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Buffalo Springfield

Three Writers. No Harmony.

Introduction
Buffalo Springfield
Buffalo Springfield Again
Last Time Around
 

The Lineup Card (1966-1968)
Steven Stills (Vocals, Guitar) also of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young), Manassas
Ritchie Furay (Guitar, Vocals) also of Poco
Neil Young (Guitar, Vocals) also of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Bruce Palmer (bass) until 1967
Jim Messina (bass) after 1966 also of Loggins and Messina and Poco
Dewey Martin (drums)

Buffalo Springfield were the missing link between the folk rock of the mid-sixties (as defined by fellow El Lay-ers the Byrds) and the huge California singer-songwriter country-rock movement of the early 70's that brought you and I such memorable luminaries as the Eagles and Pure Prairie League. But they also made a game attempt to equal the songwriting ability of their British pop equals and were one of the major steps forward for rock music from adolescent teenage hormone-jazz to adult gravity. Meshing original, often quirky songwriting by a bunch of former folkies with an intense non-boogie based guitar rock was the Buffalo Springfield's main method, and though other bands were doing more interesting things better at the same time, the Springfield were indeed an original. They were also hot shit about only recording their own songs, which for a Sixties band was about as rare as a band with a drummer who didn't later turn out to be a louse-infested, broke-ass, drug-decimated Jesus freak.

The Springfield may have only been in existence for two years, but they were important enough in the history of the universe to be called 'The American Rolling Stones' on more than one occasion, but I feel that's about as stupid as calling the Germs the 'American Clash'. The sheer fact that the Springfield only released three albums should be enough to disqualify that statement. More than that, they always had a nice filler content, and that knocks them down in my mind. People may point to the fact that the Tatonkas were the training grounds for Stephen Stills (who, at one time, was arguably the most successful of all. Surely financially, possibly even artistically), Ritchie Furay and Jim Messina (who were big in the Seventies, anyway) and, of course, genius/screwball 'Shakey' Neil Young. All four of these dudes contributed writing for the band, from the consistent decency of Still's songs to the light pop of Furay and Messina, to the sputtering dark genius of Young. The main criticism I can level at the band is that they never seemed like they fired on all eight cylinders for long. There was always some sort of mitigating circumstances, bad production, legal problems, drug problems, Neil's flighty relationship with the other members to explain why they never sounded as good as they were supposed to. And I've heard how great they were supposed to be so many times I now seriously doubt they were ever that good at all. So don't hate yourself if you don't exactly self-immolate after hearing the Springfield's underwhelming output.

Tom Hanson hansonburg@earthlink.net
Album Name: N/A-Live Concert Attendee(1967)*
Any Short Comments?: You are "on target" about the Springfield* I was fortunate to have attended a '67 era Concert with The B.S. (Opening) for Jimi Hendrix at the Curtis Hixson Hall in Tampa, Florida, B.S. was on a stage set up on the right side of the of the concert hall, and they played 7 tunes before Jimi made his entrance on the main stage front and center, "terrific" show put on by ALL. Heres a nugget of ticket pricing info: Our tickets cost only $7.50 apiece, and we sat only 4 rows back from the main stage! Would be interested to hear from anyone OLD enough to have been at this concert in Tampa.

 


Buffalo Springfield - Atco 1967

Buffalo Springfield began life as a bunch of folkies, most of whom had no clue from rock music. Now, folk dudes dipping their feet into electric rock wasn't a fresh idea as of 1966...Dylan had written the script, The Byrds had already set the mold, and bunches of former coffee-shop clowns like Simon and Garfunkel were already bringing their genteel turtleneck music to AM radio. The time was ripe for more well-read longhairs to kick out the jams, and apparently the Springfield were some of the best, live, anyway. Not that I've ever been able to confirm that, but apparently the combination of Stills and Young ripping their guts out on stage right before Neil would drop onto the stage and do the epileptic mashed-potato right into the Whiskey's orchestra pit. But, you know, no evidence exists for that...all we have is studio albums like this one to document those wild and wookie early days.

