|Just Roll Tape: April 26th, 1968
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Stephen Stills found himself in a New York recording studio, laid down a few hundred dollars, told the engineer to roll tape, and this collection of songs is what came about. Finally remastered and released to the public, this album shows the beginnings of Crosby, Still, and Nash.
The title and cover art effectively tell the story of this dusty gem. Captured fly-on-the-wall style in an impromptu live-in-the-studio burst after a Judy Collins session on which the 23-year-old Stephen Stills played, the soon-to-be ex-leader of Buffalo Springfield (and Collins's ex-boyfriend) unleashes unplugged, occasionally incomplete versions of songs he had recently written and wanted to get on tape. Discovered in 1978 and nearly discarded, the reels found their way to Graham Nash in 2003, who encouraged Stills to release them. He finally did so in 2007, nearly 40 years after the original session, and the result is the most revelatory album in Stills's bulging catalog. Even with remastering, the sound is on the crude side. Nevertheless, early takes of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Helplessly Hoping," and "Wooden Ships," all of which would appear in far more polished versions on Crosby, Stills & Nash's self-titled debut, are sung with a passion and honesty seldom exposed by the singer/songwriter. Stills's voice sometimes cracks, his guitar work intermittently sounds muddy, and these are definitely works in progress, some of which never appeared on an official release. Yet the artist is caught arguably at the peak of his substantial talents, laying down soon-to-be-classic melodies while they were fresh in his head. Folk/rock historians and Stills fans will surely be thrilled with this nascent, unvarnished set. Though Just Roll Tape may be too raw for some, it finds Stills at the crucial stage right before superstardom changed his--and popular music's--future forever. --Hal Horowitz
- any early Stills is a treasure
A great early representation of Steven Stills in a solo reflective session. I thought the sound production was good for analog to digital conversion and If you are a Stills fan in any of his collaborative or solo efforts you will be happy with this diamond in the slightest rough. ...more info
- Great glimpse into Stills' transition to CSNY
In his prime, Stephen Stills was a powerhouse as a musician. Great bluesy voice, strong songwriter, and versatile guitarist. This is a glimpse into this period, a transitional year when Buffalo Springfield had disbanded and CSN was incubating. Better yet, this is just Stephen and his guitar. And the sound quality is surprisingly good.
Believe it or not, I went to see Buffalo Springfield but couldn't get in the door cause I couldn't pay the $3 ticket to get in. I was 14. I have since managed to see different configurations of C,S,N,Y fifteen or twenty times and it is always a treat. Wouldn't hesitate to see any of this group again. My one wish is that someway, a live recording will be released of Stephen and Neil's shows that resulted in the 'Long May You Run' album. Pauly Pavilion at UCLA was one of these shows. Without a doubt, the best dueling guitars I have ever heard.
Wolfgang's Vault has some really good CSNY shows, including accoustic shows. Check out that website and you're in for a treat....more info
- Roll the Tape into 1968
Stephen Stills, what can one say about him that already hasn't been said. Still's is a great musician and one of the most prolific songwriter's of our time and he put his stamp all over the 1960's and 70's music scene. One can tap into some of his best work in the "Buffalo Springfield" and "CSN" boxed sets. And there should be another box set out there for his solo work. And Stills is still churning out mighty fine music and digs deep on the track "Ole Man Trouble" off his 2005 solo album "Man Alive!"
This CD is more geared for Stills fans. Back in 1968, Stills recorded a demo tape of new songs and after 40 years; this tape resurfaced, was dusted off and are now available in digital format for the first time. These are not polished studio songs, just Stills and his guitar in all its raw form.
But if you are new to Stephen Stills music and are looking to buy your first Stills CD, I really wouldn't recommend this one just yet. I would begin with his first solo album, 1970's "Stephen Stills" and then if you want to splurge, pick up 1971's "Stephen Stills 2" and the 1972's "Manassas" albums. Today's generation really could use a career spanning multiple greatest hits CD available and not just his 1975-78 Columbia recordings double CD or a hard to find "Best of" import...anyone out there listening?
