What the Career-Spanning ‘Buffalo Springfield’ Box Set Missed
Buffalo Springfield existed slightly over two years, but in that short time managed to release three albums, two of which are genuine classics. Rhino Records put the recorded works into perspective on July 17, 2001 by issuing a four-disc box set that included all three albums plus a healthy stash of previously unreleased material.
Titled simply Buffalo Springfield, the set covers a lot of ground, with material dating back to their earliest demo recordings. For many, Buffalo Springfield, along with the Byrds, were the sound of Los Angeles circa 1966-67. For one soul, however, the band never lived up to its promise in the studio.
"Buffalo Springfield should have been recorded live - from the very beginning," guitarist/vocalist Neil Young told Nick Kent in his book, The Dark Stuff. "The vocals always had to be overdubbed. Our producers made us do the new things in the studio, laying down a track then singing. That's why the Buffalo Springfield records don't sound right. All the records were great failures as far as I'm concerned."
Young may be overthinking things here as the great percentage of the 88 tracks within is nothing short of folk-rock heaven. Members of the band (which also included Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer and others) were heavily involved in assembling the set, which features 36 demos, remixes and other previously unreleased material. Many of the unissued tracks had even escaped the clutches of bootleggers over the years, making this set all the more impressive.
The highlights are many, the best of which might just be the Stills-sung version of "Down to the Wire," a killer Young tune that was unreleased at the time, but later turned up on Decade with a Young lead vocal. Unfortunately, there was no live material unearthed for inclusion to prove Young's earlier point – and despite its obvious treasures, there were some odd omissions.
For instance, only the mono version of the first album is represented and only the stereo version of Buffalo Springfield Again is here. Also, disc four is essentially those first two albums in sequence, repeated, despite all the tracks being found over the first three discs.
One of the most glaring omissions cited by fans was the exclusion of the long version of "Bluebird," which was released on a two-LP compilation back in 1973 and has never been reissued in any context. The nearly nine-minute take features blistering solos from Young and Stills as well a more chaotic mood.
Also, rather than some heavy thesis on the history of the band and the recordings, the book included is more like a scrapbook and, while interesting to look at, it lacks solid information. Despite those relatively minor complaints tossed around, it's a crucial document of a band who only graced us with their presence a very short time.
"We were good, even great," Young added, and you know, he was right.