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Friday, April 12, 2013

Stephen Stills

Carry On (Rhino)

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Although Stephen Stills sometimes seems overshadowed by his frequent collaborator, Neil Young, the new four-disc career retrospective offers ample reminders that Stills, a gifted and often imaginative songwriter, was integral to two of the most important American groups to emerge from '60s rock and a viable recording artist into the '70s.

For the collector, part of the fun of Carry On will be the previously unreleased and rare tracks among the 82 selections. Carry On opens with "Travelin'" a 1962 demo in the earnest young folksinger mode, and continues with a fun bit of folk-rock ephemera recorded in 1964 with the Au Go Go Singers. Stills began to find his stride with Buffalo Springfield, an eclectic group whose recordings included Beatlesque pop, psychedelia and the early stirrings of country-rock as well as cool jazz and ambitious suite-like compositions. Stills will always be best remembered for Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young), where his voice became a pearl among the jeweled strands of "Helplessly Hoping" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

Stills' accomplishments after and alongside CSNY may surprise many for their scope. On "Old Times Good Times" he traded guitar licks with Jimi Hendrix; on "Fishes and Scorpions" his guitar partner was Eric Clapton. He released the ebullient pop of "Marianne," the jazz-rock of "Cherokee," the harmony-rich country-rock of "It Doesn't Matter" and slide-guitar-driven '70s rock with "Jet Set (Sigh)." At his best, Stills achieved a seamless blend of rock, country and folk with a keen sense for suggesting stories through his lyrics.

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