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"It's been a long time comin', it's goin' to be a Long Time Gone"

Class C

Main Category: Folk Rock
Also applicable: Singer-Songwriters, Roots Rock
Starting Period: The Psychedelic Years
Also active in: The Artsy/Rootsy Years, The Interim Years,

The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day




Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a CSN fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective CSN fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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First of all, let's sweep this off with a technical remark. This page, as can be seen from the very 'table of contents', is going to be structured a bit different from the usual approach that strictly divides the band and its members' solo careers. Crosby, Stills & Nash (& don't forget Young!) are a bit different in that they never were a really stable band. Quite contrarily, they give the impression of three (or four) different solo artists that live their life mainly concentrating on their solo careers and simply 'crossing paths' from time to time, sometimes forming duos (Crosby & Nash; the Stills-Young band), sometimes trios (CSN), sometimes quartets (CSNY). In this respect, analyzing and classifying their discographies is a real pain in the ass. So, instead of discussing them separately, I've preferred to let it go and dump everything in one melting pot, simply classifying the records in chronological order. Right now my collection of these records is only starting, but it's bound to grow, as these guys are such an important, vital element in the whole system of American (and trans-Atlantic, too, if we consider Graham Nash) pop music that it's necessary to know as much about them as possible.

Note that I have specially bothered not to include Neil Young in the page title, and I review all of his solo output on a separate page. I have my reasons for that. First, Neil's back catalog is way too huge to be covered on here - in all, he's had about as much solo albums as the other three put together. Second and even more important, Neil's mentality and style is really way, way different from CSN's 'ideology'; the very fact of his joining up with the band is just another one of the many controversial points in his biography. I won't motivate this opinion further, as I don't suppose it really requires further backing; please visit my Young page for further information after you've finished with this one.

Now that that's out of the way, allow me to just have a little rave & rant about CSN and their impact on our culture and, what the hell, on our minds in general. First of all, CSN are way overrated as a phenomenon, in the same way as Simon & Garfunkel and Neil Young. In a certain sense, they are said to embody the 'American spirit' and all that crap, and for this, honey-mouthed critics are often ready to forgive them anything, even the so-so quality of Déjà Vu. Let us cut the crap at once and explicitly say that none of these guys were musical geniuses. Most of their records suffer serious problems in the way of diversity and catchiness, and practically all of the past thirty years have been nothing but a retread of the groundbreaking effected on their debut album - the only record that was somewhat innovative and at least completely fresh-sounding.

But the main strength of the band and its solo members doesn't really lie in their innovativeness or exceptional melodical strength - their music has a special 'click', a peculiar way of getting under your skin and staying there no matter how much you try to squeeze it out. 'Folk- and country-rock with an edge', we might call it, and the 'edge' is extremely important here. They have always tried to make their stuff interesting, no matter what means they used to do it, and they never contented themselves with standard musical cliches lying around. Take their 1969 debut, for example - how many generic melodies will you find there? Not a single one, not even a pedestrian blues or straightforward country motive. So when you put on a CSN record (or a Crosby record, or a Stills record, you get my drift), you're always ready for a pleasant, or unpleasant, little surprise or two - it's definitely different from putting on a simple, unimaginative folk-rock record.

And this, of course, has a lot to do with the three guys' fascinating personalities - after all, all of them are untrivial individuals. Stephen Stills is usually the unacclaimed 'leader' of the band: in the band's prime days, at least, he used to contribute the majority of the tunes, and on stage he was always the central figure. After his 'graduation' from the Buffalo Springfield, a band I still hope to hear some day, he already was one of the most notorious 'folk-rockers' in the Western hemisphere, and a 'moderate expert' in everything. He has a good, emotional, slightly squeaky, Dylan-ish singing voice; a good sense of melody; a firm grasp of 'traditional musical values'; and a lot of guitar-playing skills. Everything in the right proportion, although the top never boils over on any of these qualities. And it's a big shame that Stills is really so much underrated in most of these categories. For my money, I find Stephen a better entertainer and 'musical philosopher' than Neil Young; Neil beats Stephen over with his Biblical flavour, almost prophetical status and loads of philosophic bombast, but Stills comes out the winner simply because he's a far more restrained and humble performer, and in most cases he's completely adequate: he really says what he thinks, and thinks what he says.

Crosby, on the other hand, is a hallucinogenous raving mystic - he's the 'debacled' one of the band, and the lengthy list of his toils includes calamities such as prison time (for drugs, I presume) and liver failure due to alcoholism. His songs are usually not very strong melody-wise, as he was always a bit too keen on the mind-blowing aspects of psychedelia - remember 'Mind Gardens' from his Byrds legacy? But damn the melody, he's got that great hippie psycho aspect to him, and the more he was burning out, the more it became obvious that he actually burned talent, not just calories. The perfect dude to 'tune in' to, like, totally.

Finally, I have always held a soft spot in my heart for Nash: he's often overlooked behind the mighty shoulders of Stills and the luxuriant mane of Crosby, but let us not forget that it was Nash who was one of the primary active forces in the Hollies - Britain's best 'pure pop' band of the Sixties. He brought a little bit of the Hollies into CSN as well, compensating Stills' bleary ballads and Crosby's acid fantasies with little fresh drops of funny, dazzling, catchy pop - come on now, wouldn't Crosby, Stills & Nash be far more depressing and hard to swallow if it didn't contain the cutesy 'Marrakesh Express'? Again, Nash might not be the greatest popmeister in the world, but he certainly does have some instincts, and they rarely fail him. Pity I haven't had the possibility to grab any of his solo output...

It's obvious, now, that such a weird combination couldn't help but produce some interesting results. In fact, the band's debut album still remains one of the best records of 1969 (and that year WAS heavy on great music), and, while they could never really follow it with anything even closely resembling, it set off three lengthy decades, full of solo, duo, trio and quartet projects, many of which are quite worth your attention; on this page, I'll eventually try to introduce you to some of these (it's hardly possible to review EVERYTHING these guys put out; hell, their complete output almost exceeds Frank Zappa's!)




Year Of Release: 1968
Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

Your ordinary, not very imaginative blues rock. Makes a great listen at tea parties, though.

Best song: YOU DON'T LOVE ME

Track listing: 1) Albert's Shuffle; 2) Stop; 3) Man's Temptation; 4) His Holy Modal Majesty; 5) Really; 6) It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry; 7) Season Of The Witch; 8) You Don't Love Me; 9) Harvey's Tune.

There were several reasons that led me to buying this record. First of all, it has some historical importance - these 'super sessions' are your basic musical equivalent of 'high level meetings' in political life: they kinda represent the true spirit of the epoch, if you get my drift. Second, at this point I still can't lay my hands on even a single Buffalo Springfield record, and I desperately wanted to get more Stephen Stills product - whatever it might be. Third, it is reviewed by Wilson & Alroy, and how could I fall behind? Fourth and lastly (and most of all), I got it for a miserable price, so why should I complain?

This is (supposedly) Stephen Stills' first more or less 'independent' product after his departure from Buffalo Springfield and thus, an important landmark in his career. As for the two other dudes, they're also fairly notorious in their own special way: Al Kooper is that pretentious organist/pianist dude that later formed Blood, Sweat & Tears and became the Godfather of jazz rock which is a genre that I profoundly respect but will never listen to unless threatened by death (although I was tricked into buying some of the latter day Soft Machine records, I must admit); and Mike Bloomfield could be familiar to you if you ever gave a shot at Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited. Remember those garage chops on 'Tombstone Blues'? Meet Mike!

What this record represents is two jam sessions, both of which feature Kooper but only one of each features Bloomfield and Stills - separately, so the title could be a bit misguiding (and misguided). Their point is simply to have a good time by playing whatever they wish - but Bloomfield is more on the hardcore blues side, while Stills is more on the psychedelic side, so the two sides sound nothing like each other. The Bloomfield side is almost fully instrumental: the only vocals can be found on the rather primitive cover of the rather primitive C. Mayfield's soul number, 'Man's Temptation' (Kooper provides the vocals throughout). Some of the jams are very nice, and Bloomfield shows himself to be a pretty professional blues player - his licks on 'Albert's Shuffle' are adorable, even if a bit dated even at the time: this is the style that Clapton demonstrated on his 1966 Bluesbreakers album, and music had long since advanced to a further level. Still, the album doesn't pretend to be groundbreaking or 'fashionable', so you might just as well not pay attention to Bloomfield's limitations. Sometimes, though, they just go a bit too far, with the nine-minute 'His Holy Modal Majesty' capable of breaking down all limits of patience: Kooper might be professional, too, but three- or four-minute mid-tempo organ solos with no emotional resonance are more than I can take. It also sounds like they try a bit too hard to get 'psychedelic' on that track - the druggy slow organ passage near the beginning sounds heavily inspired by such Beatles songs as 'Tomorrow Never Knows' or 'Only A Northern Song'. But it's kinda boring and monotonous, and realizing it themselves, just after two minutes they launch in this lengthy fast jazz improv which is equally boring but which at least sounds somewhat more self-assured - at least, this time the guys know just what they're after.

