Wild Tales

Graham Nash

Atlantic, 1974


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Wild Tales is one of those underrated albums of the singer songwriter era of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Following the bright flourish of Crosby, Stills Nash (and Young) activity that manifested itself from 1969 to 1972 with two studio albums and one live release from the supergroup, as well as several solo albums from the individual members, Graham Nash was left somewhat adrift by 1974. The group did not want to reconvene, and Nash found himself more inclined to work with his friend David Crosby as a musical partner. Critics often refer to Wild Tales as a dark album, with Nash choosing some depressing themes for this material. But his diverse musical influences and his strong vocal abilities come through in a very powerful collection that provides a great snapshot of the era.

What I find interesting about the subject matter is the endurance of the political issues from the early ‘70s to today. Naturally, an anti-war air still hangs over the themes of the album. In the pantheon of Vietnam protest songs, the Dylanesque "Oh! Camil (The Winter Soldier)" should always be included. This song captures the usual inclinations of songwriters to opposed the brutality of the Vietnam war, describing in some graphic detail the atrocities therein, but by this stage in 1974, there is a bit more maturity in the message. It even acknowledges with some chagrin the way that returning soldiers were marginalized by American society. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The title track discusses the myriad issues in the uncertainty of the workingman, including factories being taken over by computers instead of people. Concerns about artificial intelligence in 1974?  Indeed. “Prison Song” is just as fresh today in dealing with the still unresolved issue of criminal justice reform, in this instance pointing out the unfairness of offences and difference in sentencing for drug offenses from state to state. Many would argue that this issue has actually become worse with the federalization of the issue with mandatory minimum sentencing of drug offences instituted in the 1990s. 

Nash’s interests in country music and influence by the Louvin Brothers are evident in the country flavored “Hey You Looking at the Moon” and “You’ll Never Be The Same.” If “And So It Goes” sounds like it could have been just easily placed on Crosby Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, that’s because it is very nearly a reunification of the group, with Nash, Crosby and Young (credited as Joe Yankee) all taking part. “On The Line” is another country flavored song, yet it is just as catchy as some of Nash’s pop gems from his days with the Hollies while also showing the jaded cynicism of a hippie heyday coming to an end. “I Miss You” seems meant to be a contemplative missive, but this spare recording comes off as an attempt by Nash to show off all the three finger chords he learned on the piano that year.

In all, Wild Tales has aged better then reviews and its chart performance at the time of its release would have suggested. In fact, it is a gem that is often overlooked in the era’s music. Even Nash himself in his autobiography (also entitled “Wild Tales”) glosses over it quickly. But it is better than even the artist gives it credit for.

Rating: A-

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