After two exemplary 3CD Box Sets for DAVID CROSBY ("Voyage" in 2006) and GRAHAM NASH ("Reflections" in 2009) - the STEPHEN STILLS 4-disc anthology "Carry On" was supposed to be a final highlight in the lifetime retrospectives of three extraordinary musicians. But there's genius and filler on here in equal amounts - so let's get to the harmonies and riffs right away...
Released 12 February in the USA (25 March 2013 in the UK) - "Carry On" is a 4CD Foldout Book Set on Atlantic/Rhino 8122796730 containing 5 hours of music, 82 songs spanning 50 years (25 Previously Unreleased) and an exhaustive 116-page booklet. It breaks down as follows (all tracks by Stephen Stills unless otherwise stated):
Disc 1 (72:19 minutes):
1. Travellin' - STEPHEN STILLS - on Acoustic Guitar & Vocals only, this Previously Unreleased solo track was recorded in San Jose in 1962 for the Voice Of America Radio Relay Station
2. High Flyin' Bird - THE AU GO GO SINGERS - on their 1964 US Stereo album "They Call Us The Au Go Go Singers" on Roulette SR 25280
3. Sit Down I Think I Love You - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD
4. Go And Say Goodbye - BUFFALO SPPRINGFIELD - 3 and 4 are on their debut album "Buffalo Springfield" released December 1966 in the USA in Mono on Atco 33-200
5. For What It's Worth - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - from the 2nd version of their debut album remixed by the band into MONO and released April 1967 on Atco 33-200A
6. Everydays - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - originally from their 2nd album "Buffalo Springfield Again" - this is a 2012 Previously Unreleased Mix
7. Pretty Girl Why - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - alternate mix to the first album version - first appeared on the 2001 4CD "Buffalo Springfield Box Set"
8. Bluebird (4:30 minutes) - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD
9. Rock & Roll Woman - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - 8 and 9 are from their 2nd album "Buffalo Springfield Again" - released November 1967 in the USA in Stereo on Atco SD 33-256
10. Special Care - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD
11. Questions - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - 10 and 11 are from their 3rd and final album "Last Time Around" - released July 1968 in the USA in Stereo on Atco SD 33-256
12. Uno Mundo - BFFALO SPRINGFIELD - 18 May 1968 USA 7" single MONO mix on Atco 45-6572
13. Four Days Gone - STEPHEN STILLS - recorded 18 July 1968, a 'demo' that first appeared on the 2001 4CD set "Buffalo Springfield Box Set"
14. Who Ran Away? - STEPHEN STILLS - recorded 10 July 1968, a Previously Unreleased song on which he plays all instruments
15. 49 Reasons - STEPHEN STILLS - recorded 10 July 1968, this is a 'demo' version of the track "49 Bye Byes" that eventually turned on their debut album "Crosby, Stills & Nash" in 1969
16. Helplessly Hoping - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH -
17. You Don't Have To Cry - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
18. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - 16 to 18 are from their debut album "Crosby, Stills & Nash" released May 1969 in the USA in Stereo on Atlantic SD 8229
19. 4+20 - STEPHEN STILLS - originally on "Crosby, Stills & Nash", this is a 2012 Previously Unreleased Mix of a solo version
20. So Begins The Task - STEPHEN STILLS - recorded in July 1969, this is a 'demo' version of a song that eventually appeared on the "Manassas" double album in April 1972
21. The Lee Shore - STEPHEN STILLS - recorded 15 July 1969, a previously unreleased 'demo' version of a song that would eventually turn up on the live double-album "4-Way Street" by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
22. Carry On/Questions - CROSBY. STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - from their 2nd studio album "Déjà Vu" released 11 March 1970 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7200
23. Woodstock - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - a later mix that the one used on the "Déjà Vu" album - first released on the October 1991 4CD "CSN Box Set".
