Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around
This record seems to have defied the odds with how good it is. Contract obligation albums have often not been the best representation of rock groups, and in the case of Buffalo Springfield, they had already gone their separate ways by the time this one was released. The tracks had been recorded months earlier in late ’67-early ’68. But producer Jim Messina, who also played bass and sang on a couple of songs, pulled a very good swan song album out of the void of participation by the others.
The other side of the coin for Last Time Around, released 50 years ago today, is that it is really more of a collection of solo songs. The opening track, On the Way Home, is the only song with all five original members participating. The lyrics to one of the tracks, The Hour of Not Quite Rain, were actually written by a fan who won a radio station contest, something that seems more fitting for a Monkees bio. And even that’s an enjoyable listen to my ears. The upbeat Latin flavored Uno Mundo, one of five Stills penned songs, features a rather dark lyric for such a happy sounding song: Uno Mundo/Asia is screaming/Africa seething/America bleating/just the same. Stills took a bit of a hit with critics, who wrote that his contributions weren’t up to his standard. I don’t hear it that way; his other songs, Pretty Girl Why, Four Days Gone, Special Care (with Buddy Miles on drums), and Questions (which he later revived for on the CSN&Y song Carry On) are all fantastic tracks.
It was the mercurial Neil Young whose participation was next to nil on this project. Despite this, the two tracks he did write for the album went on to be classics: I Am a Child and On the Way Home (the latter sung by Richie Furay on the album, though my favorite rendition is with Neil on vocals). The closing track is Furay’s Kind Woman, a ballad for his wife who he is still married to today. It’s a nice, peaceful ending to a tumultuous three years for a very heavily ego-driven band.
The album could be looked at as an embarrassment of riches considering how much great music they recorded on the first two albums and knowing where they were headed in the immediate future: Furay and Messina would form Poco, the very influential early country-rock band, Neil would record his first solo record before rejoining Stills, along with Crosby and Nash, on their second album. And Stills, before joining CSN and a mere two days before Last Time Around was released, would have his name featured on a highly acclaimed blues rock album with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield (which I wrote about here).
- On the Way Home
- It’s So Hard to Wait
- Pretty Girl Why
- Four Days Gone
- Carefree Country Day
- Special Care
- The Hour of Not Quite Rain
- I Am a Child
- Uno Mundo
- Kind Woman
A very solid bio of the band is For What It’s Worth: The Story of Buffalo Springfield (2004). It was written by respected music history writer John Einarson with Richie Furay. It seems like a pretty even-handed account of their story, and is bolstered by Furay, who appears to have been the most level-headed member of the group.