The second side picks it up a bit - it is opened with a sped-up, punchy version of Dylan's 'It Takes A Lot To Laugh', quite similar to the original rejected by Bob himself (the one you can easily find on The Bootleg Series). You'd thought it would feature Bloomfield as well, since he was the guy that participated in Dylan's recording sessions, but apparently it doesn't. Nevertheless, Stills plays quite an engaging solo, and while I really, really prefer the moody, slow version that Dylan put on his album, the number goes down really well. However, the atmosphere is spoiled by the follow-up, Donovan's 'Season Of The Witch': while it starts out great, with creepy wah-wah guitars all over the spot and spooky, ominous singing, it certainly doesn't justify the eleven-minute length! Oh, I forgot, it's a 'jam'... somebody already accused me of missing the essence of this notion, so I think I'll pass and just make a comment on what I consider to be the real masterpiece on here - the tripped out, almost acid version of W. Cobb's 'You Don't Love Me'. The Allman Brothers did it later on their live album, and they might have had more verve, energy and fury, and it lacks the cool organ riff of Gregg Allman, but it has something that the Allmans just did not have at all - a weird, psycho arrangement with groovy 'airplane' noises produced by I-don't-know-what (some embryonic synths, mayhaps? and there's certainly a lot of phasing going around here, too) and a threatening, enthralling workout by the rhythm section (Eddie Hoh on drums, Harvey Brooks on bass). In fact, the song sounds like the only truly finished and polished composition on the album - even despite the fact that Al added some annoying brass to various tracks 'as an afterthought'.

Still, one good, even one great song and a couple decent jams do not save a record that's certainly a toss-off and has not much more artistic value than your average pub blues band wailing in the corner: there were tons of better albums made that year. If you want some really enchanting blues rock, you'd better be off with a random Cream album than this stuff. Pleasant, and shows that Bloomfield really had much more talent than showcased on Highway 61, but Stephen Stills fans really do not need to bother. Try to find those wretched Buffalo Springfield records instead! I know I will!



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1969
Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

Catchy soft-rock with enough depth and insight to guarantee some innocent greatness...


Track listing: 1) Suite Judy Blue Eyes; 2) Marrakesh Express; 3) Guinnevere; 4) You Don't Have To Cry; 5) Pre-Road Downs; 6) Wooden Ships; 7) Lady Of The Island; 8) Helplessly Hoping; 9) Long Time Gone; 10) 49 Bye-Byes.

Well, the important thing to realize here is that when Stills, Crosby and Nash got together, they didn't exactly veer all that much from the styles they'd already established previously. Listen to Nash's work with the Hollies, or to Crosby's contributions to classic-era Byrds, or to Stills' rockers on all those Buffalo Sprinfield records, and you'll see that the innovative aspect of this record was getting all these styles together and making the actual concoction work.

It is no big surprise that the band did not manage to last very long - you could see why just by looking at the track listing. There's practically no collaboration between band members, the only 'collective' song written being 'Wooden Ships', and even here the main work is done by Stills. Being virtually 'unchained', it's no wonder that one by one the band members could take off, return again, and split once more - and yet, the record doesn't sound disjointed at all. In fact, the three guys complement each other's functions: Stills acts as 'chief' and 'ideological guide', Crosby acts as 'the freaked out one' and Nash dilutes the album's seriousness by being 'the poppy one' - after all, he's an ex-Hollie, isn't he?

Well, anyway, this record deserves its reputation. I confess that it's been a real pain in the ass to get through it, but believe me, 'the game's worth the candle', as we say in Russia. The main problem is that some find the Stills numbers too complicated, the Crosby trips too loose and the Nash ditties too bubble-gummy. They all have a point. But, curiously enough, while these qualities are usually considered bad for a rock record, here they work in favour of the impression. The record is so warm, inviting, so 'homely' and cozy, that you can't help but end up forgiving the guys for having dropped too much acid. In fact, with this record hippies were happy to have found a new, three-headed intellectual guru that they never received earlier due to Bob Dylan's infamous motorcycle accident... but enough of that, onto the songs!

As I said, Stills is the commander-in-chief on record. He not only plays both lead guitar and bass (plus organ on 'Wooden Ships' and others), but also contributes the absolute majority of songs. A couple of them might not seem a great what-not - I still can't get the message of 'You Don't Have To Cry' which seems like a rather pedestrian, uninspired love ballad to me'; 'Helplessly Hoping' is average as well, but saved with some mighty fine three-part harmonies; and the album closer, '49 Bye-Byes', goes absolutely nowhere - it just rambles on and on with its inobtrusive melody for five minutes until it bores you to death. In fact, I will go as far as to say that this song is the only major flaw of the album - a huge disappointment as the closing tune. Not so with the opener, though, which is the gorgeous 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', an absolute classic and probably the greatest acoustic multi-part suite ever written. Basically, it's just a love song, but the lyrics are far from generic (some of the most beautiful love lyrics I ever heard, in fact), and the three or four melodies that intertwine and gracefully flow one into another are sure to take your breath away - some are terrific singalongs, some funny foot-stompers, and Stills' and Crosby's interlocking guitars create a wonderful, rich sound texture that you won't often hear on an acoustic song off a rock album.

Stephen also contributes what's probably the second best song on the album - the contemplative, romantic 'Wooden Ships' that quite immediately became one of the leading hippie anthems, and deservedly so - even if it's far deeper and more endurable than most of the hippie stuff of the epoch. Built on the base of an imaginary dialogue between two hostile soldiers that become friends through hardship and sufferings, and set to an ominous beat with dreary electric guitar and moody organ, it's probably the only song on the album that would be instantly likeable to rockers, but no genre could really spoil its catchiness or the groovy message (see the horrid version of the Jefferson Airplane, though, to witness how it is possible to spoil even what you thought was unspoilable).

On the other hand, Crosby, besides collaborating on 'Wooden Ships', has but two songs of his own on the album, but both are highlights. I used to hate 'Guinnevere' as the kind of melody-less schlocky pretentious stuff that you often meet on the most unimaginative folk albums, but slowly I grew addicted to it - now I find the atmosphere, with that nagging, repetitive dark acoustic riff and the wonderful harmonies, simply enchanting. Here's a perfect song for a movie about King Arthur, I say! It works here as well, though, and also does the band a good service by fitting into the times with its medieval fantasy mystique. For the record, if you enjoy 'Everybody's Been Burned' off the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, you're sure to love this one (and vice versa), 'cause both songs set absolutely the same mood even if they have different lyrical matters. The other highlight here is 'Long Time Gone' which I also used not to notice, but due to the fact that it is now used as the intro theme to the Woodstock movie, I've listened to it quite a lot and finally came close to growing an appreciation for the song's magnificent structure, its bold hippie message ('but don't try to get yourself elected/If you do you had better cut your hair') and the weird singing tone that David adopts for this particular piece - stuttering, almost breaking down from time to time, but getting it all back together in an almost Dylan style. And again, the harmonies on the chorus are superb.

This leaves Nash, and, like I said, he sweetens the pill with several pop songs that border on cheesy but never really become so. Both 'Marrakesh Express' and 'Pre-Road Downs' could have easily been passed off as Hollies songs (the question is: why did he have to leave that band if he didn't even change his style?), but as it turns out, this style is perfectly applicable to the CSN vibe. Both songs are happy, stupid and unbelievably catchy - if you like them, feel free to proceed to the best of Hollies' material (or vice versa once again). 'Lady Of The Island' doesn't thrill me as much, though, because Nash is trying to pull a Crosby, and he doesn't quite have the nerve to do it, but it ain't offensive at least.

Yeah, this album isn't an easy-going piece of cake, but it's a rewarding one - these guys weren't exactly your average bunch of pleasant folkies who make you feel happy while you're listening to the material but are dead and gone together with the CD player being turned off. They were quite sophisticated and really took the time to work on the material, and the results are splendid. And somebody - send my regards to Steve for that quirky backwards solo on 'Pre-Road Downs', woncha? Good day to you all, gentlemen!



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG)

Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

A musical hippy paradise, but MUCH too bland and spaced out for my tastes...

Best song: WOODSTOCK

Track listing: 1) Carry On; 2) Teach Your Children; 3) Almost Cut My Hair; 4) Helpless; 5) Woodstock; 6) Deja Vu; 7) Our House; 8) 4 + 20; 9) Country Girl; 10) Everybody I Love You.

Overrated as hell. Badly overrated, in fact - it seems that ninety-nine percent of critics worldwide tend to rave and rant about this record so that it the eyes of many it stands as the ultimate hippie catechism. Unfortunately, I prefer to rely on my own intuition and taste, undescribably bad as it is (I guess everybody already knows that), and this is my judgement: no way can this be a greater classic than the far, far, far superior Crosby, Stills & Nash - the record that should forever take the place of Déjà Vu in the annals of musical history.

