Crosby, Stills, Nash and Youngs effort from 1970, "Deja Vu", took roughly 800 hours too record and within those hours the band still struggled to function as a unit. But whatever egos and power trips the band had to contend with did not get in the way of them recording a modern day American classic. The album achieved wide mainstream success and would act as the platform for Neil Young to launch his own solo career.
Of course Neil Young and Stephen Stills both knew what they were getting themselves into before recording "Deja Vu". It was only a few years earlier that they were competing with each other in Buffalo Springfield. Springfield had formed in 1965 and in its very early days Richie Furay was very much the star of the show. But as the band began to grow in stature the struggle between Stills and Young became more apparent and would plague the group throughout its short life. All the songs on their debut album were either written by Stills or Young, with Furay being forced to take the back seat. By the time the band started recording their third record "Last Time Around" they were already on the brink of destruction. Stills and Young knowing that they had exhausted the Springfield to the best of their advantage began to seek alternative places to develop their song writing potential, whilst Furay and Jim Messina were the ones left to pick up the pieces and complete the album. Although it wasn't the bands definitive work, it gave Richie Furay the opportunity to prove just how good a songwriter he was with his contributions "It's So Hard to Wait" and "Kind Woman" rivalling anything else Stills and Young had ever done with the group.
With Buffalo Springfield now a footnote in American music history Furay brought it upon himself to start up a new outfit called Poco. He managed to record 5 albums with the group including the legendary live record "Deliverin'". By the time the band released 1973's "Crazy Eyes" Furay had become increasingly disillusioned with the group and his own career. Poco never really broke through commercially while at the same time The Eagles who based much of their sound on the Poco formula of classic three part harmonies on top of a southern country musical vibe were having far greater commercial success on David Geffens Asylum records. This coupled with the rise to stardom of his former band mates in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young it’s little wonder why Furay was frustrated.
It was in 1974 that David Geffen thought he could put together a band that would rival and achieve the same sort of success of CSNY. He was able to convince Richie Furay, Chris Hillman and JD Souther to join forces to create a kind of country rock supergroup. Each member was an extremely gifted singer/songwriter with an impressive association with some classic country rock outfits. Chris Hillman had not only been a founding member of the Byrds but had created one of country musics finest ever albums with The Flying Burrito Brothers on their debut "Gilded Palace of Sin". While JD Souther had already released his own solo album and had written songs for the likes of Linda Rondstadt and The Eagles.
With Asylum Records behind their debut release, The Souther Hillman Furay Band found themselves receiving a huge amount of press and hype. It seemed like this was the band that Furay always wanted to be in. The release did go gold and even scored a top 40 hit on the Billboard charts with "Fallin' in Love" but was generally considered a disappointment from both a sales and critical perspective. Their 1975 follow up, the appropriately titled Trouble in Paradise, was the final nail in the coffin as the album was never up to the standard of the debut and had even less commercial success.
Their debut album may not be as consistent as some of the other records that Furay, Hillman and Souther had recorded on but it was a strong collection of songs with enough magical moments on their to regard it as a 70’s country rock classic.
The SHF Band entered the studio only months after the death of Gram Parsons who was a friend of Furays and close collaborater with Hillman. The Hillman penned "Heavenly Fire" was a fitting tribute to the man with the lines "Hard to live, easy to die, makes you want to get down on your knees and cry" summing up the tragic end of such a gifted musicians life. Southers contributions included the standard country rockers of "The Heartbreaker" and "Border Town", but it was the albums closing track "Deep, Dark and Dreamless nights" where Souther was at his best. The hushed verses combined with the layered harmonies in the chorus were the makings of a classic ballad that had the album finish on a particularly high note. But the person who really shone on this record was Furay. The opening track "Fallin' in Love" was a catchy tune that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Poco album, but it was "Believe Me" that would prove to be the centrepiece of this record. Not only was it one of Furays greatest moments as a songwriter but it displayed just what heights this band could reach when things did gel.
The album didn't achieve the kind of success that had been expected from it. After the bands disintegration each member went their own separate ways. Hillman made several solo albums and would collaborate again with former Byrds members Roger MCGuinn and Gene Clark as well as having some commercial success with The Desert Rose Band. Souther continued to collaborate behind the scenes with other prominent musicians and made a total of four critically acclaimed solo records in his career and even delved into acting. The Souther Hillman Furay Band did not act as the vehicle that would see Richie Furay rise to rock n roll stardom but his time spent with the group proved to be pivotal in his own life. Al Perkins who provided pedal steel for the group introduced Richie to Christianity, something Furay would turn to as he tried to save his marriage with wife Nancy. After this period in his life Furay had a new outlook and attaining fame was no longer a priority. He is currently a pastor in Colorado and has made several Christian rock albums.