Manassas


Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1971-72)

- Paul Harris -- keyboards

- Chris Hillman -- vocals, bass, rhythm guitar

- Joe Lala (RIP 2014) -- percussion

- Al Perkins -- guitar, steel guitar, backing vocals

- Fuzzy Samuels -- bass

- Stephen Still -- vocals, lead guitar

- Dallas Taylor -- drums

 

  supporting musicians:

- Jerry Aiello -- keyboards

- Byrone Berline -- fiddle

- Roger Bush -- acoustic bass

- Malcolm Cecil -- synthesizer

- Sydney George -- harmonica

- Bill Wyman -- bass

 

  line up 2 (1972-73)

- Paul Harris -- keyboards

- Chris Hillman -- vocals, bass, rhythm guitar

- Joe Lala (RIP 2014) -- percussion

NEW - Kenny Passarelli -- bass (replaced Fuzzy Samuels)

- Al Perkins -- guitar, steel guitar, backing vocals

- Stephen Still -- vocals, lead guitar

- Dallas Taylor -- drums

 

  supporting musicians: (1973)

- Pat Arnold -- vocals

- Lachy Espinol -- percussion

- Guille Garcia -- percussion

- Sydney George -- flute

- Charlie Grimes -- guitar

 

- Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuel -- bass, vocals
- Joe Walsh -- slide guitar
- Bobby Whitlock -- keyboards
 

 

- Axis

- Blues Image (Joe Lala)

- The Brain Train

- Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills)

- The Byrds (Chris Hillman)

- Clear Light

- Crosby, Stills and Nash

- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

- The Flying Burrito Brothers (Chris Hillman and Al Perkins)

- Chris Hillman (solo efforts)

- The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band (Chris Hillman)

- Stephen Stills (solo efforts)

- The Stills Young Band

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Manassas

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 2-903
Year:
 1971

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP; gatefold sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 152

Price: $20.00

 

So, if you're going to buy a Stephen Stills album, this is  the one I'd suggest ...  okay it was originally released as a double LP, so if you're going to buy a couple of Stephen Stills albums ...

 

left to tight:  

Paul Harris - Joe Lala - Chris Hillman - Dallas Taylor - Fuzzy Samuels - Stephen Stills - Al Perkins

 

What became 1972's "Manassas" started out as Stephen Stills third solo album. Touring in support of his second solo album Stills crossed paths with The Flying Burrito Brothers. Impressed with the band, when it came time to start recording his next solo album he decided to give Chris Hillman and Al Perkins an invitation to join him in the studio.  Joining the sessions were Joe Lala, Paul Harris, Fuzzy Samuels, and Dallas Taylor (the latter two having played with Stills on CSN&Y's "Deja Vu").  Thrilled with the resulting jams sessions, sense of camaraderie and material they were recording, Stills decided to abandon the solo project and turn it into a full fledged band project.  Anxious for the band to play some live dates, Stills and company headed out on the road.  Stills reportedly also came up with the name Manassas.  A civil war buff, he hired photographer Ira Wexler to take the cover photo showing the band standing at the Manassas train station.  Produced by Ron and Howard Alpert, from a musical standpoint the album was all over the artistic roadmap.  Divided into a series of four themes, side 1 "The Raven" featured rock material; side 2 "The Wilderness" shifted the focus to country and bluegrass influences; side 3 "Consider" had a folk flavor, and side 4 "Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay" returned to rock motifs along with a dedication to the late Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix and Al Wilson.   The four sides featured 21 tracks including stabs at bluegrass, blues, folk, Latin, CSN&Y styled pop, and conventional rock.  Normally you wouldn't expect much from such a stew or influences, but to their credit, Stills and company managed to pull it off with sterling results.  No it wasn't perfect.  Clocking in at 72 minutes, the set would have benefited from a bit of judicious editing.  It would have also been nice for Stills to share the spotlight with some of the others - Hillman was immensely talented, but is all but invisible throughout most of the collection.   Still, having listened to this set dozens of times over the years, the biggest surprise remains Stills versatility.  Yeah, Manassas was a band, but Stills was the heart and soul of the group; penning most of the material and handling most of the lead vocals.  The rockers were all good (I'd argue among the best stuff he's ever recorded), but the country and folk stuff is what continues to sneak up and surprise me -  'Colorado', 'Johnny's Garden' and the classic lost love tune 'So Begins the Task' are all gorgeous.  

