Mississippi is one of the greatest words to appear in the English and American dictionary but given a test most people don’t know how to spell it. Clever teachers use a spelling bee rhyming format which stay’s forever in the mind as just pronouncing the syllables conjures up the sounds and movements of this great American river. At her journeys end she flows into the Gulf of Mexico, along the way forging the home of Blues music, the Mississippi Delta.
This natural Delta creates a background setting for Stephen Stills new album “Can’t Get Enough”, available in UK on Provogue Records on August 26th and in other parts of the Rockin’ Free World even earlier. The legendary Stills carefully selects his partners of guitar slinger, Kenny Wayne Shepard and keyboardist Barry Goldberg, forming a new band simply called ‘The Rides’.
This southern blend of music was inspired by the 1968 studio time combining Stills, Al Kooper, Goldberg and the late Mike Bloomfield (who founded Electric Flag with Goldberg) resulting in the title song of “Cant get Enough of Loving You” which came out of those ‘68 super sessions. The 10 track album, featuring four other co-written songs and five cover versions was recorded in about one week in Los Angeles, produced by the legendary Talking Heads desk genius, Jerry Harrison.
An opening bass line by Shepard introduces “Mississippi Road House” swirling along until a gravely voice from Stills pours out his list of problems: “The Taxman, too many children, why does that other man want me dead?” question’s just too hard to answer as a down and dirty guitar pleads for leniency and some hope of survival.
“That’s a Pretty Good Love” reflects the classic Ray Charles hit from 1956. This is the first of the five covers, raising the question why this promising new band, steeped in majestic blues history, could not feature more of their own superb writing on their first attempt, strongly indicating a follow up album is already in the pipeline.
1-2-3 counts in one of the finest tracks on the album “Don’t Want Lies” presenting a vocal which is sheer beauty. Stephen Stills voice is back, parked for a while, but the passion deployed says it all. ‘I have heard all the questions, but I don’t have the answers. Not trying to be elusive’. As the old magic returns, let’s hope it stays around a good while longer.
2-3-4 counts in a mood change which is the aggressive “Search and Destroy” as the lyrics declare ‘Got no time to make an Apology’ making clear something bad has been going down in the darker side of town. The aggression hails from the fact that this is a cover of Iggy Pop and the Stooges but the Rides style makes this particular version fit comfortably in their broad repertoire of rock and blues.
“Can’t Get Enough of Loving You” is a strong self composed blues track by the Rides trio which at over six minutes gets really hot in the second half, working up a temperature which culminates in an electric frenzy fever.
The longest track is “Honey Bee” another cover, this time with the original by Muddy Waters. The song opens with a Blues Bar Piano and relaxing lyric ‘Sail on my little Honey Bee, Sail on’ as a Hammond C3 takes over and blends effortlessly with a mellow blues guitar growing into a delicious cocktail mix which has a real sting.
“Rockin’ in The Free World” is an epic cover version of the 1989 classic, written by Stephen Stills former sparring partner Neil Young, providing a link to that classic Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young line up. With screaming vocals and magnificent power this track warrants a place on the album for sheer enjoyment but in reality has nothing to do with those ’68 sessions which are designated as the very reason for the album.
“Talk To Me Baby” is a further cover this time originally created by Elmore James and unjustifiably ranks before “Only Tear Drops Fall”, a five minute song which is the most outstanding track on the album. Here Stills delivers a melody with picking guitar style riffs, and a vocal which claims ‘Couldn’t find my Guitar, or the members in my band, memories keep haunting me’ but happily he locates his instrument and turns in a classic performance.
“Word Game” presents the question ‘Would you knock a man down if you don’t like his colour?’ arguing that racism is ‘incredibly sick’ and goes on to cite London town. The Rides ask questions and Stills had this one stored in the locker since ’68, a track he wrote for Buffalo Springfield but never recorded. Hailing from those super sessions, this track demonstrates the power that Stephen Stills songs possess even after kicking around for 45 years, they remain fresh and vibrant.
The Rides explored the Mississippi tides right through to the journeys end, every track is a quality listen but there must be much more left in the can from this trio of buried ’68 material and more brand new songs, but ditch some of those covers, as so many are simply not needed. The new and revived material is what we really want to hear and are drawn into with great expectation.
School Report: All five of the newly penned Rides tracks pass the spelling bee test with flying colours, go to the top of the class but we need to see more of this original development in the next school term.
Album Review Tim Price Rockshot August 2013.