Saturday, August 4, 2012

Stephen Stills & Manassas: Right Now

As their custom was to name battles after the nearest town, the Confederate States of America called the two northern Virginia battles that occurred during the summers of 1861 and 1862 as First and Second Manassas – their counterparts to the north referred to battles by the nearest body of water or other physical characteristic and the same were known as First and Second Bull Run.

When Stephen Stills was forming his next band following the release of his second solo album, he took his group for a photo shoot at the train station in Manassas, Virginia because of his interest in the American Civil War – or War of the Northern Aggression to those of you south of Mr. Mason’s and Mr. Dixon’s line of demarcation.

The cover was shot below the Manassas sign and hence became the name for the band as well as the first of the band’s two albums. Pity he didn’t name them as First and Second Manassas, but they were christened as “Manassas” and “Down the Road” respectively.

The double album, which was released in 1972, contained a supergroup of country/folk rock musicians, and included besides Stills who played nearly everything, Chris Hillman and Al Perkins from the Flying Burrito Brothers; Dallas Taylor and Fuzzy Samuels of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; and Paul Harris and Joe Lala.

My college friend Greg Rector requested that I play “Right Now” from the album’s fourth side and fourth suite of music appropriately named “Rock & Roll is Here to Stay.” Thanks to Greg, he rekindled my interest in this album that I probably not listened to since it was released forty years ago.

While I never had a vinyl copy of this LP, I remember recording it from WDVE in Pittsburgh late one evening. The same week, they also featured (and I recorded) Neil Young’s “Harvest” and Graham Nash and David Crosby’s first duo album. I still have the tapes somewhere, but have not even entertained the thought of listening to them – until now.

“Right Now” features Stills on lead vocals and Chris Hillman on harmony vocals. Stills also provided the slide guitar – which is credited as “bottleneck guitar” in the liner notes. Joe Lala’s congas are appropriately placed in the mix along with Paul Harris’ keyboards.

Greg is going to see Crosby, Stills, and Nash and wanted to delve back in the archives in preparation for his trip. I had a chance to see CSN twice and Crosby and Nash once – so I know of what he speaks and it will be an exciting show. Thanks Greg for the inspiration – another winner as always.

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