 

"Manassas" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Song of Love   (Stephen Stills) - 3:28

Billed as 'The Raven', side one of the album grouped together six of the album's more rock oriented performance.  Leading off with one of Still's most enjoyable rockers, 'Song of Love' brought it all to the table - great melody with just a hint of Latin percussion, blazing lead guitars, and one of his best vocals.  This was the kind of rocker that CSN&Y always wanted to record, but just couldn't get out of their systems.    rating: **** stars

2.a) Rock & Roll Crazies   (Stephen Stills - Dallas Taylor) - 3:24

Co-written with drummer Dallas Taylor and apparently a tribute to groupies, 'Rock & Roll Crazies' continued the aural assault with a killer slice of country-rock.  The difference this time around was that the song placed the emphasis on the rock component.   Here's a YouTube link to a blazing live rendition of the track: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYA-t5OvmDQ&playnext=1&list=PL4D6A3B09178CC716&feature

=results_main   rating: **** stars  

2.b) Cuban Bluegrass   (Stephen Stills - Joe Lala) - 

'Cuban Bluegrass' showcased Stills love of Latin music.  Powered by Joe Lala's percussion )Lala was also responsible for the Spanish shout out), the song was very short, but proved one of the album's catchiest tunes.  Another fantastic rocker.   rating: **** stars

3.) Jet Set (Sigh)  (Stephen Stills) - 4:25

A taunt blues-rocker, 'Jet Set (Sigh)' wasn't particularly original, but the blazing fuzz guitars helped make up for the song's other structural shortcomings.  This YouTube clip is even better than the studio version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMzAcXqHvcs&feature=related  rating: *** stars

4.) Anyway  (Stephen Stills) - 3:21

Another quality rocker that included country and Latin elements, 'Anyway' sported one of the song's best melodies and an engaging group vocal.  Only complaint with this one was the abrupt ending ...      rating: **** stars

5.) Both of Us (Bound To Lose)  (Stephen Stills - Chris Hillman) - 3:00

Penned by Hillman and Stills, 'Both of Us (Bound To Lose)' also found the pair sharing lead vocals.  Easily one of the album's highlights, the first half of the song simply glistened with a beautiful country-rock tinged melody, before shifting and ending in Latin rock jam mode.    rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Fallen Angel   (Stephen Stills) - 2:05

With side two labeled 'The Wilderness', I'm guessing that many listeners (myself included), were totally surprised by Stills' 'Fallen Eagle'.  An outright country number complete with pedal steel and mandolin, the track sounded like something Hillman and Perkins might have recorded with The Flying Burrito Brothers.  While I'm not a massive country fan, the jumpy tune and interesting lyrics made this one surprisingly enjoyable.   rating: *** stars

2.) Jesus Gave Love Away for Free   (Stephen Stills) - 3:00

I remember being totally surprised to discover Stills had written 'Jesus Gave Love Away for Free' (in fact he wrote all six tracks on side two).  Sporting a beautiful country melody, I just assumed Hillman had penned the ballad.  The song was also notable for showcasing the band's wonderful group harmonies - CSN&Y had nothing on these guys.   Kudos to Perkins for the understated pedal steel guitar.  Another country song for people that don't like country.  rating: *** stars

3.) Colorado   (Stephen Stills) - 2:53

One of Stills prettiest and saddest numbers, 'Colorado' was a deserved addition to any 'hits' package.  Another deserved nod to Perkins ...    rating: *** stars

