Friday, March 10, 2023

Stephen Stills 13: Carry On

When it was Stephen Stills’ turn to get a Graham Nash-curated box set, he had to have four CDs, not three. Considering the volume of music he’d put out over nearly half a century, it almost makes sense, but any collection would have to keep in mind that quantity in Stills’ case doesn’t necessarily indicate quality. Luckily, Carry On is designed for those who like deep dives, via alternate versions and unreleased tunes.
The first sound we hear is a 17-year-old kid sweetly singing and picking on a Voice of America radio feed from Costa Rica; two years later his voice has acquired some of the smoke we’re accustomed to, with The Au Go Go Singers. Ten Buffalo Springfield tracks provide a terrific glimpse into his contributions there; sadly, the rare extended “Bluebird” jam is still MIA. We’d already heard the demo of “Four Days Gone” on the Buffalo box, but two one-man band demos nicely lead into the first CSN album and Déjà Vu. A solo “So Begins The Task” and a one-man-band-plus-drummer version of Crosby’s “The Lee Shore” are nice surprises.
Disc two offers a wonderful sequence. It covers roughly two years, in neither recording nor release order, but encompasses his first three albums, all made without those other guys. Hidden gems include an early version of “The Treasure”, a live duet with Steve Fromholz on “Do Unto Others”, “Find The Cost Of Freedom” from a surprise appearance with Neil Young at a Crosby-Nash gig, and “Little Miss Bright Eyes”, which evolved from a Déjà Vu outtake called “Ivory Tower”. And while he’s obviously proud that he got to play with Hendrix, did their unreleased “No Name Jam” really need overdubs in this century?
That disc stands alone just fine, but disc three is where it starts to unravel. We begin with some of the not-so-highs of the Stills album before bouncing through the rest of the ‘70s and into the ‘80s. Illegal Stills is ignored, but Thoroughfare Gap isn’t. A couple live acoustic tunes break up the slickness; other rarities include “Spanish Suite” with Herbie Hancock, a CSNY mix of “Black Coral”, an edited but still interminable “Dear Mr. Fantasy”, and the quieter mix of “I Give You Give Blind”.
Disc four is just as spotty, notable for offering selections from the anemic Allies live album for the first time on CD. A solo sketch called “Welfare Blues”, recorded at Jimmy Page’s studio, appears for some reason, as does an unnecessary remake of “Church (Part Of Someone)” from his first album, overloaded with synths and emoting chorists. Nice selections from Stills Alone sit uncomfortably next to clunkers from Man Alive! In the middle of all this is a live arrangement of “Girl From The North Country”, from one of the last times CSN sang together well in public, and a version of Otis Redding’s “Ole Man Trouble” from one of the CSNY2K tours with Booker T. & the MG’s.
The first half of Carry On is stellar, so while it’s a shame the rest can’t keep up, we didn’t expect it to. This one’s for the fans. And Graham.

Stephen Stills Carry On (2013)—

No comments:

Post a Comment