Stillwater Demos (2021 Record Store Day LP)

The soundtrack album for the excellent 2000 film Almost Famous, which was based on writer/director Cameron Crowe’s experiences as a teenage Rolling Stone magazine reporter in the 1970's, is being reissued in multiple expanded editions on July 9th. This article provides many details about those reissues:

The Uber Box Set edition certainly would be an incredible thing to possess, for those who could afford it. The track list provided in the article shows that the six songs supposedly recorded by Stillwater, the film's fictional '70's rock band, will be included on CD 4 of the mammoth set. That same disc will contain the Stillwater demos, which were also issued on a limited edition vinyl LP for Record Store Day 2021.

Only one of the Stillwater songs, “Fever Dog”, was featured on the original version of the Almost Famous soundtrack album. But there was a “Director’s Edition” DVD version of the film released in 2001, also called the “Bootleg Cut” (Dreamworks 88751), which contained a bonus CD with all six Stillwater songs, the same six tracks which will be included on the fourth disc of the Uber Box Set edition.

The actual musicians who recorded the Stillwater songs were Marti Frederiksen (vocals), Nancy Wilson (rhythm guitar), Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready (lead guitar), Jon Bayless (bass), and Ben Smith (drums).

Stillwater was based partially on the Allman Brothers, and the six supposed Stillwater tracks are certainly reminiscent of those pioneering Southern rockers, with bits of Led Zeppelin (“Fever Dog”), Lynyrd Skynyrd (“Love Thing”) and Bad Company (“Love Comes And Goes”) mixed in. Four of the songs (including those three previously mentioned) were co-written by Crowe and his wife Nancy Wilson of Heart, and Ann Wilson contributed to "Chance Upon You". The other two, “Hour Of Need” and “You Had To Be There”, were co-written by Peter Frampton, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Gordon Kennedy. Those two tracks are the most accessible ones, creating a more immediate listener connection than the others – which, one might argue, makes them less authentically ‘70’s-like than the other four tracks. None of the tracks are great, because they weren’t meant to be. Wilson once said that Stillwater was supposed to have the sound of a band who were “not all the way formed yet”, and who never quite made it to the big time. Still, the songs are likable enough on a fictitious, fake-band level that never descends into Spinal Tap-like parody.

The Stillwater Demos EP is a limited edition Record Store Day 2021 release, limited to 6,800 copies and pressed in red vinyl, containing the demos of the Stillwater songs recorded by Nancy Wilson and Peter Frampton. These demo tracks will also be included on the fourth disc of the soundtrack's Uber Box Set edition. Considering that two real ‘70’s rock stars recorded these demos, you might expect them to sound even more ‘70’s-like than the “finished” Stillwater tracks, but that’s not exactly the case. Wilson’s five demos (including two different versions of “Love Comes And Goes”) sound instrumentally similar to the finished versions, due to the presence of McCready, Bayless, and Smith. But Wilson’s vocals almost qualify these late-1998 recordings as Lilith Fair-era alternativism. You may be disappointed if you expect Wilson's tracks to sound Heart-like, because the only one that noticeably does is “Chance Upon You”, the one co-written with her sister Ann. But these Wilson demos make a good listen, coming across more like an artist’s straightforward work instead of movie soundtrack songs in the making. The second version of “Love Comes And Goes” (not the early one) especially comes across like a finished album track – and a good one, at that. Frampton sang the lead vocal on his demo of “You Had To Be There”. It may not remind you of anything from Frampton Comes Alive, but it is reminiscent of Frampton’s later studio albums. Marti Frederiksen and Gordon Kennedy sang the vocal verses on Frampton’s demo of “Hour Of Need”; the only thing wrong with that track is that it sounds too much like a demo at a few key moments.

Stillwater - Stillwater

Stillwater (Dreamworks DRWR-13824-2) 2001

Track Listing:

1. Fever Dog
2. Love Thing
3. Chance Upon You
4. Love Comes And Goes
5. Hour Of Need
6. You Had To Be There

Stillwater “Demos” EP (A&M / Universal B0033296-01) 2021

Track Listing:

Side A:

1. Love Comes And Goes (Early Version)
2. Fever Dog
3. Love Thing
4. Change Chance Upon You

Side B:

1. Love Comes And Goes
2. You Had To Be There
3. Hour Of Need