Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Hart’

Although the New Riders of the Purple Sage are often grouped among the pioneering country-rock bands of the late ’60s and early ’70s like Poco, the “Flying Burrito Brothers“, the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo ” period Byrds, and even Dylan himself with his John Wesley Harding and “Nashville Skyline” albums but theirs was a different undertaking. While country and rock did indeed reside at the core of their sound, anchored by pedal steel guitar and the twangy fretwork of lead guitarist David Nelson, NRPS as their name has always been abbreviated was born of another sensibility, one that shared much with their friends and mentors the Grateful Dead.

Like the Dead, the origin of the New Riders is traceable directly to the folk music scene centred in the region south of San Francisco encompassing San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, in particular the city of Palo Alto. During the early ’60s, the area was a hotbed for aspiring folkies and bluegrass connoisseurs, many of whom banjoist/guitarist/vocalist Jerry Garcia, singers/songwriters/guitarists David Crosby, Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen and others traded ideas as they worked the local clubs.

By 1965, with the advent of the Beatles, the calling of rock and roll was too tempting to resist: Crosby was going strong with the Byrds, Garcia had co-founded a band initially calling itself the Warlocks (soon to become the Grateful Dead); and Kantner and Kaukonen had just launched (along with singer Marty Balin) a rock outfit they called Jefferson Airplane.

San Francisco itself served as ground zero for the psychedelic culture that began shifting from well-kept secret to international phenomenon during this time, luring thousands of young people to the area these musicians enjoyed while performing at venues like the Fillmore Auditorium and the Carousel Ballroom in the city.

Numerous rock bands, most based either in the Bay Area or the vicinity of Los Angeles, looked to country music as a refuge from the sizzling, cranium-searing electricity of what was being labelled acid-rock or psychedelic music a desire to simplify life seemed to go hand in hand with the lonesome sound of steel guitars, fiddles and songs touting the richness of a rural, less encumbered lifestyle away from the clatter of the city

The ever-restless, hyper-prolific Jerry Garcia counted himself among those looking for new outlets. Although the Grateful Dead were arguably at their most experimental and electric at the time, he began learning to play the pedal steel, an instrument inextricably associated with country music. He incorporated it into Dead concerts but that avenue didn’t allow him to fully explore its potential.

He teamed up with his Peninsula friend Nelson, who had been keeping busy with a group called the New Delhi River Band, and singer-songwriter John Dawson, who went by the nickname Marmaduke. Working up songs largely written by Dawson, as well as some choice covers, the trio also had assistance from Dead bassist Phil Lesh and drummer Mickey Hart and morphed into the New Riders of the Purple Sage, taking their name from the 1912 Western novel Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.

With Dave Torbert (who had been a member of the New Delhi outfit) replacing Lesh on bass, the quintet began gigging around the Bay Area in 1969 and, by the spring of the following year, opening for the Dead on tour. A typical gig of the period might find the Dead beginning a concert with an all-acoustic set, followed by the New Riders and finally the electric Dead: with Garcia participating in all three configurations, he might keep busy onstage for upwards of six or more hours.

As the New Riders gained in popularity in their own right, and with the Dead finding a wider audience via their acoustic-based 1970 albums “Workingman’s Dead” and “American Beauty“, it was not long before record companies began sniffing around. Columbia Records, run by the renowned Clive Davis, signed the group and they went into San Francisco’s Wally Heider Studios toward the end of 1970 to record their debut album, self-producing with the help of engineer Stephen Barncard. They ultimately laid down 10 original Dawson compositions that varied in style and temperament, drawing nearly all of the songs from their live setlists.

The album, self-titled, was the only official NRPS release to feature Garcia on pedal steel, and as such it serves as a shining example of his uncanny ability both to absorb the traditional techniques.

