Crosby, Stills & Nash
Music is a time capsule. This not-new truth was brought home to me a few weeks ago when I made a purchase after scouring my CD shelves for this particular album. I wanted to hear it again, but couldn’t find it. I had it once, but… well, things do go astray sometimes. Not finding it was part of the driving force behind the CD reorganization here.
A couple months ago, after a fruitless search, I bought the mp3 version, but not surprisingly, one I thought about it – I found the sound quality to be inferior to both my demands and my memories.
Ah, those memories
The Sixties. We lump the ten years together, but there really are two Sixties. The first four years mostly continued the life and attitudes of the late 1950s, but thins began changing in 1963 with the release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” by some Liverpool group, beginning what was later called the British Invasion. By 1965 there were big changes in the music and social scene. As the British Invasion continued, American groups were changing their music, social unrest manifested itself in college campuses across the country, some young people were “adjusting their consciousness”, hippies emerged and music reflected these changes.
It wasn’t long before rock groups were breaking up and new super star groups formed, called supergroups. Cream was the first I remember, 1966 I think it was, heard “White Room” on the radio and bought the album (which had to be special ordered, as I recall.
Later while living in Los Angeles, I went to a lot of clubs, filled with light shows and heavy rock groups such Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors. After college I rented a house in South Laguna with a friend. Crosby, Stills and Nash was played a lot on my Dual turntable. I mean really, really A LOT. That I already liked Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds and was okay with the Hollies, especially “Bus Stop”, made me want this album, but hearing it the first time I was blown away. It was (and is) something special.
…Back to 2010
Unable to locate the CD I was sure I had somewhere and being unhappy with the mp3, I bought the CD. Turns out to be a remastered HD (20 bit) recording. I put this one in the player and almost immediately found myself standing in that living room in South Laguna, the sun streaming in the balcony windows, the music issuing forth from the AR-3 speakers.
On this CD, the sound is really excellent. It’s an “expaned verison” with four bonus tracks that, frankly, I can do without. Two of them are done better on other CSN(Y) albums the other two were left off for good reason. None of that should detract from the wonderfulness of the original ten songs on this album.
About CSN and the album
After Cream, the second major “supergroup”, Crosby, Stills & Nash was formed – as previously mentioned – from members from The Byrds (Crosby), the recently dissolved Buffalo Springfield (Stills) and The Hollies (Nash). Other members of both Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds went on to other groups.
CSN was always three solo acts making albums together (much like the later Beatles albums) but it worked, and worked beautifully. Each member brought different strengths to the group, Crosby his knack for tone setting, Stills his ability to blend folk and country into a mix of rich rock structures and skill as a guitarist. Nash contributed a savvy sense of pop hooks and melodies. The results accelerated the group to the top of both critic’s lists and the pop charts. Released May 1969, this debut album Crosby, Stills & Nash was not only a smash hit, it prefigured much of the rock to come in the 1970s.
Opening with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which became a signature song for them, the record takes off ringing out from the acoustic guitar riff and doesn’t look back, opening as a traditional pop song for the first three minutes or so, with the chorus, “I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are,” then abruptly changes into a second section with a slower, more thoughtful song with a solo by Stills. A faster beat signals a third section. Following that there is the “Do-do-do-doo doo-doo-do-doot” vocal line overlying the ‘lead vocal,’ in Spanish, about a time in Cuba.
You know the rest of the album, and if you don’t, you should: “Marrakesh Express”, “Guinnevere”, “You Don’t Have To Cry”, “Pre-Road Downs”, then another CSN signature song, “Wooden Ships,” (co-written by Crosby, Stills, and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane) followed by “Helplessly Hoping”, “Long Time Gone” and the final track, “49 Bye-Byes,” an upbeat love song with incredibly rich three-part harmonies.
This is an album I can listen to over and over, in order or on random, and get lost in the words, music, textures and harmonies every time. Not to mention those memories. Man, this is great stuff.