Friday, April 12, 2013

Stephen Stills 7: Illegal Stills

Enough already. Stephen Stills’ Latin tendencies became more prominent on each successive album since his first solo effort, so that on Illegal Stills, it’s impossible to escape the timbales. But then again, he was never known for moderation.
And another thing. While it’s his name on the spine, his photo on the cover and his pun in the title, it might as well be co-credited to Donnie Dacus, a young guitarist and singer a few years away from joining Chicago. He doesn’t make an impression until after “Buyin’ Time”, social commentary buried under the rhythm from “Love The One You’re With”. “Midnight In Paris” was written by Dacus and Stills’ then-wife, Stephen choosing to sing the French verses himself. The instrumentation is more reminiscent of midnight in Rio, just for the record. “Different Tongues” has promise, but 1976 meant there had to be synth strings in the mix. “Soldier” is not a Neil Young cover, and if Stills wanted to comfort any scarred veterans, he should have eased off on the percussion. The highlight of the album might be “The Loner”, which really is a remake of a Neil Young song, decorated naturally with Latin percussion but a more precise riff than Neil’s original.
“Stateline Blues” finally offers a simple acoustic strum, a cross between Mike Nesmith and Willis Alan Ramsey, and it’s over too fast. Vocals are split on “Closer To You”, and Dacus is credited with the 12-string guitar, which we’d’ve guessed was Stills; maybe that was the appeal. “No Me Nieges” appears to be misspelled Spanish, at least fitting its cha-cha-cha tempo. Dacus begins “Ring Of Love” a cappella, but of course the cowbell’s gotta kick in to transform it into a pleasant slice of yacht rock. “Circlin’” finally injects some life into the proceedings, but not enough to redeem anything.
For its time, Illegal Stills would be appreciated by fans of the Little River Band, Ambrosia and the like, but if you’re looking for fiery Stills guitar, it’s not here. And as soon as the album came out, the Stills-Young Band had taken shape, only to disappear almost as quickly.

Stephen Stills Illegal Stills (1976)—2

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