But for Stills fans, I highly recommend this CD. As I was listening to "So Begins the Task", I felt elated as I was transported back in time. "Roll the Tape" is one special rare treat.
- catching the sparrow
It must have taken guts for Stephen to release this raw collection of tracks culled from an impromptu recording session in April of 1968. Stills was in a musical limbo, having just taken flight from the Buffalo Springfield, the nest that had nurtured his talents, and not yet soaring with the vocal and songwriting talents of David Crosby and Graham Nash. Several of the songs included here would receive their definitive treatment only under the auspices of their compelling harmonies.
Despite taking guts to do it, I'm unsure why Stephen chose to release these recordings. This is the type of stuff that bootleggers aspire to getting their hands on. Yet this tape somehow managed to evade the greedy hands of those Audio Treetop Flyers. They have survived to see a day when studio out-takes and alternates of pristine, overdubbed-beyond-reality, officially released numbers have become the stuff that paychecks are made of. But Stephen doesn't really need another paycheck, now does he? The artist's brief comments in the liner notes state that the songs "now feel like great friends when they were really young". Perhaps that statement gives insight as to why Stephen has chosen to grant these tracks their liberation. Great friends don't let great friends languish in a vault. And have subsequent versions of `Wooden Ships' and `Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' begun to feel old and haggard, and this is Stephen's way of infusing them with a renewed essence? Is it an opportunity to revel in the creative process that yielded timeless masterworks? How about blind nostalgia?
Regardless of Stephen's motivations, I appreciate him delving into what must be a huge cache of audio recordings spanning decades. If nothing else, Stephen's 1968 impulse to "make a tape of my new songs" puts a number of his compositions into a chronological and social context. There are four, forty-year-old new songs (`All I Know Is What You Tell Me', `The Doctor Will See You Now', `Judy', and `Dreaming of Snakes'). Of that quartet, only `The Doctor Will See You Now' strikes me as a song that may have evolved into a composition challenging for grooves on a Stills album. With lyrics like "how can you think when you've thought everything through", the song possesses a `Positively 4th Street' feel, and features an intriguing melody as well. All four songs are compelling in their own right however. `Dreaming of Snakes' sports cryptic lyrics, and `Judy' serves as a precursor to the major heartbreak that would be `Suite: Judy Blue Eyes'. This lesser ode to Judy Collins offers intimate fare such as, "I'll do anything to please you... will you let me try? Running around in circles like a bird in flight, just above my head you hover like you want to light... but you can't decide where".
Among the tracks since recorded and released are abridged versions of `Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' (sans the vibrant and familiar coda), `Wooden Ships' (sans the imaginary dialog between two soldiers as the opening stanzas), and `Bumblebee' (suffering an all too bootleg like, tape-malfunction-induced termination). Versions of `So Begins the Task', `Change Partners', and `Helplessly Hoping' seem finished, while the definitive acoustic version of `Black Queen' will always be found on Stills' first solo project (check out Stephen's `Supershow' performance of the song for the definitive electric version). `Know You Got To Run' would undergo the most drastic revision, being performed later at a slower pace and adapted to banjo. The gem in the bunch, even minus its coda, is the intense, even spellbinding Suite to Judy Blue Eyes. This is likely the earliest recorded version of the song, and having the opportunity to hear it in its embryonic form, perhaps being performed for Judy herself, is nothing less than startling.
The entire disc times out at only forty minutes, and seven of those are devoted to the bonus track, `Treetop Flyer'. This is clearly a rehearsal take, probably not more than ten or fifteen years old given Stephen's raspy voice, and the omission of the "....I'll fly guns..." lyric, which has more recently been abandoned. It's not a particularly sturdy version, suffering from a false start, although the take does get `into the zone' from time to time. It's inclusion is a bit curious. Given that these are essentially demo recordings, it's no surprise that almost half of these undeveloped tracks time out in less than three minutes each, with five more in the two minute or less range. The liner notes don't add much weight either, but Graham Nash does contribute four period photographs, and reportedly gave Stephen the kick in the butt to release the disc. It's nice to have. Thanks Graham. Thanks, Judy. Thanks, Stephen.
