Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield was one of those rock bands that could be described as "transitional." In the 1960s, teen pop rock and roll was transitioning, in some quarters, to the more serious music-for-listening that rock would become. Buffalo Springfield was full of talent, but exhibited the growing pains of the maturing rock style. In retrospect, it was an all-star band, but only in retrospect - Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Richie Furay weren't well-known at the time. Those three were the main songwriters and singers; bassist Bruce Palmer and drummer Dewey Martin filled out the band.

Much of the songwriting was quite interesting, but kind of dated. And the recordings were often overproduced - Neil Young's "On the Way Home," for instance, is a great song, which he has performed throughout his career. The production here sucks all the life out of it, though - there's just too much of everything.

Among all the not-quite-great material they recorded, though, there are three real gems: Stephen Stills' iconic protest song "For What It's Worth," the unedited nine-minute version of "Bluebird," and a country-rock masterpiece, Richie Furay's "Kind Woman." This two-record retrospective, issued in 1973 on Atco, has them all - and represents the only issue of the long version of "Bluebird." The interplay between Neil Young's electric and Stephen Stills' acoustic guitars is so good that I'm not sure why the full version has never seen the light of day elsewhere.

This collection has tracks from all three of the band's original albums: Buffalo Springfield, Buffalo Springfield Again, and Last Time Around. The first album was recorded in the summer of 1966; by the time Last Time Around was finished in 1968, the band had fallen apart. They managed to finish the album, but not all the members appear on every track. That last album showed, however, the emerging brilliance of the band's three songwriters. Particularly interesting is Stills' "Questions" - a good song that was later revamped as the second half of an even better one, "Carry On," recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Here's Richie Furay's wonderful "Kind Woman":

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