There would be one more personnel change as the album sessions were underway, however: Drummer Mickey Hart was out (he also left the Dead for a period of four years), and Spencer Dryden, who had driven Jefferson Airplane during that band’s prime years of 1966-70, was in. He proved a better fit, a steadier, more rock-solid sticksman than Hart, less prone to tossing in offbeat, sometimes ill-considered percussive accents. Hart appeared on two tunes, “Dirty Business” and “Last Lonely Eagle,” both of which also featured pianist George “Commander Cody” Frayne, the leader of the rising local band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Dawson was the primary creative force of the New Riders of the Purple Sage. As sole composer and lead vocalist throughout the album, this was his vision. The album’s lead track, “I Don’t Know You,” also served often as the opening number during the group’s concerts. A melodic, uptempo rocker, it tells a simple but mysterious tale of a woman appearing in the protagonist’s life unexpectedly, or maybe not: “I don’t know you, you’ve been lately on my mind,” sings Marmaduke as Nelson and Torbert join in harmony, but soon after he’s telling another story: “Come sit beside me, I’m not sure if you’re still there.

“Whatcha Gonna Do,” which follows, slows the pace, the singer again musing on a woman of no fixed presence: “Where you gonna go on the planet today?” he asks to a springy rhythm, then leaves her appearance to chance: “Take a look around ya now and what do you see?/If you could go somewhere’s else now, where would that be?/When you find a place to hide, come and tell me where it is now/I’ll still be sitting here, singing in the air.”

A long time staple of the band’s live shows, “Portland Woman” is an oft-told but usually not quite as frankly tale of a traveling musician’s yearning for temporary companionship: “If I don’t find someone tonight, I just won’t make it through,” Dawson laments. He heads back out on the road the next day, but this time he’s having second thoughts: “The little girl that I had found, her I left behind/But I haven’t felt too good since I left Portland yesterday/I’m going back to Portland town now, what more can I say?” he sings with longing and firmness in his voice.

Another NRPS perennial, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, was “Henry” is an unabashed tribute to a high-volume smuggler of weed heading toward Acapulco, then back to the States through the rugged mountains of Mexico, to the “50 people waiting back at home for Henry’s load.” One of the speedier songs on the album—reflecting Henry’s “fast, fast, fast” driving down the “twisty mountain roads”—it was always a fun romp, packed with crisp country licks from Nelson and a playful, bluegrass-y pulse from the rhythm section,  that gave the band’s drug-happy fans an opportunity to celebrate a very different kind of outlaw than those usually found in country tunes.

“Dirty Business” is he album’s most unorthodox tune, a showcase for the extreme sounds that Garcia had already discovered he could get out of his pedal steel. At times taking it so far from country music as to be nearly unrecognizable haunting, eerie, unsettling sounds, just plain nasty his performance here is the epitome of his visionary approach to the instrument. Garcia gives the ballad a sense of foreboding and dread that its lyrics of the “dirty business” perpetrated behind the scenes at a coal mine where frustrated workers and management are at odds.

An age-old country music standby story of the great train robbery is next. “Glendale Train”—which reprises the band’s favoured stepped-up bluegrass tempo and features Garcia returning to the banjo, is one of several tunes on the recording that find the Dawson-Nelson-Torbert trio engaging in harmonies.

In 1971, songs warning of impending environmental cataclysm were few and far between, but in “Garden of Eden,” Dawson was on it. The “cool clear water ain’t quite as cool and clear as it out to be,” he proclaims, and there’s “smoke fillin’ everywhere.” We “live in the Garden of Eden,” he reminds us, “don’t know why we want to tear the whole thing to the ground.” Sad to say, those who could do something about it didn’t—the song, despite its pretty melody, is just as relevant today as in 1971.

“All I Ever Wanted” is a thing of beauty, a tender, sensitive love song which gives Garcia an outlet to display the most tear-jerking sounds that can be coaxed from a pedal steel guitar. Marmaduke’s vocal performance can’t exactly be called a croon, but the soft edges he brings to the lyric how much more to the point does it get than “All I ever wanted was your loving?” define the sound of affection.

It’s followed by “Last Lonely Eagle,” one of the most powerful songs on the album and another that was years ahead of its time. With stellar vocal harmonies driving the appropriately uplifting chorus, and a sense of drama balancing out its discomfiting message, Dawson writes of those who’ve “forgotten their dreams and they’ve cut off their hair” (hello, David Crosby!), while imploring us to “Take a last, flying look at the last lonely eagle/He’s soaring the length of the land/Shed a tear for the fate of the last lonely eagle, for you know that he never will land.”

