1 Ain't It Always - 3:25
2 Feed the People - 4:24
3 Hearts Gate - 3:02
4 'Round the Bend - 5:10
5 I Don't Get It - 3:36
6 Around Us - 3:48
7 Ole Man Trouble - 4:59
8 Different Man - 2:14
9 Piece of Me - 4:06
10 Wounded World - 3:11
11 Drivin' Thunder - 4:29
12 Acadienne - 4:07
13 Spanish Suite - 11:20
One of the great surprises of 2005, Stephen Stills' comeback album is the one fans have been waiting for. 1991's 'Stills Alone' was an excellent acoustic album and easily his best since 1971's 'Stephen Stills 2', but on 'Man Alive' Stills focuses on playing the harder stuff, and comes up with some of his finest guitar work ever. True, his voice has suffered a lot since the early seventies, but he sounds like a real blues man now. That damaged voice really makes you feel the songs on this record.
'Ain't It Always' immediately sets the mood; a good rock song with excellent guitar work, and 'Feed The People' is a melodic tune, often played by CSN in concert. 'Hearts Gate' and 'Piece Of Me' are wonderful acoustic tracks that wouldn't have been out of place on Stills' previous record ('Stills Alone'). His friend, rival and part-time colleague Neil Young joins on two of the album's highlights: the hard rocking 'Round The Bend' (with Stills & Young playing brilliant guitar solos) and the beautiful acoustic song 'Different Man' (with Young adding beautiful harmonies to Stills' lead vocal). In my opinion, 'Different Man' is one of the most moving songs on any record released since 2000. 'I Don't Get It' and 'Around Us' are decent rock songs, but the album would have been better without them. The outstanding cover of Booker T. Jones' 'Ole Man Trouble' sets things straight, and the duet with another old friend, Graham Nash, on 'Wounded World' is another highlight. Stills himself wasn't very satisfied with the version of 'Drivin' Thunder' (written with Neil Young), that appeared on the 1988 reunion album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: 'American Dream'. I personally saw it as the best song on that album, so the new version on 'Man Alive' was a bit unnecessary for me. Still, it's quite good. 'Acadienne' is a little oddity here, complete with accordian, but after a few listens it works. And that brings us to the final track, and the absolute masterpiece, of this album: 'Spanish Suite'. A song Stills wrote and recorded back in the late seventies, but Stills never found the right occassion to release it (source: volume III of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and somtimes Young biography). In my opinion, this may be Stills' very best composition ever (even better than 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes'). It's also the greatest latin song I've ever heard. 'Spanish Suite' is a really long song (more than 11 minutes), but it never gets boring with its phenomenal instrumental parts by Stills (spanish guitar) and Herbie Hancock (piano). Also, the percussion is very well done and Stills' vocals are beautiful. And those lyrics... wow!
I can't believe that this album was so unnoticed when it came out, when it has so many great tracks and guest appearances from Neil, Nash and Hancock. Young got all the praise and success with his 'Prairie Wind' album, also released in '05, but if you ask me 'Man Alive' is clearly a better album. I hope this album will be rediscovered in the near future, because an average rating of 3,19 from just 22 people on RYM is just ridiculous!
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