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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Fan's Book Review: Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts

Stephen Stills - 1972
From Dutch Television Program Toppop
Photo by VARA Broadcasting Association

Here's an interesting book review of Stephen Stills: Change Partners by David Roberts.

The "book review" is actually a fan's meditation on the music of Stephen Stills and is a lovely read full of anecdotes, humorous asides and semi-gushing prose that constitutes the core of fan musings.

From the review in The New York Review of Books by Lorrie Moore:
Now it was March 2017, and a friend and I were waiting for Stills to step onto the stage of Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium with the Allmanesque Kenny Wayne Shepherd and an old hipster keyboardist, Barry Goldberg. The three of them have been playing together, in a blues-rock ensemble called the Rides, since 2013. (Stills once said that Crosby, Stills, and Nash called themselves by their names not just so they could be free to come and go but because “all the animals were taken.”) The Rides, which Stills has called “the blues band of my dreams,” got its name from Shepherd’s and Stills’s shared love of cars. (“We’re not Prius people,” Stills has said.) That he continues to play gigs at his age is evidence of his stubborn professionalism; from the time he was a teenager—from the early Au Go-Go Singers to Buffalo Springfield to Manassas—he was the one to organize his bands.

The Ryman audience was again primarily made up of the generation that came of age during the 1960s—a sea of snowy hair. Stills himself was twenty-two during the summer of love. Because of prodigies like him, whose careers were enabled by the radio—especially ones in cars—almost every kind of music remains emotionally available to an audience this age, except perhaps hip-hop (though Stills has even done some crossover with Spike Lee and Public Enemy for the film He Got Game).

Stills may be hobbled by arthritis—backstage he bumps fists rather than shakes hands with fans; he has carpal tunnel and residual pain from a long-ago broken hand, which affects his playing—and he is nearly deaf, but his performance life has continued. Drugs and alcohol may have dented him somewhat, forming a kind of carapace over the youthful sensitivity and cockiness one often saw in the face of the young Stills. Some might infer by looking at the spry James Taylor or Mick Jagger that heroin is less hard on the body than cocaine and booze, which perhaps tear down the infrastructure. (“Stills doesn’t know how to do drugs properly,” Keith Richards once said.) But one has to hand it to a rock veteran who still wants to get on stage and make music even when his youthful beauty and once-tender, husky baritone have dimmed. It shows allegiance to the craft, to the life, to the music. It risks a derisive sort of criticism as well as an assault on nostalgia.

The Rides’ Nashville concert comes on the heels of a “definitive biography” of Stills by the British author David Roberts. Titled Change Partners, after one of Stills’s own songs, the book is an act of hurried, sloppy, aggregated love. Ignore the typos—mistakes such as “sewed” for “sowed”; “daubed” for “dubbed”—and don’t go looking for any psychological depth. Roberts has collected most of his data from widely available interviews. A speedy checklist of girlfriends—Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, Joan Baez, Susan Saint James—plus wives and children will largely have to do for an account of Stills’s personal life. The lovely “Rock and Roll Woman” is declared in passing to be a valentine to Grace Slick.
Full review in The New York Review of Books by Lorrie Moore.

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At 8/15/2017 04:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8/15/2017 05:59:00 PM, Blogger Thos said...

Who is this prick who has just turned up in the last few weeks?! Writes like Donald Trump tweets - sad!

At 8/15/2017 06:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8/15/2017 06:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8/15/2017 06:51:00 PM, Blogger Acoustic FeedBack said...

I love Stephen Stills. He should be discussed here at length. He will forever be connected with Neil Young, for good and bad. I think his songs are some of the greatest of Rock and he has aged well. Long live Stephen Stills.

At 8/15/2017 06:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/15/2017 06:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8/15/2017 09:27:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

I love Stills as well. What's between him and Neil is a true brotherly friendship. When Neil was "struggling" in the 80's and folks were goofing on him, Stephen stood up for his friend. And as detailed in the Shakey book, while everyone else had bad things to say about Stills, Neil absolutely refused to. Theirs is a deep, long lasting friendship that has survived all kinds of ups and downs. Basically, the true definition of friendship.

