[Review] Stephen Stills 2 (1971)

Stills struck gold a second time with this solid followup featuring a star-studded cast of Eric Clapton, Ringo, David Crosby and Jerry Garcia.

Kronomyth 2.0: Stills going strong.

Critics and fans generally agree that the five records Stephen Stills released on Atlantic (six if you count Stills Live) represent his best work. No argument there from me. Where I tend to part ways with critics is in the put-down of Stills 2 as plainly inferior to the works before (Stephen Stills) and after (Manassas). It is not the beneficiary of stockpiled songs; only “Change Partners” and “Know You Got To Run” are leftovers, to my knowledge anyway. Second albums are often disappointing for this reason.

But Stills 2 isn’t a mere placeholder. It charges into the breach with a dozen new songs that offer something for everyone: ravers (“Relaxing Town”), CSN-styled harmonies (“Singin’ Call”), the blues (“Open Secret”), guitar duels (“Fishes And Scorpions”) and a smartly arranged return to the old buffalo hunting grounds on “Bluebird Revisited.” Honestly, I think these songs stack up fine against the material on the double-album Manassas and rise above Down The Road.

As with his first record, Stills invites some of the world’s best guitarists (Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia and a young Nils Lofgren) and more than holds his own in their esteemed company. While the first album had a genuine hit to rally around, Stills 2 has more surprises in store: the retro raver “Marianne” (it’s a shame Stephen Stills and Steve Miller didn’t play together), the funked-up blues of “Nothin’ To Do But Today,” the sweet southern sound of “Sugar Babe.” Unfortunately, it was “Change Partners” that was tapped as the first single, and listeners may have compared it to “Love The One You’re With” and extrapolated the album’s quality from that single data point, which would be a mistake.

On Stills 2, I hear Stephen Stills growing more comfortable as a singer, songwriter and arranger. I know, I did pick on Stills for his lackluster performance on 4-Way Street but, as Stills 2 shows, he’s still a significant talent when fully engaged.

Original LP Version

A1. Change Partners (3:13)
A2. Nothin’ To Do But Today (2:40)
A3. Fishes And Scorpions (3:13)
A4. Sugar Babe (4:04)
A5. Know You Got To Run (Stephen Stills/John Hopkins) (3:50)
A6. Open Secret (5:00)
B1. Relaxing Town (2:20)
B2. Singin’ Call (3:01)
B3. Ecology Song (3:22)
B4. Word Game (4:13)
B5. Marianne (2:27)
B6. Bluebird Revisited (5:23)

All songs written, arranged and conducted by Stephen Stills unless noted.

The Players

Stephen Stills (vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass) with Eric Clapton (guitar on A3), David Crosby (backing vocals), Rocky Dijon (congas), Henry Diltz (backing vocals), Fearless Freddy (backing vocals), Jerry Garcia (pedal steel on A1), Sidney George (tenor saxophone), Paul Harris (keyboards), Jack Helm (trombone), Roger Hopps (trumpet), Conrad Isidore (drums), Wayne Jackson (trumpet), Gaspar Lawal (congas), Nils Lofgren (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), Ed Logan (tenor saxophone), Andrew Love (tenor saxophone), James Mitchell (baritone saxophone), Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone), Billy Preston (keyboards), Mac Rebennack (keyboards), Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels (bass), Ringo Starr (English Richie) (drums), Dallas Taylor (drums). Produced by Stephen Stills and Bill Halverson; engineered by Bill Halverson.

The Pictures

Photography by Henry Diltz. Art direction and design by Gary Burden.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, 8-track, cassette and reel-to-reel tape on June 30, 1971 in the US (Atlantic, SD/M8/M5/M 7206) and the UK (Atlantic, 2401013) with gatefold cover and picture innersleeve. Reached #8 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record) and #22 on the UK charts. 8-track, cassette and reel-to-reel feature different track orders.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the UK (Atlantic, K/ZCK4 40249) with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1991/2 in the US (Atlantic, 7206-2).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on June 25, 2992 in Japan (Atlantic, AMCY-425).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in 2000 in Germany (Atlantic, 82389-2).
  5. Re-issued on compact disc on November 25, 2015 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-15256).

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