Maybe it's because of the presence of the all-time critic favourite Neil Young on the record that it's praised so much? Could well be, but I think that the real reason lies in the more abstract factors. CSN was a record that blessed the hippie movement, but it did this in an inobtrusive and thoroughly unpretentious way. The album's being 'underproduced', its definite homemade-ness and quiet charm were what really made even the fillerish tracks really cook. Not so with this piece of overbloated, pretentious (and I mean it - you don't hear me complaining about a record's pretentiousness too often, now do you?), drugged out hippie chunk whose main goal is to present Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as the Holy Quadrumvirate of the Flower Generation. But the ideological factor is fake - by 1970, nobody really needed to be reminded the essentials of flower power any more, Woodstock had faded away and the band members themselves were up to the ears in drug and other personal problems. So that means that about ninety percent of the lyrics on the record (everything, in fact, but the Young contributions) have dated badly and are only interesting from a purely historical point of view. Why should I be interested, in fact, in Graham Nash's recipees for hippy family life (both 'Teach Your Children' and 'Our House') or in Crosby's meditations on the fates of the counterculture ('Almost Cut My Hair'?) WHY??...

The fact that bugs me even more is that the music is generally below par. Several trademark elements of CSN that I enjoyed so much are gone. First of all, where's that lush harmony sound? Most of the time they adopt a boring, folky, Byrds-like approach to harmonies where all the four (three? two?) sing in unison - a far cry from the stunning multi-part approach on, say, 'Judy Blue Eyes'. Next, this record is certainly overproduced. The guitars are for the most part generic - there's no tasty treats like the beautiful, funny acoustic guitar lines of 'Judy' or the cool backwards soloing of 'Pre-Road Downs'. And lastly, the melodies are just not all that interesting. Dang, there ain't a single song on here I couldn't live without.

A strange paradox it is, and I still can't really explain it, but my favourite song on here (a) doesn't belong to any of the band members at all, and (b) has the most irritating lyrical matter. Yeah, it is certainly Joni Mitchell's 'Woodstock', and it far surpasses the original. It is by far the only veritable rocker on record (Joni's version was a watered-down piano one), and I love that great Stills vocal tone and Young's guitar licks. Maybe it's again due to my long-time exposion to the movie, but fact is, I can't deny the number's a classic, and whatever I may hold against the famous 'we are stardust, we are golden' lyrics, they pretty much define the epoch, don't they?

Apart from that, the album's a true democracy - every member gets two solo numbers, and there's practically no collaboration at all, if you don't count the jerky 'Everybody I Love You', a very lame and insecure attempt at a hippie anthem that closes the album, co-written not by Crosby and Nash, as one might suspect, but by Stills and Young (Neil, Neil, what a bummer). Like I said, Young's numbers are by far the best songs on the album: 'Helpless' is a very pretty ballad that gets most of its warmth and pleasantness due to Neil's unexpectedly sweet tone, and the multi-part suite 'Country Girl' seems like a bore until it picks a little steam in the middle with that Mellotron background and the groovy, bombastic chorus. If anybody ever wondered who was the best songwriter of the whole crew, your answer's right here. Still, these two tunes are not among the best ones.

Stills' contributions are a little worse, although not particularly offensive - but there's not much I could really say about them. '4+20' is an interesting, moody, almost menacing acoustic song, but unfortunately, it's much too short - less than two minutes, actually - and only hints at the hotcake it could have been in another life. And 'Carry On' always bores me with those Byrdsey harmonies, plus the guitar riff is almost bad, you know - like a half-professional, but inadequately ambitious acoustic player trying to hammer out the best lines of his stinkin' life. No resemblance to those fascinating 'Judy Blue Eyes' opening lines, that's for sure.

However, the real downers on the record are the Crosby/Nash songs. The first one contributes a lifeless, totally unessential pseudo-rocker ('Almost Cut My Hair') that sounds like a Jimi Hendrix song with the guitar mixed out, and the title track, that starts as a really fascinating acoustic shuffle before, of course, degenerating into a lethargic jam probably due to everybody being totally stoned at the time of recording. As for Nash, his two flower power ditties aren't exactly 'cheesy', but are certainly more so than 'Marrakesh Express', and not very memorable as well - plain, uninteresting pop songs that aren't really good or bad. Listenable, but there's a lot of things in this world that are listenable. Joseph Haydn, for instance.

I really have no idea if I'll be flamed for this review or not, because I can't really figure out if the album is just a critics' favourite or it is really revered in public. But my opinion is definite. It ain't bad - yeah, 'Everybody I Love You' and the Crosby numbers really suck, but apart from that, there aren't no major stinkers - but it certainly does not deserve all the hype and exceeding praise that it usually gets. A record whose historical importance (and yes, I agree that from this point of view it is one of the most significant albums of 1970) has clearly overshadowed its real artistic value. Go put on some Hollies instead! These guys don't have no historical importance at all, but by gum, they're so much more enjoyable! At least they were less cocaine-obsessed than David Crosby. Disclaimer: that was just a metaphor. I really wouldn't know what kind of drug Dave preferred at the time. Wouldn't really want to, either, but one thing's for sure: it messed up his head just fine. 'Almost Cut My Hair', really!



(released by: STEPHEN STILLS)

Year Of Release: 1970
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Not a TON of hooks for my liking, but it's definitely vintage Stills, and this is soothing.

Best song: TO A FLAME

Track listing: 1) Love The One You're With; 2) Do For Others; 3) Church; 4) Old Times Good Times; 5) Go Back Home; 6) Sit Yourself Down; 7) To A Flame; 8) Black Queen; 9) Cherokee; 10) We Are Not Helpless.

Stills' solo debut looks like... well, looks like something Stills would actually really choose for his debut, too. Take Stephen's slice off any (two) of the previous CSN(Y) albums, enlarge it thrice, throw in some Clapton and Hendrix guest spots and that's what you get. And is it good?

Oh well, it is. Definitely not great - but then again, Stephen Stills and 'greatness' in the usual sense don't really stand together. It's the kind of record that sits there and does nothing for you until you feel, around the third listen or so, that it's starting to creep under your skin in some mystical way, that this guy's really so friendly and homey and sincere that you don't mind his friendship at all. This record has a lot of flaws, and I don't enjoy it nearly as much as the other critics do: there are some really low points and really bad songs, there are very few instantaneously memorable melodies, and the Hendrix guest spot is just plain ridiculous. For a better overview of Steve's possibilities, you'd much better be off with the Manassas album; however, that one's a double album, and it's rather hard to assimilate in one go. Plus, it doesn't have Clapton, so...

The big problem is that Steve is still living in his Woodstock veils; the record might easily be dismissed as 'postmortem hippie crap' by those who believe that the hippie movement and ideals were essentially dead on the night of Altamont or at least on the night of Hendrix's death. Indeed - what the hell? How come the record begins with a song named 'Love The One You're With', continues with a song named 'Do For The Others', and then stomps into a song named 'Church (Part Of Someone)'? This isn't even psycho rock, it smells of preachiness. And so it does. Apart from the relatively pretty acoustic 'Do For The Others', I could care less about the other two - apparently, 'Love The One You're With' was a minor hit for Steve, and it does look like a potential hit, but only for people who think a hit should be huge and anthemic rather than based on a solid melody. 'Church' is just awful, a generic gospel number with generic gospel background vocals. But Steve's voice is way too feeble for singing gospel, and it comes out looking even more awkward than Keith Richards doing reggae.

Having, however, dug through the dung, you'll arrive at the grand prizes - a bunch of excellent rockers and ballads that have little to do with preachiness or epicness. 'Old Times Good Times' is the song they usually quote most of all, because it features one of Jimi Hendrix's last ever guitar appearances - how Steve ever got him to play lead guitar on the track is a mystery to me, but, anyway, it's not one of Jimi's best leads, and without the liner notes you'd hardly guess it was Jimi at all. Sounds more like Clapton, if you axe me. The greatest thing about the song is, however, not the actual solo, but the way it weaves around and interacts with Steve's own organ playing - the effect is amazing, and when you play this loud, it almost... well... should I say it almost kicks ass? It probably does.

Blues lovers, meanwhile, are welcome to enjoy 'Go Back Home', this time with Clapton on lead guitar - Eric was deeply into wah-wahs at the time, but I suppose it's not Eric playing the basic wah-wah part; he comes on later on the usual Fender 'strument. The solo is amazing, and fully redeems the song for stealing its riff from Albert King's 'Born Under A Bad Sign'. Even if without the liner notes you'd hardly guess it was Clapton at all. Sounds more like Hendrix, if you axe me. The greatest thing about the song is, however, not the actual solo, but the way it weaves around and interacts with Steve's own wah-wah playing - the effect is mind-blowing, and when you play this loud, it almost...

