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Man Alive!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Catching Up With An Old Friend

    Listening to Stephen Stills' new release "Man Alive" over the holidays was like bumping into an old college buddy at a bar: it feels great to see him and re-live the old times, and, sooner or later, you remember why you haven't looked him up since. Stills, now recording for Titan/Pyramid, re-assembled many of his long-time favorite sidemen, and collaborated on some cuts with Graham Nash and Neil Young to turn out an ambititious project displaying a wide range of musical styles, from world beats to Cajun, blues, rock, the inevitable protest anthem, and even R&B. Stills afficionados will smile in recognition of many of his signature guitar riffs and even a few lyrics, which, alone, make the album worth the time to listen to it. The album gets its hooks into those who take the time to listen to it more than once, and the appeals of some of the lesser cuts grows with repeated listening. The quality of the album starts slowly, and builds to its centerpiece, the signature finale "Spanish Suite". One wonders if the title is meant to consciously evoke and cloak the piece with the success of the famous "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." Stills remains an under-appreciated master of the guitar, and this piece displays his talent with a flourish. Later cuts are better than earlier cuts, and Stills is at his best in familiar genres (as in "Ole Man Trouble"), and seems like a fish out of water in cuts like "Around Us" (which screams for a different arrangement for a singer like the late Luther Vandross) and "Drivin' Thunder", apparently a NASCAR commercial wannabe. Stills' familiar narcissistic lyrics remind us one reason we got tired of him: love affairs all fail because of either a) you ("Spanish Suite") b) them ("Round The Bend") or c) reasons unknown ("I Don't Get It"), but certainly not due to the lack of effort on Stills' part. Some humility would be nice. The quality of Stills' voice reminds us that we are all getting older, and not as strong as we once were. Some cuts reflect extra care and attention to the vocals and bring back fond memories of Stills' early work other cuts, not so much. In the end, "Man Alive" is a bettr album than "Thoroughfare Gap", (a jumping off point for some Stills followers) and is roughly equivalent to "Illegal Stills" and "Stills", but not up to the classic 5+-star quality of the "Stills 1", "Stills 2" or "Manassas" efforts which remain the background music for so many memories.

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