Stephen Stills hasn’t released a solo record since the early ’90s. He says it took so long for this one because he kept giving songs to Graham Nash and David Crosby. A couple of years ago, he decided to keep a few for himself; we now have Man Alive! .
Stills is a true rock and roll enigma. He had one of the most distinctive singing voices of the ’70s, and he’s a fine guitar player. In fact, it’s a mystery that he didn’t emerge as one of the most respected artists in the history of rock. Granted, he’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with two bands, and he’s respected by musicians far and wide.
On this album there’s a lot of guitar. “Ain’t It Always” is the kind of cool rocker, with a great hook, that lets Stills show off his rock chops. The sound is big and fat with an old-school solo that jumps out of the speakers. “‘Round the Bend” is loud, with intertwining guitars – Neil Young guests – and pinched out notes that would bring a smile to the face of someone half the age of Stills or Young. Gospel-tinged guitar highlights the jazzy-blues of “Ole Man Trouble.” “Around Us” is a pop tune with a big, nasty solo. And “Acadienne” reminds us that Stills is from Louisiana.
There’s also much here for fans of his acoustic work. “Hearts Gate” is tailor made for Stills’ fans. “Different Man” is a fine acoustic blues. Then, there’s “Spanish Suite” – more than 11 minutes of music that features some of Stills best work on the record and a Herbie Hancock solo that cooks. Most of the 13 songs will please fans of Stills’ work. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without “Feed the People.” It’s one of those songs with its heart in the right place, but a simplistic lyric and typical arrangement. Graham Nash guests on that one. Stills voice doesn’t have the range it once had, but then again, whose does? It does have a world-weary huskiness that adds feel. This disc has a lot to like, provided you’re into great songs, great playing, and fine singing.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.