Monday, July 4, 2016

Buffalo Springfield – Stampede

Buffalo Springfield – Stampede

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:
1.  For What it’s Worth
2.  Mr. Soul
3.  We’ll See
4.  Pretty Girl Why
5.  Down To The Wire
6.  Everydays

Side B:
7.  Sell Out
8.  My Kind of Love
9.  No Sun Today
10.  Bluebird

Happy Fourth of July!  What better way to celebrate the birthday of Murica with a bunch of expat Canadians who sang about the unfair treatment of peaceful protesters by the uptight US government!  This is a reconstruction of the unreleased Buffalo Springfield album Stampede.  The brainchild of more their label than the actual band, Stampede was to be released in the summer of 1967 to capitalize on Buffalo Springfield’s hit “For What It’s Worth”.  Due to internal band conflict—namely ego battles and the departure of vocalist/guitarist Neil Young and bassist Bruce Palmer—the album never materialized and instead the fractured Buffalo Springfield Again was released at the end of the year.  This reconstruction attempts to recreate what Stampede could have been, particularly focusing on full-band recordings rather than the assemblage of nearly-solo tracks as heard on the eventual Again.  This reconstruction is presented in mono and all songs are volume adjusted and sequenced for a cohesive whole.  And of course, as much Neil as possible! 

After a bidding war over the young Los Angeles band with stars in their eyes, Buffalo Springfield recorded their self-titled debut album and released it at the conclusion of 1966.  Although a powerhouse in the local LA scene, the album and its lead single "Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing" made little impact.  It wasn’t until lead singer and guitarist Stephen Stills witnessed the Sunset Strip Riots in November, in which local law enforcement unfairly cracked down on the counterculture 'loiterers'.  Influenced by the emerging madness and civil unrest of the 1960s, Stills composed “For What It’s Worth”, a cautionary tale of a government policing its citizens who should otherwise have the freedom to peacefully assemble.   Recorded in December, the song was released in January 1967 and hit the Top Ten nationally, becoming a peace anthem as well as eventual history as one of the greatest rock songs of the 20th Century. 

While “For What It’s Worth” was the song that made Buffalo Springfield, it was also the song that destroyed them, as the young band was not ready to attain superstardom so quickly.  Neil Young had to briefly leave the group in January due to epileptic seizures, but returned in time for their first recording sessions of 1967 in New York.  After working on several new compositions for a second album tentatively titled Stampede (Still’s “We’ll See”, Young’s “Mr. Soul” and guitarist Richie Furay’s “My Kind of Love”), Palmer was arrested for marijuana possession and deported back to Canada.  Throughout the next six months, Palmer was temporarily replaced by a number of revolving bass players including: Ken Forssi of Love, Ken Koblum of The Squires, Miles Thomas of The Poor, Jim Fielder of Blood, Sweat & Tears and The Mothers of Invention... and not to mention Buffalo Springfield road manager Dickie Davis who famously mimed the bass parts on a television appearance! 

The band went in and out of several studios in February and March with Fielder on bass.  Although the label thought they were tracking Stampede, the bend felt they were just killing time until the turbulence subsided: Stills’ “Pretty Girl Why”, “No Sun Today” and “Everydays” and Young’s “Down To The Wire”.  In April, the band tracked “Bluebird” with session player Bobby West on bass, as well as more recording and mixing done to the January recording of “Mr. Soul” in attempt to compile a follow-up single to “For What It’s Worth”.  Meanwhile, Atlantic Records capitalized on the success of the top ten hit by re-issuing the band’s self-titled debut album, dropping “Baby Don’t Scold Me” for “For What It’s Worth”.  The move worked and the album shot up the charts, unlike its original configuration several months before.  The label then booked Buffalo Springfield to pose for an album cover photo shoot for the Stampede album they were pressured to be making throughout the turmoil.   While this picture itself became a classic—with Davis posing as the missing Palmer, face obscured—Stampede never did, as the album never was. 