In any case, though, these numbers aren't the highlights. People love to emphasize them because they feature rock's biggest guitar gods assembled in one place, but the most well-written song on the album is, undoubtedly, the gorgeous ballad 'To A Flame', with clever vibes and orchestration parts that always balance on sappy and sugary but never really cross the line - the orchestration is more Beatlesque than Hollywoodish, and Steve's humble, tender singing is, as usual, a little bit muffled so he doesn't sound egotistic or pretentious. And my other favourite is the acoustic 'Black Queen' which sounds like it was pretty much recorded in about one take, but which is probably the best example of showing what's so exceptional in the way Stills does his rootsy impersonations. Lots of untrivial chords and chord changes on that one, sharp, stinging playing with the strings almost torn out of their places, and that completely authentic hoarse folkish voice mumbling the lyrics with just enough sincerity to make you dismiss the fact that the guy's a white guy and not a black guy.

The other songs are probably okay, too, most of them pretty decent rockers, but I kinda forgot all about them while I was trying to type out that limited description of 'Black Queen'. So I suppose that instead of rambling on about the individual numbers, I'll just shut up here and say that the record is a must for CSN lovers. But if you're just a lonely guy with a problem who happened to fall in love with Judy Blue Eyes, you probably won't even have the patience to let this album grow on you; and Stills' solo records do take a lot of time to do that.



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG)

Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

DON'T give the audiences what they want! Give them some fucked up solo shit! :)

Best song: THE LONER and whatever follows it

Track listing: CD I: 1) Suite: Judy Blue Eyes; 2) On The Way Home; 3) Teach Your Children; 4) Triad; 5) The Lee Shore; 6) Chicago; 7) Right Between The Eyes; 8) Cowgirl In The Sand; 9) Don't Let It Bring You Down; 10) 49 Bye-Byes/America's Children; 11) Love The One You're With; 12) King Midas In Reverse; 13) Laughing; 14) Black Queen; 15) The Loner/Cinnamon Girl/Down By The River;

CD II: 1) Pre-Road Downs; 2) Long Time Gone; 3) Southern Man; 4) Ohio; 5) Carry On; 6) Find The Cost Of Freedom.

People who bought CSN(Y)'s first two albums probably gazed at this double live LP in total disbelief. I mean, unless they were ardent followers of all the members of the band, they could recognize only six titles, and even if they were, there's a lot of songs here that hadn't yet been released in their studio versions. Fact is, when playing live shows CSNY left most of their "common" material overboard. They seemed to have been following an ideology of "let each of us play whatever's on his mind right now" instead of "let us play what the audience wants". And this shows up in an even more defiant form on the live album - it opens with the band "fading in" to the last chords of 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes'. Now if they hadn't put those twenty seconds of 'du du du du du' on the record, it wouldn't have been so obvious, but they did, and it is: "We. Don't. Give. A. Fucking. Damn'.

And I LIKE that attitude! In fact, it's the only saving grace of the record. It's no big secret that CSNY weren't that hot onstage, and that they gelled together much better in the studio (at least if they were stoned, they could always fix things up out there, but in front of the crowd? No way!). If you don't believe it, just compare the studio version of 'Long Time Gone' with this live one. The harmonies on the original were goddamn near perfect. The harmonies on here are practically, well, non-existent: everybody just shouts out whatever, however, and whenever he can. It comes out gruff, angry, and sloppy, with lots of yelling and distortion and stuff, belying the band's "soft-rock" reputation, but it doesn't exactly come out fine.

But when you don't actually have to compare, or when you have to compare with versions of songs not tried out by CSN together in the studio, it's nowhere near as bad. And plus, you get to see how fine these guys are digging into their back (and forward) catalogs. The first CD is the most diverse - it's their acoustic set, containing mostly short songs (or long medleys of short songs) and, as far as the actual CD is concerned, augmented by one extra track from each band member. They show themselves to be truly democratic: everyone gets a chance to display his individuality the way he wishes. In fact, many of the songs feature one band member only, particularly the bonuses... the others were probably backstage at the time sharing a joint.

In terms of "competition" here, I'd give the gold to Neil, share the silver between David and Graham, and toss the bronze to Steve. That's right, you heard me: Stills' part of the acoustic show is, amazingly, the least enjoyable. 'Love The One You're With' is tolerable, but he just about totally massacres 'For What It's Worth' - here suitably retitled 'America's Children' to avoid further shame. He transforms it into a drunken, sloppy, corny sociopolitical rambling based on a two-chord or so piano melody, with obligatory meandering preachy bullshit stuff about Jesus Christ being the first revolutionary and suchlike tossed in the middle. This track pretty much symbolizes everything that could be so awful about CSN&Y, and this coming from arguably my favourite member of the band, I'll never be able to forgive him. At least the bonus track, 'Black Queen', partially redeems that atrocity.

In the meantime, Nash soothes everybody with 'Teach Your Children' and makes a much more solid case for the counterculture with 'Chicago' (although, as usual, you get all kinds of moments when others miss their cues, forget the lyrics, etc. etc.), as well as giving us a decent ballad in 'Right Between The Eyes' and, in the bonus section, performing the old Hollies classic 'King Midas In Reverse' - ten times inferior to the original in this purely acoustic and harmony-devoid arrangement but still fun to hear. And Crosby, as usual, seizes the chance to stick in his beloved promiscuity anthem ('Triad' - is there a more prototypical Crosby song?), as well as give us some moody ambience in 'The Lee Shore' and 'Laughing' (the latter would be soon heard in a perfected version on his solo album).

However, it still seems to me that Young was the one guy in the most perfect form for these 1970 shows. He performs his acoustic stuff with more devotion I've even heard on his "classic" live albums like Live Rust. 'Cowgirl In The Sand', 'Don't Let It Bring You Down', the slightly less memorable Buffalo Springfield oldie 'On The Way Home'... these performances are all top of the crop. And the bonus track is a fantastic medley of 'The Loner', 'Cinnamon Girl', and 'Down By The River' - all of them acoustic, none of them having anything to do with the wild innovative jamming on Everybody Knows..., but all of them still good. And even if he's usually performing all this solo, with no help from the band, that at least means he's not fucking shit up with missed cues and all.

The second part of the album is mostly electric. Here you'll find the already mentioned so-so rendition of 'Long Time Gone'; Neil's acute political anthem 'Ohio', the one that starts a tradition of cashing in on national tragedies (you gotta agree that is a frequent problem with Mr Young, not that he's the only one guilty of it or anything); and two long long guitar jams where Neil and Steve are trying to outbitch each other, shoving the other two way deep in the hole. Oh yeah, they're originally 'Southern Man' and 'Carry On', but nobody should care much about that because they're just used as polygons to kick some ass. Actually, they do kick ass and there's some real dynamite playing on both tracks - not at all like Neil's solo jams, though, because the CSNY politics don't make much room for feedback and slow mammoth-like power chords, but surely there can be enough room in your life for both.

So in any case, this is a controversial album - loved by some fans for the spontaneity and diversity, hated by others for the crappy harmonies, but worth owning at least as a precious historical document. Mind you, these shows were big. These guys had a, like, Messiahnistic stature in 1970. Crosby was there to share his sympathy with all the pot smokers in the world, Nash was there to soothe the James Taylor-loving crowds, Stills was there to have all the counterculture political bullshit, and Young was there to look pissed off, depressed, and disillusioned. It was the PERFECT combination. And it translates well onto Four Way Street - what a perfect album title, too.



(released by: DAVID CROSBY)

Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Music is love is music is love is music is love is music is love is ruined liver is music is love is music...


Track listing: 1) Music Is Love; 2) Cowboy Movie; 3) Tamalpais High (At About 3); 4) Laughing; 5) What Are Their Names; 6) Traction In The Rain; 7) Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves); 8) Orleans; 9) I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here.

By the overall tone of all these reviews you could probably guess that big fat ol' Cros isn't exactly my favourite member of the band. In fact, he's definitely my least favourite. The others had their ups and downs, sometimes writing great songs and sometimes writing fluff, but you could always rely on trusty David to come up with the exact same sounding piece of melodyless mush where his angel-like voice would try to account for the fact that he couldn't put two chords together in a memorable fashion to save his life.

So when I grudgingly shelled out some of my hard-earned savings for this album, it was like, "oh dammit, let's give the guy a chance, after all, it's his only solo album in, what, two decades, maybe it's not quite hopeless". Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be not only "not hopeless", it actually turned out to be a GOOD record! A record that I lightheartedly enjoyed all the way through! Well... nearly all the way through. Maybe it was the ten spent bucks that shaped my take on this, I dunno, but then again there've been records... ah jeez, let's not bring up sad memories.

So of course David isn't willing to replace his fiddle for this album. He's finally gotten around to having an LP all to himself, so how's he gonna miss his chance? The day you find a memorable melody on here, let me know and I'll direct you to some Enya favourites of mine, they might be right up your alley. But there's a catch on here, a catch that almost transforms defeat into victory. It's one of those albums that are a guitar-and-vocal-lover's wet dream. Crosby is a terrible songwriter, sure, but when he gets a chance to fully showcase his harmonies, you gotta admit he has few equals in the business. And not only that, but he's assembled a terrific playing crew for the sessions - practically the entire San Francisco crowd guests on the record, with members of the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and even Santana (not Carlos, though) making contributions.

