On a comment I did about Hillman’s "Clear Sailing" album from 1977 I said this by way of background, "Anyone even remotely interested in country rock knows Chris Hillman. His PR is not as successful as many others in the genre but he was a key player in country rock and the west coast sound. He was in many groups including: The Scottsville Squirrel Barkers, The Hillmen, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Bros, Manassas, The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, McGuinn Clark & Hillman, Ever Call Ready, Desert Rose Band, Rice Rice Hillman & Pedersen and Chris Hillman & Herb Pedersen’.
Refer to that comment for more biographical detail.
The "Clear Sailing" album immediately followed this album and the criticisms of that album apply to this one, only less so, probably because this album came earlier ….I said, "it is also true that as the 70s progressed "country rock" grew increasingly slick and dull, despite or because of its popularity. The rough regional accents were ironed out, lyrics were toned down, authentic country instruments were replaced with standard rock ones or worse, were played to fit into a MOR sound and most unfavourably of all the elation and emotion in the best of country was replace by a cool, stoned detachment. It reached its peak with the amazingly facile Eagles who despite their limitations managed a handful of good tracks … Of course there is room for this smooth country rock but with a few exceptions it doesn’t date particularly well and isn’t all that memorable, though some idiots will champion it”.
This album has some standout tracks but the concessions to country flavoured MOR was already in place. The pull for commercial acceptance is strong and understandable. You can’t make a living if you aren’t selling out concerts and you aren’t selling out concerts if you aren’t selling records.
So, as I said in relation to "Clear Sailing", "this album unfortunately is very much of its time …a late 70s country rock album with all the limitations described above…. It’s a slippery slope from country rock to soft rock with country overtones ….."
There is some happiness in the fact that Hillman is such a fine writer than he makes even the MOR songs quite pleasurable but the real joy comes from the tracks where Hillman just does what he wants to do. There he creates magic.
Tracks (best in italics)
- Step on Out – (Chris Hillman, Peter Knobler) -very mid 70s country rock with some Paul Simon overtones. There is no urban decay, pollution, stagflation, recession …..very bouncy but hatched in a vacuum
- Slippin’ Away – (Chris Hillman) – sonding like a smooth and slick Jim Croce. Not too bad but not especially memorable.
- Falling Again– (Chris Hillman , Bob McDill)-a nice country rock stroll.
- Take It on the Run- (Chris Hillman)- a bit harder and reminiscent of Crazy Horse
- Blue Morning- (Chris Hillman)-a slow one. Better than The Eagles.
- Witching Hour-(Stephen Stills) – a song originally done by the country rock supergroup Manassas (which Hillman was a member of) though the song was unreleased until 2009. This isn’t too bad though the Manassas original is better.
- Down in the Churchyard-(Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons)- what seems “so so” at first actually weaves some magic. This has a slight reggae / Jamaica beat. Very catchy. This is a re-recording – originally it was done by Chris’ other band, The Flying Burrito Bros, on their second album "Burrito Deluxe" in 1970.
- Love Is the Sweetest Amnesty-(Danny Douma)- catchy but sounds like too many other songs
- Midnight Again– (Chris Hillman)- a bouncy stroll with a hint of Bakersfield.
- (Take Me in Your) Lifeboat-(Chris Hillman)- an ol’ fashioned hoedown and the best song on the album. I’m not sure why he didn’t do an album of this type of music (at this time – he did later)
Not perfect but good enough …. I’m keeping it.
1976 Slippin’ Away The Billboard 200 #152
Step on Out
Love Is the Sweetest Amnesty
(Take Me in Your) Lifeboat
– Musicans include Lee Sklar, Jim Fielder, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Russ Kunkel, Jim Gordon, Steve Cropper, Herb Pedersen, Bernie Leadon,Flo and Eddie