Sunday, February 04, 2007

Neil Young Discography Part Three - Buffalo Springfield / Last Time Around (1968)

Wow. See I can be quick with these series sometimes! Today it's time for the third and final Buffalo Springfield record, and i'm afraid it's not a very good one. Record that is. Although Buffalo Springfield Again had received very good reviews, and the band had done some rather successful touring, more drug problems and arrests again led to the disruption of the bands lineup. Bruce Palmer was replaced by Jim Messina, and Neil started to appear in the studio less. The recording of this third album was even less of a group affair than its predecessor, and this is very telling, both in the disparate production sounds of the record and in the fact that again, none of the songs feature all of 'the band'. The band's last live performance actually happened on the 5th May 1968, around three months before this album was even thought of. Last Time Around is in fact a post-breakup compilation, and some of the songs little more than demos.

We start off with one of Neil's three songs from the record. Actually On The Way Home is mostly sung by Furay, with Neil doing backing vocals. It's a nice start, with some good horns spicing things up a little, but overall it's not reaaally that fantastic; I have a feeling that at this time Neil had probably started hoarding songs for his solo projects. Still Neil and Richie make a good team and its a shame that they didn't collaborate a little more. This song's also notable for some very sweet strings. Saying what I did a few seconds back, song two, It's So Hard To Wait, is actually co-written by Neil and Richie, but doesn't really do much for me. It's just a little too underdeveloped, and so although that very slow verse melody is quite pleasant, not a lot else is really happening. Pretty Girl Why is the first of five Stills songs on the record, most of which (to be honest) I'm not really too keen on. Perhaps Stills also saw the end of the band coming soon and decided not to contribute too many of his better songs, because by the time of CSN and his first solo records, he'd certainly written a hell of a lot of better songs than this.

The only one of Stills songs on this record that I like (and in fact LOVE), is this one, Four Days Gone. It's leagues ahead of anything else that he contributes, and in fact it's probably my favourite song on the album, thus giving it pride of place as one of the downloads below... Everything about it is very spontaneous and live sounding, and for me it's almost perfect in every way. Its both intensely personal, and yet carries a sort of mythic quality to the storywriting that makes me think that Stills was being influenced by the sort of songs Neil was writing (Broken Arrow for example). It's WONDERFUL. Carefree Country Day is the only song on a Buffalo album written by Jim Messina. It's very average. Special Care is a tepid, underdeveloped rocker from Stills (and nobody else). Passes through the ears and into nowhere. In The Hour Of Not Quite Rain, however, we have one of the albums few highlights. It's a Furay number, and quite awesome it is too. An extremely dense and orchestral production, it's very dark and quite unlike many other songs on the Springfield catalogue. Reminiscent at times of Scott Walker (!) or even King Crimson, it's a welcome change from the by the numbers country/folk-rock of the rest of the record, and doesn't go on nearly as long as I'd like it to. It's very interesting, very poised and moody, and really something to be proud of.

Questions is a Stills song that would later be rejiigged as part of the CSNY song Carry On. It's pleasant enough, but not really mindblowing, and nowhere near as good as Four Days Gone. I Am A Child is the last of the Neil songs on the album. It's also the best of them, by far, and would turn out to be a song that Neil would carry on playing for many years, with the definite version probably being found in the acoustic section of his legendary Live Rust recording. Sort of a blueprint for the acoustic sound that would rival the more experimental and orchestrated songs he was writing with Nitzsche, its expression of a childs view of the world is just awkward enough to sound realistic, but never too trite to make one find it annoying. Like many of Neil's songs, its one I never get bored of. Part of its probably because of those ace acoustic guitar figures going on. Merry-Go-Round is a Furay song that does very little. It's pure filler and very little else. Stills Uno Mundo is a nice latin influence rocker only ruined by how silly it sounds when white men sing as if they weren't white. It seldoms works. Luckily there's some good guitar work going on here, so it's not a total loss. Furay finishes things off with his not-too-shabby-at-all Kind Woman. A goodish ballad.

There we are then. Not too good a finish for the Buffalos, but that only means GOOD THINGS. Neil was free to do what he wanted, and soon he would really be allowed to get across the ideas he had hinted at with some of his contributions to the Buffalo catalogue. Until next time, hope you like the songs.

Buffalo Springfield - On The Way Home
Buffalo Springfield - I Am A Child
Buffalo Springfield - Four Days Gone


Blogger Joe said...

Thanks for your hard work here. I have to disagree with you on Last Time Around, maybe because it's one of the first records I bought when I moved beyond teeny-bopper stuff. I bought it and Buffalo Springfield's Greatest Hits at the same time, in fact. I still love most of those songs -- even Special Care. Granted, they might not be the best of the era, but they still stand out amid a lot of the junk that was and is cranked out by the music industry.

2:51 am, May 02, 2007  

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