The lifespan of Buffalo Springfield barely lasted two years, but that short amount of time laid the groundwork for the careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Poco’s Richie Furay. And now, the three very good albums they made during their time together have been whipped up by Rhino Records into a five-disc box set. While the digital and CD editions of What’s That Sound? Complete Albums Collection aren’t necessarily game-changers, the vinyl version is exquisite. It’s been remastered under Young’s crotchety supervision, pressed onto quality vinyl, and presented in high-end reproductions of the original album sleeves.
You have questions!
Yeah! How did they milk a three-album career into a five-LP box set, especially since it doesn’t include any outtakes or unreleased material (some of which found its way onto a 2001 box set)?
The set includes both the mono and stereo versions of 1966’s self-titled debut and 1967’s Buffalo Springfield Again (mono had essentially been phased out by 1968’s Last Time Around). While the mono version of the debut has been readily available in the digital age, the same cannot be said for Again; this box marks the first time this rare, coveted mix has been made available since its original release.
Mono AND stereo? Who gives a shit?
Fair enough. It takes a certain kind of obsessive music fan to drool over the differences on a mono version of a beloved album, although for a lot of music made in the ’60s, the mono mix is the original and superior version (stereo being a luxury most music-loving kids couldn’t afford). Young insists the mono mix of the self-titled album is the definitive one, as the stereo was done without the band’s input. For some songs, he’s right—for others, maybe not so much. And while the rare mono mix for Again is neat for trainspotters, it’s not exactly revelatory. It’s also missing one of the greatest moments in the history of stereophonic sound, when, midway through “Expecting to Fly,” a snare drum cracks and the entire stereo image reverses. Fortunately, the stereo version is also included in the box.
Any cool liner notes or anything?
No. Neil Young contributed a little blurb for each album, but they’re laughably skimpy, with several sentences copied and pasted wholesale.
What about the music itself?
Uniformly terrific. 1966’s Buffalo Springfield is a fun, punchy rock ’n’ roll album with some LA country-rock vibes; Young’s contributions are intoxicatingly dreamy, and Stills’ “For What It’s Worth,” the band’s only hit, retains its potency. Meanwhile, 1967’s Buffalo Springfield Again is a classic of the era, with the entire band at its best. Stylistically, it’s a total hodgepodge—heavy rock mingles with pastoral psychedelia, wistful folk broods alongside batter-fried soul—but it all brilliantly hangs together, kind of like the White Album. You can hear the band disintegrating on 1968’s Last Time Around, but time has treated that farewell album kindly; it’s an enjoyably melancholy, rainy-day pop record.
So, worth it?
If you’re a completist, absolutely. If you just need a good, clean vinyl copy of the essential Buffalo Springfield Again, hit the used bins—or actually, maybe wait to see if the discs will be issued separately at some point, because these new cuts are top-notch.