Friday, February 25, 2011

Crosby, Stills & Nash - "CSN [Box Set]"

My Grandparents gave me this Box Set in Christmas 2002 I believe. This excellent set covers all of Crosby, Stills, and Nash's various incarnations as musicians from 1968-1990. This Four CD set with over 70 tracks is a great compilation for the diehard fan. I believe they are who this set is aimed at, the longtime fans. For those novice fans who have very little experience with the group this may be too much material and also a number of the group's most popular songs are presented here in alternative or unreleased versions. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is a noticeably different take, "Guinnevere" is a demo recording, "Carry On" is presented here in Stills' remixed "Carry On/Questions" version, and there are others.

Other than the group recordings this set also features fine choices from the three musicians solo careers as well as the majority of Crosby & Nash's best duo work. There is even a version of "Dear Mr. Fantasy," from the briefly lived Stills & Nash grouping. There are a number of tracks that feature Neil Young in CSNY on songs that later turned up without him on the official recordings. As the title of the box states there are no Young solo recordings and only the two hits, "Ohio" and "Helpless," that he wrote as part of CSNY are featured here. There are also songs from CSN's later less popular albums like "Live it Up" and "American Dream." But like most career compilations the songs towards the end of disc 4 are not on par with their early material.

There is a well done booklet with lots of rare photographs and an interesting essay which features interviews from CSN. There is also a long fold out family tree which shows all their different groups through their musical careers as well as the groups of their frequent back up musicians. The booklet also features little paragraphs and personal memories about each song featured on the set. Most are written by CSNY but a few feature remarks by Joni Mitchell and Dallas Taylor. There are also detailed remarks about who played on the track as well as when and where it was first released.

Like I said earlier this is geared toward the more diehard fans who will welcome the fine tribute to an excellent group of musicians. Since I am a diehard fan I am glad I own this.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "So Far"

This is the first ever CSN(Y) related album I ever bought and I immediately wanted the rest of their music. I picked it up at Tower Records in 2001 or 2.

As with many of my albums and posts there is a history behind the release of this compilation. After the "Deja Vu" album and tour, CSNY disbanded in 1970. For the next several years all four members released a number of solo albums. In 1974 CSNY reunited with the intention of recording a new album and then setting out on an ambitious stadium tour (the first ever Rock stadium tour). Due to clashing egos and fights in the recording studio the new album was never made but CSNY did go on a large hugely successful stadium tour. However, their record label, Atlantic Records, wanted and possibly needed a CSNY record in the stores to accompany the tour thus they released this odd compilation.

"So Far" collects eleven songs from "Crosby, Stills and Nash (debut album)" and "Deja Vu" as well as the two excellent singles "Ohio" and "Find the Cost of Freedom" which were recorded in response to the Kent State shootings and are not included on any regular album. That was the original selling point for this compilation "Ohio/Find the Cost of Freedom" were only available on this one CD/Record. But since then the excellent box set "CSN" has been released which contains both those songs and with the invention of song downloads you can just go to Amazon and buy those two songs (iTunes strangely does not have this album). The eleven songs collected here are excellent but you are better off buying the first two albums, all the songs are on those two albums you get more for your money. There are no liner notes and other than the really cool cover painting by Joni Mitchell(!) the rest of this compilation can be found elsewhere for a better buy and with little overlap. I'm hanging on to mine simply because I am a CSNY fanatic and this is the first taste I ever had of their music.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "4 Way Street"

I previously wrote a post about this album back when I first started my blog which may have a little more review.

This is a double disc live album that I picked up a Tower Records after I bought the group's first two albums. Like a real CSNY concert the album is split into two section an acoustic set (disc 1) and an electric set (disc 2). The album has moments of brilliance but is slightly uneven. On disc 1 thegroup only works as a whole on "Teach your Children" and "Love the One You're With." Other than that it seems each member performs solo or with the others acting simply as back up. Young gets a little more time than the others and just as Stills gets featured disc one ends.

Disc 2 features them working as a band through the entire disc and there are some good long jams between Stills and Young on the 15 minute renditions of "Southern Man" and "Carry On." The CD reissue adds four track to disc 1 all solo acoustic performances, there are no liner notes aside from the song lyrics.

One thing I did find interesting is that though the album was released in 1971 these performances were recorded in the Summer of 1970 on the "Deja Vu" tour and yet much of the material performed is from albums that were not released until Winter of '70 or well into '71. So the audience does not react when songs like "Chicago" or "Don't Let it Bring you Down" are preformed because this is probably the first time anyone heard any of these songs.

This is a fine addition to any CSN(Y) fans catalog, several songs "Right Between the Eyes," "The Lee Shore" and "Triad" only appear on this album unless you want to buy several different box sets. There has been talk that CSNY are going to release a new live album in 2011 from their excellent 1974 reunion tour here's hoping but until then "4 Way Street" is their best live album and great continuation of their debut album and "Deja Vu."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - "Deja Vu"

"Flawless harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, accomplished playing: this is state-of-the-art '70s rock music and continues to be the best explanation of CSN&Y's enormous stature and enduring legacy." Willian Ruhlmann All Music Guide

That pretty much sums up this album. "Deja Vu" usually turns up on greatest album lists and with good reason. It not only equals Crosby, Stills and Nash's (CSN) self titled debut, in several respects "Deja Vu" surpassed that album.

A little history first, after the success of CSN's debut album the trio went out on tour but Stills, who played the majority of the instruments on the album, felt they needed one more guitarist for their in order to perform some of the intricate guitar work live. But instead of simply finding a back-up guitarist Stills called on his old friend and Buffalo Springfield band mate Neil Young. Since Young was as well known as the other three they added his name to the group name. They went out on a tour that included performances at Woodstock and Altamont. The quartet then decided to record an album together.

While CSN's debut was largely acoustic based "Deja Vu" expands their formats with equal amounts of electric and acoustic, Rock and Country, Folk and Pop for a seamless whole. The recording sessions for this album were not pleasant and though they spent over 500 hours in the studio, all four members were hardly ever present at the same time.

Nonetheless every song on the album is spectacular and only Crosby's "Almost Cut My Hair" seems a little below the other tracks but it became a counter culture anthem of the era. While Nash's two songs "Teach Your Children" and "Our House" were the big hits every track is a show stopper. All ten songs are powerful statements of the American music scene in 1970. The closer "Everybody I Love You" by Stills and Young is often considered the greatest Buffalo Springfield song that Buffalo Springfield never recorded.

I really love this album and it is on my top ten list of favorite albums. This and the CSN debut album were a powerful one two punch that showed CSN(with and without Y) to be one of the finest American bands of their era.