- For The Love Of Judy
Obviously, Mr. Stills did not set out to make definitive versions of these songs. He just wanted to get them down before he forgot anything, and to work on them with Mr. Crosby.
However, it's a fascinating glimpse into the process that took place, and a rare chance to hear Mr. Stills pre-production. With the exception of the first CSN album, his work was often over-produced, so to hear him in raw form is refreshing.
99.9% of all the songwriters in this world would die to have written this batch of songs. Any body of work that would lure Neil Young into your band would have to be pretty astounding, and so it is.
Much love and prayers go out to Stephen in his fight against prostate cancer....more info
- Even better Than I Thought It Would Be
This CD is so simple, yet so great. It is Stephen Stills "raw." Just he and his guitar and to me nothing else is needed. The take of "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" and "And So Begins the Task" especially stand on their own as not having to have backing harmonies for them to still be heartfelt songs. I saw Stephen Stills at the Wiltern theatre MANY years go and the performance still stands fresh in my mind. This CD brings back alot of that time. Definitely a must buy for Stills fans....more info
- Unplugged type recordings pre release (and sounding great)
Recorded post Buffalo Springfield's demise, at the time in April 1968 when he was involved with Judy Collins (this tape was done after a Collins recording session) and kicking around with the likes of Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield, this recording finds Stills clearly in hot form and getting his act together just before CSN was to materialise later that year.
Done solo and acoustically Stills covers a good mix of songs either later recorded solo or with other groups he was involved with plus others that have yet to see the light, and was clearly in fine form. The more now well known items(Change Partners, Wooden Ships and Suite:Judy Blue Eyes) were in fact very well developed structurally changing little in the final recording. A great insight to his creative process and with the great feature of just hearing and enjoying his great vocal range again.
The only strange aspect is Stills apparently left the master tape with the studio (where it was later put into a skip when the studio closed down before being rescued by a fan who recently approached Graham Nash) and simply took away a cassette tape at the end of the session - bet you wouldn't get many new or old acts permitting that type of naive enthusiasm these days!...more info
- highly accessible
A simple review here:
I am a 'weak' CSNY fan. (caught them live, respect them as artists, but only own a few cd's). I so admire Stephen Stills' talent, but i'm definitely not a close follower of his career. Many of his great songs were recorded years before i was born!
That being said, i do love demo recordings and try to collect them. There's a natural feel, something more intimate and definitely less refined, but you get a look at the basic feel of the melodies as they existed in the artist's mind at that time.
These recordings ARE demos--nothing to rave about in mad artistry, of course. But from the first listen I was hooked. I played it for 2 of my friends the day i downloaded it and they both loved it instantly as well.
I totally recommend this cd. Probably devoted Stills fans and newbies would like it best (IMHO).
That's it from me. Thought an unsophisticated review may be useful to some....since there are others out there who may be interested music lovers but not knowledgeable followers of Stills/CSNY.
- The Intense Mr Stills
I have been listening to Stephen Stills for 40 years, and I am always ready to hear any of his works. I once read that he is so intent on giving a great performance that he "hurls" before his performances. Whether it was Buffalo Springfield, CSN, CSN&Y, Manassas or any number of collaborations. This disc is the glue that held and holds all of them together. There are very few that deserve the title of musical genius, and Mr. Stephen Stills is one of those. ...more info
- Of Historical Interest Only
I approached this release with trepidation after reading through the reviews, and with good reason. If, like me, you spent a good portion of your teenage years listening to CSN/CSNY, you know every word and every guitar lick of every song. With the exception of Black Queen and the similarly gritty Treetop Flyer, I was consistently disappointed, because I found myself anticipating the exquisite harmonies and vocal range of Crosby and Nash.I was a Stills fan after CSNY broke up, but this early stuff is just too raw for me. ...more info
- An early treasure
I remember first being taken with Stephen Stills songs and guitar playing from the first listen of my big sis's CSN album in the summer of 1969. My first concert at age 12 was to see Stephen and Manassas at Carnegie Hall in 1971. I have so loved his early stuff, especially his acoustic tunes. This album is a treat for longtime fans, especially those of us who tend to favor him in his young voice, spare and simple, before time and overproduction got in the way.
