[Review] Stephen Stills: Illegal Stills (1976)

Looking for more proof that Stills’ career was stalled? Here’s 180 proof.

Kronomyth 7.0: Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

Stills’ second album for Columbia follows the format of the first, featuring material collected over the last few years. At the time of its release, Stills was at work on the album that would become Long May You Run, and a quick glance at the songwriting credits suggests that Stills wasn’t fully engaged in his own solo career. Donnie Dacus appears happy to pick up the slack, taking lead vocals on a couple tracks and even cowriting one of them with Stills’ soon-to-be-ex wife, Véronique Sanson. While nothing on Illegal Stills could be considered classic Stills, it’s a competent studio rock album from the mid 70s, suggesting Elton John’s Rock of the Westies on a more modest scale. (In fact, Kenny Passarelli, who again cowrote the closing track, was currently a member of Elton’s band.)

The album’s hit single, “Buyin’ Time,” is typical of the American malaise of the mid Seventies, as history (the bicentennial celebration) and reality (the shadow of the Vietnam War, gas shortages, economic recession) collided. Other highlights include the biting “Soldier” and a decent cover of Neil Young’s “The Loner.” Given the diminishing quality of the product, Columbia had to be wondering if they didn’t trade for a lame horse. The collaboration with Stills and the CSN reunion showed that Stills still had some ethanol in his tank, so maybe it was just a case of Stills not taking his Columbia contract seriously. Both the label and fans weren’t paying for half of a Donnie Dacus album, but that’s what they got with Illegal Stills. Again, it’s not a disaster, but Stills was fast becoming an anachronism in a world where punk had been let out of Pandora’s box.

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Original LP Version

A1. Buyin’ Time (Stephen Stills/Donnie Dacus) (3:35)
A2. Midnight In Paris (Donnie Dacus/Veronique Sanson) (3:59)
A3. Different Tongues (Stephen Stills/Donnie Dacus) (3:09)
A4. Soldier (Stephen Stills/Donnie Dacus) (2:59)
A5. The Loner (Neil Young) (4:15)
B1. Stateline Blues (Stephen Stills) (1:59)
B2. Closer To You (Donnie Dacus/Stephen Stills/Warner Schwebke) (3:34)
B3. No Me Niegas (Stephen Stills) (3:31)
B4. Ring of Love (Donnie Dacus) (4:03)
B5. Circlin’ (Stephen Stills/Kenny Passarelli) (4:20)

The Players

Stephen Stills (vocals, bass, keyboards, guitars), Jerry Aiello (keyboards), Donnie Dacus (guitars, vocals), Howard Kaylan (vocals), Joe Lala (percussion), George Perry (bass), George Terry (guitars), Joe Vitale (drums), Mark Volman (vocals), Tubby Ziegler (drums). Produced by Stephen Stills and Don Gehman; engineered by Don Gehman, Ron and Howie Albert; mixed by Alex Sadkin, Ron and Howie Albert.

The Pictures

Cover concept by John Berg. Artwork by Gerard Huerta. Design by John Berg and Gerard Huerta.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in May 1976 in the US (Columbia, PC/PCA 34148), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, CBS 81330), Australia (CBS, MX-176941), Japan (CBS/Sony, 25AP-65) and South Africa (CBS, ASF 1883) with lyrics insert; reached #30 on the US charts and #54 on the UK charts. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc on August 28, 1990 in the US (Columbia, CK 34148).
  2. Re-packaged with Stills and Thoroughfare Gap on remastered 3-for-2 2CD in 2007 in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOCD748).

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