Finally, there’s the stomping “Louisiana Lady,” in the grand tradition of a road warrior trucker our intrepid traveller has been on the road for a full week, “so beat my vision’s just a yellow haze.” If he pops a little speed and drives faster, he can cut an hour off the time on his way to New Orleans, where “it’s gonna be worthwhile, I’m gonna see my lady smile.” Another crowd-rouser in concert, the song, like several of its predecessors, features stunning harmony and a vibe that’s somewhere between hardcore hippie and good ol’ American traditional music,

Released in August 1971, the album featured, on its cover, the band’s striking red, white and blue, and orange and gold, logo a green cactus standing tall at its centre that would become familiar to all of its fans. the album helped establish the New Riders as an entity apart from the Grateful Dead, although they would continue to open shows for the more successful band for years, even while touring on their own. The 1972 follow up, “Powerglide”, Garcia would bow out of the group, concentrating full-time on the Dead, replaced by Buddy Cage on steel the band had seen him performing with Canadian folkies Ian and Sylvia.

Sadly, all but one of the key members of the 1971 New Riders—Garcia, Dawson, Torbert and Dryden all have passed. Only Nelson still survives, still leading a NRPS group while also performing with his own David Nelson Band. Their debut album remains an invigorating, prescient listen more than 50 years after its release.

On June 25th, Deadheads will get their hands on the new, 50th anniversary edition of the Grateful Dead’s second live LP “Skull & Roses”, The release including 60+ minutes of unreleased audio from the band’s July 2nd, 1971 performance at the Fillmore West.

As 2021 marches along so do the reissues for classic 50th Anniversary celebrations of some titles. For The Grateful Dead, which has a solid following even among newer generations who were not around at their peak, the albums, in their order, are moving along. Last year, “Workingman’s Dead” arrived in definitive CD and LP editions. The year before it was “Aoxomoxoa”. Now, it’s the turn for the ‘Skull and Roses’ collected live tracks album officially titled Grateful Dead. The Grateful Dead’s second live release was an eponymously titled double LP whose cover bears the striking skull-and-roses visual motif that would become instantly recognizable and an indelibly linked trademark of the band. As opposed to their debut concert recording, Live/Dead (1969), this hour and ten minutes concentrates on newer material, which consisted of shorter self-contained originals and covers.

Explains GD legacy manager/archivist David Lemieux, “Skull & Roses” captures the quintessential quintet, the original five piece band, playing some of their hardest hitting rock ‘n’ roll (‘Johnny B. Goode,’ ‘Not Fade Away’), showing off their authentic Bakersfield bona fides (‘Me & My Uncle,’ ‘Mama Tried,’ ‘Me & Bobby McGee’), and some originals that would be important parts of the Dead’s live repertoire for the next 24 years (‘Bertha,’ ‘Playing In The Band,’ ‘Wharf Rat’). Of course, the Grateful Dead were never defined by one specific ‘sound’ and amongst the aforementioned genres and styles the band brought to this album, they also delved deeply into their psychedelic, primal playbook with an entire side dedicated to their 1968 masterpiece ‘The Other One.’.. Skull & Roses sounds as fresh today as the first time I heard it in 1985, and as fresh as it was upon its spectacularly well-received release in 1971.”

To celebrate, Grateful Dead HQ has shared “The Other One” from the previously-mentioned Summer ’71 rarity at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. Grateful Dead perform “The Other One” live from Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA 7/2/71.

The standout centerpiece of the 1971 live album was Side 2’s “The Other One”, and this one from a little over two months later is every bit its equal. Every version of “The Other One” from 1971 is unique and different, but they all maintain a hold on the spirit of the song and can be viewed as one big, continuous piece of music.