Thanks Stephen for releasing this, and good luck with your recovery....more info
- Stripped-Down Acoustic Stills
JUST ROLL TAPE is like finding a missing musical link, in this case one that was lost for almost 40 years. On April 26, 1968 --- 9 days before Buffalo Springfield's farewell concert and six months before recording the first CSN album --- Steve Still's stayed in the studio after a Judy Collins Session to put down on tape some new songs he was working on. Some would end up on CSN's first record, some on his solo and Manassas recordings, some never to be heard again. We hear Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Helplessly Hoping, and Wooden Ships as they were being birthed (or close to), Change Partners and Now Begins the Task, Black Queen, and others. The "unreleased songs" are not throw-aways, just lost. The stand-out from these is The Doctor Will See You Now -- who knows why this never made it on to a commercial recording. Just Roll Tape is worth a listen , and then another, and another....more info
- The artist, the art
Strip away the overdone studio effects and you get the artist performing his art. A little rough but still a gem....more info
- Stills showcasing his talents.
If you liked 'Live at Massey Hall' by Neil Young, you will surely love this album. Raw and unrefined, it is Stephen Stills if not at his best, atleast at his most creative. I initially purchased this album to look foward to some CSN songs in their premeditated forms, suprisingly what I found was some of the most creative and rhythmically complex pieces of music I have ever heard. Some examples include, 'Dreaming of Snakes' with it's heavy, yet folky chords, down to the soft ballad 'Judy'. If you prefer music that showcases heart and soul from it's domiciled artist, look no further. In fact, just roll the tape....more info
- seriously, it's not THAT great
Look at all the other reviews of this disc. They either say "I love Crosby, Stills, and Nash's music, so I love this" or they say "I love Stephen Stills' music, so I love this." But what would you say if you didn't already know this music from its later, more polished versions? You'd hear a good but occasionally sloppy guitarist singing folky, country-tinged songs, about half of them of very good quality. Some of these songs didn't show up in his later records for a good reason: they're dull. These demo versions of "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" and "Helplessly Hoping" are well worth a listen, but "Wooden Ships" has often been performed better....more info
- A Revelation!
I won't repeat the context and background from the other excellent reviews, I just want to add that Stills' guitar and voice have never sounded fresher, more honest, or more passionate. Early versions of chestnuts such as "Helplessly Hoping," "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" or "Wooden Ships" are a revelation, exposing a top-notch acoustic guitarist working through some of the most iconic songs of our time. It's impossible to not add the harmonies yourself to these songs, that's how burned into our brain cells these songs are.
But Stephen's muse, poetry and vision, the engine to so many great songs over the years, are here. Buy this record....more info
- Problem with the recording date?
A couple of anomalies I hope others might be able to clear up:
1) Amazon "Product Description" has this session taking place in a New York recording studio, and the "Editorial Review" describes the recording after a Judy Collins session. This must have been for her LP "Who Knows Where the Time Goes." But -- the liner notes to this LP (CD) says that the sessions were recorded at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles.
2) The Buffalo Springfield Box Set's booklet includes a list of concert dates, and it has the band performing April 26, 1968, at Exhibition Hall, Arizona State Fairgrounds, in Phoenix, Arizona.
