Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Steven Stills/Manassas, Manassas

Stephen Stills (of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) brought together a collection of musicians for his third solo album that worked so well together they formed the band Manassas that went on tour and released two albums.  This, the self-titled Manassas, was the first and by far the best.  Besides Stills (vocals, guitars, keyboards) the band included Chris Hillman (vocals, guitars, mandolin), Al Perkins (vocals guitars), Paul Harris (keyboards), Fuzzy Samuels (bass), Joe Lala (vocals, percussion), and Dallas Taylor (drums).  They played straight, latin-tinged, folk, and country rock,  country, bluegrass and blues and they excelled at all of them.  The CD is divided into four sections that correspond to the four sides of the original douple LP release.  Each section focuses more-or-less on a particular style of music although at least one different type of tune will usually enter the mix.  For example, the funk influenced “The Love Gangster” (with the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman on bass) appears on the largely folk rock section 3 and the country rock “What To Do” shows up on the blues/rock section 4. 

Section 1 is primarily latin-influenced, jam-based rock and is my favorite part of the album.  The band effortlessly combines Stills’ terrific vocal arrangements with lilting, deeply grooved rock.  The tracks are sequenced without breaks and the whole side is an insistent invitation to dance and sing.  Section 2 is mostly county and bluegrass and features the work of Hillman and Perkins.  I’m not a big fan of this type of music and tend to skip over all of it except for Stills’ “So Begins the Task” which I think is one of the best songs on the album.  As noted above, section 3 is largely folk-rock and section 4 favors staright ahead rock and blues.

The digitally remastered sound is good but as with many remasters of older albums it demands a higher volume level than is typical for a current recording and it sounds much better on a decent sound system than it does in MP3. 

It’s rare to find a band that can play so many different styles of music so effectively.  Manassas was an uncommonly talented band that, for a brief moment, played uncommonly well together.  This album captures that moment.  It didn’t last, but what does? 

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02/13/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music

2 Comments »

  1. […] have easily been part of the latin rock suite on side one of Stephen Still’s first “Manassas” album.  Both “Manassas” and “Wild Safari” were released in 1972 and […]

    Pingback by Review: Barrabas, Wild Safari « Tuned In To Music | 12/18/2007 | Reply

  2. Good review. Very true about the sides being divided into genre’s, yet infused with other musical styles. The opening side jumps around from rock to Latin to blues to romantic ballad effortlessly. The last side is stinging rock, and in between is a layer of country rock and a layer of folk. It’s incredibly eclectic and dynamic. Highlights are the masterful ‘So Begins the Task’, which should have been a major hit along with ‘It Doesn’t Matter’. Chris Hillman’s ‘Bound To Fall’ rivals every other song for pick of the litter. And don’t miss Stephen’s pioneering use of the moog synthesizer on ‘Move Around’. This is Grade A prime, folks. Don’t miss it.

    Comment by schmitts | 03/01/2011 | Reply


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