Review Summary: The best Buffalo Springfield album.
Here it is, the best album in the Buffalo Springfield catalog: Buffalo Springfield Again!
The Buffalo Springfield was a band that served as a springboard for the careers of Neil Young
, Stephen Stills
and Richie Furay, later in Poco
. The three of them were the creative heart of the band, writing all the band's original material. With songs ranging in genres from Country to folk to plain old guitar rich 60's rock, they made the band what it was: an unpredictable, under appreciated and variation capable steamroller of country and folk rock.
The album was released in 1967, and the band had already managed to form, release a debut album and make a name for them selves at the Whiskey A-Go-Go the year before. Now, after firing the producers who according to Neil Young "ruined the album" (a statement I do agree with) they're at it again.This time with Furay not only singing songs which Neil wrote for him on the previous album, but also showing he is a country song-writer ahead of his time.
The album opens with a Neil composition sung by himself called "Mr. Soul". The heavy, striking and sluggish riff reminds the listener of a famous Stones song, but the dry tone of the guitar puts us in another mood than "Satisfaction". Throughout the album, beginning with "Mr. Soul" we're transported into a world were the guitars tell the stories, accompanied by three voices echoing lyrics of clowns, bluebirds and Indians. Most of the songs are no longer than 4:30, but their variation, especially seen with the album's first three, tell us that we don't need longer. Mostly there are undistorted guitars playing to us, but we occasionally meet a piano and Steve Still's fuzz guitar.
The song standing out from the rest is the one Neil recorded in solitude the summer in '67 he quit the band (and as a consequence didn't join them at Monterey): Expecting to fly. It's drifting vocals and Nietzsche composed strings immediately puts you at ease and relaxes your muscles. Neil has never done anything like it since, and soon after the last tone of the outro has been played, we're left back where we started, at the familiar, and well crafted country rock, only this time with a fuzz guitar and a banjo. Including a Jazz and soul track into the mix in "Everydays" and "Good Time Boy" respectively, the album has a varied sound mostly with base in the boys' guitars and voices.
For not only is this band a springboard for its song writers, it is also the predecessor to another band: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The vocal harmonies on "Bluebird" and "A Child's Claim To Fame" are unmistakably recognizable in CSN and CSN & Y's work. Just compare it to "Carry On" on "Déja Vù" and you'll see where it originated. Their voices alone, and the duet between Stills and Furay on "Hung Upside Down", in addition to it's fine guitar work from Neil and Steve, is simply stunning.
The album's lowest point however, follows the lonely and melancholic ballad Furay sings almost alone with his guitar ("Sad Memory"). "Good Time Boy" is sung by their drummer, Dewey Martin who is without a doubt a competent percussionist, but his imitation of soul on this track is both cruel to the lyrics and far from the creativity and high musical standard the rest of the album has.
Neil's closing song on the album is an experimental song which includes changes from 4/4 measure to 3/4 and an illusion of changing melodies from verse to verse. His voice, Dewey's drums and Don Randi's piano steer the track from beginning to end accompanied by strange audio clips, and audiences cheering to several bizarre music acts including a Martin Sung "Mr. Soul" and an organ grinder. The song is called "Broken Arrow", with its lyrics deep in the Young universe, finding traces of the same story in other songs such as "The last Trip To Tulsa" and "Down By The River".
In short, the album's strengths are its classic rock and country songs, its catchy, blues and country inspired guitar interplay, and its great vocal arrangements both in backing ("Rock And Roll Woman") and harmony ("A Child's Claim to Fame"). Some of the most well-known Buffalo Springfield songs are included in this well-produced, well-made album and so it deserves the status of a classic: 5/5.