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Stephen Stills: Live At Berkeley 1971

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Stephen Stills: Live At Berkeley 1971
Given the length and breadth of Stephen Stills' discography—as a solo artist, leader of the Manassas band, and in various collaborations—it's altogether surprising he hasn't done more archival work. But Live At Berkeley 1971 rectifies the neglect, at least to some degree, and might augur well for future releases.

This sixty-six minutes (on CD or two LPs), recorded over two nights, may not be the definitive recording of its time anymore than the contractual obligation that was/is Stephen Stills Live (Atlantic, 1975). Notwithstanding the slightly misguided courage of his artistic convictions, the multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/bandleader was simply too eclectic a soul during this prolific period to be captured comprehensively with a snapshot like this.

That said, with (mostly solo) acoustic performances as well as those with a full-band, this title does accurately represent the setlists of the time. And, make no mistake, it's as admirable now, as it was then, to hear Stills stretch himself musically to include folk, rock and roll, blues and soul/r&b styles. In hindsight, though, there remains a discernible sense that the original Buffalo Springfielder betrays an overinflated sense of himself as a musician and songwriter.

The pop of Joe Lala's congas distinguishes "Love the One You're With,'' almost but not quite camouflaging how dated and crass is the sentiment of the song. Likewise, the rousing arrangement of "Ecology Song" suits its intent, even if its topical expression isn't all that articulate. Indicative of the rabid devotion afforded Stills (as with his three famous collaborators), the rapturous applause it elicits reappears at various junctures throughout Bill Halvorson's impeccable recording.

"Do For The Others" serves as a reminder of Stills' fluency as a singer and "Jesus Gave Love Away For Free'' allows him to flash his acoustic guitar talent, arguably rendering redundant the self-indulgence that is "Black Queen." "Sugar Babe'' also adds welcome gospel textures to this stylistic mix via the man's lusty piano playing. But the composition suggests the author had peaked creatively at this point, as does "Know You've Got to Run," from the Stephen Stills 2. (Atlantic, 1971) he was touring to support at this time.

Reaffirming that notion is the inclusion of an ivory-oriented medley of Stills' songs from the past, "49 Bye Byes' '/"For What It's Worth," from the CSN and Buffalo Springfield debuts respectively. Thankfully, this additional reinvention titled "Bluebird Revisited'' isn't marred with a self-important spoken interlude, but is instead distinguished with the uplifting sounds of The Memphis Horns; as here, the five-man complement proffers no small added attraction whenever they appear on Live At Berkeley 1971.

Saxophonist Andrew Love and company add heft to "Lean On Me" and, in doing so, the musicians fully offset the heavy-handed electric guitar. Band member Sidney George's flute adds a lighter touch too on "Cherokee;'' aside from the harmony-driven appearance of guest sit-in David Crosby's "The Lee Shore," this may be the most dynamic track of these fourteen cuts of music (there is one more comprised of oddly rambling band introductions).

Including some brilliant Henry Diltz action shots from the stage, the eye-pleasing and colorful triple-fold design of this package features a Howie Edelson essay in which the author betrays some strain in his laudatory comment(s). Give the writer credit though, he does pinpoint the ostensible attraction(s) of this piece: Live At Berkeley 1971 presents Stephen Stills' undeniably earnest but slightly errant effort to bring a fresh approach to his music at this juncture of his career.

Track Listing

Love The One You're With; Do For The Others; Jesus Gave Love Away For Free; You Don't Have To Cry; The Lee Shore; Word Game; Sugar Babe; 49 Bye-Byes/For What It's Worth; Black Queen; Know You've Got To Run; Bluebird Revisited; Lean On Me; Cherokee; Band Introductions; Ecology Song.

Personnel

Stephen Stills
guitar and vocals
David Crosby
guitar and vocals
Steve Fromholz
guitar and vocals
Pail Harris
organ, Hammond B3
Sidney George
saxophone, alto
The Memphis Horns
band / ensemble / orchestra
Floyd Newman
saxophone
Andrew Love
saxophone, tenor
Roger Hopps
trumpet
Jack Hale Sr.
trombone
Additional Instrumentation

Stephen Stills: vocals, piano, banjo.

Album information

Title: Live At Berkeley 1971 | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings


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