Posts Tagged ‘Stills & Nash’

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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, 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 78 years old, has had a stellar career. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, he wrote or co-wrote classics like “Wooden Ships,” “Eight Miles High,’ “Deja Vu,” “Guinnevere,” and “Lady Friend,” among many others. 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), made six solo albums, and collaborated with Graham Nash on five long players.

The man is prolific. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash

David Crosby: “Remember My Name” is a 2019 documentary about the musician David Crosby. It was directed by A.J. Eaton and produced by Cameron Crowe. The title is a play on the title of Crosby’s 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name. The film had its festival debut at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. It is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

As the movie opens, Crosby is telling a story from back in the day when they were playing a gig in Chicago. Let’s just say, it involves drugs (of course!). Along the way we learn that he is now 76 (when this was filmed in 2017), and that he regrets having wasted so much time “smashed on drugs” (Crosby’s words). He is getting ready for another tour (as a solo artist). “I love singing but I hate leaving (home)”, Crosby confesses. “Me no music? Never. I NEED to tour.” At this point we are less than 10 min. into the movie.

Couple of comments: even though the film is technically directed by a certain A.J. Eaton, Cameron Crowe’s fingers are all over this, including as producer and also having interviewed Crosby back in 1974, when he was all of 17 (that interview comes up in this documentary). The basic premise of the film is as simple as it is revealing: let the man talk, and add archive clips where there are available (easier said than done). Crosby turns out to be a master story teller, and he does not mince words, including about himself. “I have been selfish and I’ve hurt a lot of people”, Crosby admits. Byrds band mate Roger McGuinn puts it this way: “Insufferable”, wow. Along the way, we get treated to an outstanding amount of audio and video clips of his music. Quite a collection when you line it up like that. I enjoyed this documentary overall, and feel it is a nice companion to the “Echo in the Canyon” documentary from earlier this year.

“David Crosby: Remember My Name” premiered to immediate acclaim at this year’s Sundance film festival.  If you are a fan of David Crosby or interested in rock music history, I’d readily suggest you check this out, be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion.

Meet David Crosby in this portrait of a man with everything but an easy retirement on his mind.

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one of the most indelible musical icons of the past 50 years, David Crosby casts a presence that’s seemingly inescapable. In the ‘60s, it was his image of a beaming young man in a cape and fur hat with a mischievous look in his eyes and a kind of beatific attitude that first drew attention on the cover of the early Byrds albums. After parting ways with the band as they grew tired of his controversial comments, he grew his hair into a lion’s mane, doning a fringed buckskin jacket to pose on a coach besides his brothers in harmony for the cover of the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album. Later he shifted personas again, taking on the role of a defiant, paranoid druggie who railed against authorities with absolute indignation.
However, as years went by, all essence of amusement drained from his persona. He was the emaciated-looking man, ruined by the ravages of drugs, who made a plea for redemption from the pages of People magazine. Later, as a stone-faced, glassy-eyed mannequin he became little more than a token prop as he attempted to hold himself together onstage with Crosby and Nash.
Then there was the shock of seeing the newly shorn ex-con managing a smile on his release from the pen following his conviction for illegal possession of a handgun. More recently, he’s had the look of a benevolent, snowy-haired granddad happy to be immersed in harmony. A steely-eyed elder statesman, he readily shares his knowing smile.

It’s the latter persona that he projects on the phone, an eager, energetic enthusiast filled with exuberance and exhilaration because he’s still allowed to do the thing he loves, singing songs that satisfy him in a spiritual sense. Projecting that irrepressible optimism, he dutifully answers a reporter’s inquiring questions while speaking from his home in Santa Barbara. In fact, he comes across as earnest, affable and animated as an old pal you’re reconnecting with after far too many years. He’s so damn friendly and down-to-earth in fact, that two minutes into the conversation you abandon any obligation to call him Mr. Crosby and settle instead for just plain Dave.
That excitement was especially obvious when the subject turned to his new album, Sky Trails, the third in a series of recent releases following Lighthouse and 2014’s Croz.

We practically have a columns devoted to David Crosby’s incredible, inexhaustible, and curmudgeonly Twitter presence, but we rarely take an opportunity to highlight the man’s music, even though he’s making it at a regular, even-prolific pace. The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, and Nash alum’s solo oeuvre is a mixed bag, especially dependent on how much you categorically get into music definitely recorded at orgies. But his song “Sell Me a Diamond,” is a deathly-smooth, meditative miniature, and fully worth your time if you’re a devotee of ’70s Joni and Steely Dan. (We know from both rock’n’roll historyand Crosby’s tweet-storms that he is, too.)