4.) So Begins the Task   (Stephen Stills) - 4:00

I'm a 50 year old man (well my wife and kids might argue the point), but I remember playing this song repeatedly when I was going through a divorce.  To this day 'So Begins the Task' strike a chord of pain whenever I hear it.  Showcasing one of his most beguiling melodies, Stills turned in one of the ultimate breakup songs (the song was supposedly inspired by his split with Judy Collins (who covered the song herself a couple of years later)).  Sounding simultaneously  broken and forlorn and hopeful and resolute, this one was easily as good as anything CS&N or CSN&Y ever recorded.  CSN&Y actually performed the song a couple of times (under the working title 'I Must Learn To Live').  Their version is bouncier and quite nice, but lacks the impact of the Manassas version.   One of the few songs I'd give five stars to ...   rating: ***** stars

5.) Hide It So Deep  (Stephen Stills) - 2:46

'Hide It So Deep' was the first outright disappoint - a straightforward country ballad, the song was pretty enough, but simply too country for my tastes.  rating: ** stars

5.) Don't Look At My Shadow   (Stephen Stills) - 2:31

Sounding like a Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen country-boogie number, initially I thought 'Don't Look At My Shadow' was going to be the second disappointment.  While not a favorite, it did have a bouncy melody and a somewhat funny, quasi-autobiographical lyric.   rating: ** stars

 

(side 3)

1.) It Doesn't Matter  (Chris Hillman - Stephen Stills) - 2:30

The album's first single and probably the best known song (I'd recognize the percussive opening anywhere), 'It Doesn't Matter' was another Hillman-Stills composition.  With an instantly memorable country-rock melody and  with the pair sharing lead vocals, the song had a breezy, radio-ready vibe to it.  Add in a killer Stills guitar solo and that Joe Lala Latin percussion ...  what wasn't there to like?    YouTube has a live performances recorded for a European television program.  If anything, the live version of the song is even better: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESo0UvcRBY4  rating: **** stars

2.) Johnny's Garden  (Stephen Stills) - 2:46

Widely mistaken as a nod to John Lennon, with a lilting, peaceful melody, Stills' acoustic ballad 'Johnny's Garden' was another track that sounded like it belonged on a CSN&Y album.  Anyone who loves Buffalo Springfield's "Bluebird" is liable to love this track.   rating: **** stars

3.) Bound To Fall   (Mike Brewer - Tom Mastin) - 1:54

The lone non-original on the album, 'Bound To Fall' was interesting in that it recalled something from Stills' Buffalo Springfield days.  Kicked along by some strident acoustic guitars and multi-tracked group vocals made this another hidden treasure.  Anyone know what made the strange bass burp sounds ?   For some reason co-writer Tom Mastin wasn't given a writing credit.  Here's another YouTube clip of a European television performance and once again, the live take is even better than the studio version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBAwB5CyKKU&feature=related  rating: **** stars

4.) How Far  (Stephen Stills) - 2:52

'How Far' was another breezy country-rocker with the emphasis on rock.  On another album this one probably would have been a standout performances, but surrounded by all these other treasures, it fell to also-rans status.   rating: *** stars

4.) Move Around  (Stephen Stills) - 4:17

Opening up with some belching synthesizer (Moog III programmed by Malcolm Cecil and played by Stills), 'Move Around' was a slightly acid-tinged acoustic ballad with a pretty melody and some nice Stills vocals.  That said,  the bizarre synthesizer touches had to be heard.   Quite cool.   rating: *** stars

5.) The Love Gangster  (Stephen Stills - Bill Wyman) - 2:52

'The Love Gangster' would have been interesting if for no other reason that it was a collaboration with Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman.  Not only did Wyman co-write the tune; he also played on the track. An upbeat, almost funky number with great fuzz and wah-wah guitar, Stills and company sounded like they were having a blast on this one.  Yes, you read that right - funky ...   Who would have thought of describing Stephen Stills and Bill Wyman with that adjective?   rating: **** stars

