Stephen Stills

Carry On

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The last of Crosby, Stills & Nash to receive his own multi-disc career retrospective, Stephen Stills is rewarded for his long wait with Carry On, the best of these box sets. Spanning four discs -- one CD longer than the either the 2006 David Crosby or 2009 Graham Nash boxes -- Carry On follows a pattern familiar from those Crosby and Nash sets, balancing unreleased material with all the big hits, deep cuts, and some alternate mixes, but where this set excels is in painting a full, robust portrait of Stills as a songwriter, guitarist, and musical wanderer, chronicling his peaks and valleys without lingering too long on the latter. Certainly, what lasts is Stills' restlessness, how he was grounded in folk -- the first cut here finds a teenage Stills alone with his acoustic guitar, essaying "Travelin'," not knowing that its restlessness would echo throughout his life -- but also found solace in blues and rock & roll, taking extended guitar sojourns either accompanied by Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield or Jimi Hendrix on his own (the unreleased "No-Name Jam" that pops up on the second disc). Often, Stills' skills as a guitarist are underappreciated -- a byproduct of being a cornerstone of perhaps the biggest folk-rock trio of its time -- but his virtuosity is present throughout Carry On, as are his hippie leanings and his almost imperceptible but persistent desire to follow the trends of the time. As the set progresses, Stills follows almost every production of his time, surrounding himself with funky fusion players in the early '70s and eagerly succumbing to glistening synths in the '80s. His passion for Latin music is accentuated -- it's there as early as "Uno Mundo" in Buffalo Springfield -- but so is his restless, searching spirit, a hunger that is somewhat dampened by the polished productions of the '80s and '90s, where the sparkle of synthesizers obscures the songs. Nevertheless, Stills' acceptance of the precision production of the '80s and '90s is an important part of his story, and it's possible to hear this box as a brief unintentional history of his time, as he abandons the earth and dirt of Buffalo Springfield and early CSN(&Y) for a slicker, softer sound. But that's part of what makes Carry On so fascinating: you can hear Stills slipping into an oddly crowd-pleasing mentality yet he still relies on the folk, blues, and rock that have always anchored him, so he never sounds like he's selling out; he's merely adapting to the times. And by not ignoring these flaws, Carry On winds up as a rousing, moving testament to a singer/songwriter/guitarist who often doesn't get the credit he's due.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:19
2 2:34
3 2:32
4 2:32
5 2:38
6 2:42
7 2:27
8 4:30
9 2:47
10 3:32
11 2:55
12 2:05
13 3:47
14 2:20 Amazon
15 2:44
16 2:40
17 2:44
18 7:26
19 2:11
20 3:29
21 2:58 Amazon
22 4:26
23 3:52

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 3:06 Amazon
2 3:41 Amazon
3 5:29 Amazon
feat: Jimi Hendrix
2:40 Amazon
5 5:56 Amazon
6 2:29 Amazon
7 1:23 Amazon
8 3:17 Amazon
9 4:14 Amazon
10 3:10 Amazon
11 3:26 Amazon
12 3:26 Amazon
13 3:31 Amazon
14 3:44 Amazon
15 2:30 Amazon
16 2:53 Amazon
17 2:46 Amazon
18 3:17
19 2:47
20 2:25
21 2:11 Amazon
22 3:01 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick