Rhino RecordsAbout a half-century into his musical career, Stephen Stills continues to carry on. The prolific 67-year-old musician shines a spotlight on his impressive and eclectic body of work with a four-CD box set titled Carry On, which was released last month.
The expansive collection was co-produced by Stephen's longtime Crosby, Stills & Nash band mate Graham Nash and collaborator Joel Bernstein, with additional input from Stills himself.
The singer/songwriter tells ABC News Radio that, for the most part, he left the project in the capable hands of Nash and Bernstein.
"I've got a room full of tapes and I certainly wasn't gonna go back and listen to all that stuff," Stills declares. "And Graham has titanium ears and impeccable taste, and [he and Joel] can pick out the gold between the two of them."
Carry On features a whopping 82 songs, and includes classic recordings from Stills' solo albums, The Buffalo Springfield, CSN, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Manassas, as well as various rarities, outtakes, live performances and newly remixed songs. Stephen points out that quite a bit of time was spent digging up interesting alternate takes for inclusion in the set.
"There was a reason why we picked the one that we did [originally] and 'why did we want an alternate take?'" he notes. "But a lot of those [alternate] mixes are really cool."
Listening to the set, one gets the sense of the breadth of music that influenced Stills, who grew up as an army brat in locations as geographically diverse as Florida, Louisiana, Costa Rica, El Salvador and the Panama Canal Zone.
"There's a lot in this pudding, you know," he tells ABC News Radio. "There's Latin America, there's salsa, there's the blues…And that's what we danced to in my senior year in high school instead of 'The Twist.' We danced to classic mambo and Afro-Cuban music. And, jazz, of course."
Among the most historically interesting tracks on the retrospective is "No-Name Jam," which hails from an almost-mythic series of impromptu collaborations between Stills and Jimi Hendrix. Stephen initially had thought there would be a lot of usable material from the sessions, which lasted for hours, but when he revisited the recordings for the box set he says he was disappointed to find out that wasn't the case.
"Much to my mortification…there was one song and then there's one song that [Hendrix] did that I gave back to the estate, and then there's, like, hours of loitering," explains Stills. "I mean, it's abysmal, and we couldn't find a damn thing."
Stills isn't planning any shows to specifically promote Carry On, but fans undoubtedly will hear versions of many songs from the collection when CSN hits the road next month for a new North American tour. The trek will kick off with a pair of special New York City concerts, on May 1 and May 3 at Lincoln Center's Rose Theater. The shows, dubbed "The Crosby, Stills & Nash Songbook," will feature the folk-rock trio performing specially-rearranged versions of their tunes with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
Stills says he "can't wait" to play the shows, while expressing particular excitement about the way Marsalis and the orchestra have re-worked one of his best-known solo songs. "They do 'Love the One You're With,' [with] a Dizzy Gillespie sort of a solo countermelody," he says. "I mean, it's just great."
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