Ah, Those Memories

Crosby, Stills & Nash

David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash, Atlantic Records, R2 73290, originally released May 1969

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.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Personal Opinion, Review and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Ah, Those Memories

  1. This is one of the best albums to come out of the sixties, if not of all time. They were a teeny little bit before my time – I really didn’t get into this kind of sound until the early 70s and by then I was more into Neil Young. Thanks for a wonderful post and a reminder of how many great songs are on this one.

  2. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Excellent memories, Rick. The harmonies were always the best part of CS&N.

    Sadly, though Crosby & Nash can still sing, Stills’s voice as heard in last year’s concert, is pretty much shot. When he tries to do the leads he used to do it is just painful.

    The only way we’d go see them again in concert is if they tour with Neil Young, as they did in 2006.

    We still have the memories, and I also bought the Buffalo Springfield – which featured Young as well as Stills – greatest hits CD.

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    I guess contemporary music still speaks to the heart, but this seemed to do that more. It was gentler and at the same time, more relevant. But probably only to us.

  4. Richard says:

    Laurie – While I liked Young, his “Cinnamon Girl” being an especial favorite, I like this album the best of the CSN records. Young added a depth and drive to the group, but also a kind of discordance that in some songs put me off a little. By sacrificing some of the gentleness, the group changed. Still very good, but different.

  5. Richard says:

    Jeff – I know you really enjoy concerts of your favorites, but perhaps sometimes, it’s best to listen to the old albums and enjoy the music and memories rather than see the way things are now. Let’s face it: getting old isn’t very pretty for performers. I love Buffalo Springfield, especially the Buffalo Springfield Again album, “Broken Arrow” being a particular favorite, and after their breakup I followed Poco for a while. The first Poco album is pretty nice.

    Patti – “but only to us” – I think that’s true, and I’m sure current music will be that way for those who love it now when they hear it in a decade or three, just as many seem to love music from the 1990s, which I thought was mostly forgettable, since I paid little attention to, and listened to, little of it. But an album like this one… ah, how nice.

  6. CSN sang great songs, Rick. They captured the mood of the time. And, you’re right about Neil Young changing the group’s sound when he joined in. It was different, edgy, and unforgettable.

  7. Patti Abbott says:

    For a long time, I really hated Neil Young’s voice. My son played him all the time growing up. But after a break from it, I started to really love it. Now I find it haunting and unforgettable indeed.

  8. Jeff Meyerson says:

    The last group concert was after their anti-Bush/anti-war CD came out and they did all the songs from that one. It seemed to really energize them and even Stills was better.

    I love Neil, especially the stuff with Crazy Horse and AFTER THE GOLD RUSH.

  9. Cap'n Bob says:

    Coincidentally, I was listening to “CSN” a couple of nights ago. It’s basically a Greatest Hits compilation. I love their sound, but when I tried to sing their songs when I was in my twenties I ruined my voice forever.

  10. Richard R. says:

    You had a voice? Alert the media!

  11. Cap'n Bob says:

    Hey, I was lead singer of The Violations until delayed puberty caused me to sound like the kid in Our Miss Brooks. (Waldo?)

  12. A terrific post. Lots of good memories here –and thanks for the mention of Kantner –I go back and forth as to which band’s version of “Wooden Ships” I like better.

  13. Richard says:

    I usually end up going with the version I heard first, though that’s not always the case. Thanks for the compliment, Richard.

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