dinsdag 11 november 2014

Crosby, Stills & Nash. Crosby, Stills & Nash

All through 2014 we are running a series on albums that Wo. never got around to listen to despite liking the singles released in 1968-69 a lot. Hence we ran reviews by the likes of Barry Ryan, Chicago Transit Authority and Blood, Sweat & Tears. This time another one, although Wo's cheating a little. This is an album that's in his possession since somewhere late 80s or early 90s, but he never really, really liked it. So here's his new try in the 10s.

Somewhere around the start of the summer a single entered the top 40 on number 40. If I remember correctly it rose a few spots the next, the week after that it went down to number 40 and left the chart. It was a song I liked, it had this fun organ part but also I did not really known what to make of it. This wasn't a hit like I got to recognize them. Songs that were easy to remember, easy to sing along to and hard to get out of my head. 'Marrakesh express', that is the single I'm talking about, sort of had those elements, but at the same time had not. It was a bit difficult to grasp for a 9 year old.

As I missed the other singles of Crosby, Stills & Nash, by then with Young on board in 1970, due to circumstances already explained before on this blog, my next introduction to CSN(Y) was the 'Woodstock' soundtrack album. 'Suite: Judy blue eyes' was forceful, but also too difficult for me. So many turns I couldn't follow. 'Sea of madness' was already a lot better. Still a favourite rocker of old. Hence that I skipped CSN(&Y) for a long while. The debut album of Crosby, Stills & Nash was bought by me second hand circa 25 years ago. And still I did not really like it. at the moment of writing I'm playing the album for the first time since ??? So know it's 2014. What do I make of Crosby, Stills & Nash?

In 1969 these names didn't mean anything to me. I can't remember if I had heard The Byrds' first hits, probably, yes. Buffalo Springfield took me a few years more to become aware of. The Hollies though
had scored many hits that I liked (and still do), but the names of individual members? CS&N did not ring any bell in other words. Listening to CS&N in 2014 a few things become immensely apparent to me. What a fantastic song 'Suite: Judy blue is'. The singing is superb, the playing forceful. A statement in intent and quality. The three voices blend, melt, retract, bounce off and bend back to each other. The way of harmonising may just have been revolutionary in 1969. All three could sing and the voice of David Crosby held everything together and made things magic.

The single still is a fun song. A lot less hard to understand nowadays. The upbeat melody on the organ drives the song forward, the singing is again forceful and there's this bass melody plopping underneath it all, emulating the Marrakesh express itself. A trip down to the city that every self-respecting U.K. pop star visited in the late 60s. You just didn't belong if you didn't go there.

'Genevere' is another Crosby gem. I can't understand that this song never spoke to me as it does now. Perhaps I just had to get (a lot) older before appreciating his music as I do now. 'You don't have to cry' is another delightful Stephen Stills song. His handling of the acoustic guitar is just great here. Some beautiful melodies and runs flow from his fingers. Nash's ' Pre-road dawns' is the weakest link on this record. Just not as good as the rest. Nothing to be ashamed of under these conditions. Next to that. Graham Nash had hardly written any songs to that date. The Hollies played provided for material, with that brilliant exception ' King Midas in reverse'. A small hit, but one of The Hollies' finest singles.

There is a surprise also. Yes, if someone had twisted my arm, I probably would have come up with 'Wooden ships', but in all honesty I had forgotten that the song is not just a Jefferson Airplane song (also 'Woodstock'). It comes by on CS&N and is another potent song. The right one to start side 2 with. The mystic escape visions of Paul Kantner, co-written with David Crosby, work well for this trio. Crosby's songs are basically the same sort of songs he makes right up to this day. That strange mix of pop and jazzy stuff. Kantner is not mentioned as co-writer, which he is in the Airplane's version. So it seems like that his escapist cosmic views come from Crosby and Stills.

Crosby, Stills & Nash holds a few other great songs. Graham Nash's 'Lady of the island' is a beautiful ballad. Stephen Stills' 'Helplessly hoping' a great rocking song and David Crosby's 'Long time coming' has that magic and mystery that characterises so many of his songs. (Like his song 'Traid' on Jefferson Airplane's 'Crown of creation', one of the best songs Grace Slick ever sung.) Even though they couldn't think of a good ending. That is a bit of a shame as 'Long time coming' deserves a decent ending. That is about the only critique on this album. Several endings are down right sloppy.

There is a drummer in this band, Dallas Taylor, the guy who on the cover (back) art is looking out the door's window. A bit blurred as the photographer focused on the trio, leaving Taylor behind. It was to stay this way. A life long frustration. The other way of looking at it could be: 'I played on Crosby Stills & Nash and on 'Deja vu''!

My ears of 2014 tell me something completely different than my younger ears. Crosby, Stills & Nash is a great album. The talents of the three singer-songwriters all come together on this album in a way that they may never have reached again in their respective careers. Each of them have come up with a few exceptional songs, but never again in a collection of songs that is as strong as this record. Stephen Stills is playing some great bass lines here, his organ contributions are as sharp as is his lead guitar playing. Seen from that point of view, he is the most important of the trio. The singing however is what makes CS&N stand out like it does. And in that all three men contribute in equal parts. The singing is spine tingling at times. What makes this album so special. How can I have been so wrong for so many years and what a fantastic idea it was to start this series in the first place.

Wo.

You can listen to 'Marrakesh express' here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7XIL67QSME


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