The release is out June 18th, Rhino Records will unleash a 2CD and a separately available 2LP (Black) 180g-weight vinyl 50th Anniversary set for fans. The album, of course, will be newly remastered for this package. It will also contain a previously unreleased July 2nd, 1971 concert on the expanded bonus disc. This set will also be made available on DD format in both the expanded edition and the remastered album only. Hi-res DD (FLAC and ALAC) can be purchased at There will also be a limited edition collectable black and white propeller-coloured vinyl set that is limited to 5,000 copies only.

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Grateful Dead HQ dug into the band’s summer ’89 tour for this week’s All The Years Live pro-shot video, revisiting a vivacious, first-set “Cumberland Blues” from Wisconsin’s beloved Alpine Valley.

Will you come with me? Won’t you come with me? There’s no better place to take a long strange trip with the Grateful Dead than right here. We’ve got music from every single studio album and a bevy of live albums, to boot. There are celebrated live performances from the 70s and 80s and official videos with more skeletons than you can shake your bones at, an exclusive seaside series on what’s to come from the band’s rich catalog and details on meet-ups all across the promised land. If it’s community you’re after, try your hand at our yearly DEAD COVERS PROJECT competition and connect with fellow Dead Heads around the world. Heck, keep your eyes peeled you might even catch a glimpse of Pigpen on keys, Jerry Garcia in a Groove, Bobby Weir tellin’ tales, Mickey Hart talkin’ space, Phil Lesh and friends, Bill on the beach, or anyone from our extended family.

From one of the Grateful Dead’s first home videos, “Downhill From Here”, this is the Dead at a later-era peak,” exaplains GD archivist/legacy manager David Lemieux. “‘Cumberland Blues’ was a song that always seemed to be played well, and when they nailed it perfectly, as they do here, it’s a six-man unit running at breakneck speed, acting as one unified force.”

“From one of the Grateful Dead’s first home videos, this is the Dead at a later-era peak. “Cumberland Blues” was a song that always seemed to be played well, and when they nailed it perfectly, as they do here, it’s a six-man unit running at breakneck speed, acting as one unified force.”

On a previous edition of All The Years Live, Lemieux and company also showcased the “Uncle John’s Band” from this same 7/17/89 outing.

The Grateful Dead explored freedom, and they were the cutting edge of a phenomenal re-examination of American values. For me, the Grateful Dead were the most American of all bands because each musician that started that band came from a completely different place musically, and they somehow managed to make it work.

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The Grateful Dead‘s first of two 1970 albums, Workingman’s Dead, is about to turn 50 years old this June, and in celebration of that, they’ll put out a 50th anniversary deluxe reissue that comes with a previously unreleased concert recording from Port Chester, New York’s Capitol Theatre on February 21, 1971.

“For an album as important and great as Workingman’s Dead, it seemed appropriate to double the amount of bonus material,” said Grateful Dead archivist and producer David Lemieux.

The show we’ve selected gives a definitive overview of what the band were up to six months after the release of the album and shows the Dead sound that would largely define the next couple of years. From Workingman’s Dead through Europe ’72, the Dead’s sound was Americana, and the live show included here is a workingman’s band playing authentically honest music.”

The original LP was released on June 14th, 1970, and marked a pivotal change for the Dead. Their previous three studio albums, including 1969’s predecessor Aoxomoxoa and the landmark concert LP Live/Dead, also from 1969, emphasized the six-member band’s psychedelic shadings and experimental streak. But with Workingman’s Dead, they scaled back and stripped down for a roots-digging Americana record that gave the Grateful Dead their first Top 30 album. The LP also spawned the Dead’s first Top 40 single, with “Uncle John’s Band”,

The liner notes were written by Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke, who adds, “The Capitol Theatre show was] a great night in what has long been deemed a legendary run, another turning point as the band entered a live era combining the focus of Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty with the exploratory verve of Live/Dead. Many of the classic songs spread across Dead LPs in 1971 and ’72… were introduced that week at the Capitol, and many of them are in this concert, still fresh off the griddle.”The Grateful Dead continued this folk-rock sound on the follow-up album, American Beauty which was released less than five months after.