Thus, even the album's weakest and most out-of-place tune, the eight-minute 'Cowboy Movie', a complex lyrical saga where David allegorically retells the tale of the rise and fall of CSNY, is made listenable by all the people jamming on it, with sharp, attention-begging acid guitar solos, duets, trios, whatever. Without the awesome guitar work, it would have just been a faceless clone of 'Almost Cut My Hair', but, like I said, this is an album that honours the guitar as an instrument instead of just using it as an instrument.

As far as vocals go, then, I advise you to cut straight to the last three tracks. If anything, Crosby's honesty is appealing to me on here. 'Song With No Words' does not even pretend to be a song, it's just a moody jello-formed chant driven by an acoustic, a jazzy piano, and isolated electric lead lines. And vocal harmonies, of course. And there's something deeply beautiful about it. Actually, now that I think of it, there's a lot of "mood jazz" and Santana influences on the album. It's not at all simplistic and trivial - there's some real depth to all these textures. It might also have been influenced by David's collaboration with Joni Mitchell (who also contributes some backing vocals on here). Even more surprising is the two-minute acoustic-accompanied "mantraization" of isolated French names that's somewhere in between a nursery rhyme and a Gregorian chant ('Orleans') and the completely accappella requiem for Crosby's deceased girlfriend that closes the album ('I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here'). Short and sweet, both of them.

The only two attempts at writing actual songs are 'Laughing' and 'Traction In The Rain' (the former is also known in a CSNY version, while the latter you can only hear on later Crosby & Nash albums). Predictably, they're hookless and almost formless - 'Laughing' reminds me of George Harrison's 'Be Here Now', which is, usurprisingly, the least interesting song on his 1973 album. But, again, both are distinguished by instrumental work; the guitar solo at the end of 'Laughing' is pretty like the morning sun (hey, I like my sentimental cliches as much as ol' Cros likes his).

I admit that my rating might seem odd to you, but look, this is not exactly my cup of tea. Besides, you do have to admit that Crosby's tricks are limited, and that 'Cowboy Movie' just did NOT need to run for eight minutes, all the outstanding guitar work notwithstanding. It's a true album for a true fan - if you like the guy's style, you'll want to give this a 15/15, if you dislike it, you'll be bored shitless, and in these cases, I usually stand somewhere in the middle. I do want to say, though, that it's a good thing he never tried another fully-solo album for almost twenty years: had he turned this formula into, well, a fully working formula, he would have invented boring forgettable adult contemporary way before its time. As a one-time experience, If I Could Only is groovy, but one needn't capitalize on it, and I'm glad Crosby confined himself to collaborations for the rest of the decade.



(released by: GRAHAM NASH)

Year Of Release: 1971
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Cute little Brit boy leads the country-western troops into battle! Uh... wait a minute...


Track listing: 1) Military Madness; 2) Better Days; 3) Wounded Bird; 4) I Used To Be A King; 5) Be Yourself; 6) Simple Man; 7) Man In The Mirror; 8) There's Only One; 9) Sleep Song; 10) Chicago; 11) We Can Change The World.

Oh boy, this is nice. Graham Nash has always been the "nice" part of the trio, after all, hasn't he? Crosby's the lunatic dreamy guy, Stills the rough country hick, and Nash the pretty sugarboy. But not in a bad sense. He isn't exactly bursting with songwriting talent, but he's got this extremely attractive aura around him - this subtle aroma of extreme sincerity and equally extreme naiveness that makes it impossible to despise his songs even when they're nothing but generic hippie propaganda. Because he isn't pretentious in the least. He's trying to be a guru, but not so much a real guru as just, you know, the next guy you see in the street giving you a piece of friendly advice because, like, the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it feels so good and all.

Besides, he's really gone out of his way to make his solo debut a hotshot. Look at the liner notes, for God's sake, and see who's helping him to make this stuff. Well, of course there's Crosby on electric guitar. But that's just a start. Let's look closer. Dave Mason on guitar. Rita Coolidge on piano and backing vocals. Dallas Taylor on drums. Phil Lesh on bass. Jerry Garcia on guitar. Chris Ethridge (of the Flying Burrito Brothers fame) on bass. Bobby Keys on sax. And a million other people whom I don't recognize but who are probably no mere bypassers either. That's the playing, though: the songs are all written by Nash, with just one of them co-credited to Terry Reid, and he's also the producer. Looks like he took all this trouble just to convince the public that he wasn't merely a harmony singer, as you could suggest if you saw the band live. And, well, dunno about the public, but he definitely convinces me; granted, stuff like 'Marrakesh Express', not to mention his work in the Hollies, needed no further conviction already, but after all, this is his first BIG solo project. How good is it?

Pretty good. A bunch of extremely catchy songs, a bunch of not-so-catchy but still feel-good songs and just one or two relative clunkers. Actually, the album is short (ten songs in all) and is over before you can say "Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young", but perhaps it's better that way - the mellow acoustic vibe that permeates most of the material could eventually get tedious. The songs mostly range between personal and preachy, and they're certainly more mature and sincere than, say, contemporary Hollies material, if not necessarily as well done.

The two most upbeat songs on here bookmark the record. Of these, 'Military Madness' is the real gem, and one of the best anti-war songs to come out of the epoch, I'd say. Fun lyrics, too: 'In an upstairs room in Blackpool/By the side of a northern sea/The army had my father/And my mother was having me'. Dave Mason adds tasty wah-wah lead lines to the song, and Rita Coolidge and others provide credible gospelish background vocals, and the result is a minor classic: memorable, touching, and wonderfully recorded. The other one is 'Chicago', a song that Nash eagerly used to contribute to the CSN(Y) live set. Its lyrics have not aged nearly as well (heck, it is dedicated to the 1968 Democratic Convention of all things! it was obsolete when it was recorded already!), so that modern listeners will definitely be baffled as to why it is so necessary to come to Chicago if you want to change the world, but the melody still remains intact, doesn't it? And it's a wonderful poppy melody, with a "crappy hippie" anthemic refrain that still works on some level. I like both songs anyway.

In between you'll find the mellower, more atmospheric compositions, and they're hit-and-miss but more often hit than miss. Nash is really the master of the upbeat hook; he occasionally seems lost when churning out a sentimental acoustic ballad, and his thin vocals can't save an already poor song - especially when he tries to rise above his normal range, which is sometimes just plain ear-destructive. There are some of these superficially nice, but un-clinging songs in the middle, like 'Man In The Mirror', which don't grab me at all, I must say; at least, it's nothing that couldn't be done better by James Taylor.

But that shouldn't detract from the fact that 'Better Days', for instance, is a wonderful song - more Lennonish than Taylorish in stature, with an interesting verse structure and a slightly menacing feel, emphasized by the echoey rendering of Graham's voice. The purely acoustic 'Wounded Bird' just seems to take a traditional folkish melody and give it new Nash-penned Nash-sung lyrics, and it's absolutely charming. (And really brings out the best in his voice). 'I Used To Be A King' threatened to be a stately country bore at first, but then lo and behold! just as you're about to give up on it, it turns 'round on its heels and romps into this mahvelous chorus ('but it's all right, I'm OK, how are you?...') which pushes a streak of Holliesque pop right into the middle of this rigid country-western structure and makes it come to life. Ah, the magic of Britpop!

I'm also a minor sucker for the gospel tinges of the preachy, but deeply emotional 'There's Only One' (again, where would we be without these sweet Rita Coolidge and Co. backing vocals?) and for the sexy soothiness of 'Sleep Song', which might just be the sissiest thing Nash ever did, but hey, that's what he was born for to roam upon this Earth - to do sissy things like these.

Sheez, I think on a good day this might be a low 9/12 even. It's just a very small record, you understand: short overall length, short songs, this tiny inobtrusive voice, these wimpy acoustic and steel pedal guitars, this innocent country-western tinge, these light fragile hooks. Out of this rises a big deal of a charm, of course, but is this enough to guarantee a major rating? Whatever. I'm not gonna bother myself too much with numbers anyway. But the record is strongly recommended to anybody who loves himself a good sentimental soul anyway. At least it won't annoy you, that's for sure, unless you're a Megadeth freak, of course, in which case I'm at a total loss about how you actually managed to get here in the first place.



(released by: CROSBY & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1997
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Gee, guess you really had to be there to understand all the stoned crap they're trading in between songs.

Best song: ORLEANS

Track listing: 1) Anticipatory Crowd; 2) Deja Vu; 3) Wooden Ships; 4) Man In The Mirror; 5) Orleans; 6) Used To Be A King; 7) Traction In The Rain; 8) Lee Shore; 9) Southbound Train; 10) Laughing; 11) Triad; 12) Where Will I Be; 13) Strangers Room; 14) Immigration Man; 15) Guinnevere; 16) Teach Your Children; 17) Exit Sounds.