Dipping into a throatier, conversational Donald Fagen cadence instead of sticking to his soaring CSN tenor, Croz sings about trying to negotiate the perfect, “conflict-free” diamond sale, and then gifting it to worthy, pure “souls.” Later, there’s a bit about the merits of turning off the grim news and “listen[ing] to children laughing” instead. As NPR notes, Crosby co-wrote the enigmatic song with his son, and the two are definitely working with some oblique metaphors. But over the shimmering ride-cymbal backbeat and steel guitar, it doesn’t really matter what it all means. It just sounds good as hell.

With an unexpected vigour, David Crosby’s late-career renaissance continues as he delivers Sky Trails, his third solo effort in four years. Arriving hot on the heels of 2016’s Michael League-produced Lighthouse, Sky Trails splits the difference between its predecessor’s spare acoustic ruminations and the singer/songwriter’s fascination with jazz. Produced by his multi-instrumentalist son, James Raymond, much of this set brandishes a full band as Crosby and his collaborators explore Steely Dan-style grooves on the funky opener, “She’s Got to Be Somewhere,” or politicized jazz-folk on the harmony-stacked “Capitol.”

On the gentler, more introspective side, piano ballads like “Before Tomorrow Falls on Love” and the excellent “Home Free” distinctively recall the mid-’70s experimental heyday of long time friend and peer Joni Mitchell, whose gorgeous “Amelia” Crosby faithfully covers here. Tonally and instrumentally, quite a bit of Sky Trails shares a kinship with Mitchell masterpieces like Hejira and The Hissing of Summer Lawns, utilizing fretless bass, jazz piano, soprano sax, and unconventional chord structures. On the folkier side, another highlight is the lovely acoustic title cut, co-written and co-sung by North Carolina singer/songwriter Becca Stevens. As a whole, Crosby touches on a number of pleasing themes and sounds on Sky Trails, lending his sweet tenor and trademark harmonies to material of surprisingly high quality given his recent prolificacy.

Déjà Vu might be the preferred choice of critics, no doubt due to the presence of Neil Young, but CSN, the trio’s glorious debut is arguably a much superior representation of their sound, and certainly a much purer one. And while some have described CSN as the ‘60s first true ‘supergroup,’ the same title could also be applied to Cream, who’d already formed and broken up long before Crosby, Stills and Nash had even made their first recording.

David Crosby, having been kicked out of The Byrds during recording sessions for 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers, loitered around Laurel Canyon, pondering over his next move. It wasn’t until he hooked up with GrahamNash (ex-Hollies) and Stephen Stills that the idea of forming a new band became a real possibility.

Nash remembers: “We were in Joni’s living room – or was it Cass’s kitchen? – and David and Stephen began singing “You Don’t Have To Cry.” I asked them to sing it again then I added my harmony to it. The heavens opened: it was an unbelievable sound and we knew we had to make music together.”

In England they approached Apple, the independent label founded by The Beatles, but were rejected after hearing what they were given. CSN returned to America where, thanks to the enthusiasm of David Geffen and AhmetErtegun, CSN were subsequently offered a contract with Atlantic Records, the same label that would soon sign Led ZeppelinStills dominated the recording of the album. Apart from drums, handled by Dallas Taylor, he played nearly all of the instruments on the album. Nash played acoustic guitar on two tracks and Crosby rhythm guitar on a few. Stills played all the bass, organ, and lead guitar parts, as well as acoustic guitar on his own songs.

Recorded at Wally Heider’s Studio III in Los Angeles in early 1969, and released in May that same year, Crosby, Stills & Nash would go on to eclipse anything by The Byrds, The Hollies, or even BuffaloSpringfield. Also, by employing their surnames in the band’s title, instead of adopting an actual name, such as The Zombies, Jefferson Airplane etc, meant that CSN were already destined to stand out.

Right from opening Acoustic Guitars of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written about Judy Collins) and when those magical three voices blend – you realise you’re in the presence of something very special. Although the song is 7:24 minutes long , Its a marathon-like ode to his failed relationship with singer Judy Collins. Progressive-folk, raga, country-blues, even Spanish lyrics, “Suite” is an opus that takes the listener on a personal and deeply moving journey, and remains the one song that CSN should be best remembered for. Nash’s catchy “Marrakesh Express” might seem a bit twee now, at least to modern ears, yet back in the day, even a title such as that meant it was fully loaded with all manner of connotations. It’s followed by the stunning ethereal beauty of “Guinnevere” sashaying into your living room with a softly plucked Acoustics. Then you get hit with the full harmonious power and beauty of those three voices as a wall of one. When the trio first got together in Joni Mitchell’s house – they noticed the ‘timber’ of the combo.

Stills’ “You Don’t Have To Cry” is the song which started it all, and is a delightful country-blues number complemented by some exquisite three-part harmonies, followed by the trippy “Pre-Road Downs,” written by Nash, and which closed side one of the original record.

