Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Neil Young Discography Part Two - Buffalo Springfield / Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)

Oh dear! After just one album the group aesthetic of Buffalo Springfield had already started to dissipate. The rivalry between Stills and Young started to come to a head, and other problems within the band meant that things were soon on their way to a slightly sticky end. Bruce Palmer, the bands bassist, spent most of the recording sessions in jail for drug offences, and Young stayed away from the studio a lot of the time due to the aforementioned tension with Stills. Thus we have a White Album style situation where Neil is absent from any of Stills songs, and Stills is absent from any of Neil's. In fact two of Neil's songs (the best two!), feature only himself, Jack Nitzsche and some session musicians. Despite this, they're actually Neil's best two songs so far, both of them total classics which point the way towards Neil and Jack's collaborations on Neil's debut solo album.

We start things off with another of Neil's songs, the rather famous Mr Soul. Based around the riff to the Stones Satisfaction, it's a stomping freakbeatish romp that would stay in Neil's setlists for quite a while. Personally i've always thought that relying on the Stones riff was a little lazy, and kind of a letdown considering how the lyrics are really quite good. Furay provides some nice backing vocals, but Stills is notably absent. Neil gets to throw down some rather good riffs and mini solos (that psychedelic, stabbing style is starting to come into its own), and indeed the solo sections of the song are probably a lot more fun than the verses.

Next up is Furay's very nice A Child's Claim To Fame, a very countryish Byrds-like song that prefigures his later work with Poco, and certainly show show Furay too was coming into his own as a songwriter. Stills Everyday comes third, and very very nice it is. Some jazzy piano touches, a nice psych drone throughout, and then a punchy bit of fuzz guiitar. Again, Stills is definitely moving forward hear and like Young is starting to mix experimental elements with his more traditional rootsy sounds.

Fourth up, and the first of those two Young/Nitzsche collaborations, is the quite quite beautiful Expecting To Fly. One of my favourite Neil songs of all time. It's absolutely divine, heartbreakingly simple, and stunningly performed. Epic and very personal at the same time, it was put to fantastic use during a love scene between a disabled vietnam vet played by Jon Voight and a character played by Jane Fonda in Hal Ashby's 1978 feature Coming Home. Nitzsche is a huge, huge talent, who worked for many years with Phil Spector, and mixing his production techniques with Neil's songwriting wasn't always perfect, but was intermittantly special. This is one of those very special moments. Everything else on the record pales in significance to these four minutes (and the six that close the record, but more on that later!). Following this, Stills Bluebird is actually not too much of a letdown, due to its sheer exuberance and the great mono jangly guitar. And what do you know, Stills' post verse guitar bursts seem to be very much influenced by Neil. And some lovely guitar work it is too, especially in the solo around the 2:30 minute mark. His next song, Hung Upside Down, is almost as good. A kind of dirgey psych light sound, its got some nice passionate vocals from Stills, and again shows how Stills was becoming a much better guitarist than he might have shown in the past (this can be best heard on CSNY live recordings and on the first Manassas record).

Furay's Sad Memory is probably the quietest thing on the record, and works rather well despite the lack of any specifically noteworthy melodic hook. His Good Time Boy, sung by drummer Dewey Martin and probably played entirely by session musicians, is...really pretty bad. I mean...awful. Oh dear oh dear. Stop it.

Thankfully Stills' Rock And Roll Woman is quite quite divine. Supposedly written about Janis Joplin, it was the first (uncredited!) collaboration he would write with David Crosby (he had just been fired from the Byrds, and for me its one of his very best Buffalo era songs. Quite divine vocal harmonies, really really great melodic hooks, really nice guitar work and overall just really lovely. This collaboration would of course continue in the very near future!

So last, but very much NOT least, is the AMAZING Broken Arrow. A medley/pastiche/mashup/collage of sound sources, musical movements and melodies, it's quite unlike much else in Neil's catalogue or indeed in many other artists catalogues. Very striking, very very odd. Neil's melodies are coming into their own, and the mood created is extremely idiosyncratic. Furay's overdubbed vocal melody is very nice too. I can't say enough good things about it.

So there we are. Probably the Buffalo's best album all things told, and not only because of Neil's fantastic contributions, but because the three main songwriters are all coming into their own. It's only a shame that they couldn't collaborate more directly (but then if they had, what would have happened next?). Next time? The Buffalo Springfield's last stand.

Buffalo Springfield - Expecting To Fly
Buffalo Springfield - Broken Arrow


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buffalo Springfield was a great band. Great music. Thanks for posting!

3:53 pm, January 31, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buffalo Springfield Again was amazing. It's an album with a vibe. I kind of feel like something's going on while the album is playing. I loved Mr. Soul, Expecting To Fly and Broken Arrow (the album and the song). Stills' stuff was good as well, but I didn't particularly like Furay. It's not that he's bad, he's just a different kind of musician. I didn't like Good Time Boy too much myself. Still, as a whole, Buffalo Springfield Again is always a pleasure to listen to.

1:40 pm, February 04, 2007  
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