Workingman’s Dead is a great album for a lot of reasons. From the purple mountains’ majesty of inventive steel guitar and pedal steel (“High Time,” “Dire Wolf”) to the fruited plains of goofy choogles (“New Speedway Boogie,” “Easy Wind”) and the nimble flatpicking and banjo (“Cumberland Blues”), this album is a nation of guitar. Also, I just love the sound of Jerry Garcia’s guitar through the Leslie rotating cabinet on “Casey Jones” and “High Time.”

These songs are harmonically unorthodox, with progressions both lyrical and inspired. The surprising minor key outro of “Uncle John’s Band!” The mid-phrase key change in “High Time!” The ninth chords in “Black Peter,” which feel almost like Satie moves! And, lest it all get too muso, this album plays yin to its own yang: for every wonderfully non-repeating labyrinth like the bridge of “Dire Wolf,” there’s a two-chord blues workout like “Easy Wind.”

The way the drums drop in on the second verse of “High Time” — quietly, stuffed entirely into the right channel, but full of character — feels emblematic of Kreutzmann and Hart’s approach. What a melodic and sensitive double-rhythm section team! There are so many details in the kit playing and percussion that elevate these recordings: the brushes on “Black Peter,” the guiro on “Uncle John’s Band,” the handclaps and maracas (mixed surprisingly loud!) on “New Speedway Boogie,” the beautiful snare tuned high on “Uncle John’s Band,” and elsewhere. The carefully calibrated dynamics and drum tuning throughout are really marvelous.

And let’s not forget: the singing is pretty incredible too. Jerry, taking lead duties on every song except the Pigpen-fronted “Easy Wind,” is at his most commanding and soulful. (“New Speedway Boogie,” “Casey Jones,” “Dire Wolf” and “Black Peter” are particular faves). His performances are brought into sharper relief by the blithely loose harmonies from Bob, Phil and Pigpen that pepper the record and remind me, happily, more of the Wailers than of the Dead’s smoother Californian contemporaries like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young or the Byrds.

There are the occasional hokey old-time tropes about miners and trains and gin — which, hey, Jerry almost pulls off — but many of these images and rhymes have a kind of legitimately out-of-time uncanniness. “Come on along or go alone, he’s come to take his children home” sounds like a lost couplet from a 300-year-old nursery rhyme. These songs feel like stories, but often the particulars aren’t quite clear — like old tales that have shed so many details in retelling that they’ve lost literal sense, but acquired a kind of sculptural presence.

And that’s what Workingman’s Dead is to me: a totem — of America, of a band.

The fiery rendition of “Casey Jones” from that show is streaming now, and you can listen to it and check out the full track list below. The reissue comes out July 10th.

Workingman’s Dead 50th Anniversary Reissue CD Tracklist
Disc One — Original Album Remastered
1. “Uncle John’s Band”
2. “High Time”
3. “Dire Wolf”
4. “New Speedway Boogie”
5. “Cumberland Blues”
6. “Black Peter”
7. “Easy Wind”
8. “Casey Jones”

Disc Two — Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY (2/21/71)
1. “Cold Rain And Snow”
2. “Me and Bobby McGee”
3. “Loser”
4. “Easy Wind”
5. “Playing in the Band”
6. “Bertha”
7. “Me and My Uncle”
8. “Ripple” (False Start)
9. “Ripple”
10. “Next Time You See Me”
11. “Sugar Magnolia”
12. “Greatest Story Ever Told”
13. “Johnny B. Goode”

Disc Three — Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY (2/21/71)
1. “China Cat Sunflower”>
2. “I Know You Rider”>
3. “Bird Song”
4. “Cumberland Blues”
5. “I’m a King Bee”
6. “Beat It on Down The Line”
7. “Wharf Rat”
8. “Truckin’”
9. “Casey Jones”
10. “Good Lovin’”
11. “Uncle John’s Band”

Meanwhile, Bob Weir continues his ‘Weir Wednesdays’ streaming series tonight (5/6) at 8 PM ET with his Wolf Bros show from 11/5/2018 in Nashville. Tune in for free at Facebook.

