Stephen Stills - guitar, piano, banjo, lead vocals; Chris Hillman - guitar, mandolin, lead vocals; Al Perkins - pedal steel, guitar; Paul Harris - keyboards; Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels - bass; Dallas Taylor - drums; Joe Lala - percussion, vocals; Guest: David Crosby - guitar, vocals; Guest: Graham Nash - vocals
Following the monumental success of the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album and its follow-up, Déjà vu, which added Neil Young to the equation, this volatile group again went their separate ways. During the latter part of 1971, Stephen Stills, who was a prolific songwriter at the time, began sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami for what was initially intended to be his third solo album. He recruited a stellar roster of Laurel Canyon musicians to work on the sessions. The remarkable chemistry of the musicians that Stills had assembled was so strong that it became obvious that this unit could become a full-blown band. With a double album completed and despite not having a name, the group embarked on a brief tour. Outside a train station in Manassas, Virginia, a photo was taken of the entourage, giving birth to the band's name and supplying the album cover.
Although the bulk of the band's material was composed by Stills, Chris Hillman, one of the founding members of The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, became Stills' primary partner in this new aggregation, also supplying material and playing a major role in the new group's musical direction. Stills relished the collaboration, as Hillman complimented Stills, rather than competing with him, which was a refreshing change after all the ego battles of CSN&Y. The group also featured the talents of multi-instrumentalist Al Perkins (another ex-Burrito Brother) on second lead guitar and pedal steel and veteran session keyboardist Paul Harris. The rhythm section included Calvin Samuels, who had played bass on the 1970 CSN&Y tour, Dallas Taylor, who played drums on the earlier CSN&Y tours and on both albums, plus ex-Blues Image percussionist Joe Lala, who added additional flavor. The group rapidly became one of the most exciting and versatile bands of the era, equally comfortable with rock, blues, country, folk, bluegrass or Latin flavored jams and playing all extremely well.
With such an inspired group of musicians and a wealth of material from which to draw upon, the group's concerts were often marathon affairs. The basic format was to perform two electric sets that focused on the best of the Manassas material (with a few choice older gems thrown in for good measure) with an acoustic set that often featured Flying Burrito Brothers material in between. When Manassas took the stage on October 7, 1973 on the final night of their Winterland engagement, they had no idea it would turn out to be one of their last performances. Performing a wealth of material from the acclaimed double album, a few choice numbers from their second album, Down The Road, and with a few surprises in store, it would turn out to be one of the most memorable performances.
The first set kicks off with a fully electric performance containing most of side one of the double album performed in sequence. Containing "The Song Of Love," "Rock & Roll Crazies/Cuban Bluegrass," "Jet Set (Sigh)," and "Anyway," this displays the diversity and spontaneous energy the group was well known for. Stills is in fine vocal form and the entire band is full of fire. Both Stills and Al Perkins, who plays impressive second lead guitar as well as pedal steel, provide the bulk of the solos and by this point in time, they had become quite adept at complimenting each other. Usually this impressive song cycle would conclude with the Hillmam-Stills composition "Both Of Us (Bound To Lose," but on this night Hillman leads the group into a fine rendition of The Byrds' hit, "So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star," providing an unexpected, but delightful conclusion to this 18-minute sequence. "Johnny's Garden" provides some tension release with its laidback folk-rock vibe before they conclude this initial electric portion of the show with the smoldering blues, "Go Back Home." A standout track from Stills' first solo album, this is nearly twice as long and features some of the most impressive guitar playing of the evening.
At this point, Chris Hillman and Al Perkins take control to begin the country and bluegrass portion of the show. Sandwiched between two Flying Burrito Brothers standards ("Six Days On The Road" and "You're Still On My Mind") are three more impressive outings, including an early version of Hillman's "Safe At Home," which he would soon record with his future project, the Souther, Hillman, and Furay Band. Stills also shines during this section of the performance on lovely readings of his "Fallen Eagle" and "Hide It So Deep," both from the first Manassas album.
Following this, the group takes an intermission, but Still's has a few tricks up his sleeve for when they return. Stills next delights the San Francisco audience by walking back on stage with David Crosby and Graham Nash in tow. The mega-popular trio then delivers a wonderful acoustic set of their own. (Note: Although not included here, this set was also recorded and will be featured on Concert Vault separately and is not to be confused with the acoustic Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young set that occurred at the October 4th Manassas performance.) Needless to say the Winterland audience was ecstatic by the end of this set, but Manassas wasn't finished yet! Crosby and Nash exit to a standing ovation and the rest of Manassas again joins Stills on stage.
They kick the second electric set off with the Latin flavored rocker "Pensamiento," one of the standout tracks from the recently released second Manassas album, Down The Road. Next Stills takes a seat at the grand piano for a rousing rendition of "49 Bye Byes." Considerably different than its CS&N LP incarnation, this segues directly into an impressive percussion solo by Joe Lala and then concludes with a passage of the Buffalo Springfield classic, "For What Its Worth." Following introductions of the band members, Chris Hillman delivers a smoking rendition of "Lies," another highlight off the second Manassas album.
At this point the group is ready to jam and to help them do it, David Crosby returns to the stage and straps on his electric guitar. With Crosby providing vocal support and his distinctive rhythm guitar, the group sinks their teeth into "The Treasure." This features some of the night's most inspired playing, evolving into a bluesy groove washed in Stills' fierce electric slide guitar. This is an incendiary performance with sparks flying in all directions. As the band takes off the momentum continues building, at which point Stills rips directly into "Carry On." This is a smoking conclusion to the set that leaves the Winterland audience up on their feet and clamoring for more. Stills eventually obliges, returning to the stage with his acoustic guitar. For the encore, he delivers a beautiful solo acoustic reading of "Daylight Again," which was totally new to the audience at the time, which segues directly into "Find The Cost Of Freedom." During the latter song, the entire band, as well as Crosby and Nash return to the stage and join Stills in an a cappella sing-along to send the enraptured audience on its way.