So something isn't quite right....more info
- Stephen Stills at the Peak of his Powers
This was recorded after Buffalo Springfield and before CSN. It's a demo, unplugged, just a man and his acoustic guitar, one take per song, no overdubs. Stills voice is in rare form and he is giving every thing he has. You can hear the yearning and the ambition in every song. My favorites are the ones I'm unfamiliar with because it is like finding a great lost album from 1968. Of the songs I am familiar with, "Change Partners", "Helplessly Hoping" and "Wooden Ships" sound better to these ears without all the high-gloss production that would show up later on official recordings. Only "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" sounds empty without those sweet harmonies from Crosby and Nash. And "Black Queen" doesn't come close to the version on his solo debut, especially the guitar playing. The sound quality is a little rough, especially with headphones. But through speakers it's barely noticeable. Recommended for fans of singer-songwriters and fans of Stephen Stills. Not recommended for fans of albums with a lot of studio polish. ...more info
- Classics in the Making
This album is worth having merely for the fact that you get to hear the origins of songs -- or portions of lyrics -- that ultimately wound up on five different albums featuring Mr. Stills. And to think they were all there in 1968 before he hooked up with Nash and Crosby. I like the raw element to these takes, especially listening to Stephen tuning his guitar just before breaking into the opening of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. The previously unreleased cuts are gems as well, and it's a treat to hear them nearly 40 years after he first laid them down on tape. This is a worthy purchase for any Stills fan....more info
- The Stephen Stills Acoustic Companion
This little flawed masterpiece has all the charm of a first take. Songs that were later hits are presented here with the vocal a little off mike, a few mis-notes on the guitar and a muffled word or two. The boyish, sincere appeal of the lyrics and music make up for any errors in what was intended to be a demo anyway. There's plenty of room to add your own harmonies to Crosby, Stills and Nash celebrated Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Helplessly Hoping, Wooden Ships, and supply a new ooh or ahh to the more unfamiliar songs. It's tempting to apply a Freudian interpretation to a song about dreaming of snakes, but its best to just put this one on the CD at your bedside table, listen to it late at night, and maybe wish you were Judy....more info
- Folk to Rock Masters
So many BRILLIANT songwriters and musicians came out of the 60's!! Stills is truly in a class by himself.......beyond prolific and brilliant!!!!
A virtual HIT WRITING MACHINE since his days with Buffalo Springfield, here he is concertizing as if still doing his folk thing down in NY's east village......laying the groundwork before making CSN&Y a mega million dollar decades long musical institution. A RARE view of "A HIT" while it is still rough......before it becomes an international HIT!! ...more info
- "Helplessly Hoping" this would be released and here it is!
As the author of the Jefferson Airplane book "Take Me To A Circus Tent" and a former radio disc-jockey, I am often asked to write and or discuss various music supplies and recordings from the 60's and 70's.
"Just Roll Tape: April 26th, 1968 [LIVE]" finally sees the light of day almost forty years removed from Stephen Stills one man recording session in New York City. Stills originally was invited to appear on the Judy Collins "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" LP. When the work ended for Judy he ceased an opportunity to lay down a multitude of tracks that were often in their infancy.
The fidelity once Stills finally consented to the vaults being opened is fine. When critics throw around the word "Muddy" it seems rather disingenuous. The music is Stills on an acoustic guitar and vocals. It isn't as if there are a plethora of musicians performing at the same time.
It is obvious that the material will be best suited for the Stills fan that has numerous albums in their collection, in any combination from Buffalo Springfield to CSN, (Sometimes Y) and solo. The hunger for vintage tracks all these years has been answered with 13 tunes that will satisfy the appetite for the young musician with the ability of a thoroughbred, playing, singing, and composing.
"Change Partners" in the most basic format is already constructed as a terrific song with the catchy and thought provoking lyrics. "Black Queen" shows Stills tasty acoustic playing. His riffs and fills have been noticed for their construction since the Buffalo Springfield days. Here with no refinement is a touch of the blues meets folk. "Bumblebee (Do You Need A Place to Hide?)" is also in the blues spectrum, in fact you can picture him on a stool with a made to do stage in a club in Chicago. "Dreaming Of Snakes" has the CSNY feel but is composed in such a way that the song can cross several avenues and feel at home. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is presented in such superlative fashion that if Stills were only a solo artist it isn't far fetched that this would be the version that has been a staple of the rock and roll airwaves. "Helplessly Hoping" is a creation of genius. The well delivered vocals and instrumentation in early form have already left a calling card. "Wooden Ships" with one lone vocalist and guitar is no less passionate than the phenomenal versions delivered by CSN and the Jefferson Airplane. Remember the first time the lyrics "Horror grips us as we watch you die" emanated from your turntable? The words put a choke hold on your throat as if you lost a battle with a python.
Special thanks to Graham Nash for bugging Stills to get this on the store shelves!
Enjoy the music and be well,
Author of the Jefferson Airplane book "Take Me To A Circus Tent"