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BackCatalog – To The Seventies with “Manassas”

manassasIt’s true. We are  lifetime requisite-lovers of 1970’s music. There might have been nothing better about being young than spending a long summer’s day at the pool or a chilly December evening wrapped in a warm winter’s bed while the a.m. radio pumped those melodic, mysterious because they-were-once-faceless (before MTV) voices and sounds into our psyche. The seventies gave us: 3 Dog Night, David Bowie and glam rock, great soul, funk, disco, punk, KISS, early techno with 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, and even a song with a great xylophone solo (Starbuck’s Moonlight Feels Right) way before college kids rocked out to the Violent Femmes’  xylophone ditty in Gone Daddy Gone.

While we thought we had heard just about all of the 1970s catalogue of music…we ran across one more gem. Hearing  a great song on local station WNKU we did some investigating and found the Stephen Stills voice we have long loved in new material to us.

Listening to any 1970’s Crosby, Stills, & Nash (CSN) song and comparing it to a solo Stephen Stills work, you immediately hear where the base sound of CSN comes from. The harmonies, hooks, and complexity of song structure show up, when listening to Stephen Stills, in spades.

In 1972 Stills took a break from CSN and teamed with ex-Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother Chris Hillman and others to  release the debut and consequently the last album from the super group Manassas. The vinyl, double album was broken up into four sections corresponding to each side of the lp:

The first five songs are under “The Raven” banner and feature some outstanding slide guitar and blues-based songs.  Jet Set (Sigh) can hold a candle to any blues number you will ever come across and The Black Keys would be envious. There is also some Caribbean rhythms thrown in. The second set of songs is classified as “The Wilderness” and is mostly country based.  Colorado is a beautiful song because it demonstrates a clear foundation that many of today’s alt-country performers have built upon. The third side of the album is called “Consider” and relies on the rock and folk mixture that was prevalent at the time.  Listening to the first few songs and you can clearly hear the influence of the electrified  Dylan.  “The Love Gangster” is a rare collaboration with the Stone’s Bill Wyman that will make you want to move.  The final set of songs is under the classic moniker “Rock N Roll Is Here To Stay” and is all that is needed to be said.

This ambitious work rambles from here to there and yet, it is one of the most cohesive albums we have ever heard. The key word here is album….not one or two good songs per cd – that will be downloaded individually on itunes with the rest ignored…a work of musical art. Albums are what really made 1970’s music; works of music meant to be taken as a whole. So, while we spent our youth listening to singles that were funneled to us on the radio, great artists like Stephen Stills were making musical art on a grand scale. We feel lucky we found this work after many years.

HighStreet. Cincinnati

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