[Notes: 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 in MONO, all others in STEREO. All songs by Stephen Stills except 21 by David Crosby and 23 by Joni Mitchell]
Disc 2 (71:33 minutes):
1. Love The One You're With - December 1970 USA 7" single 'Mono' mix on Atlantic 45-2778 - Previously Unreleased on CD
2. Old Times Good Times
3. Black Queen - 2 and 3 from his debut solo album "Stephen Stills" released 16 November 1970 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7202
4. No-Name Jam - STEPHEN STILLS and JIMI HENDRIX (2:39 minutes) - recorded March 1970 in London - Previously Unreleased Jam
5. Go Back Home - as per 2 and 3
6. Marianne - from his 2nd solo album "Stephen Stills 2" released 30 June 1971 in the USA on Atlantic SD 7206
7. My Love Is A Gentle Thing - recorded June 1970 and April 1975 - first appeared on the "Pieces" Rhino CD compilation of previously unreleased material issued September 2009
8. Fishes And Scorpions - as per 6
9. The Treasure - Previously Unreleased Studio Version of a song that turned up on the April 1972 double-album "Manassas"
10. To A Flame - Previously Unreleased Mix of a song from his debut "Stephen Stills" (see 2 and 3)
11. Cherokee - as per 2 and 3
12. Song Of Love
13. Rock & Roll Crazies/Cuban Bluegrass
14. Jet Set (Sigh)
15. It Doesn't Matter
17. Johnny's Garden - 12 to 17 are from the double-album "Manassas" released 12 April 1972 in the USA on Atlantic SD 2-903 and May 1972 in the UK on Atlantic K 60021
18. Change Partners - this is a 2012 Previously Unreleased Mix of a track on the "Stephen Stills 2" album
19. Do For The Others - recorded at Madison Square Gardens in New York on 30 July 1971 - a previously unreleased 'live version' of a track on the "Stephen Stills" solo debut LP
20. Find The Cost Of Freedom - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - recorded at the Music Hall, Boston 3 October 1971 - a Previously Unreleased 'live version' of the B-side to "Ohio" - June 1970 US 7" single on Atlantic 45-2740 (both tracks non-album at the time of release)
21. Little Miss Bright Eyes - a Previously Unreleased song recorded August 1973
Disc 3 (75:47 minutes):
1. Turn Back The Pages
2. First Things First - 1 and 2 from the album "Stills" released 23 June 1975 in the USA on Columbia PC 33575
3. My Angel - Previously Unreleased Mix of a track from "Stills"
4. Love Story - as per 1 and 2
5. As I Come Of Age - Previously Unreleased `Earlier Mix' from 1973 of a track that appeared on "Stills" (see 1 and 2)
6. Know You Got To Run - recorded live at The Paramount Theatre in Seattle 8 December 1975, Previously Unreleased version of a track originally on "Stephen Stills 2" LP
7. Black Coral - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - Previously Unreleased Version of a song that appeared on the Neil Young LP "Long May You Run" in 1976 by The Stills-Young Band
8. I Give You Give Blind - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - Previously Unreleased On CD in the USA, a track originally recorded for the "CSN" album in 1977, this version first appeared as a later remix on the album "Rebound" in 1977 on Atlantic
9. Crossroads/You Can't Catch Me [Live] - a 2012 Previously Unreleased Mix of a live track that first appeared on the 4 December 1975 album "Stephen Stills Live" on Atlantic SD 18156. "You Can't Catch Me' is a Chuck Berry cover
10. See The Changes - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - 2012 Previously Unreleased Mix of a track on the "CSN" album
11. Thoroughfare Gap
12. Lowdown - 11 and 12 are on the album "Thoroughfare Gap" released 31 October 1978 in the USA on Columbia 35380
13. Cuba Al Fin (4:54 Minute Edit) - on the double-album "Havana Jam" released 1979 in the USA on Columbia PC2 36053
14. Dear Mr. Fantasy [6:22 Minutes Edit] - originally appeared on the 1991 4CD "CSN" Box Set as a Previously Unreleased November 1980 recording running to 7:07 minutes; it's a cover version of a Traffic song
15. Spanish Suite - from the CD "Man Alive!" released 9 August 2005 on Titan 50102-2
16. Feel Your Love - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - originally on the "Daylight Again" album from 1982 - this version is from the Expanded CD Remaster of the album issued 24 January 2006 in the USA on Atlantic/Rhino R2 73295
17. Raise A Voice - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the live album "Allies" released 6 June 1983 in the USA on Atlantic SD 80075 - this mix Previously Unreleased on CD in the USA
18. Daylight Again - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the album "Daylight Again" released 21 June 1982 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19360
Disc 4 (75:19 minutes):
1. Southern Cross - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the album "Daylight Again" released 21 June 1982 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19360
2. Dark Star - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the live album "Allies" released 6 June 1983 in the USA on Atlantic SD 80075
3. Turn Your Back On Love - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
4. War Games - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - 3 and 4 as per 2; both Previously Unreleased on CD in the USA
5. 50/50 - from the album "Right By You" released 30 July 1984 in the USA on Atlantic SD 80177
6. Welfare Blues - recorded live in the studio in the UK on 5 February 1984 - previously unreleased song
7. Church (Part Of Someone) - 4 November 1989 re-recording of a song that originally appeared on his "Stephen Stills" album from 1970 - previously unreleased