Flip the disc, and we begin with the iconic “Wooden Ships,” which would turn up on the Jefferson Airplane album “Volunteers” in November of 1969 (it was a co-write with Paul Kantner) and I’ve always loved both versions – a strange hybrid of Soulful Rock that seemed to belong to California in 1969. CSN’s original take is shorter and amps up the Guitar and Organ . The bass and rhythm section is so warm and sweet but it’s the Stills vocal followed by Crosby and back again that impresses . The lyrics describe a handful of survivors living in a post-apocalyptic world. The song was included in the Woodstock movie, thus helping to propel the group’s popularity ever further. The gentle “Lady Of The Island,” written by Nash, is a delicate love-song devoted to JoniMitchell, while “Helplessly Hoping” picks up where “You Don’t Have To Cry” left off, full of delicious harmonies and subtle acoustic guitar.

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Crosby’s “Long Time Gone” had been floating around David’s head for a while, before nailing the master (a very early demo was included on the Voyage box set). Stills explained the process: “So with a song like “Long TimeGone,” I’d say, ‘Cros, go home.’ David would come back in the morning, and I’d say, ‘So, how do you like your song?’”

Clearly, Stills’ experience working in various studios over the years, meant that he knew exactly what to do when it came to overdubbing his instruments, as evidenced on “49 Bye-Byes,” a tune practically built from the ground up thanks to Stills’ knowledge of recording technology.

On the cover the members are, left to right, Nash, Stills, and Crosby, for no particular reason, the reverse of the order of the album title. The photo was taken by their friend and photographer Henry Diltz before they came up with a name for the group. They found an abandoned house with an old, battered sofa outside, located at 815 Palm Avenue, West Hollywood, across from the Santa Palm car wash that they thought would be a perfect fit for their image. A few days later they decided on the name “Crosby, Stills, and Nash”. To prevent confusion, they went back to the house a day or so later to re-shoot the cover in the correct order, but when they got there they found the house had been reduced to a pile of timber

Dallas Taylor can be seen looking through the window of the door on the rear of the sleeve. In the expanded edition, however, he is absent. The original vinyl LP was released in a gatefold sleeve that depicted the band members in large fur parkas with a sunset in the background on the gatefold (shot in Big Bear, California), as well as the iconic cover art. A long folded page inside displayed the album credits, lyrics, track listing,

The truly dedicated listener will likely want the 2006 HDCD expanded edition, which includes early takes of “TeachYour Children,” “Song With No Words,” “Do For The Others,” a tender folk ballad by Stills, and a cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’.” the group continued recording that year and the HDCD disc has four bonus tracks come from those sessions. “Do For The Others” would eventually show on “Stephen Stills” – his debut solo album from late 1970. The second it opens – you can hear why its been included on this Expanded CD Edition – not only is this song gorgeous to listen too – it’s beautifully recorded – essentially a Demo with Stills on Lead Guitar while the other two harmonise. It’s a genuine wow. Second up is another harmony winner in “Song With No Words” where they “dah dah” the melody that would eventually appear on David Crosby’s magnificent “If I Could Only Remember My Name” debut solo album in 1971. Truly beautiful is the only way to describe the Trio doing Fred Neil’s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'” made famous by Nilsson’s cover as used in the movie “Midnight Cowboy”. Crosby describes it in the liner notes as “Stills at his best…” There’s a demo of the “DéjàVu” classic “Teach Your Children” which is nice but nothing as good as the magical trio that preceded it. Fans will know that there are five other ‘outtakes’ from the period on the “Carry On” 4CD Box Set (1991) – one day we might get a Deluxe Edition 2CD set covering the event in its entirety.

While Crosby, Stills & Nash can never betray its hippie, idealistic origins, the record itself provides a timeless window into the lives of three young men whose unique, creative chemistry would inadvertently give rise to a whole new musical genre, one that included Poco, America, and most famously, The Eagles.

Years afterwards, Crosby would go on to sum up that special chemistry: “For whatever reasons, I think you get very few records like that in your life, which you can put on twenty years later and they still hold up. To this day, that first record comes on, and you don’t want to take it off or skip a tune. You just want to let it run.”

  • David Crosby – vocals; guitars on “Guinevere”; rhythm guitar on “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone”
  • Stephen Stills – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, percussion all tracks except “Guinevere” and “Lady of the Island”
  • Graham Nash – vocals; rhythm guitar on “Marrakesh Express” and “Pre-Road Downs”; acoustic guitar on “Lady of the Island”
  • Dallas Taylor – drums on “Pre-Road Downs,” “Wooden Ships,” “Long Time Gone,” and “49 Bye-Byes”
  • Jim Gordon – drums on “Marrakesh Express”
  • Cass Elliot – backing vocals on “Pre-Road Downs”

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