PUBLICATIONS > Articles > 1970s > Stephen Stills 2
Stephen Stills 2
(Atlantic SD 7206)
Author: John Ned Mendelsohn
Publication: Rolling Stone
Date: August 19 1971
What we have here, friends, is a fifth rate album by a solid second-rate artist who so many lower-middlebrows insist on believing is actually first-rate, even in the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that he’s apparently begun to believe in himself, as is evidenced by his having the audacity to indulge himself through two fifth-rate albums in succession.
Now doncha get me all wrong – I’m not about to deny that Stephen Stills has written at least one indisputably extraordinary song. What I am saying is that for some reason that eludes me, the three much lesser lights in Crosby, Etc., among whom I include Stills, have all come to be regarded as geniuses, which clearly simply isn’t so. And Stills seems to be thought of in some quarters as the most of the three lesser lights – I mean Crosby’s written one indisputably extraordinary song himself, but you don’t find him being referred to as a superstar in ads for Donny Hathaway. Why, do you think?
Anyway, friends, the words to ‘Stills 2′ are alternately trivial, cloyingly self-important, and downright offensive, the music is decidedly lackluster and undistinguished, and the production of the whole shebang is so distant from up to snuff that one is hard pressed to get much impression at all of the playing of the latter.
Aside from ‘Change Partners’, Stills’ current smash single, and ‘Marianne’, it’s probable successor, there isn’t a remotely memorable melody on the whole album. Mostly Stephen contents himself with just singing along (within a range that only infrequently exceeds six notes, and even then in several instances in a strained and artificial ‘soul’ voice) with the chords, which are none too fascinating themselves. The addition of all the Memphis Horns (who throughout the album comes across as Las Vegas slick and a little shrill) in the world can’t make with no tune and flaccid changes erect, and neither can the customary monstro vocal accompaniment on nearly every chorus, even though Stills seems to have bet they could.
The albums words (printed in alternate versions both inside and on the back of the singularly undistinguished album-cover) reveal much about their creator. The reveal that Stephen Stills is anti-bigotry, has yet to take a definite stance on astrology, and is pro-ecology. It’s possible that you might join L. Segal in wondering just how pro-ecology a fellow like Stills is, though, if you consider the fumes emitted by the vinyl factory that pressed his album probably didn’t do a whole lot of good for the air and almost certainly did a whole lot of bad for the birds in the factory’s vicinity.
The words reveal also, that however concerned Stills may be with such crucial contemporary issues as those addressed in ‘Word Game’ , his anti-bigotry song ‘Fishes and Scorpions’, his astrology song, and ‘Ecology Song’, his pro-ecology song, the crucial contemporary issue Stills is most vitally concerned with his himself, or, more specifically, Stephen Stills As The Uncannily Perceptive Artist Whose Destiny It Is To Be Hassled and Misunderstood In Own Time. Think about this, from ‘Word Game’ for as long as is convenient: “And I know most of you / Either don’t believe it’s true / Or else you don’t know what to do / Or maybe I’m singing about you”.
In the first verse of ‘Relaxing Town’, Stills sings “Everybody wants to hear the music in my head / Now the price I pay is too much and I’m winding up in debt / So if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stay home.”
For the money of this reviewer, who, after all the fifth-rate self-indulgence that is on Stills’ two solo albums and much of his post-Springfield work in general, has little interest in hearing music in Stills’ head, may he stay home indeed.
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