I hope they play together again someday, and I hope I'm able to see it.

At 8/16/2017 12:53:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Manassas double album is superb - a classic sits comfortably with NY 1970s canon.

At 8/16/2017 04:09:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Classic Stills - hidden gems

Do For the Others
Sit Yourself Down
Go Back Home
Word Game
The Treasure
Right Now
Bluebird (BS long version)

At 8/16/2017 10:22:00 AM, Blogger greville records said...

You know " still stills " is one of the great lost classic Rock lps .. Criminally underrated ...
As stephen stills 2 ..... And the first solo Lp , Manassas and down the road are incredible to .. Like Crosby and Nash the quality dropped of severely after the mid 1970s.. Nevertheless the first 5 stephen stills Lps are all sensational

At 8/16/2017 10:24:00 AM, Blogger greville records said...

Love story
Fishes and scorpions
Bluebird on stills 2
Fallen eagle

At 8/16/2017 12:02:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks to all for comments on Stills great body of work.

@ Andy - totally agree that Manassas double album is superb and merits the term "classic". Exquisitely captures Stills and band at their finest peak.

Also interested in hearing others thoughts on David Roberts excellent book Change Partners.

We see that the Jeepster4yourlove has removed all of their comments from this thread. Interesting...

Lastly, Stephen & Judy Collins are out on tour together now and we've heard from several folks about what a delightful evening they provide.

If you caught a recent show, drop a comment with thoughts.

in the meantime, carry on.

At 8/16/2017 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

I doubt it would ever happen at this point, but how great would it be to see some shows with just Stephen and Neil playin some acoustic music. No Crosby and Nash, just Stills and Young on the acoustics, banging out some old gems. Or maybe something similar to the setup on "Peace Trail", just the acoustics with a simple bass and drum.

Wishful thinking, but it could be a real fun deal.

At 8/16/2017 06:50:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

Thoroughfare Gap
Treetop Flyer
I am my brother

At 8/16/2017 06:51:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

Singin Call

At 8/16/2017 08:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/16/2017 08:46:00 PM, Blogger greville records said...

If urge everyone to put in
" still stills "... I notice when the cd got a reissue it received mostly 5 star reviews .. Yet no one knows this Lp great as the manassas double

At 8/17/2017 02:40:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Thanks all - not convinced by Stills Stills the one with Donnie Dacus - at the time Stills said on every record I make from now on there will be a NY cover - on this one there was 'New Mama' - not sure he followed that path again apart from Rocking In Free World with The Rides.

Crosby & Nash Wind on the Water is also a classic.

Odd that the songwriting disappeared from 3 at the same time.

At 8/17/2017 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Acoustic FeedBack said...

Stills did The Loner on Illegal Stills and Only Love Can Break Your Heart on Right By You.

At 8/17/2017 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Thanks for the correction AF - strange choices really and perhaps acknowledging his song writing mojo had gone

At 8/17/2017 03:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 8/17/2017 07:21:00 PM, Blogger Raincheck said...

The saddest words... It might have been

Stills was, for ten years, pretty incredible. His body of work from that period holds up well. And his style, with its folk and blues roots, was pretty timeless. He was the kind of guy who could have kept going, if he could have kept it together.

Of course, even in his prime, drinking and drugs and ego were a problems. But youth and talent won out. Eventually Stills got buried under his demons. He wanted success and acceptance so badly, you could see it, and that was part of what ate him up. He never learned, like Neil did, "fuck the audience." He burned for approval.

There are high points here and there after that burning prime, but mostly his legacy goes from the fist BS album through the 77 CSN reuinion. Not a bad run.

At 8/20/2017 06:34:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Not a bad run indeed. Not sure what were the high points after his prime - CSN 1977 is medicore and look at Manassas Down The Road a hotch potch of songs. On You Tube there's a 1973 Manassas 90 minute concert in b/w it's superb, that was some band. Stills guitar playing on The Treasure & Go Back Home demonstrates why Neil was in his shadow up to around the mid 70s.


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