Crosby, Stills And Nash
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/13/2006
While it hasn't stood the test of time as well as its counterparts, the self-titled debut from supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash still features some of the best male vocal harmonies ever put to vinyl.
The three castoffs joined together and named the group and debut album after themselves, bringing an impressive pedigree. David Crosby had been with the Byrds, Graham Nash had been with the Hollies and Stephen Stills (and, later, Neil Young) came from Buffalo Springfield, all groups with folk leanings and vocal harmonies. So it stood to reason that the band would take the best of those bands and create their own hybrid.
When they did, the results were stunning, with those vocal harmonies becoming the group's hallmark and the debut earning them the Best New Artist award at the Grammies (for whatever that dubious award is worth). The songs here are accompanied by acoustic guitar and light percussion; the singing clearly takes center stage over the songwriting, and when the two come together the results are splendid.
"Helplessly Hoping" is both light and urgent, "Guinnevere" is beautiful and "Wooden Ships" drifts by in a psychedelic folk haze. One of the best parts is in "Hoping" when the guys sing "They are one person, they are two alone, they are three together, they are for each other" and as each line is added another voice comes in. A nice bit of cohesion for a group that would fragment early and often.
"Long Time Gone" adds some electric guitar in a tribute to Robert F. Kennedy, a fine song, bettered by the long "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," a song by Stephen Stills for his girlfriend Judy Collins. It is at turns beautiful and private and the group never bettered it.
Less successful are "You Don't Have To Cry," which has no hooks but good lyrics, the substandard "Pre-Road Downs" and the truly silly, horribly dated "Marrakesh Express." "Lady of the Island" has a strong Paul Simon vibe and is somewhat successful.
The CD re-release adds four songs: the average "Do For The Others," the pleasant "Song With No Words," the decent "Everybody's Talkin'" (later covered by Harry Nilsson) and an early recording of "Teach Your Children," which shows a work in progress for the final song that would show up on the follow-up Deja Vu.
At the time, this record was essential and meant a lot to many people, helping anchor the Woodstock hippie/folk era in a time where both rock music and America were in turmoil. Nearly 40 years later, without the context, Crosby, Stills & Nash has lost something in meaning but makes up for it with timeless vocal harmonies and solid, if laid-back, songwriting.
|I remember getting this album brand new for Christmas 1969 from my Sister Deborah, I played the Hell out of it for the next year. I recently picked up a used copy at Atomic Records in Burbank and it absolutely KNOCKED ME OUT ... AGAIN! it's so good, these guys never sounded better.|