Stephen Stills – Live at Berkeley 1971
When younger I preferred progressive rock music (King Crimson, ELP) but I came to appreciate groups like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Many fans had favorites – some leaned toward David Crosby, a good harmony singer & former member of The Byrds. Many liked the rockier contributions of Neil Young (“Country Girl”) & though Graham Nash wrote many beautiful songs his solo output wasn’t overwhelming.
But I gravitated toward Stephen Stills.
He was consistent, exciting & focused with guitar work that was intriguing. His solo career was filled with well-developed tunes, so much so, that when he formed Manassas I enjoyed it more than my friends who were CSN&Y fans.
So, from his first U.S. solo tour, I found a curiosity. The original 15-cuts (produced by Stills) made up a historic & nostalgic 67-minute reissue Live at Berkeley 1971 (Drops April 28–Iconic/Gold Hill/Omnivore Recordings) which was re-produced by Kevin McCormick & Stills.
The Berkley Community Theater is the setting & he opened each show with an acoustic set & worked up to his electric performance with horns. Stills did 2 shows joined by friends David Crosby (vocals/guitar) on 2 songs (“You Don’t Have To Cry,” & “The Lee Shore”) & former CSN&Y drummer Dallas Taylor on later tracks.
In actuality, these capture Stills at peak power. He’s not Elvis, or Tom Jones – but he was himself with alternate instrumentation. He added soul & acoustic blues, was a troubadour & a balladeer & he was Stills being Stills. It’s never too late to take a nostalgic walk down memory lane during an exciting live performance by a 60s legend who had a more respectful career than most.
The guitar picking has clarity. Stills’ country music endeavor “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free” is tailored nicely. The show sounds as if it came off smoothly. The inclusion of David Crosby was a fine idea, but it was also a good decision to keep it slim. There was always friction between the boys of CSN&Y. Not evident here.
It all goes down professionally. “You Don’t Have To Cry,” & “The Lee Shore,” are 2 good tunes by Stills & Crosby – maintaining the beloved CSN&Y tradition. “Word Game,” & “Sugar Babe,” are exceptional. Stills’ raggedy man vocal at its best. A voice like this conveys it. Stills is a good entertainer. The horns kick in with the tune “Bluebird Revisited” & add quite a fervor to others.
Highlights – “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free,” “You Don’t Have To Cry,” “The Lee Shore,” “Word Game,” “Sugar Babe,” the rollicking “49 Bye-Byes/For What It’s Worth,” banjo-driven “Know You’ve Got To Run,” “Bluebird Revisited” & “Cherokee.”
Musicians – Stills (guitar/vocals/piano/banjo), David Crosby (guitar/vocals), Dallas Taylor (drums), Steve Fromholz (guitar/vocals), Sidney George (alto sax/flute), Paul Harris (organ), Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels (bass), Joe Lala (congas/percussion) with The Memphis Horns: Jack Hale, Jr. (trombone), Roger Hopps (trumpet/flugelhorn), Wayne Jackson (trumpet), Andrew Love (tenor sax) & Floyd Newman (sax).
CD photo by Henry Diltz. CD @ https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/live-at-berkeley-1971/ & https://stephenstills.com/products/stephen-stills-live-at-berkeley-1971-cd