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of their experimental 1969 release Aoxomoxoa, Grateful Dead Inc. has prepared a special, deluxe edition of the record, featuring two exclusive mixes of the album (“one fully remastered from the original 1969 mix and the other remastered from the definitive 1971 band-produced mix”), as well as a third disc of unreleased live music dating back to January 24th-26th, 1969.

“Aoxomoxoa” is a 1969 album by the Grateful Dead. One of the first rock albums to be recorded using 16-track technology, fans and critics alike consider this era to be the band’s experimental apex. The title is a meaningless palindrome, usually pronounced “ox-oh-mox-oh-ah”.

“In 1969, for their third album, the Grateful Dead eschewed outside producers and created Aoxomoxoa themselves, beginning a run of self-produced albums that would continue until 1977,” Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux said in an official statement. “Scrapping the first sessions, which were recorded to eight-track tape, the Dead now had 16 tracks with which to experiment their psychedelic sound, with an album that included entirely Robert Hunter-penned lyrics for the first time.”

The newly compiled edition of Aoxomoxoa will be available on June 7th in a CD and digital format. The band will also release a limited edition picture disc vinyl of the record, boasting the remastered version of the LP (only 10,000 available). The reissue’s bonus disc of live music recorded January 24th to 26th, 1969 at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco, California (the recordings were among the first live performances recorded to 16-track tape). including two early versions of Aoxomoxoa tracks, “Durpee’s Diamond Blues” and “Doin’ That Rag,” as well as the final live performance of “Clementine,” a song the Dead began playing in 1968 but never released on a studio album. The Dead lineup at the time of the Avalon shows was Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Phil Lesh, Tom Constanten, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann.

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1968:  1968, California, San Francisco, Grateful Dead, L-R: Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann, Mickey Hart (standing).  ((Photo by Malcolm Lubliner/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images))


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David Crosby  has the distinction of being a founding member of both the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash who has survived drug busts in Texas (nine months in state prison for possession of heroin and cocaine), a hit-and-run driving accident, possession of a concealed pistol and drug paraphernalia, an arrest for driving into a fence in Marin County, a transplanted liver, the ire of Graham Nash, and fathering two children by Melissa Etheridge. He is a bit of a lightning rod to be sure! Love him or hate him, Crosby, now 79 years old, has had a stellar career. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, he wrote or co-wrote “Wooden Ships,” “Deja Vu,” “Guinnevere,” and “Lady Friend,” among others.

He is also noted for his soaring high harmonies, a trademark of his songs. In addition to performing on the Byrds first five albums (their best in my opinion), he also played on eight Crosby Stills & Nash albums including three with Neil Young), he has made solo albums, and collaborated with Graham Nash on five long players. Croz is  pretty prolific workhorse. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice with the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. He can be seen in an excellent 2019 documentary “Remember My Name,” in which he pulls no punches about his failed relationships, scrapes with the law, and regrets about years lost to drug abuse. Crosby is certainly a survivor.

David Crosby’s 1971 solo album “If I Could Only Remember My Name” was developed in a time of great emotional upheaval but also intense creativity for David Crosby and the contributing musicians. Many if not most of the finest San Francisco musician’s fingerprints can be found on this record. Often referred to as the ‘Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra’ the combination of talents can also be discovered adding their unique abilities to other albums of that era. Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire, Graham Nash’s Songs for Beginners, Mickey Hart’s Rolling Thunder as well as Paul Kantner/Grace Slick’s solo excursions feature many of the same artists. David Freiberg, Neil Young, Michael Shrieve, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell as well as the members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane all make appearances in various combinations equaling some mind expanding and amazing music created in the early 1970’s. This amazing time in rock history will never be witnessed again, a time where wonderful collaborations and a shared love of musical discovery took precedent over record contracts, royalties and tour receipts.

