Top 10 Stephen Stills Songs
Even though Neil Young gets more love and attention for his contributions to Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stephen Stills, his former bandmate in both groups, is as equally adept as a singer, songwriter and instrumentalist. A sporadic, up-and-down solo career hasn’t always helped his profile, but — as you’ll see in our list of the Top 10 Stephen Stills Songs (which steers clear of his two most famous groups) — there’s plenty to recommend from his long, illustrious solo career.
Stills' 1970 self-titled debut solo album -- best known for the hit 'Love the One You're With,' found elsewhere on our list of the Top 10 Stephen Stills Songs -- is dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, who took part in the sessions before his death. But it's Stills who expertly explores gut-bucket blues on the standout track 'Black Queen.'
This one's for anyone who ever doubted Stills' rep as a songwriter of deep complexity and a guitar player of roving genius. A layered, mystical journey featuring Herbie Hancock on piano, 'Spanish Suite' soars through the many chapters of Stills' muse over the years, making for a complete return to form in the '00s.
'As I Come of Age'
That anything listenable emerged from the acrimonious sessions for an aborted CSNY reunion (in which David Crosby and Graham Nash erased their vocals before departing) is a small miracle. Stills penned the emotionally gripping triumph 'Black Coral,' while Neil Young (who received co-billing on the LP) made 'Long May You Run' a longtime favorite.
A near miss of the Top 40 in 1971, 'Marianne' -- along with 'Change Partners,' featuring Jerry Garcia -- may be the only song worth hearing from an unsteady album that boats little of the creative impetus found on Stills' 1970 debut. It's a hoot, with a gurgling riff and an impossibly stratospheric love-struck vocal.
'Turn Back the Pages'
On an album (not to mention an entire era) often marred by too-slick-and-soft production, 'Turn Back the Pages' offers a muscular shove against the radio-ready sounds of the day. But it was short-lived: Stills' 1978 album, 'Thoroughfare Gap,' returned to terrible period production, incorporating some disco elements.
'Sit Yourself Down'
Stills moves from an anthem-style sing-along to a delicately conveyed verse and then back again on this episodic triumph, which includes a stirringly complex guitar solo to boot. It's not 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,' but it's as close as Stills gets without help from his old CSNY bandmates.
'It Doesn't Matter'
The lilting opening track to the Stills-led side project Manassas, 'It Doesn't Matter' was co-written by the Byrds' Chris Hillman. But it serves as a sturdy showcase for Stills' hoarsely emotive vocal and ringing guitar.
The darkly intricate 'Treetop Flyer' is a rumination by a free spirit, presented in a suitably raw setting featuring only Stills and his imaginative guitar. The album-closing song from 1991's 'Stills Alone' includes a narrative twist: He's not flying so close to the ground because he's some kind of daredevil; he learned that trying to avoid anti-aircraft fire in Vietnam. And it arrives like a punch in the chest.
'Love the One You're With'
Ignore the Ron Burgundy-like theme of Stills' biggest hit and focus instead on how this one song collects everything that can sum up Stills' career. From its island-inflected percussive elements and utterly irresistible chorus to a vocal so full of unfettered longing and those chunky organ fills (played by Stills), 'Love the One You're With' is the sound of a performer at his tour-de-force peak.