Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Stephen Stills, Just Roll Tape April 26, 1968

“Just Roll Tape” is unaccompanied Stills singing and playing guitar (dobro on one track) recorded after a Judy Collins recording session when Stills “peeled off a few hundreds” so stills solothe recording engineer, John Haney, would record a tape of Stills doing some of his current songs.  The tape apparently went missing for decades, recently turned up, and was digitally remixed and released.  The CD packaging contains almost no information on exactly what was on the original tape and what may or may not have been overdubbed.  You are led to believe the CD is a straighforward digital mix of the original but several clear and obvious edits and differences in both tonal quality and clarity of the recording make this seem unlikely.

Whatever the provenance of what we hear on the disc, Stills can sing and play and both facts are readily apparent here.  Some of the songs sound like they are in early stages of development with simple strummed chord accompanyment while others are more fully developed with intricate, and often excellent, guitar and vocals.  The tape was made several months before the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album and it’s a real treat to hear these early versions of tunes like “Helplessly Hoping”, “So Begins the Task”, “Black Queen” and “Wooden Ships” that ended up on that and several of Stills’ solo albums.  Stills’ solo version of “Suite: Judy Blues” is flat out terrific and is easily worth the price of the CD alone.  If you’ve ever wanted to sing harmony with Stills without those pesky Crosby and Nash guys getting in the way, this is the CD for you although there are times on “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” where the absence of of Crosby and Nash’s harmony lines are like a physical presence in the room.  That said, the well known Stills songs on “Just Roll Tape” are a sing-along fan’s dream.  Deep Stills fans will enjoy discovering songs like “Bumblebee (Do You Need a Place to Hide?)” which morphed into “The Love Gangster” on the Manassas album. 

Throughout his career Stills has been known for both his great talents as a singer, guitar player and song writer and his great ego.  All of his talents are amply displayed on “Just Roll Tape” and his ego isn’t a factor because there’s no one else there for him to feel insecure about.    Highly recommended for fans of Steve Stills or Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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07/23/2007 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

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