Buffalo Springfield is quite a disappointing album. I was expecting something a lot closer to '66 Byrds, you know, the nuevo-psychedelia, the half-dead serious, half-looney tone, the taking of chances. Buffalo Springfield play it a lot safer than their Top 40 buds, though, and give us a record that contains, to my count, two classics. The first one is obviously 'For What It's Worth', still Stills' best song ever, written while tripping on acid and watching young freaks riot after a recent police crackdown. This tune drags us right back to the marchin' chargin' Sixties, it's a hot motherfucker down on Sunset and there's gonna be some bleedin' tonight. Smell it. The paranoia...the sweat....the leather jackboots. But, like the best journalism, Stephen keeps a distance from the action...physically and morally. 'You ain't right, if everybody's wrong...' Neil Young provides the musical clincher, picture perfect vibratoed harmonics ringing out the glints of the sunbeams off the glitter in the pavement....classic.

The other winner here is Young's only vocal on the album, and by far the most underrated of his early work. If 'For What It's Worth' expertly translated what was going on in the streets, 'Out Of My Mind' made us feel exactly the confusion and depression that he was feeling at that time. See, he was one depressed Canuck around this time...he didn't get along with his bandmates much, he felt like his studio work was being hijacked, and he ended most performances with a full-fledged seizure...if he was lucky enough to get offstage first. 'Out Of My Mind' is, to use a fucking cliche, 'haunting', all watery echoed guitar and Neil sounding like he's going crazy in the Thorazine and bedstraps way, not the fun, wacky and jiggly bug-eyed way.

The rest of these songs? Eh...well, I guess I could give them a lot of credit for writing all this stuff themselves, but they sure weren't too good at creating anything memorable, or even distinctive. They're either forced, uncool play-redneck junk like 'Go And Say Goodbye' and Stills' embarrassingly hokey 'Hot Dusty Roads', or it's hep 60's go-go pop like 'Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It' and 'Sit Down, I Think I Love You'. Very mid-Sixties, but very far removed from either the 'dark' tendencies of the Stones and Animals and not at all as well-crafted as the Motown hits that meant so much to the members of the band. More like, you know, goofy go-go music. Based in country and light soul rather than funk and blues, if you catch my SARS, and I think you do. Neil fails even to get as far as Stills on most of his work, coming up with the tuneless 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing' (something about confusion, but it's so badly executed by Furay that it sounds more like a puppy-love song) and the even worse 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong'. Possibly they would have been better served by Neil's vocals, but the band tended to think is voice sounded somewhere between a bat being stepped on and an amorous zebra. Little did they know that Stills' hick act and Furay's young Tom Jones romanticism would later sound corny as fuck.

I guess these songs aren't bad as a rule, but a combination of factors, including retarded production techniques by their no-good thieving managers, an overreliance on lightweight sources of influence, and completely forgetting about the fact that they had three guitarists in their band, two of them who would later become accomplished solo machines. When I hear Buffalo Springfield, not only do I often not feel like I'm listening to a successful folk-rock album, I often don't feel like I'm listening to a rock album at all....and that's a real bummer, because if you think about it, they're a fucking lousy country band.

Capn's Final Word: Not at all as nasty as they wanted it to be.

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Stephen     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Your review has no merit, probably not even alive at the time. Listen to it again.....no one does that sort of thing anymore!

(Capn's Response: Stills, is that you, slumming on the Internet? Anyhow, NO, I wasn't alive then, which is probably why I can still remember how to communicate in complete sentences.)

Richard Nightingale     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: I just consider this a brilliant mid 60's pop album. Yes,the production is terrible but I think the songs are great. Some of the tracks actually sound a lot like The Monkees (not a bad thing in my opinion).Of course the Byrds were a far better band and the heavy influence on this album is obvious.The only problem I have with this album is that most of the songs sound dated even for the year it came out.Recorded in 1966, most bands had developed beyond poppy songs like this,sounds more like 1964 meseybeat if you get my drift.Still great though and not many bands managed to write a whole album of original material during this period.

