Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
Crosby, Stills & Nash had a rather inauspicious beginning: David Crosby had been fired from The Byrds; Graham Nash wasn’t pleased with his position in The Hollies; and Stephen Stills had been left without an act when Buffalo Springfield disbanded. Yet, for three strong-willed, impossible-to-satisfy songwriters, sonic immortality came rather easily. Be it through the intervening hand of Mama Cass Elliot or Joni Mitchell — Stills believes it was the former; Crosby and Nash believe it was the latter — once the trio heard the immaculate convergence of their splendiferous harmonies, their fate ultimately was sealed.
By now, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s self-titled debut is so well ingrained within the public’s consciousness that it frequently is taken for granted. It commonly is considered the best album that the trio ever recorded — though its oft-overlooked effort CSN is equally strong — and despite several less than stellar reunions, a few sodden side trips, numerous egomaniacal squabbles, and countless conspicuous, drug-induced meltdowns, the eponymous endeavor has kept the group aloft for nearly 37 years. What that means, of course, is that the ensemble’s detractors have taken aim at the collection, dubbing it too saccharine, too self-absorbed, and too long-haired and leftist. While there is some truth to all of these criticisms — Lady of the Island is airily fragile; the alliteration of Helplessly Hoping reads like a high school poetry project; and Long Time Gone is as much a disgusted and defiant call-to-arms as it is a mournful ode to assassinated politician Bobby Kennedy — the music is organic and pure; the vocals are otherworldly.
With the Eastern-tinged modality of its exhilarating folk-rock flair, the opening Suite: Judy Blue Eyes easily set the stage for the rest of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s debut by rallying the outfit’s future fans around its twirling tangle of guitar, bass, and lush three-part harmonies. Drenched in gleeful lysergic buoyancy, the song’s rainbow-hued, multi-part odyssey perfectly encapsulated the free-spirited brightness of the ’60s, and after Nash mumbled a bit of gibberish, the ensemble tumbled into the hashish-stoked journey of Marrakesh Express, quickly making it crystal clear that the group had successfully burned its own DNA into the twisted strands of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. From Guinevere’s meditative romantic pull to the broiling jazz of Wooden Ships’ ominous, aqueous depiction of Armageddon, the trio’s eponymous effort unquestionably was an Americana-infused masterpiece that not only provided the framework for the Grateful Dead’s twin gems Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, but also poured the foundation for the careers of America, Loggins & Messina, and The Eagles. The HDCD mastering of the recent reissue sparkles so crisply that it fully enhances the spiritual qualities of the arrangements, and the quartet of bonus tracks — early demos of Teach Your Children, Do for the Others, and Song with No Words along with a despondent cover of Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’ — while non-essential, are no less intriguing. It’s the effortless precision of the harmonies, however, that truly endures.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box