Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around

Last Time Around (1968)

B-

1. On The Way Home 2. It’s So Hard To Wait 3. Pretty Girl Why 4. Four Days Gone 5. Carefree Country Day 6. Special Care 7. The Hour Of Not Quite Rain 8. Questions 9. I Am A Child 10. Merry-Go-Round 11. Uno Mundo 12. Kind Woman

 

Could these guys be any more literal with their album titles? Boy, since they played a few shows this year for the first time since the breakup, I can’t wait for Reunion to come out in 2013. Or maybe Geriatric would be more appropriate (either way, sweet mother of fuck, don’t let it happen, since Furay is apparently now a born again Christian and will contribute a bunch of songs about Jesus). Aw, I’m just joshin’ is all. After all, the writing was on the wall by the time Last Time Around came out, and it said that Buffalo Springfield weren’t long for this world. No need to try to deny it, but they were being pretty darn blatant about the fact that they were no longer a functioning, unified band by doing things like making a point of listing in the liner notes which members of the group do not appear on each track. The result is an album basically recorded by three different bands – a primordial version of Poco featuring new bassist Jim Messina, Stephen Stills going all control freak, and a virtually absent Neil Young, who had pretty much gone AWOL by the middle of 1967.

It’s not only a schizophrenic listen as a result, but a rather slow, dreary one as well. Everyone involved had obviously been smoking a ton of pot, and Young, who contributes two and half songs (he’s credited as the co-writer of the loungy blah track “It’s So Hard To Wait” with Furay) and plays a couple of cameo solos, is essentially a non-factor. Not to discount those songs… thematically, “On The Way Home” picks up right where his tracks on Again left off, with him struggling to deal with his new reality and retreating to a dream world to cope. But it doesn’t take a PHD to figure out that, with its cheery arrangement and lines like “Because I love you/Can you feel it now,” the song gives a pretty good indication that Neil is beginning to overcome his anxieties. The version presented here, with lead vocals by Furay and very sixties horn and string sections, is slick and overproduced, but the acoustic versions Young played during the early 70’s reveal the song’s inner beauty. “I Am A Child” requires no such rearrangement, since it’s just Neil with his acoustic and harmonica. Accordingly, it has remained an enduring part of his acoustic sets for his whole career.

Unfortunately, the other guys’ attempts to fill the void that Neil leaves come up well short of the mark. Furay, to his credit, tries his darndest to step his game up, but with his limited skill set, he overreaches horribly on this record. The most obvious example is the hellacious goop “The Hour Of Not Quite Rain,” which I think is supposed to sound like something lifted from the soundtrack of a black and white movie from the 40’s… too bad Furay sounds like a total runt whimpering every note of the non-melody. And even when he does come up with a nice melody for “Merry-Go-Round,” it’s marred by a bunch of fruity Austin Powers instrumentation. Fortunately he redeems himself at the end with his best song ever, “Kind Woman,” a heartfelt country-soul ballad that’s often referred to as “the first Poco song” as if anybody actually cared. The downside is that the introduction of future Poco members into the recording ensemble results in the inclusion of Jim Messina’s piece of shit “Carefree Country Day,” which sounds like a particularly stupid Randy Newman song sung by a dying lung cancer patient. That was such a good idea.

Stills doesn’t really rise to the occasion either; I guess he had his eye on the next phase of his career as much as Neil at this point, because he contributes no major songs, except for maybe the rocker “Questions,” which he liked so much he rewrote it for CSNY a mere two years later. “Special Care” is similar, but comes across as unfinished, getting lost in a haze of Stills’ newly beefed-up psychedelic fuzz soloing after a couple of verses. His other songs just come across as incredibly slight, if inoffensive (the elevator muzak-style “Pretty Girl Why,” the sluggish piano-based “Four Days Gone,” the Latin rave-up “Uno Mundo,” which actually is kinda dumb). I mean, I give credit to both Stills and Furay for at least attempting to expand the band’s palette, instrumentation-wise, but more often than not it comes across as either a cosmetic remedy for less than stellar material or rampant overproduction (the aforementioned cases of “The Hour Of Not Quite Rain,” “On The Way Home” and “Merry-Go-Round”).

Ultimately, Last Time Around is too much filler, not enough killer, and the lack of cohesion, to put it mildly, is distracting. But it’s worth taking a detour through if you really love Stills’ guitar playing, or if you’re a Poco fan or something. And you know you can trust my advice, since I was drunk for about 17 straight hours yesterday. Oh, Dress To Get Laid, how I love you.



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