In the context of the worldwide-international program "Beat The Boots - Help Rich Rock Stars Make More Money!" comes this hardly-anticipated release of the archived tapes of a live show as played by Mister David "I Got The Lebanese Flu" Crosby, Esq. and Herr Graham "They Wouldn't Even Let Me Into Vancouver, The Establishment Scum" Nash, Jr. on October 10, 1971 in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, USA. The front cover lets you witness two medium-sized long-haired representatives of the Flower Power generation, wisely photographed from behind so that sensitive audiences do not get to see the hyperstoned expressions on said representatives' faces. You also get a glimpse of two fairly-sized acoustic guitars standing unused behind said representatives, a metaphor for illustrating the sheer unbridled emotional power of nerdy acoustic music of the early Seventies. Mr Crosby and Mr Nash may be middle-class wimps, but they have BIG guitars, which means their music is also BIG, and you have to acknowledge that. You also get a glimpse of a third acoustic guitar, wielded by Mr Crosby himself but apparently not played, which is a metaphor for the incredible endurance of nerdy acoustic music of the early Seventies - even when it is actually not played, it is staying in the air, surrounding you from all sides, coming to you from under the trees and the rocks, flowing out of the water, pouring down from the sky, greeting you from the pack of popcorn you are about to munch. In brief, wherever you are, Mr Crosby and Mr Nash are there, too.

Now that we have thoroughly dealt with the symbolism of the front cover, let me steal some information from the liner notes and inform you that the word Another in the title is not a slight hint at the fact that every evening in the collective lives of Mr Crosby and Mr Nash has been stoney (you don't need a metaphor to know the truth of it), but actually, a slight hint at a much earlier bootleg called A Very Stoney Evening, which chronicled another show from the same acoustic tour and was quite popular among fans for some time. So, instead of cleaning up the well-known boot, Crosby, Nash, and Grateful Dead Records, responsible for the release of this puppy (which is rather alarming - I hope we're not going to see a series of Cros' Dross Vol. I-XXV, or Nash Mash Vol. I-XXXV in the nearest future), preferred to clean up and make public a different show, so that everyone, including the trusty bootleggers, can be happy and prosperous.

The show is indeed quite good, both in the recording aspect (both guitars and voices are audible as clearly as if they were in your very living-room), and in the energy level, and in the track selection as well. With Young dumping the band for good, and Stills thoroughly busy with establishing himself as a solo artist because he couldn't tolerate Young being a solo star when he himself was not, Crosby & Nash, who got along with each other better than anybody else in the quartet, decided to go on the road together and then later pool their resources in the studio as well. The "duo" combination works fine, with ol' Cros' graceful ethereal style outbalancing the lightweight poppy inclinations of ol' Nash and vice versa. They're clearly having fun trading ideas off each other, and even Crosby's flu condition at the concert can't spoil it.

One thing that does bother me is the goofy stoned jokes these guys keep making - ranging from dumb to genius to totally unintelligible, for me, at least. I can't get what the heck they're blabbing out there about "green frogs" or "lizards" in the audience (cocaine effects?), but I do get a laugh from David starting to make a serious announcement about the next song and Nash interrupting him in the Mickey Mouse voice and Cros' retorting 'hey, I'm working my way up to church here, and he goes right back to Disneyland'. It's also fun to hear Crosby have another outburst of coughing and Nash, in a plaintive and gloomy voice, stating that "there ain't no cure, folks". Although perhaps the silliest and funniest moment of it all arrives at the end, when the tonedeaf (or just too drugged out) audience starts clapping out of time to 'Teach Your Children', and they have to stop the song and actually show the people how it's gotta be done. 'I know you're moved, but you gotta be moved in time!' That's classic.

I didn't mention the songs, did I? Stupid me, but then again, there's not much to be mentioned. They do a couple newer numbers; Nash's 'Immigration Man', soon to be released on their self-titled debut as a duo, is slight, but catchy, and Crosby's 'Where Will I Be', dedicated to the memory of a deceased girlfriend, is another "soulful ethereal rant" very much in the vein of his solo album, which means you gotta be in the mood for it. Most of the other songs come from their debut solo albums, with only a few regular CSN(Y) chestnuts like 'Deja Vu', 'Wooden Ships', and 'Teach Your Children', and a very moving rendition of 'Guinnevere'.

Sometimes they do go over the top with snail-paced material - 'Triad', in particular, sounds as if they were taking the time to savour each sung/played note, taste it with the tongue, then wash it around their uvula, and then hinder it for a while in the throat, before moving on to the next one. But on the other hand, it works on songs like 'Laughing', where the stop-and-start delivery is so crucial - each and every pause separating the "optimistic" verses with the disillusioned '...I was mista-a-a-aken...' chorus is well worth your money. A particular highlight is 'Orleans', which they manage to render just as beautifully as Crosby did with all his overdubs in the studio, but this time using nothing but their double harmonies; a perfect place to check the technical mastership of the two and how it adds to the overall resonance, never detracts from it.

Overall, seventy plus minutes of this may be a little patience-trying, which is quite predictable for a case of two guys with acoustic guitars never even once trying to "rip it up", but hey, you've been warned. Starting from the front cover and ending with the "Grateful Dead Records" sticker.



(released by: STEPHEN STILLS)

Year Of Release: 1972
Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

Quite a bit of country-western sprawl on here, but some of the numbers do grow on you.


Track listing: 1) Song Of Love; 2) Rock And Roll; 3) Crazies/Cuban Bluegrass; 4) Jet Set (Sigh); 5) Anyway; 6) Both Of Us (Bound To Lose); 7) Fallen Eagle; 8) Jesus Gave Love Away For Free; 9) Colorado; 10) So Begins The Task; 11) Hide It So Deep; 12) Don't Look At My Shadow; 13) It Doesn't Matter; 14) Johnny's Garden; 15) Bound To Fall; 16) How Far; 17) Move Around; 18) The Love Gangster; 19) What To Do Right Now; 20) The Treasure (take one); 21) Blues Man.

Man, this one's a tough call. Apparently, it's not simply a Stills' solo album: 'Manassas' was the name of a fishy 'big band' that Stephen assembled together with rather unclear purposes and even managed to drag through one more record which I do not have. As I'm not the greatest expert in the world on session players and all that stuff, most of the names don't say anything to me, except that Dallas Taylor was the regular drummer for CSN, and Stephen's most important collaborator on the album was Chris Hillman, the former bassist for the Byrds and a moderately successful solo artist, too (at this point he was just out of that notorious country-rock combo, The Flyin' Burrito Brothers). Oh yeah, credits on here even list Bill Wyman, but I don't know exactly which tracks he's playing on, and who gives a damn anyway - there are so many instruments here that it would be impossible to pay attention to something as deeply hidden as bass guitar.

I confess that I hated the record first time I heard it in its entirety, but it turns out to be a much more acceptable, in parts - downright great product after you actually sat through it three or four more times. Which isn't that easy a task, I assure you: Manassas is a double album, with an astonishing total of twenty-one tracks, each and every one of which is an accomplished song in its own rights, whether good or so-so (fortunately, none of these songs are bad). What makes the experience even more demanding is the fact that most of the tracks are collated together with virtually no breaks at all, except in between sides. I don't know if this was the original trick, or it was just a debatable move of the record company to 'glue' together all the songs in order to squeeze everything onto one CD, but methinks this is the way the album is lookin' now and this is the way it's going to stay forever.

Anyway, suffice it to say that this is one of the hardest bones I've nibbled on in these past few months. Fortunately, it finally grew on me - not passionately, but in its own special way. Manassas is perhaps the grandest, most ambitious project ever undertaken by Stills, and I don't just mean the enormous size of his backing band. Where other bands and artists have rarely ventured besides abstract fantasies to create an 'all-American' record, Stills is actually doing just that. The four sides in question cover each and every aspect of 'roots rock': acoustic blues, electric blues, country, country-rock, folk and folk-rock, even bluegrass and Latin ('Cuban Bluegrass' manages to combine both!). In this way, this is an indispensable acquisition for everybody who loves his rock tame, inoffensive, introspective and emotional, but also sincere, passionate and far from cheesy or generic.

Each of the sides is given its special 'name' on here, but I fail to discern the 'underlying criteria' for all of them except the second side: that one's called 'Wilderness' and is dedicated entirely to basic country material, with fiddles and steel guitars being the most prominent instruments (no banjos, though). Even so, this is light years ahead of dull, plodding Byrds-ey country of the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo mark, mainly because Stills never relied entirely on obsessive country cliches, and the lyrics are far from generic, either. My favourite here is the fast, engaging side opener 'Fallen Eagle', which combines a strangely hilarious melody with grim, weird lyrics that seem to complain about Western iniquity, in a highly metaphorical language; and the side closes with the equally fun, energetic 'Don't Look At My Shadow', a typical 'tired pop star travelogue', if you get my drift. In between, however, are etched slow, moody songs that used to bore me to a comatose state until I finally got used to the charms of Stills' vocal delivery and appreciated the incredible lushness and expert character of the arrangements. Truthfully, not a note on here sounds out of place - the tasty acoustic guitars, the naggin' fiddle and the powerful drumming all gel ideally. 'Colorado' and 'So Begins The Task' are the 'introspective' highlights on this side, the first one structured as a tired workin' man's lament, the second one being a more typical Stills-style confessional, deep and moving. The chorus ('and I must learn to live...') is simply wonderful, a brief moment of quiet, 'toned-down' ecstasy.

