Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Stephen Stills [extended]

  • Crosby, Stills & Nash [Atlantic, 1969] B+
  • Deja Vu [Atlantic, 1970] B-
  • Stephen Stills [Atlantic, 1970] C+
  • 4-Way Street [Atlantic, 1971] B-
  • Stephen Stills 2 [Atlantic, 1971] C
  • Manassas [Atlantic, 1972] C+
  • So Far [Atlantic, 1975] B-
  • Stills [Columbia, 1975] C
  • Long May You Run [Reprise, 1976] B
  • CSN [Atlantic, 1977] D+
  • American Dream [Atlantic, 1988] C+
  • Looking Forward [Reprise, 1999] C

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Crosby, Stills & Nash: Crosby, Stills & Nash [Atlantic, 1969]
Rated by request. I have written elsewhere that this album is perfect, but that is not necessarily a compliment. Only Crosby's vocal on "Long Time Gone" saves it from a special castrati award. Pray for Neil Young. B+

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Deja Vu [Atlantic, 1970]
Of the five (or seven, I forget) memorable tunes here, N's "Our House" is a charming but cloying evocation of puppy domesticity, while both N's sanctimonious "Teach Your Children" and C's tragicomic "Almost Cut My Hair" document how the hippie movement has corrupted our young people. S half scores twice and in-law M provides the climax. Which leaves Y's "Helpless" as the group's one unequivocal success this time out. It's also Y's guitar--with help from S and hired hands T and R--that make the music work, not those blessed harmonies. And Y wasn't even supposed to be in on this. B-

Stephen Stills [Atlantic, 1970]
Stills always projects an effortless swing, and his tradeoffs with Eric Clapton on "Go Back Home" are keen and then some. He seems too damn skillful to put down. Yet there's something terribly undefined about this record. Hmm--maybe it's the songs. C+

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: 4-Way Street [Atlantic, 1971]
Was it only two years ago that the formation of Crosby, Stills & Nash brought gladness to the hearts of rock and rollers who remembered that they loved tight songs rather than endless jams and believed that an ex-Hollie's pop sense would temper Byrds/Springfield folk-rock? Who would have figured that none of them would remember that rock and roll is also supposed to be funky--and fast. And that the best stuff on their live album would be the jams, dominated by the new guy, who would also write their tightest songs? And for that matter that a singalong of dig-its and right-ons by the man who wrote "For What It's Worth" and a goody-goody song about Chicago by the ex-Hollie would sound like political high points? B-

Stephen Stills 2 [Atlantic, 1971]
Stills has always come on as the ultimate rich hippie--arrogant, self-pitying, sexist, shallow. Unfortunately, he's never quite fulfilled this artistic potential, but now he's approaching his true level. Flashes of brilliant ease remain--the single, "Marianne," is very nice, especially if you don't listen too hard to the lyrics--but there's also a lot of stuff on order of an all-male chorus with jazzy horns singing "It's disgusting" in perfect tuneful unison, and straight, I swear. Keep it up, SS--it'll be a pleasure to watch you fail. C

Manassas [Atlantic, 1972]
Yes, Steve has gotten it together a little, even deigning to cooperate with real musicians in a real band, and yes, some of this four-sided set echoes in your head after you play it a lot. The only problem is you're never sure where the echoes come from. C+

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: So Far [Atlantic, 1975]
This group might benefit from a compilation that concentrated on guitar interactions and uptempo throwaways. Needless to say, that's not the one we get. B-

Stills [Columbia, 1975]
In which Stills recycles his "favorite set of changes/Already good for a couple of songs." His admirers might find that endearing, I know. They might even dig him copping a lick from Alice Cooper later on in the lyric. But me, I find it pathetic. C

The Stills Young Band: Long May You Run [Reprise, 1976]
Like the tour, the album (recorded in Miami, where many of the songs take place) is a profit-taking throwaway, but that's not necessarily a bad thing--Young is always wise to wing it, and the less Stills expresses himself the better. Also, there's an expotential advantage in hearing Steve sing lead only every other cut. His "Make Love to You" ("you're such a lady") does inspire "Midnight on the Bay," Neil's stupidest song in many a moon. But most of the time Neil's in a droll mood--title song's a riot. Not bad for California rock. B

Crosby, Stills & Nash: CSN [Atlantic, 1977]
Wait a second--wasn't this a quartet? D+

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: American Dream [Atlantic, 1988]
Forget the careerist compromise, dazed ennui, and soggy despair, and take this hustle for what it pretends to be and at some level is: four diehard hippies expressing themselves. Poor old guys can't leave politics alone--there's more ecology and militarism here than when they were figureheads of pop revolution, and though the rhetoric is predictable, the impulse has a woozy nobility. Not that that's ever been reason to pay Graham's ditties any mind, or that Stephen's steady-state egotism is redeemed by stray references to judges and changing the world. But while David's cocaine confessional makes "Almost Cut My Hair" seem self-abnegating, his "Nighttime for the Generals" sure beats Sting. And Neil lends musical muscle and gets commercial muscle back. So, not as horrible as you expected--nor good enough to give a third thought. C+

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Looking Forward [Reprise, 1999]
Right, you knew already. But though I pray I hear solo Y render the title song hopeful instead of smug, I know that in my head I'll still hear N harmonizing insipidly behind. And when S explains how when he was young old people were wrong and now that he's old young people are wrong and then disses "overfed talking heads" without ever once acknowledging overfed singing exhead C to his immediate left, I imagine some computer nerd with more brains than sense joining the arms race just to get even. Still a menace--and still conceited about it. C