Deja Vu

Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Atlantic Records, 1970

http://www.crosbystillsnash.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/15/2012

Crosby, Stills & Nash had a great thing going.  In 1969, the three veterans of ‘60s pop bands the Byrds (David Crosby), the Hollies (Graham Nash), and Buffalo Springfield (Stephen Stills) joined together and formed one of the first true supergroups.  Their eponymous first album showcased incredible, unique three part harmonies that were evident from the first words of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”  The great success of the first album made for high anticipation for the second album.

And then they added Neil Young.

Why they decided to mess with success is really inexplicable.  Stills and Young had butted heads while they worked together in Buffalo Springfield, and why anyone thought that egos would be in check this time around, when each had moved their careers forward and arguably developed even more ego than before, is a mystery.  Strain was already evident within the band before Déjà Vu was even completed, and the promotional tour for the album was nearly aborted when it had barely started.  Neil Young came along for his own songs and two others, meaning he appears on only five of the 10 tracks, making it look an awful lot like he just attached his name to the law firm-like moniker to further his solo career.  Egos were hurt over whose songs would go on the album and then how many each songwriter would get to play live.  But they hobbled through it, and the first album from this quartet became one of the biggest albums of 1970.

Much like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Crosby, Stills & Nash, Déjà Vu opens with “Carry On,” a sprawling Stephen Stills track that sounds very sonically similar to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”  Stills’ other individual songwriting contribution is “4 + 20,” which is a brooding solo acoustic tune that has Stills lamenting his short lonely life.  Graham Nash brings two folksy tracks to the table, “Teach Your Children,” which features Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, and the bucolic “Our House,” which romanticized life at home with his girlfriend Joni Mitchell.

Speaking of Mitchell, the group did lay aside squabbling about equally dividing up tracks on the album to record her “Woodstock.”  This turns out to be one of the strongest tracks on the album, and a prescient commentary on the end of the ‘60s and the birth of a new decade.  While Crosby, Stills and Nash performed at Woodstock in 1969, Mitchell did not.  Instead, she was relegated to a hotel room waiting to appear on the Dick Cavett Show on the advice of her manager.  Of course, why she could not do the Cavett show in New York City and then get to the festival in Bethel, New York, or vice versa, has not really been explained.  But at any rate she was not there and instead wrote the song based on her watching coverage on television.  Its refrain poetically serves as a great lament for the loss of the ‘60s decade – “We got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

Crosby pitches in the bluesy and coke-addled paranoia of “Almost Cut My Hair,” the title of which pretty much speaks for itself.  He also contributes the title track, which, like “Gueniverre” on their first album, uses some impressive jazz progressions that ring on twelve string guitars.  It's not the most memorable tune on the album, but its complicated progressions, harmonies, shifts, and rhythms certainly make it the most adventurous and interesting. 

And then there is Neil Young, who really did nothing to bolster this group until later in 1970 when he wrote the single “Ohio.” On Déjà Vu he gives us “Helpless,” which is the same tripe of his solo albums, and a hodgepodge of other unfinished sounding tunes in the "Country Girl: A. Whiskey Boot Hill/B. Down, Down, Down/C. Country Girl (I Think You're Pretty)" medley.  He also co-writes the closing tune with Stills, "Everybody I Love You," which is a shadow of 1967 hippie love, but it is clear that those days for this group were long gone by the time this track spun.

Déjà Vu deserves some of its accolades.  But compared to the previous venture, the album falls short.  It is tough for a group to follow up an album like that, but surely the addition of Neil Young did not help, and the tensions in the group sealed their fate even before this album reached the presses.

Rating: C+

User Rating: A


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