Like I said, the other three sides are far harder to classify - I'd say that 'The Raven' functions as a mixed-style intro side, 'Consider' is the deeply introspective side, and 'Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay' is, sure enough, the more 'rocking' side, even if it does finish in a pure blues number. But this is only an approximate classification, and it might simply be wrong altogether.

It would be hard for me to list all the songs off here - describing twenty-one tracks is a real Gargantuan task, and I'll refrain from it, especially since I already undertook the Gargantuan task of listening to the album four times in a row. Let me just say once again that, in my humble opinion, there are basically no bad songs on here - not a single track which would make me blush and feel silly or offended about. The arrangements are extremely tasteful and ear-pleasing from start to finish, as well: Stills shines with his guitar playing on the blistering solos throughout the whole album, and all the instruments are exactly in the right places I'd like them to be. The biggest problem is with the hooks - a great percent of the songs either have none, or they're hidden so deep you have to search and wait for them, but I wouldn't really advise you to do so. Right now, for instance, I'm listening to 'Rock & Roll Crazies', a song virtually hookless, but it's simply so gratifying to my ear that I could never call it a bad song. That magnificently produced grungey riff that the song's based upon, for instance - a real treat. The echoey vocals complement it perfectly. And all these guitars coming in and going out - at least three or four more of them, like a true symphony, wow, now that's clever. There's not the least doubt in my mind that I'll forget the tune five minutes after it's over, but for now, I'm fully satisfied.

All right, just a few words dedicated to the highlights and I'll leave it alone. A couple groovy rockers on here, which gotta rank among Stills' very best. 'Jet Set (Sigh)' is awesome - a slow, dreary blues-rocker with some outstanding lead work. 'The Love Gangster' is a great lil' tune, as well; this time Stills straps on a wah-wah (and Lord knows I love a wah-wah). And, while the jam on 'The Treasure' is way overdone, it's still a terrific song, slightly reminiscent of CSNY's take on 'Woodstock', maybe because Steve's passionate vocals and the band's harmonies interchange with each other in much the same way. Then there are all these gorgeous introspective ballads on the third side: 'It Doesn't Matter', with its troublous, mind-worrying melody, or my personal favourite at the moment, 'Johnny's Garden', where Steve sings about finding himself an earthly paradise to stay - 'There's a place/I can get to/Where I'm safe/From the city blues/And it's green/And it's quiet/Only trouble was/I had to buy it'. And the refrain, the one that goes 'I'll do anything I got to do/Cut my hair and shine my shoes/And keep on singin' the blues/If I can stay here in Johnny's garden', moves me to tears more effectively that anything else on this record - somehow Steve manages to grasp the very essence of that melancholic bluesy atmosphere... Oh yeah, the record's most bombastic tune is also on this side, the one called 'Move Around' where Steve complains about the uselessness of life which is being spent in moving around. The lyrics are way too reminiscent of anti-positivist philosophy, but can't really say anything about the gorgeous harmonies on the chorus, underpinned by a beautiful synth pattern (by the way, this seems to be the only track where synths are used prominently, and they're put to good use, too).

And finally, the record ends with 'Blues Man', one of the simplest and most effective acoustic blues tracks I've ever heard in quite a long time. Steve seems to bend the strings on his guitar as if his very life depended on it, and the song almost gives the effect of bleeding on you - until the very last note, where he picks the string so hard it almost breaks. Twannnnnnggggg, and the record's over. Whoah. Supper time.

I still dock it one point, simply because it's way too long, and takes way too much time to be truly appreciated. But apart from that, there's simply no complaint to make - one of the best-produced, most cleverly crafted roots' rock albums ever. And to think that the American public never really bought it, being way too busy with preferring crap like Neil Young's Harvest that also came out that very year. Blah. Manassas tramples the puffed-up pretentions and complete tunelessness of Harvest into the dirt. I tell you, if you only plan on purchasing one 'roots' rock' album, buy this one. But be prepared for a little hardship and toil.



(released by: CROSBY & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1975
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

What, you thought it'd be a grinding heavy metal album? What kind of tagline you want from me anyway?


Track listing: 1) Carry Me; 2) Mama Lion; 3) Bittersweet; 4) Take The Money And Run; 5) Naked In The Rain; 6) Love Work Out; 7) Low Down Payment; 8) Cowboy Of Dreams; 9) Homeward Through The Haze; 10) Fieldworker; 11) To The Last Whale... (A: Critical Mass; B: Wind On The Water).

Hmm, this album cover I pilfered from AMG doesn't exactly match my own... in fact, I like my own much better. There's this highly transcendent picture of Dave and Graham sitting next to each other in colourful shirts, flashing hairy chests (well, Dave has a hairy chest - Nash's body hair leaves something to be desired) against an autumnal background of yellow and grey leaves. What a colourful image of hippiesque innocence and peacefulness, and I'm not even counting all the possible homoerotic associations... ah, well, now I've done it, and some pissed-off CSN fan is already starting a flame about how I'm treading the usual cliched way about mocking two talented guys.

Truth is, I'm not mocking anybody, and I like this album. Dave and Graham's second studio duo outing is as painfully predictable as AC/DC's fourteenth studio album, but nobody was expecting a miracle anyway. The liner notes state that the atmosphere during the recording was oh-so-lovey-dovey and everything worked together so well and everybody was so goddamn happy about what they were doing that it will almost make the "sarcastic music lover" want to puke; but seriously, most of this stuff beats even the least interesting CSN albums in terms of "mellowness", and at times you could just hear me quietly banging my head against the desk wishing for Stills to come along and kick some butt. Instead, you get the usual LA-based softies contributing to the universal harmony - including Danny Kortchmar, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor. For some reason, they couldn't get Carole King on backup vocals; maybe she was busy elsewhere, quietly ruining her career by carpenterizing the music.

There is one rocking song on the album, though, to tell the truth: Nash's 'Love Work Out', which starts out innocently with a chuggin' piano rhythm not unlike the one on 'Chicago', but later transforms into a spirited jam with Kortchmar and Crosby duelling on their six-strings, trying to "out-emotionalize" each other. Amazingly, it's a really good jam, with really good guitar parts, and if you close your eyes on the lack of extreme distortion etc., it could easily rank up there with the more famous Stills/Young duels. The song's message is simple and not very "painful" - I mean, 'you gotta make a love work out'? Who'd disagree in the first place? - but the way these two guitar gangsters pick it up from there and start annihilating each other with a mess of soulful, funky, bluesy, and acid guitar licks (and some licks they seem to have borrowed directly from Neil Young), you'd think they were all heartbroken or something. In any case, it's an obvious highlight on an otherwise completely "wussy" album.

In general, the usual pattern is observed - Crosby gets by on feeling and atmosphere, while Nash actually tries to come up with melodies. I wouldn't say the material ever rises above 'fairly pleasant', though, whether it's Crosby or Nash we're talking about; both seem lazy, relaxed, and sometimes almost lulled to sleep, maybe by that hypnotizing autumnal air you can almost breathe out on the sleeve cover (my sleeve cover, I mean). Crosby's songs are sometimes more energetic (meaning they actually have a mid-tempo-to-fast rhythm section), like 'Low Down Payment', but usually you get the same mushy mess as always, and in any case, they're all equally unmemorable, except for maybe the somewhat better constructed album opener 'Carry Me'.

This leaves Nash as the "meat-providing guy", and he tries to oblige by working with tricky time signature changes on 'Mama Lion', for instance, which could sure benefit from a better lead vocalist (like Alan Clarke!) but is pretty decent even without one; coming up with an actually memorable, but criminally underused, guitar riff on 'Take The Money And Run'; singing a straightforward country tune like 'Cowboy Of Dreams', replete with the obligatory fiddle part courtesy of David Lindley; and contributing the usual, painfully straightforward social commentary on 'Fieldworker', with Crosby's sneering guitar lines probably reflecting all the innumerable years of discrimination of hired farmhands.

This is all fine and dandy and not particularly exciting, but apart from the steam-raising on 'Love Will Work Out', the album does contain at least one "epic" track: the two-part 'To The Last Whale...' suite, which is in no way related to the Beethoven-level Yes masterpiece 'Don't Kill The Whale' (although the lyrics do deal with pretty much the same subject), but is rather a somewhat incoherent juxtaposition of Crosby's accappella piece 'Critical Mass', apparently an outtake from the If I Could Only... sessions, and Nash's ultra-charming, orchestrated ballad 'Wind On The Water'. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but Crosby's beautiful introduction does serve as the magical trick that elevates the ballad to a different level from everything else on here.

PS. Wait, did I say Carole King wasn't present here? Silly reviewer takes that back - there she is, credited for "additional vocals" and "other harmony" on Crosby's 'Homeward Through The Haze'. And here I thought I was witnessing an exception to the golden rule! Nosiree, Kortchmar, Browne, Taylor, and King always go together.



(released by: CROSBY & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1976
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Whistle, whistle, little birdies, you got one year before Johnny Rotten wipes you away.

