Stephen Stills – Live At Berkeley 1971 – Omnivore Recordings

by | Apr 22, 2023 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

A previously unreleased Stephen Stills 1971 concert is a welcome addition to his legacy.

Stephen Stills – Live At Berkeley 1971 – Omnivore Recordings OVLP-515 [4/28/2023] stereo double vinyl, 69:07 ****1/2:

(Stephen Stills – guitar, piano, banjo, vocals; David Crosby – guitar, vocals; Steve Fromholz – guitar, vocals; Sidney George – alto saxophone, flute; Paul Harris – organ; Joe Lala – congas, percussion; Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels – bass; Dallas Taylor – drums; with The Memphis Horns: Jack Hale Sr. – trombone; Roger Hopps – trumpet, flugelhorn; Wayne Jackson – trumpet; Andrew Love – tenor saxophone; Floyd Newman – saxophone)

The emergence of the American folk rock scene in the 1960’s was a pivotal time for artists like Stephen Stills. Forever in the shadow of The Beatles and Beach Boys, California became a launching pad for a new musical era. One of the quintessential West Coast bands was Buffalo Springfield. Even with high-level talent like Neil Young and Richie Furay, Stills was the star of this ensemble, writing songs like “For What It’s Worth”, ‘Go And Say Goodbye”, “Rock And Roll Woman” and “Bluebird”. His next band, Crosby Stills & Nash became the first rock supergroup, with Stills handling most of the instrumentals (guitars, bass, keyboards). The group added Neil Young for touring, forming an even bigger super group. At the same time, Stills released his self-titled solo album (featuring the single, “Love The One You’re With”) and Stephen Stills 2. A year later, he would front another group, Manassas which garnered critical acclaim. His music is diverse, including folk, rock, jazz and Latin. He continues to record and perform.

Omnivore Records has released an early live recording for the first time. Stephen StillsLive At Berkeley 1971 features Stills alone, in small ensemble and backed by a larger band, including The Memphis Horns. He is also joined by the late David Crosby for two numbers. A lot of the material is from the first pair of solo albums, but there is a CSN song and one from Buffalo Springfield. Side A opens with a funky, stripped-down (acoustic guitar and congas) version of the jubilant “Love The One You’re With”. Stills’ scratchy tenor voice is in good form and his rhythmic guitar is excellent. Another acoustic gem “Do For Others” is rendered in two-part harmony. This introspective, poignant song reflects the compositional skills and instrumental gravitas of this musician. Continuing the “acoustic” part of the set, “Jesus Gave Love Away For Free” (from Manassas) can be described as soulful country with bluegrass shading. The audience erupts as David Crosby lends his unique harmony to the CSN tune, “You Don’t Have To Cry” (Note: this is rumored to be the first song that CSN  sang together). Crosby’s ethereal “The Lee Shore” glows with warmth and Crosby’s phrasing and baritone articulate sailing imagery. Stills delivers a nimble guitar solo and harmonizes seamlessly. 

In the first of back-to-back songs (“Word Game”) from Stephen Stills 2, a mesmerizing solo guitar and vocal performance distill the socio-political unrest in the country. Switching to piano on “Sugar Babe” there is gospel inflection and the context is more upbeat (“…people ain’t made to live apart…”). Stills’ bluesy reverie from the CSN album (“49 Bye-Byes”) picks up steam in the chorus, before returning to the laid-back aesthetics. The second half of the medley (“For What It’s Worth”) is reinvented to an up tempo rocker with Stills adding a muscular touch. Approximating a Delta vibe, “Black Queen” is down ’n’ dirty with plaintive guitar and vocals. “Know You’ve Got To Run” is rendered on banjo with a steady pulse and plenty of expressive hooks. In an expansive soul-rock arrangement, “Bluebird Revisited” introduces The Memphis Horns, who shift between slow-burning intensity and explosive rock and roll. The final chorus is a wild Latin-infused jam with a crisp trumpet solo before it returns to slower blues. This bigger sound feels like a soul revue, especially on “Lean On Me”. 

Stills ventures into jazz with “Cherokee” (Side Four) with many instrumental accents (flute and saxophone). At nearly 10 minutes, there are extended solos (saxophone, trumpet, jagged Stills guitar) and the saxophones and organ are framed with syncopated tempos. After the band introductions, the concert finishes with a rocking protest-filled “Ecology Song”. 

This is a great live album. The remixed sound (Alex Williams, Kevin McCormick) is vibrant (originally recorded by Bill Halverson) and reflects the raw power and intimacy of live music. The vinyl pressing (Bernie Grudman Mastering) is top-notch with no hisses or pops. Stephen StillsLive At Berkeley 1971 is also available on CD and digital download. 

—Robbie Gerson

Stephen Stills – Live At Berkeley 1971


Side One: Love The One You’re With; Do For Others; Jesus Gave Love Away For Free; You Don’t Have To Cry (with David Crosby); The Lee Shore (with David Crosby)

Side Two: Word Game; Sugar Babe; 49 Bye-Byes/For What It’s Worth

Side Three: Black Queen; Know You’ve Got To Run; Bluebird Revisited; Lean On Me

Side Four: Cherokee; Band Introductions; Ecology Song  

More Information through Omnivore Recordings

Logo Omnivore Recordings

Album Cover for Stephen Still, Live at Berkeley 1971

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