Chris Stills / self-titled
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Fri January 11, 2008, 06:40 AM CST
Considering that seven years had passed between the release of Chris Stillsí debut 100 Year Thing and his most recent endeavor ó which was issued overseas in 2005 but didnít hit U.S. shores until 2006 ó it almost goes without saying that his self-titled sophomore set had a difficult birth. After a single trek through the outing, itís easy to see why. Where his debut came complete with lush harmonies that echoed the hippie-folk style of his fatherís group Crosby, Stills and Nash, his latest effort heads in a different direction entirely. Not only does it strike a blatantly commercial pose by attempting to fit within the framework of the current adult-alternative pop scene, but it also features a pair of tracks that are sung in French. The outing is a perplexing change of pace, to say the least, and it never quite works nearly as well as Stills undoubtedly had hoped it would.
Since issuing his debut, Stills never really has received the attention that he deserved, and because the effort so closely followed in the footsteps of his fatherís work, he was knocked around a bit in the press. Sure, it was a little too neatly trimmed and polished, and without a doubt, he was still searching for his own voice. Those who have heard Stills in a concert setting, however, can attest to the fact that he is both an enormously talented artist and a mesmerizing performer who just might find his own way, if only heíd stop trying to force himself into unnatural situations.
Unfortunately, Stillsí eponymous set is a step in the wrong direction. Throughout the 12-track endeavor, he tries his best to sound contemporary, but the results ó which range from the Coldplay-driven, piano ballad When the Pain Dies Down to the Jeff Buckley-meets-Travis folk flair of Landslide ó are all wrong for him. Likewise, his attempts to tuck an ode to the Steve Miller Bandís Jet Airliner inside The Wallflowers-influenced rock of Flying High as well as to update Hall & Oatesí brand of blue-eyed soul on Say My Last Goodbye fall flat. Although the outing bears faint hints of his true capabilities, it largely is mired in arrangements that fail to distinguish his work from everything else on the radio. Consequently, Stills comes across as less self-assured than he did on his debut.
Itís not surprising, then, that the moment when Stillsí self-titled set succeeds the most is when he taps into something that is organic and timeless. Settling upon a bed of gentle, finger-picked acoustic guitar patterns, the simple, unadorned Sweet California sparkles as he blends his fatherís work with wisps of Paul McCartney and Led Zeppelin. From start-to-finish, itís a gem of a tune. Stills would have been better served had he continued down this path, rather than the one he opted to take. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box