Aside from the missing bassist and thus a lack of a solid foundation, a second variable was at play: Neil Young.  In-fighting had developed between Stills, Young and Furay, all vying to edge their compositions into the band, resulting in each member essentially producing the sessions for their own songs.  By June, Palmer was able to return to Buffalo Springfield but Young had already left, attempting a solo career free of the Buffalo Springfield.  Young was temporarily replaced by Doug Hastings of The Daily Flash and then briefly David Crosby of The Byrds.  More studio works was done to ‘kill time’ during the summer: Furay’s “A Child’s Claim To Fame” and Stills’ “Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman” and “Hung Upside Down”.  Buffalo Springfield’s trajectory had only increased after playing Monterey Pop Festival and the band was surprised to find that Neil wanted to rejoin.  Unfortunately the damage was already done and by August the band realized they needed to deliver an album to Atlantic.

Oddly enough, the fractured and reassembled Buffalo Springfield scrapped most of the material recorded throughout the tumultuous year, and instead cobbled together an album mainly consisting of solo recordings.  Chosen was: the Palmer-less “Bluebird” and “Everydays”; the Young-less “A Child’s Claim To Fame”, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman” and “Hung Upside Down”; Young offered his own recordings of “Expecting To Fly” and “Broken Arrow” originally meant for his short-lived solo album; Furay offered his own recordings of “Sad Memory” and “Good Time Boy” (the later which was sung by drummer Dewey Martin and session musicians filling out the rest of the instrumentation!).  Only “Mr. Soul” featured all of the classic Buffalo Springfield lineup.  Despite being full of fantastic material, Buffalo Springfield Again was incongruent and was hardly Buffalo Springfield as a band.  Are these faults something we can correct?

Many people have theorized and reconstructed what Stampede could have been, but due to the lack of any finalized tracklist—or even the confirmation that the band believed they were making an album in the first place—the results vary wildly.  Despite this, there are two chief methods to organize the album: it could have either been a collection of the songs Buffalo Springfield were working on in 1967 before Young quit, or it could have been a cash-cow album by the label using unreleased 1966 material as filler.  Here we will attempt the former, making an album that would chronologically follow their debut album and replace Again with a more unified “band-sound” with Neil, rather than a stopgap collection to stand alongside both Buffalo Springfield and Again.  Furthermore, we will make the assumption that the Stampede album would have touted “For What it’s Worth” and the debut Buffalo Springfield will remain as it was initially released in 1966 without it.  Finally, this reconstruction will be presented in mono, which is what the Buffalo Springfield preferred. 

Side A begins with “For What It’s Worth”, taken from the Buffalo Springfield boxset.  It’s followed by the rare single mix of “Mr. Soul” with a more upfront lead guitar and bass track, taken from a vinyl rip by Professor Stoned.  Next is “We’ll See” and “Pretty Girl Why” from the Buffalo Springfield box set, followed by Neil’s vocal version of “Down To The Wire” from his Archives Vol 1.  Side A concludes with the mysterious “Everydays” from the mono vinyl rip of Again by Professor Stoned.

Side B gently departs from my theme of not using the 1966 outtakes, using Neil’s fantastic “Sell Out”, taken from Archives Vol 1.  Recorded near the very end of the Buffalo Springfield sessions in September 1966, Neil plays all the instruments and the recording was meant as a publishing demo; regardless, it fits well in my Stampede (not to mention it being my favorite track on the album!).  Following is “My Kind of Love” and “No Sun Today” from the Buffalo Springfield box.  Ending the album is the rare 9-minute version of “Bluebird”, taken from a vinyl rip of the obscure 1973 Buffalo Springfield double LP, collapsed into mono to match the rest of the reconstruction. 

Sources used:
Buffalo Springfield (1973 Atco Records, noxid vinyl rip)
Buffalo Springfield (2001 Rhino Records 4CD box set)
Buffalo Springfield – Again (1967 Atco Records Prof Stoned mono vinyl rip)
Buffalo Springfield – Bluebird b/w Mr Soul (1967 Atco Records Prof Stoned mono vinyl rip)
Neil Young – Archives Volume 1 (2009 Reprise Records CD)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included