 


Buffalo Springfield Again - Atco 1967

Altogether more brilliant and interesting record than the debut, not least attributable to Neil Young, who plugged a ventricle into the main power grid and came out on the other side a crackling scarecrow of rock power. He kicks off the album with the hard-charged 'Mr. Soul', which manages to be everything his self-referential songs on the debut weren't...rocking, succint, harder than a jew's tooth. Here he's slowly sticking needles into the subject of rock stardom, namely, his own. He likes it when people say he upsets them, he is baffled that girls scream at the sight of his craggy face, and, if you're real real hip, you'll get to see the 'smile on his face turn to plaster', and see this clown 'do the trick of disaster', or, in other words, flip out on a seizure during a performance. Ooh, that Neil, always mixing the accessible with the repellent, and mixing some of the best lyrics of his early days with a blind steal of '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'.

The real development here is that, while we may have seen them dabbling in different genres before, now they're trying on entire new skins. All that hesitation is gone in an acid flash, I could never have imagined the cool and satisfying jazziness of Stills' 'Everyday' before now. They've simply done away with any restraints they thought they needed on Buffalo Springfield. Take Neil's tunes: we've already discussed the crunchy classic 'Mr. Soul', but what about his second effort, the reverentially orchestrated country-soundtrack tune 'Expecting To Fly', which mixes equal parts Brian Wilson and Enzio Morricone in something that would be considered ridiculously overblown if Neil didn't sound so much like he doesn't know what the fuck he's doing while he sings. But, you know...he does. Really, really does.

Not on 'Broken Arrow', though. He's simply fucking about there. Considering Mr. Soul's successive reputation of 1) simplicity in arrangement and 2) complete unpredictability, over the entire course of his career (now reaching nearly 40 years in length), it's quite possible that even he has his own personal Satanic Majesties Request. Okay, let's see if we can describe it to you, though this is probably an exercise in Giving Ryan a Headache: We begin with a disgustingly cock-rocking couple of bars of a nasty 'Mr. Soul', which then breaks into a march-beat folk-rock tune that resembles a jauntier 'Expecting to Fly', if you can hep to that square. That main song part is pretty memorable and pretty...'can you tell that the empty quiver, brown skin, on the banks of the river so crowded and narrow, held a broken arrow?' So, his nouns might use some editing, but he's still evoking like a badass. Then there's another 'crowd scene' and a carnival organ, before we're hit with the bomb...'eighteen years of the American Dream...' Well, fuck yeah! I've been alive 18 years, it's 1967, and shit's fucked, man! Fucking Indians, man....'a trip is just to fall'. Fuck that! But of course the price must be paid, so we have the March to the Gallows to introduce us to the next verse (which makes no fucking sense anyway)...then there's a swing clarinet part, and the album fades out on a heartbeat pulsation....ahh hell, it's the limp-noggin hippies anthem of the LA Folk Rock Scene, as soft-headed as anything else ever created by Love or even the King of the Goofs, Mr. David Crosby. And so it's as messy as a three-year old's closet...I don't think you'll be forgetting it anytime soon.

I even like the country-rock tunes here better than before because they go in whole dive and record country tunes, not some af-hassed mongrel that pleases no one. Stills, as a matter of course, makes the best use of artistic consistency....he simply makes decent tunes, from the pleasant 'Bluebird' to 'Everydays' and even something titled as hoary as 'Rock 'n' Roll Woman'. Furay even comes up with a shitload of okay shit, if nothing particularly remarkable....just....consistently fine (except for 'Sad Memory', which makes me wretch) Isn't that okay? Will you even notice the difference between the name brand Good Music and this lower-priced Enhanced Filler I'm using without telling you? Probably not. But it is the reason why I don't absentmindedly award this a perfect grade like every other paid rock critic who ever heard Buffalo Springfield was great. I personally believe that this is an album made possible by a very formidable influx of inspiration, but which falls flat due to a lack of real direction and purpose. What the hell was Buffalo Springfield about, anyway? They weren't dark romantics like the Doors, evil blues-sex minions like the Stones, or even craftsmen like the Byrds. They weren't a real good guitar rock band, a real good folk rock band, and their experimentation ('Broken Arrow') leaves an entire list of somethings to be desired. But somehow, they still convince me this album is darn good. Not great, but it plays it on TV.

Capn's Final Word: Gobs of creativity and sporadically brilliant, but somehow just isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe it's because I can't figure what the fuck it's supposed to be about.

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Stephen  Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: You think too much Cap'n. It about your "Everydays!"

