[Review] Stephen Stills: Thoroughfare Gap (1978)

Stills channels his inner disco jockey with strings and high-gloss production.

Kronomyth 9.0: The horsey set.

This is as close as Stephen Stills has come to making a disco album, which is probably enough to seal its fate as an also-ran in his catalog. Yet behind the string arrangements, punchy rhythms and backing vocals (which feature the up-and-coming Andy Gibb) is the usual strong songwriting from Stephen. In fact, I might give Thoroughfare Gap the nod over his other Columbia records, which is as good as a wink to a blind horse.

“Can’t Get No Booty” is the funniest song Stills has ever recorded (okay, so it’s a short list) and should have been a hit, especially given the success Joe Walsh was having with “Life’s Been Good.” On most of the record, Stills strikes a good balance between high-gloss production and guitar-driven rock (e.g., “What’s The Game,” “Lowdown”). He mixes it up with the usual polyglot pop (“Woman Lleva,” “Beaucoup Yumbo”), adds a nice acoustic number (“Thoroughfare Gap”) and even includes a couple (admittedly inferior) covers, “Midnight Rider” and “Not Fade Away.”

Honestly, I didn’t expect much after the last few Stills albums, and the picture of him in a jockey’s uniform (a look that no one, not even Prince, could pull off) didn’t bode well. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find that the music on Thoroughfare Gap wasn’t a case of Stills trying to work outside of his idiom, but rather to adapt his idiom to contemporary influences. Unfortunately, Columbia didn’t pick up his contract and Stills went silent during his pending divorce, resurfacing several years latter under the protective glyph of CSN.

Original LP Version

A1. You Can’t Dance Alone (4:20)
A2. Thoroughfare Gap (3:33)
A3. We Will Go On (2:43)
A4. Beaucoup Yumbo (Stephen Stills/Joe Vitale) (3:39)
A5. What’s The Game (3:30)
B1. Midnight Rider (Gregg Allman) (3:42)
B2. Woman Lleva (3:15)
B3. Lowdown (3:49)
B4. Not Fade Away (Charles Hardin/Norman Petty) (3:31)
B5. Can’t Get No Booty (Stephen Stills/Danny Kortchmar) (3:48)

All songs written by Stephen Stills unless noted.

Original 8-track version
A1. Thoroughfare Gap
A2. We Will Go On
A3. Midnight Rider
B1. Woman Lleva
B2. Not Fade Away
B3. Can’t Get No Booty
C1. Beaucoup Yumbo
C2. Lowdown
C3. You Can’t Dance Alone (part 1)
D1. You Can’t Dance Alone (conclusion)
D2. What’s the Game
D3. You Can’t Dance Alone

The Players

Stephen Stills (lead & backing vocals, guitar, bass, horns & strings, percussion, organ, synthesizer, Moog), Mike Finnigan (piano, organ, backing vocals), Joe Lala (percussion), Mike Lewis (horns & strings, flute arrangement), George “Chocolate” Perry (bass, backing vocals), Joe Vitale (drums, backing vocals) with Alby Galuten (piano on B2), Andy Gibb (backing vocals on A1/A5), Al Gould (fiddle on A2), Paul Harris (piano on A2), Brooks Honeycutt (backing vocals on B3), Gerald Johnson (bass on B2), Kenny Kirkland (piano on A5), Danny Kortchmar (guitar & percussion on B5), Paul Lee (drums on A2), Dave Mason (backing vocals on A1/A3/A5/B1), Joey Mercia (guitar on A1), Richard O’Connell (drums on B2), Kitty Pritikin (backing vocals on B2), Verna Richardson (backing vocals on B3), Lisa Roberts (backing vocals on B3), John Sambataro (backing vocals on A1/A3/A5), Whitt Sidner (flutes on A3), George Terry (guitar on A3/A5/B2), Gerry Tolman (guitar on B1). Produced by Stephen Stills, Ron & Howard Albert; engineered by Ron & Howard Albert, Michael Braunstein, Steve Gursky.

The Pictures

Design by Stephen Stills & John Berg. Photography by Jim McCrary.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on October 31, 1978 in the US (Columbia, JC/JCA 35380), the UK (CBS, S CBS 82859), Australia (CBS, SBP 237231) and Japan (CBS, 25AP-1144) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #83 on the US charts.

  1. Re-packaged with Stills and Illegal Stills on remastered 3-for-2 2CD in 2007 in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOCD748).

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