Music » CD Reviews

Stephen Stills

Just Roll Tape: April 26, 1968 (Rhino)

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Rarities unearthed from rock's classic era are often more fascinating for their mythical backstories than actual sounds. Just Roll Tape, however, fascinates for both reasons.

When a 23-year-old Stephen Stills entered New York's Elektra Studios on April 26, 1968, he had just left influential folk-rockers Buffalo Springfield, but had yet to form Crosby, Stills & Nash. There, accompanied only by his acoustic guitar, Stills recorded several demos that would later appear on CSN's 1969 debut as well as several solo albums in the early '70s.

Acquired by musician Joe Colasurdo before the studio's closing in 1978, the long-lost recordings were eventually passed from Graham Nash to his bandmate.

Stills always shines brightest in acoustic settings. Hearing "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Helplessly Hoping," and a truncated "Wooden Ships" stripped of their harmonies makes for a downright surreal experience -- Stills' shaky vocals and all. With tape hiss adding to the collection's rickety charm, Just Roll Tape contains five songs that appear on no other release. These include the vigorously executed "Bumblebee" and the droning "The Doctor Will See You Now."

By revealing his artistry in its rawest form, Just Roll Tape confirms Stills as a master of melody.

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