8. I Don't Get It - from the CD "Man Alive!" released 9 August 2005 on Titan 50102-2
9. Isn't It So - on the CD album "Stills Alone" released 26 August 1991 in the USA on Gold Hill/Vision Records VR-3323
10. Haven't We Lost Enough? - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the album "Live It Up" released 11 June 1990 in the USA on Atlantic 82107-1
11. The Ballad Of Hollis Brown - as per 8, a Bob Dylan cover version
12. Treetop Flyer - as per 9
13. Heart's Gate - as per 8
14. Girl From The North Country - Previously Unreleased live cover version of a Bob Dylan song recorded October 2012 at the Beacon Theatre in New York City
15. Feed The People - as per 8
16. Panama - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - from the Cd album "After The Storm" released 16 August 1994 in the USA on Atlantic 82654-2
17. No Tears Left - CROSBY, STILLS & NASH - Previously Unreleased live version of a song that originally appeared on the "Looking Forward" album released 26 October 1999 in the USA on Reprise 9 7436 2
18. Ole Man Trouble - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - Previously Unreleased Live cover of an Otis Redding song recorded 22 February 2002 at Madison Square Gardens in NYC
19. Ain't it Always - as per 8
Produced by JOEL BERNSTEIN with GRAHAM NASH and STEPHEN STILLS - the whole thing reeks of quality and real effort. The 116-page chunky booklet is beautiful - jam-packed with photos from personal archives, 45 picture sleeves and posters contributed by fans, early snaps with Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, Richie Furay, Judy Collins, The Muscle Shoals Brass Section, Stevie Wonder and even Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records. Every song is accounted for in huge detail - but the real news for me is the massive sound upgrade. A troop of names were involved in Tape location, research and Digital transfers with maestro BERNIE GRUNDMAN doing the mastering. Everything sounds improved to me - punchy, warm, detailed and never too trebled for effect. With so much sonic faffing around in the last two decades - its great to finally hear all of this period material in the one place and sounding as good as it can. Nice one...
As many other reviewers have already noted - musically "Carry On" is very much a tale of two cities - Discs 1 and 2 which covers 1962 to 1973 being ludicrously brilliant at almost every turn - while the remainder of the set (Discs 3 and 4) covering 1975 onwards struggles much of the time to attain the almost effortless magic of old. But this is Stephen Stills with his harmonizing musical allies Graham Nash and Neil Young - so there's greatness on Discs 3 and 4 too.
Relistening to the sheer musicality of BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (lyrics from "Everydays" titles this review) that then morphed into CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG - you're struck by the fantastic song-quality - over and over again. And hearing them on these sparkling new remasters only adds to the uplift. I could frankly do with a full remaster of the genius "Manassas" double from 1972 (probably everybody's favourite) - I wanted to hear "Anyway" and "The Love Bandit" - but alas... And even though it was on the Buffalo Springfield Box Set - the haunting demo of "Four Days Gone" is the very definition of a magical unreleased outtake.
Downsides - stuff like the eleven-minute "Spanish Suite" is just indulgent and the "Stills" and "Thoroughbred Gap" tracks are passable at best. There's no need to have the live "Allies" version of "Turn You Back On Love" on Disc 4 when the studio version is on Disc 3. And the Hendrix Jam is just plain disappointing to say the least. Also given that the entire second Manassas album "Down The Road" from 1973 remains un-remastered on this side of the pond - the inclusion of only one track (albeit the brilliant "isn't It About Time") is a massive let down. I also feel had the CDs been sequenced so that Disc 1 ended on Buffalo Springfield (with more of "Last Time Around" featured) whiles Discs 2 and 3 covered CSNY and his Solo Seventies stuff - Disc 4 could have had the 80's and onwards. It would have played better and given Discs 1 to 3 room to expand on the period fans 'really' want to hear. In fact in some respects - I can't help but feel that precisely because the David Crosby box only has 3 CDs (with all the brilliant Previously Unreleased stuff on Disc 3 in one place) - its turned out to be the best of all three box sets?
But the clever inclusion of great live versions like the rare "Cuba El Fin" and the stunning acoustic workout of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" seguing into Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" is a showstopper. The inclusion of "Daylight Again" with its "Find The Cost Of Freedom" refrain as the song finishes is a reminder of how good he is/they are too. His croak on the live version of Dylan's classic "Girl From The North Country Fair" makes his sound almost like Neil Young. And the 1989 rocked up version of "Church (Part Of Someone)" with its brass and girly chorus is excellent as is his bluesy live cover of Otis Redding's "Ole Man Trouble". So to sum up - a mixed bag in the end - sonically brilliant but with content some might find superfluous. But man when Stephen Stills was good - he was the best!
"I must learn to live without you now..." - he sings plaintively on the "Manassas" gem "So Begins The Task". Despite its niggles - I'm glad someone classy like Graham Nash collated it all together so we don't have to live without any of Stephen Stills' massively influential body of work...