 

(side 4)
1.) What To Do  (Stephen Stills - 4:44

'What To Do' was another personal favorite.  The first time I heard it, the song reminded me a bit of early Traffic, but the more I heard it, the more it struck me as being a CS&N outtake.  Kicked along by the wonderful title track hook (which sure sounded like it included some of those patented CS&N harmonies),  Another country-tinged number for folks who don't like country and you knew that Stills was lying through his teeth when he sang "I'm not the one to tell you what to do, I have no desire to run your life ... "   rating: **** stars

2.) Right Now  (Stephen Stills - 3:00

A straight-forward, no frills rocker, 'Right Now' captured the band at their very best.  Stills turned in a blazing solo on this one.   rating: **** stars

3.) The Treasure (Take One)  (Stephen Stills - 8:09

Without a doubt one of the album highlights, 'The Treasure (Take One)'  started out as a catchy, anthem reflection on lost love (another Judy Collins heartbreak song ?) and then suddenly turned into a fierce blue-rocker that should dismiss any doubts about Stills guitar playing prowess.  His slashing wah wah guitar simply had to be heard on this track.  Eight minutes seldom flies by as quickly.  As good as the studio version was, judging by the attached YouTube performances,  the live version packed even more of a wallop:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLqfqt473j8&feature=related      rating: **** stars

4.) Blues Man  (Stephen Stills - 4:05

The album ended with the subdued 'Blues Man'.  Just Stills on acoustic 12 string guitar, the results were surprisingly impressive - okay, the moaning scat section was needless, but wow, the man could play.       rating: *** stars

 

The album was also tapped for a series of singles.  

 

- 1971's It Doesn't Matter' b/w 'Rock and Roll Crazies - Cuban Bluegrass' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2876)

- 1972's 'Rock and Roll Crazies' b/w 'Colorado' (Atlantic catalog number 45 2888)

- 1972's 'Isn't It About Time' b/w ''So Many Times' (Atlantic catalog number 45 2959)

 

The European market also saw another single:

 

- 1972's 'The Treasure (Take One)' b/w 'So Begins the Task - Colorado' 

 

Backed by an extensive tour (they routinely played three hour concerts), including European dates (where Stills met his future wife French singer/songwriter Veronique Sanson), the album proved a big seller, peaking at # 4 on the US charts.  Not bad for a double LP.  Which bring up an interesting question.  With all of that going for the album, why does the album get lost amidst the rest of the CSN&Y family catalog,  Maybe because of its length, or sheer diversity, today this album is all but forgotten; even Stills heaping abuse on it.   Who knows, but as mentioned before, "Manassas" is simply one of the best '70s albums out there.  And you can still find original copies at a reasonable price !!!   Do yourself a favor; find a vinyl copy with the gigantic poster and lyrics - it's still a bargain.

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Down the Road

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7250
Year:
 1973

Country/State: US

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 821

Price: $12.00

 

Coming on the heels of one of the best debuts ever (and a double album too boot), Manassas' sophomore album "Down the Road" was greeted with lukewarm critical and commercial embraces.  And while the album wasn't  nearly as good as the debut, it was far better than reviews would have you believe. Even more than on the debut, this time out it was clear Manassas was Stephen Stills' band.  In addition to producing (with Chris Hillman and Dallas Taylor), Stills was responsible for writing, or co-writing nine of the ten selections.  (Interestingly, the lone non-Stills composition; Chris Hillman's blazing country-rocker 'Lies' may have been the standout performance).  Musically the album wasn't a major departure from the debut.   That meant you got another mixture of conventional rock ('Business On the Streets'), country-rock ('Do You Remember the Americans'), and Latin-esque flavors (Pensamiento'').  Since I loved it on the debut, I didn't have a problem hearing it this time around.  Yeah, it may have lacked the freshness of the debut, and you got the feeling Stills and company were collectively tired and growing frustrated, but song-for-song the collection was pretty strong with 'Isn't It About Time', 'Lies' and the title track standing as material that would have matched up well with the debut.  It's one of those albums that I've grown to enjoy more and more over the years.

