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The second coming of Stephen Stills continues with a brilliant collaboration
on September 2, 2013
There are no ifs, ands or buts about this disc, this continues the trajectory Stills has been on since 2005's Man Alive. That disc signaled Stills had recovered his voice, his creativity as a guitar player and his prowess as a songwriter. Live at Shepherd's Bush documented a man in full control of all of his amazing powers. Add to that this intrepid blues/rock work out and you have a man not just playing to his strengths but enhancing them.
Lord knows what all the backstage dramas are involved with getting a beast like CSN or worse, CSNY, out of its cave, and there were horrific rumours of them doing a covers album (no one needs Stills or Crosby wimping out a la Peter Gabriel, and Croz is about to cut loose again anyway), but at some point, Stills must have decided he owed it to himself first to see what was in the tank.
There's plenty. He sounds great, he plays even better than he has of late. Jerry Harrison has done a terrific job on the production. And in Kenny Wayne Shephard, Barry Goldberg on keys and the former SRV rhythm section of Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon on bass, this is a band on fire, tapping the source and not letting it go. Because he isn't trying to be all things that Stills can be to all people, but has focused his energy in a direction in which he excels, Stills is simply a master at the top of his game. There isn't a weak track on the record. Shepherd is a brilliant partner to Stills, as is Goldberg and the rest of the band, but The Rides got them one driver and he has let this engine roar. There are a number of covers that are among the best renditions of the songs ever, notably Honey Bee, Rockin in the Free World (Young should only ever allow Emmylou Harris and Stills to cover him as they do a better job with his tunes than Young does), and a little number called That's a Pretty Good Love, based on a melody without words by that 19th Century European boogie-woogie master Fred Mendelsohn (used to know a Chinese pianist wot could squeeze the funk out of those tunes). The collaborative originals are brilliant and Stills and colleagues reconsider his Word Game to impressive effect. A timely tune that, with all this Republican obstructionism clogging the arteries of America.
Can't get Enough? Not by half. Keep it coming, Stephen. Man alive, this and Buddy Guy's Rhythm and Blues are about as good as real music is gonna get this year.