Retrospective: The Best Of

Buffalo Springfield

Atco, 1969

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Buffalo Springfield is a rare group in that many people can name more former members than they can songs. Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina. This is kind of a shame, since during their brief career these guys produced some fine music, more than the one song the band is known for.

That song, of course, is “For What It’s Worth” and is one of the most recognizable in rock music, even if most people don't know the song by its proper name. I have always considered “For What It’s Worth” to be one of the great protest songs of the late 1960s. The beauty of the song is its simplicity and the message defines a generation just as much as "All You Need Is Love." It remains relevant today. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But the rest of the music on this collection measures up. Stills always worked better in a group setting and his contributions here are uniformly strong. One of them, “Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” still makes me smile 40 years later. “Sit Down, I Think I Love You” is an ensemble piece with dual vocals and guitars; sophisticated stuff for the 1960s. “Bluebird” contains some excellent acoustic guitar work by Stills set against Young’s electric guitar. “Rock & Roll Woman” shows just how good a guitarist Stills can be when he sets his mind to it; the vocal harmonies foreshadow his work with Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Neil Young always had more problems within the confines of the band, as his genius is best served solo or with Crazy Horse as a backup. But his contributions to Buffalo Springfield also are strong, including "Mr. Soul," which is straight psychedelic rock and features a guitar solo that many would find difficult to copy. “Broken Arrow” is intense rock with excellent vocals that looks ahead to Young's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere -- and like the songs there, "Broken Arrow" is too long and tends to meander. “I Am A Child” is a country tune that Young would later hone on his Harvest LP, while "Expecting To Fly" is musical overreach and remains an oddity in the Buffalo Springfield catalog.

The remaining song on Retrospective is a gem. “Kind Woman” by Richie Furay is a beautiful love ballad, where there piano and steel guitar point ahead to Furay's country-oriented work with Poco. 

The different musical directions by the members of Buffalo Springfield created many tensions within the group, which led to their short shelf life and some great music. However, with their best material gathered in one place on Retrospective, it is music equal to any late-60s rock and stands the test of time quite well.

Rating: A-

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