Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Buffalo Springfield

The three albums by Buffalo Springfield remind me of a condensed version of The Beatles' career. "Buffalo Springfield" is an amazing 1960s pop-rock album, which reminded me of The Monkees and Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, late-early Beatles ("Help!" "Beatles for Sale") and those kinds of bands when I replayed it the other day.

"Buffalo Springfield Again" is the band at the peak of its creative prowess. This is the Rubber Soul-Revolver-Sgt. Pepper era, where every track bursts with freshness and creativity. You've got rock and roll, country, psychedelia, jazz and — breathtakingly — "Bluebird." Not heard often enough in these times, this Stephen Stills composition is a four-and-half-minute wall of acoustic and electric guitar picking, harmonies and pure energy. Tell me I can only bring a half-dozen songs to that imaginary desert island, and "Bluebird" makes the list every time. Goosebumps and gasps all the way through, culminating with that surprise banjo bit at the end. OMFG, as folks say nowadays.

But I digress. "Buffalo Springfield Again" is a flawless album, and the flawless "Bluebird" is only the brightest diamond in a brilliant collection of tunes.

"Last Time Around" is Buffalo Springfield's visit to Abbey Road, or perhaps what "Let It Be" could have been if John, Paul, George and Ringo were writing better songs as their band started to unravel. This album has great tracks by Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay and Jim Messina, but the point is it's a collection of solo tracks held together by the fact that they're all members of a band that still sounded great but was not going to survive past this album.

My understanding is that Buffalo Springfield was born, thrived and flamed out in about 18 months in 1966 and 1967. It spawned an incredible legacy of music. In addition to their solo careers, these guys went on to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Poco; Loggins & Messina and all the permutations from those collaborations. Every so often I pull these three albums off the shelf and am blown away one more time.

Buffalo Springfield is one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Today you'll hear "For What It's Worth" on the radio from time to time ("Everybody stop, children, what's that sound"), which is terrific anthem, but if that's your only exposure to this band, stop where you are and go find some more. At the very least, brace yourself and take a listen to "Bluebird":



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