Stephen Stills Man Alive! Review

Album. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Man Alive! seems to show that he's still got legs. Long may he run...

Chris Jones 2005

There's an amusing wryness to the title of this, Stills' first solo effort for over ten years. While media attention has naturally gravitated towards the bad boy antics of old bandmate David Crosby and his new liver, Stills -a man whose substance abuse once led to him telling people he'd fought in Vietnam - is no stranger to personal demons. He's a survivor, which probably explains why he sings Booker T Jones' ''Ole Man Trouble'' so convincingly. But the title also indicates that not only is Stills still with us on this earthly plane, but he's in rude form too. Man Alive! runs the spectrum from full-on rock to mellow acoustics with ease and energy to spare.

It's this diversity that's always set Stills apart from his comrades. Always more than a standard West Coast hippie, from the days of Buffalo Springfield he was showing an interest in what we would now describe as world music (cf: the latino shuffle of ''Uno Mundo'') and Man Alive! shows him still interested in stylistic exploration; especially of the roots music prevalent in the southern states. Thus, while we get the reggae bump of ''I Don't Get It'' we also get the New Orleans sway of ''Around Us'', the deep blues of ''Ole Man Trouble'', the bluegrass lament of ''Different Man'' and the Bayou bounce of ''Acadienne''. If this weren't enough it's all capped off by the 11 minute meander south of the border with ''Spanish Suite'' (featuring Herbie Hancock on piano!).

Stills' singing has, naturally, coarsened over the years, but it still hasa characteristic warmth, while his guitar playing (always underrated) is as deft as always, though a little too four-to-the-floor on the rockier numbers (which expose his Texas blues roots). It shines more on the gentler acoustic grooves of ''Heart's Gate'', and ''Wounded World'' (with Graham Nash) and his campfire vibe duet with Neil Young on ''Different Man'' takes you right back to those stoney evenings of the early 70s.

Less political than Crosby and Nash (apart from the bland ''Feed The People'') and less ornery than Young; Stills remains the true musician of the West Coast royalty. Man Alive! seems to show that he's still got legs. Long may he run...

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