same accomplices appear, like George Perry and Joe Lala, alongside other unrecognizable names. Graham Nash sings prominent harmonies, most frustratingly on a reworking of Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” that didn’t really need another verse from Stephen’s hand. Mike Finnegan’s synth and soulful vocals on “Can’t Let Go” make an odd duet better suited to a female partner or a soap opera tie-in. Chris Hillman appears with cohort Herb Pedersen on a bluegrass version of an antiwar folk song. But the most striking guest is Jimmy Page, whose processed sound distracts from the horror on three tracks.
There just might be a good album buried under Right By You, which actually marked his return to Atlantic Records. In the absence of a reunited, rejuvenated CSN, maybe they figured it was an easy tax write-off.
Stephen Stills Right By You (1984)—1½