(Capn's Response: Eh? You say something? I was too busy digging this enormous booger out of my nostril. Now what was that you were saying?)
 

Richard Nightingale     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: The first album was great but this is even better.The production has vastly improved and so has stills and young's songwriting. Richie Furay finally gets democracy and his contributions are very well written.I actually think this is Stephen Stills's peak as a writer,Hung Upside Down and Bluebird are his best songs in my opinion.Neil young never wrote anything as beautiful as Expecting To Fly during his solo career and while I think obout it A Childs Claim To Fame is Richie Furay's best song too!! Pretty damn essential stuff,I even invested in the box set,so I can hear this album remastered now.

 


Last Time Around - Atco 1968

A quick return from the Oort Cloud, that's for sure....the Springfield hit the earth with a stultifying smack with this, a post-mortem last gasp cobbled together by Jim Messina after Young quit for the final time and Stills was already beginning his solo career. This album sounds like a Stills tribute put together by Furay and Messina, and Stills doesn't even contribute material as strong as his stuff usually comes out to be. He's got the lounge-trash jazzbo sleaze material, both awful ('Pretty Girl Why'), and acceptable ('Four Days Gone'), the genteel gospelly stuff ('Special Care') that sounds just like what his solo albums would later wear out faster than Christina Aguilera on board an aircraft carrier. It was around this time that Stills was just beginning his Hendrixoid obsession with his guitar playing, doing everything possible to 1) outdo Young, and 2) sound like the most tasteless distortion-hound on the block. The soloing on 'Special Care' is repetitive and naggy, and I'm afraid it wouldn't be too often that Stills would rise above this level. Here's a man that equates lame vamping with 'soul' and lots of overdrive with 'power'....wrong on both counts, Mister. He is able to pull off a solid tune, though, and 'Questions' is among the best of his rock tunes. Great bass on that one.

Young, well...let's just say he'd left the band so fast the door made a permanent impression on his ass. Cracked it right in half, it did. He only contributes only one vocal, a cute little country-toss-off-song called 'I Am A Child' that somehow comes across child-like (charming, wide-eyed) instead of child-ish (read: fucking moronic) and co-writes another piece of blatant filler or another elsewhere. After dominating Again so completely, here he's jumped the ghost...he's simply MIA. Sad. Of course, you know he's got a few more albums knocking about out there, so don't go sticking your head in the oven or anything. Especially if it's an electric model...I mean OUCH!

The Furay material here is both the most interesting and the most embarrassing, for if Neil isn't writing mind-boggling, ass-scratching musical fender-benders like 'Learning to Fly' anymore, I guess someone had to field the slack and boil the crawdads, and Ritchie's the man. He slops droopy poop all over 'The Hour Of Not Quite Rain', which isn't pretentious at all, not if your measure of pretension is Robert Fripp leading a legion of Frippheads to drown in the ocean in pure Frippian Rapturous Ecstasy. 'Carefree Country Day' is slight to the point of retardation, and 'On The Way Home' is gicky white soul oversinging, but 'It's So Hard To Wait' uses his fey voice deftly, and the closing Stax-soul ballad 'Kind Woman' is worthy of Otis Redding (who was supposed to fill in for Neil onstage after the Canuck first jetted out of the band...imagine THAT!) and is the best thing available here.

There's very little here that I would say doesn't qualify as filler, or at least second-rate choices. Granted, second-rate material by this band is frequently very good, but I feel NO continuity from this record. This is three different bands now, not one bad with three singers and songwriters. There's the Stills solo part, the Poco country-soul part, and the ever-shrinking Neil Young part. On their own they'd be a lot happier, and in some cases, more successful than within the constraints of the runaway egos on display here. So what's the point? Get this stuff better from each source...leave this for the completists. Don't reward pleasant competence instead of true genius.

Capn's Final Word: Surprisingly consistently fillerish, decent and non-disgusting, mostly, but without even a whiff of the sweet stank of brilliance.

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Richard Nightingale      Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Yes, this does sound very much like three bands, this is only Buffalo Springfield in name.Actually this isn't Buffalo Springfield at all!!!I've just checked the credits for who plays on these tracks and it's mostly session musicians backing each individual member,there's no band unity at all.Still pretty solid stuff but not a patch on the first two albums.

 


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