Stephen Stills

Stephen Stills

Atlantic, 1970

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Stephen Stills may not be the most remembered album of the 1970s, but it did do well.  The album reached number three on the Billboard chart before the end of 1970 and the main single from the disc “Love The One You’re With” made it to number 14 and is probably Stills’ most memorable song from the ‘70s.  You may not realize it on the first or second pass, but it is a deceptively infectious album.

One problem that Stills had in the CSN/CSNY combos was that they hemmed in his ability/desire to have complete control over a song’s production.  There are no such restraints here, and in typical Stills fashion he takes full advantage of it.  He is heard doing vocals, guitars, bass, piano, organ, steel drum, and percussion in addition to a bevy of studio and guest musicians.  The result is a big sound, especially on “Love The One You’re With,” which stands out from the rest of the album as the obvious single.  David Crosby, Graham Nash, John Sebastian, and Cass Elliott contribute vocals.  Ringo Starr does the drums on “To A Flame” and “We Are Not Helpless,” and Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton come by for guitar solos on “Old Times Good Times” and “Go Back Home,” respectively.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Stephen Stills runs the gamut of autobiographic and romantic songs.  And much like former girlfriend Judy Collins inspired some of his CSN/Y songs in the previous year, a new flame, Rita Coolidge, served as the inspiration for songs like “Sit Yourself Down” and “Cherokee.”  Stills and Hendricks, who had actually discussed forming a band together before Hendrix’s tragic death, perform phenomenal countervailing solos on “Old Times Good Times” with Hendrix on guitar and Stills on the organ.  You don’t expect an organ to rock, but it plays with an equal force as Hendrix’s jam.  Meanwhile, “Go Back Home” has some classic Eric Clapton slowhand guitar wailing in the back throughout.

Stills goes a bit over the top in the production on “Church (Part of Someone),” which is meant to be a gospel sounding tune that comes across as a lot of fluff.  Similarly on “To A Flame,”  there are xylophones and big drum sounds that create a large symphonic sound, but only serve to make the song sound like a knock off of a sappy Sinatra or Tony Bennett number.  Despite Stills’ propensity for playing multiple instruments on his tracks, he laid off on one which was the best decision he made on this album.  “Black Queen” is a gem.  Just Stills’ rough gravely voice with an acoustic guitar that rocks hard in a slow blues in a “song about a card game.”  Along with “Love The One You’re With” this tune stands out.

When you listen to the album the first time, you will remember “Love” and you may think the rest of the disc is okay.  But give it a couple listens and you will find yourself humming a tune you didn’t think you had memorized.  Somehow, these demur tunes get in your brain and stay there.  It’s nice when good music does that.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2012 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic, and is used for informational purposes only.