David Crosby’s 1971 masterpiece “If I could Only Remember My Name”. Emotionally recovering from the loss of his lover Christine Hinton from a devistating car crash,

“If I Could Only Remember My Name” is the result of David Crosby’s escape from depression and his eventual refuge found through music and his friends. The collaborations featured on the recordings did not occur in a vacuum, the relationships were developed early on in the respective musicians careers. Paul Kantner, Crosby and Stephen Stills collaborated on the songwriting of the CSN track ‘Wooden Ships’, Jerry Garcia was a ‘spiritual advisor’/producer for the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album and David Freiberg, Kantner and Crosby often cross pollinated each others work in the early stages of their careers.

Crosby gathered a superb supporting cast, one that featured the communal contributions of friends and fellow travellers, among them, members of the Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart), Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, Paul Kantner. Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady), Santana (Gregg Rolie and Michael Shrieve) and Quicksilver Messenger Service (David Freiberg), along with faithful standbys Graham Nash, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

The LP opens fittingly opens with the aptly titled ‘Music Is Love’. The song features three of the four principals of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, with Stills the only member not appearing. The song encapsulates the pervading attitude of the record with the ‘Music Is Love’ mantra harmonized by Nash and Young while Crosby spreads a soaring free form vocal over the top. Young, Crosby and Nash interweave crystalline acoustic guitars with Young offering his personal rhythm section of bass and congas and a ghostly vibraphone. The campfire vibe song rises weightless like smoke, soaking into the glorious melodic sunshine.

The cinematic and epic ‘Cowboy Movie’ follows, spotlighting the rhythm section of the Grateful Dead with Hart, Kreutzman and Lesh in addition to featuring a Jerry Garcia and Neil Young in a dusty ten paces and turn guitar duel. The story line of the tail fictionalizes the CSNY break up through the premise of a spaghetti western and comments on some of the personal issues that haunted the band, like certain principals relationship with the ‘Raven’ (Rita Coolage). Garcia and Young go toe to toe through deft uses of moaning feedback and the perfect finishing of each other’s guitar phrases. The heavy footed groove slowly gains in intensity, Crosby shreds his vocals thrillingly eventually climaxing in an instrumental orgasm that fades out much too soon. (There is a thrilling and extended version of this track available on the David Crosby box set Voyage)

The cool night air of ‘Tamalpais High (At About 3)” settles in, again featuring the Grateful Dead’s Billy K. on drums and Phil Lesh on bass. Garcia and the Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen hold the six strings while Nash and Crosby handle the delicate wordless melody. Crosby stated that this song was not really ‘received’ by ‘CSNY’ so it ended up on his solo record. A quintessential Crosby melody, circular and umbrageous in its design, lyrical content is not required due to the aural portrait conjured by the instrumental and vocal alchemy. The organic blending of Crosby and Nash’s melody lines slither over the morphing jazz groove driven by Lesh’s thumping Alembic bass and Kreutzman’s multiple arms. Garcia and Kaukonen trade virginal clean tone lines over the additively shifty composition.

One of Crosby’s most enduring melodies and enchanted compositions, ‘Laughing’ follows and closes the first side of the record. Opening like the birth of a vibrant sunrise, the songs design is again built around the Grateful Dead rhythm section featuring Lesh’s well timed and plump detonations. Crosby’s glistening twelve string strums sparkle like solar rays through rain drops. On top of all of the swirling magic Garcia lays a sleek and spectral pedal steel line that is extremely emotive, acting as its own independent star sailing melody line. The song lyrically is the search for answers and according to Crosby directed to George Harrison and expressed psychedelically through a collaborative chorus highlighted by the smooth styling of Joni Mitchell.

Flipping over the LP, the second side of the record begins with ‘What Are Their Names’ a still relevant song that still features in CSN and CSNY set lists , but now performed acapella. This original rendition is a full band performance constructed around a descending set of changes. Three crisp guitars wrap themselves around a central pole to open the song, Crosby, Garcia and Young gently caressing the songs internal melody. As the drums and bass enter (Shrieve and Casady) the song gains a slightly disturbing and dramatic edge, Young and Garcia’s guitars bite deep. The finger pointing lyrics are sung in huge super group choral fashion featuring but not limited to Crosby, Nash, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Laura Allen and possibly Crosby’s brother Ethan. A stunning start to side two and a commentary on the organic creation of the music contained on the record.

