Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Buffalo Springfield Again

By the time Buffalo Springfield's second album was released, Neil Young had already quit the band once (forcing them to play part of a tour without him), and would do so again shortly after its release. One listen to the album, widely considered the band's best, and the creative differences become quite clear. Richie Furay had begun contributing songs of his own, leaving room for fewer from Young and Stephen Stills. Stills and Furay's songs are clearly of a piece: tight, catchy California folk-rock, solid but hardly groundbreaking.

Young, on the other hand, had recorded "Mr. Soul" with the band, but had it rejected by the others as a single. He retreated, began working on his own, and produced two more songs that sound completely out of place on the album, like the work of another band entirely.

"Expecting To Fly" (the lyrics are said to have been inspired by a wheelchair-bound friend who had been a passenger in a car that drove off a cliff) is, from a songwriting perspective, a direct progression from the first album's "Out Of My Mind". The arrangement, however, is unprecedented, and is largely the work of producer Jack Nitzsche. Nitzsche had already established a name for himself in the industry through his arrangement work for Phil Spector (including "Be My Baby" and the legendary "River Deep – Mountain High"), and would go on to build one of popular music's most astounding résumés. Though he has been referred to as "the Yoko Ono of Buffalo Springfield", this was the only Springfield track on which he worked. Young and Nitzsche would go on to maintain a tumultuous and sporadically collaborative relationship over the next couple of decades.

While my intent for these posts is to present lesser-known Young tracks from each album, his songs on Again are all fairly well-known (all three appear on Decade), so I'm going with "Expecting" here because it's my personal favourite. At least until the long-rumoured acoustic demo of "Broken Arrow" surfaces. To make up for the lack of Young material, I've included a few Jack Nitzsche items of interest here. The first, "The Lonely Surfer", was Nitzsche's first solo single for a recording contract he signed in 1963 on the basis of his arranging work. The charming and aptly-titled single made the top 40, but the subsequent album didn't fare as well, and Nitzsche set aside the idea of a solo recording career for the time being. The second is the fourth movement of a classical symphony Nitzsche recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. It's pleasant and professional, though unspectacular, and seems to point to a career direction in which Nitzsche would head in the coming years: film scoring.

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Buffalo Springfield - "Expecting To Fly"

Bonus (not from vinyl): Jack Nitzsche - "The Lonely Surfer" and "St. Giles Cripplegate No. 4 (For Mori)"

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