4 Way Street

Crosby Stills Nash & Young

Atlantic Records, 1971


REVIEW BY: Dan Smith


Arising from the ashes of the Byrds, the Hollies, and Buffalo Springfield, three of the best-loved harmony pop groups of the 1960's, Crosby Stills Nash & Young (CSNY) was the first American supergroup. Merging the clear harmony singing of David Crosby and Graham Nash with Stephen Stills and Neil Young's incisive songwriting and guitar histronics, CSNY was a virtually can't-miss proposition. After two outstanding studio albums, Deja Vu and Crosby, Stills & Nash (without Young), the group released 4 Way Street, a double live set culled from several dates on their 1970 tour of the US.

The first disc of this album is an eclectic mix of songs, mostly acoustic, and mostly obscure. 4 Way Street begins in a really odd and disconcerting way - the faded-in coda to "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes", perhaps their best-known song. While I understand that the limitations of vinyl could have made it impossible to include the entire seven-minute track, the exclusion is simply inexusable on this remastered CD version. I'm not even sure why they included this snippet at all, to be honest.

But things get a lot better from there. After an acoustic run-through of "Teach Your Children", each of the players takes their moment in the spotlight, and they all shine. Young delivers tender readings of "On The Way Home", "Cowgirl In The Sand" and, most impressively, themelancholy "Don't Let It Bring You Down" (with a hilarious deadpan intro by Young, who says the song "starts out slowly and then fizzles out entirely") from Young's excellent album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 After The Gold Rush.

Crosby is absolutely perfect in a slowed-down "Triad", the homage to menage a trois that was left off The Notorious Byrd Brothers (a decision which probably led to Crosby's departure from that group) and then "The Lee Shore", another vintage seascape.

Nash steps up to the mike and belts out his famous protest song "Chicago" and then a gorgeous piece called "Right Between The Eyes" that may be my favorite of his solo works. Stills delivers a seven-minute piano-and-vocal performance that is equal parts '60s peace-and-love rap, social commentary, televangelist-style preaching, and great music. It starts out with "49 Bye-Byes" and moves into a great, up-tempo version of the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth". It's excellent.

The rest of the first CD follows this general trend - CSNY perform alone and in various combinations, doing some more obscure bits from their catalog - including "Love The One You're With", "Laughing" and "Black Queen". A ten-minute medley of Young tunes (including "Cinnamon Girl"), closes out the first half of the set. While the first disc showcases some great performances, and some excellent songs, the real treat of 4 Way Street lies in the second disc.

When describing the current CSNY reunion tour, Neil Young said the current band could "sing like the Byrds and jam like the Dead." Well, judging by the off-key VH-1 special, perhaps ol' Neil was only half-right (although in fairness it was the first show of the tour) about CSNY 2000. He was, however, right about CSNY 1970. Disc two of this live album features some hellacious jamming interspersed with tight vocal performances, all in all crafting a great portrait of one of the 1970s' most popular bands at their finest.

After a few hard-charging, somewhat rearranged plugged-in classics from the first two albums ("Pre-Roads Downs" and "Long Time Gone"), CSNY and their sidemen embark on the first of two long jams - the Young classic "Southern Man" (also from After The Gold Rush). A biting criticism of Southern bigotry, this track features spastic guitar interplay between Stills and Young, and tight harmonies on the choruses. Fourteen minutes of powerful jamming, highly reminscent of the Grateful Dead, which never loses focus or direction. "Ohio", another Young protest tune, is given a similarly spirited run-through. While the jam on "Carry On" isn't perhaps as well-paced or powerful as "Southern Man", the first five minutes or so are a clinic of just how tight and energizing CSNY could be at their best. The set concludes, fittingly, with an acoustic/a capella "Find The Cost Of Freedom."

All in all, this is a pretty good live album that might just change your opinion of CSNY. While their harder-edge is hinted at by classics like "Ohio" and "Woodstock", hearing this band tear up their electric set was a real eye- (or perhaps ear) opener. The sound quality is good, and although the set isn't laden with hits, it does include some solid performances.

Rating: B

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© 2000 Dan Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atlantic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.