Traction in the Rain’ follows next and allows time for Crosby acoustic introspection. The drumless melody hangs weightless on woody strums and finds Crosby and Nash on shimmering acoustics and Laura Allen contributing on beautiful and cascading auto harp. Crosby’s vocals are some of the finest on the record and the song would become a highlight of future Crosby/Nash duo performances.

‘Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)’ is a prismatic meditation where in a role reversal, the music colours and supports the stunning wordless Crosby/Nash vocal melody. The supporting players act as one swirling instrument enveloped into each other through intent listening. The players cannot always be confirmed on these resulting tracks, but my ear hears, Garcia, Kaukonen, Shreive, Nash and possibly Young on piano. In the ‘rock room’s humble opinion one of the finest tracks on the record.

The final two songs of the LP are also wordless compositions. In many ways this increases the emotional effectiveness and melodic strength contained within the numbers. ‘Orleans’ is a traditional French children’s song that lists the cathedrals of France. Of course Crosby arranges it into a strange and weaving mood piece based around overdubbed acoustics and his perfectly stratified vocals.

The album closes with the exhilarating and supernatural ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’. A vocal only movement, Crosby is quoted as saying he was in a good place, high as a kite and experimenting with the echo chamber in Wally Heider’s studio. Crosby sang six different parts developed on the spot, vocally improvised and bringing into existence a masterful representation of his recently departed love. Crosby felt that the creation of this song was initiated by Christine visiting him and/or making her presence known to him during the song’s genesis. Something is definitely happening during the brief apparitional and aural experience. This song epitomizes what this music is all about, remembering, feeling, expressing and being in the moment. The track is a fitting conclusion to the record and inspiring statement of Crosby’s talent and the towering importance of the record in the pantheon of rock history.

David Crosby’s musical journey is a tale rife with contradictions. There’s the obvious brilliance he first shared while with the Byrds and then, later, his contributions to America’s first true supergroup, Crosby, Stills, Nash and (at times) Young. By having a hand in the writing of songs that helped define both bands—among them, such enduring classics as “Lady Friend,” “Why” and “Eight Miles High” for the former, and “Guinnevere,” “Wooden Ships,” “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Déjà Vu” for the latter—he played a major role in establishing a timeless template that reflected a freedom-first attitude of the ’60s that resonates even today. Likewise, his rich tenor and unmistakable jazz-like sensibilities imbued each group with a firm foundation for their exacting vocal harmonies. Crosby also helped establish a free-flowing communal kind of creativity, another distinctive element that led to a more synchronous sound.

Engineer Stephen Barncard had his reservations when he was assigned to do the record, referring to Crosby’s reputation as being that of an “asshole.” However in Crosby’s autobiography Long Time Gone, he describes the recording, which began in November 1970, as “the most exhilarating project I’ve ever done in my life…It was a loose setup…but I learned to relax with it and before we knew it we were ready to mix.”

Crosby and chief Byrd watcher Roger McGuinn clashed when Crosby insisted the group record his ode to hedonism, “Triad,” a song that celebrated the joys of a ménage à trois (they didn’t record it, but Jefferson Airplane happily included it on one of their albums). During 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, Crosby broke ranks with a rant about a Kennedy assassination coverup, after which he famously took the stage with Buffalo Springfield, filling in for an absent Neil Young.

If I Could Only Remember My Name is not only a career defining statement for David Crosby it is also a commentary on the collaborative and communal environment surrounding music in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Friends created music on this record, credits or royalties did not matter. What mattered was sharing in the making of something bigger and better than its individual components. The songs contained on this record are inspired by the joy of giving and creating and the proof lies within the jagged grooves of its vinyl. The record is arguably David Crosby’s finest achievement and a photographic capture of some of the contributing musician’s finest moments ever committed to tape. The record is a standard of the rock room and a must have addition to any rock collection . (Note: an outtake from the sessions, “Kids and Dogs,” later included on Crosby’s Voyage anthology, would also have found a fit within that surreal setting.)(There are also a multitude of outtakes of the sessions available for those willing to search)

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