Illegal Stills

Stephen Stills

Atlantic, 1976

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Nineteen seventy-five and 1976 were two very prolific years for Stephen Stills. Two studio releases, one live disc, one greatest hits collection, and a duet album with Neil Young kept him busy and in the public eye. Illegal Stills was released in March of 1976 and was the fourth of these five albums.

This disc marked the beginning of a downturn in the quality of Stills’ albums, and commercially, it would be his last release to reach the American Top Thirty. While he would continue to produce good and sometimes brilliant tracks here and there, his solo work would not have the consistent excellence of the past.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Donnie Dacus was back on board for a third album but ends up being over-involved, which means that Stephen Stills is not involved enough. In some ways, this album can be considered a Stills-Dacus project rather than a solo release. Dacus co-wrote five of the tracks, which are both good and bad, in addition to playing a good portion of the guitar.  

The best of the Dacus tunes is “Midnight In Paris,” written with Veronique Sanson. She was a French singer of note and was married to Stephen Stills for six years. “Soldier,” written with Stephen Stills, is a better-than-average post Vietnam protest song. However, “Closer To You,” “Different Tongues,” and “Ring Of Love,” range from average to just filler.

The disc’s best track is a Stills creation, which demonstrates just how good he can be at times. “Buyin’ Time” was an acoustic part of his live act, but here is reinvented as a rocker and it works. It features excellent guitar playing and a solid song structure – essentially, it is just Stephen Stills doing what he does best.

“Stateline Blues” is almost good but is underdeveloped at less than two minutes. Meanwhile, his cover of Neil Young’s “The Loner” is competent, but I prefer the original. “Circlin’” and “No Me Niegas” fall into the below-average category.

Illegal Stills is an album that had not been off my shelf for years – probably decades – until I gave it a couple of spins for this review. When reaching for some Stephen Stills music, there is any number of superior releases. It does have a great cover, which needs to be seen on the original vinyl release to be truly appreciated.

Rating: B-

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