 

"Down the Road" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Isn't It About Time   (Stephen Stills)  - 3:02

With Al Perkins stinging pedal steel guitar (Joe Walsh on slide guitar ?), to my ears 'Isn't It About Time' was every bit as good as anything on the debut album.  The anti-war sentiments were clearly there, though not as blatant as 'Ohio' and it was one of the most rock-oriented efforts in the band's entire catalog and an album highlight; probably explaining why it was tapped as a single.   rating; **** stars

2.) Lies  (Chris Hillman) - 2:55

Folks still equate Manassas with Stills, overlooking the fact the band had a multitude of talented players including Chris Hillman.  A blazing country-rock with some killer Stills fuzz guitar, 'Lies' is one of the best things Hillman every wrote.  Kind of makes you wish he'd pursued this direction in his solo efforts.   rating: **** stars

3.) Pensamiento  (Stephen Stills - Nelson Escoto) - 2:36

Stills' Latin stuff has always been hit-or-miss for me, but in this instance the results were quite interesting.  The Sydney George's Herbie Mann-styled flute solo didn't do much for me, but otherwise the track showed quite a bit on energy with Al Perkins showing a pedal steel guitar could truly be funky .   rating: *** stars

4.) So Many Times   (Chris Hillman - Stephen Stills) - 3:30

A gorgeous country-tinged ballad, 'So Many Times' was a nice precursor to the direction Hillman would follow in his post-Manassas career.  Hillman handled lead vocals with Stills on harmony.   Stunningly pretty - country for folks that don't like country.  rating: *** stars

5.) Business On the Streets  (Stephen Stills) - 2:55

Nice slinky Stills rocker showcasing some first -rate slide guitar.   rating: **** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) Do You Remember the Americans  (Stephen Stills) - 2:05

In spite of the title, 'Do You Remember the Americans' was a country number complete with some great Hillman mandolin.   Loved the group vocals ...   So if Stills was upset over truckers willingness to pick up hitch hikers in the early '70s, you have to wonder what he thinks about the country's current dysfunctionality.   Not sure where it was recorded and the sound quality is poor, but YouTube has a live performance of the song at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROU13fY1QHs  Joe Lala looked pretty bored slapping a pair of tambourines together.   rating: *** stars

2.) Down the Road  (Stephen Stills) - 3:16

Nice Joe Walsh slide guitar; sensible lyrics warning about life's excesses, and Stills sounded good singing in an unusually low key.   rating: **** stars

3.) City Junkies  (Stephen Stills) - 2:50

The album's sleeper cut and the song that would have been the best fit for a CSN, or CSN&Y LP.   Only complaint was Stills vocal sounded a bit strained on this one ...   like he had a bad head cold.   rating: *** stars

4.) Guagunco de Vero  (Stephen Stills - Joe Lala) - 2:51

'Guagunco de Vero' was another slice of Stills Latin rock, though it was apparently inspired by future wife/French pop singer Véronique Sanson (whom Stills met while Manassas was touring France).  Guess it wouldn't have been the same if he'd written a Jacque Brel-styled chason.  Regardless, this one   wasn't nearly as good as the earlier Latin flavored track.  Why it was tapped as the first single off the album has always puzzled me.   rating: ** stars

5.) Rollin' My Stone  (Stephen Stills - Fuzzy Samuels) - 4:50

'Rollin; My Stone' was easily the album's best rocker and the one that sounded the most like a 'group" effort.  rating: **** stars

 

As mentioned above, the album spun off a pair of singles:

 

- 1973's 'Guagunco de Vero' b/w 'Down the Road' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2917)

- 1973's 'Isn't It About Time' b/w 'So Many Times' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2959)  # 56 pop

 

 

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