Monday, November 17, 2008

Buffalo Springfield

Just to give a heads-up, it looks to me like the Buffalo Springfield box set might be falling out-of-print. There are still some reasonably priced used copies available on Amazon, but prices appear to be creeping up. Then again maybe not, because it can still be ordered new directly from Rhino.

I only mention this because with Neil Young involved, you never know when a release is going to appear or disappear. Speaking of which, hardcore fans might be happy to know that his long-promised, massive Archives Volume One box set is now available for pre-order on DVD or Blu-Ray at Amazon. It has a current street date of January 27, 2009 (and with a little luck it just might actually be available for purchase for next year's holiday season).

I'd be shocked if the long-delayed archives set actually meets a January 27th release date, but in the meantime, those hoping to find a little Shakey in their stocking this year might consider adding Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House 1968 to their wish list (this one is promised for December 2nd, and so far its release date has only been pushed back once).

Of course, if you don't already own it, you can't go wrong with the Buffalo Springfield Box Set. Even if you own all three albums, there's lots to be discovered in the box such as nice acoustic demos like this one for "Flying On The Ground Is Wrong."

There's also a wealth of previously unreleased material such as "Down, Down, Down," a Young-penned song that formed the basis for "Broken Arrow."

The box also features a number of previously unreleased songs recorded after the second album as the band was falling apart. Tracks like the Richie Furay sung "Whatever Happened To Saturday Night" prove that The Springfield's posthumous swan song, Last Time Around, could have been a much stronger album if it had been assembled more carefully.

Of course whenever Neil Young compiles something there are bound to be as many complaints about what's missing as excitement about what's there. A few tracks from Last Time Around are not represented, but the most common complaint is the absence of the nine-minute version of "Freebird" "Bluebird" that has only ever been available on a two LP compilation released in 1973 and has never been released on CD. The four and a half minute version of "Bluebird" that appeared on Buffalo Springfield Again (and the box) was edited down from this extended performance (with a different, banjo-fied, ending tacked on). An even shorter version of the song (sliced all the way down to 1:59) was released as a single and reached #58 on Billboard's Pop Singles chart in 1967. Amazingly, this was the only song from Buffalo Springfield Again to chart.

Legend has it that either Neil or Stephen Stills, or possibly both, never wanted the long version of "Bluebird" released in the first place. Despite their objections, once released the track became a minor staple of classic rock radio, and many fans of the band consider it the version of the song to hear. Whatever you think of the then ascendant tendency to turn pop songs into extended semi-improvisational rock jams, the long version of "Bluebird" holds an important place in the Springfield canon: the band was known to end their live sets with epic-length versions of the song. I imagine Stills and Young view this version as a poor substitute for the legendary live performances of the song. But since no quality Buffalo Springfield live recordings are known to exist, this is all we have.

As extended guitar epics go, I would rank this somewhere between Love's "Revelations" (tedious) and Television's "Marquee Moon" (sublime). There is some nice guitar interplay between Stills and Young, but at times Stills falls back on blues cliches that make the jamming sound predictable. Or perhaps it only sounds predictable in retrospect, this kind of thing probably sounded a lot fresher before the seventies happened. Maybe you had to be there.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry... is there a link to download this anywhere?

Pete Bilderback said...

Hi, sorry the link was only up for a very brief time. It's gone now.

Anonymous said...

I thought of this long version of Bluebird when I heard Dewey Martin had dies. I remember what I think was an 11-minute version which I reel-to-reel taped off the radio (tape now where?) in the middle of which someone (Stills?) shouted "Dewey Martin." It was important at the time.