As a final testament to their multi-talent, the Buffalo Springfield have released Last Time Around, the most beautiful record they’ve ever made.
This is the second record album by an originally Canadian group (the first was Music From Big Pink by The Band) of major importance to be released this month. They both have their country roots showing. The great difference lies in their separate “heaviness distinction.” The Band are overwhelming seriousness and pointed profundity, and the Buffalo Springfield are happier sounding, more sweet-country flavored. They sound, as Jim Messina croons, like a “carefree country day.”
“Four Days Gone” is one of the best tracks the Springfield has ever done. Stills’s vocal is, as usual, uniquely trembly. It’s a sad, C&W flavored song about a guy on the road running from the government, trying to get to his chick (“I’m four days gone into runnin'”), who can’t tell his name because he’s “got reason to live.” The piano tinkles Cramer-rily in the background as Stills tells the story. “Government madness,” he complains.
Stills has written five of the cuts on the album. “Special Care” and “Uno Mundo” show his amazing versatility as a songwriter. Both are entirely different from the C&W-ish “Four Days Gone.” “Special Case” is a rock number in the finest sense. After a keyboard intro in the style of Dylan’s “Black Crow Blues,” it’s led by a furious, screaming guitar and a crashing, closely following organ. Stills trembles the paranoid lyrics: “Hey there you on the corner/staring at me/Would you like to shoot me down?” The guitar’s buzzing vibrato lays down the melody as he raves on in the background, yelling at the people. It sounds as if he’s being dragged away.
“Uno Mundo” is a Latin-based maracas-congos-trumpet Jamaican skabeat politi-calypso blast at the world: “Uno Mundo/Asia is screaming/Africa seething/America bleating/just the same.”
On “I Am A Child” Neil Young sounds more like Tim Hardin than Tim Hardin. It’s not very often that this happens, that two performers sound almost identical. Oscar Peterson sounds so similar to Nat “King” Cole that for years, during Cole’s career, Peterson did not sing. Then, when Nat died, Oscar put out a memorial album dedicated to him — he sang all of Nat’s best loved songs — an almost perfect duplication of the King’s original recordings. And the similarity was unintentional, as the likeness between Young and Hardin. Moreover, “Child” is done exactly in Hardin’s electrified country-folk vein. It’s a nice tune, very pretty, with some strikingly poignant lines: “You can’t conceive of the pleasure in my smile.” It’s very simple and light. Even the harmonica bit reminds one of Herb Shriner playing “Back Home in Indiana.”
Richie is a beautiful singer, and his best efforts here are the ballads “Its So Hard To Wait” and “Kind Woman.” “Hard To Wait” is a plaintive love song: “I’ll never forget you/I hope you care”-it moves slowly, backed by clarinet, acoustic guitar, drums and bass-all of which are played down appropriately, in order to highlight Richie’s lingering falsetto. “Kind Woman” is similar and is performed just as nicely.
But the best track on the album is “Carefree Country Day.” Jimmy’s crackly-voiced lead vocal (“I get up in the morning with a cock-a-doodle-doo/I get myself together if and when I choose”) has the most relaxed country flavor this side of Jack Elliott. Some great backup harmony by Richie and Steve and a funky “wha-wha-wha” horn interlude complement Jimmy’s vocal superbly. It even has a “dot-in-doo-wah-sap-en-doo-wat-en-dah” fadeout which is the finest bit of country doodling since Elliott’s “Guabi Guabi.”
Too bad this isn’t the first time around.