Best song: DANCER

Track listing: 1) Spotlight; 2) Broken Bird; 3) Time After Time; 4) Dancer; 5) Mutiny; 6) J. B.'s Blues; 7) Marguerita; 8) Taken At All; 9) Foolish Man; 10) Out Of The Darkness.

Another good lovey-dovey album from the dynamicless duo. That's not what I thought when I first put it in my CD player, though, I'll be honest with you. At first I thought - whoah, how stoned can you get? Even their goddamn drummer sounds like he's dribbling coke-covered snot on the drumsticks, if you pardon a little slanderous insult. But see, there's the use of repeated listenings, because eventually I came up with the hypothesis that the high points of this record are higher than the high points of Wind On The Water, while the low points, etc., etc., finish my brilliant parallelism for yourself.

It's the same old story, technically: same peace-loving LA-based sissy soft rockers offering their assistance, same heavenly climate allowing Mr Crosby to show some more hair growth on his chest, same friendly smiles, same alliteration in the title, same kind of music, in short, another year gone and the world hasn't changed much. And apparently, people always thought (or should have thought) this album was comprised from outtakes from the previous one, and probably that is true to a certain extent. However, as I've just mentioned, it feels less even and smooth than its predecessor: there's a couple at least of really outstanding numbers, and a few really draggy ones.

Looking back, I'm sure many of the problems with CSN can be attributed to poor pacing. There really was no sense putting two of the album's slowest and most hookless and most lethargic tunes, 'Broken Bird', and 'Time After Time'. back to back, because after the upbeat album opener 'Spotlight', which kinda sets a nice groovy vibe going with a great guitar and harmonica part and a supah-dupah catchy chorus from Mr Nash, these two are like the ultimate anti-climax, and I don't mean that as an offense to Mr Big Moustache - it's just that my powers of perception have been seriously blurred and blunted by 'Broken Bird', and with 'Time After Time', it's like being dealt a final blow after already having been knocked off your feet. I mean, goshdarnit, that thing moves along slower than a heroin-addled ninety-year old camel, and with that speed, it's pretty much impossible to concentrate your attention on any particular melodic line, because every time you try to do that, you start feeling like a heroin-addled ninety-year old camel. And I gotta tell you, ladies and gentlemen, there are few things more stupid and bizarre in this world than feeling yourself like one.

Fortunately, things start picking up again from there. In compensation for his sins, Crosby offers us 'Dancer', an interesting little instrumental tune, formally, yet another of his formless spontaneous bursts of musical energy, but actually more cohesive and dynamic than most of his instrumental stuff. In fact, laugh if you wish, but to me, the tune brings up images of a dancer who's training some particularly complex ballet move or something, screws it up, and starts getting mad at himself (that's when the drums kick in and Cros starts yelling as if there was a bumble-bee in his pants). There's development and energy and still there's mood - see, even David can implicitly acknowledge one does not necessarily exclude the other. As for the other solo Crosby contribution, 'Foolish Man' is a confessional rant somewhat similar to 'Almost Cut My Hair', but softer, more personal, and definitely less cliched, not to mention thoroughly unassociable with hippie excesses. After all, not all of us care that much about our hair, but all of us probably 'keep expecting things that don't happen, should but they don't, could but they won't'. Oh yeah, keep on preachin', brother.

Apart from 'Dancer', however, Nash is boss here. 'Spotlight' I've already mentioned, but there's also the slightly funkified rocker 'Mutiny', which rules for the strangest reason I can imagine - yeah, had you confronted me in a corner a few weeks ago and asked "Hey! Could a single three-syllable word with the middle syllable reduced, shouted out in a reasonably calm voice, constitute a song-carrying hook?", I would have bet you a hefty sum of money it couldn't and you'd have to be collecting it from me nowadays. Fortunately, neither you nor anybody else never approached me with that idea, but whatever the case, Nash's cry of 'Mewwwt-uh-neee! (on Saaaailbooooat Bay!)' is a perfectly realised moment of ominousness and sorrow and pain and further disillusionment, perfectly complemented by the guitar duel at the end of the song. Somehow, Nash obviously developed a taste for these "dark statements", what with 'Love Work Out' also being one of the best tunes on the previous album. Maybe he just took the chance to be a Stills clone while it was possible.

Graham's ballad 'Marguerita' (with no salt, mind you!) isn't particularly catchy even by his own standards, in fact, it's almost as if he were pulling a Crosby, but it's a nice moody European-influenced (the lyrics almost read like a contemporary French poem) tune all the same. Add this up to the very pretty and honest melody of 'Taken At All', and you get yourself a nearly 11-worthy album... that is, until you get to the conclusion. 'Out Of The Darkness' is not bad in itself, as far as the chords go, but by all accounts, it's a direct betrayal of the true CSN vibe. With its orchestration running wild, anthemic "get-yer-lighter-at-the-ready-slowly-rock-from-side-to-side-with-your-arms-in-the-air" punch, and nauseatingly direct, populistic lyrics ('be the light or love will fade away'!), that's diluting the music a bit too much. Leave that crap to the Osmonds or whoever; I'm not sure even James Taylor could ever offend me in a similar way.

Still, with all the highs and lows, it's an album deserving your attention. Rumours have it that right after it was finished, Crosby & Nash decided to immediately follow it up with a third, provisionally titled Whipping Up The Whore, but their plans were roughly interrupted by a returning Steve Stills, who apparently heard 'Love Work Out' and 'Mutiny', yelled 'Hey! What's that snotty Brit fella a-doin' with this material when it's me who should-a been writin' that!', and immediately demanded that the band regroup as a trio. Which they did, after an unfortunate attempt to regroup as a quartet ended in Neil Young demanding that the group be rechristened "Neil Young & The Hick Boys" instead of CSNY and the others allegedly beating the shit out of him in a dark alley, an episode later vividly recreated by Neil in his timeless epic 'Crime In The City'.

PS. In case you wondered, I hereby declare I am not to be held responsible for that last paragraph. Steve Stills held me at gunpoint and told me to type it up.



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1977
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Pleasantly anachronistic harmonies backed by traditionally inconsistent songwriting?..

Best song: DARK STAR

Track listing: 1) Shadow Captain; 2) See The Changes; 3) Carried Away; 4) Fair Game; 5) Anything At All; 6) Cathedral; 7) Dark Star; 8) Just A Song Before I Go; 9) Run From Tears; 10) Cold Rain; 11) In My Dreams; 12) I Give You Give Blind.

It's kinda funny to speak of 1977 as the year of the punk revolution when you actually come to realize that a large chunk of the year in the States was spent with Fleetwood Mac's Rumours as album #1 and CSN as album #2 (and don't even start on the Saturday Night Fever problem...). The trio's second album as a, well, trio, picks off exactly where Déjà Vu left 'em seven years ago. And while their old records did capture the spirit of the times, as well as the contemporary state of musical production, perfectly, CSN is already hopelessly - and defiantly - "outdated" by the standards of '77. It's as if the band, upon reuniting, gives us their official "fuck you, we'll play the kind of music we have always played, and damn all the trends and fads to hell".

And then, of course, proceeds to shove their impeccable vocal harmonies, folksy chanting, interlocking acoustic guitar melodies, and innocent hippie vibes right in our face. Teach the blank generation something about the flower generation, you know. In a few more years time, they will finally embrace modern technology and sound like pathetic old farts desperately trying not to sound like pathetic old farts - but right now, there's nary a teeny-weeny synth to be found. In fact, it's even a problem - there's too little to be found besides the usual acoustic guitars and an occasional piano part. The only barely "rocking" material comes courtesy of Stills (the other two seem to have forgotten all about the existence of electric instruments), and even then it rocks only mildly. And forget about stylistic diversity once and for all, as well. That doesn't seem to be the point.

What does seem to be the point is the quality of the material these guys are offering. Apart from maybe Stills' 'Dark Star' and Nash's 'Cathedral' (if you don't find its main verse melody boring, that is), I don't really see a classic for the ages among the twelve tracks, because there's formula at work, and when the tracks are all lumped together, the similarity of the arrangements makes them all look alike. But I see that these guys still take fun in picking their guitars, creating complex intricate rhythms, emotionally singing out about the problems that really worry them to these rhythms, and overdubbing their immaculate three-part harmonies all over the place. In short, 'everything works', as Wilson & Alroy said.

Well, maybe, almost everything. I think Crosby's three contributions to the album are absolutely hopeless. The man's brain was probably as meek and falling apart as his liver at the time, because that's what his songs on here are. Out of the three, he always used to care the least about memorability, and this reaches new peaks on CSN: I dare you to remember one line after sitting five times through 'Shadow Captain', and that's the most "well-structured" song of the three. And you know how important it is not to err with the opening track - 'Shadow Captain' immediately made me subconsciously treat the entire record as consisting of these bland jello-like limpid melodies that have nothing new to offer.

Fortunately, that really only relates to ol' Dave here. It's nice to know the old geezer is still a hopeless dreamy romantic, and that, despite the old grizzly look on the front cover, he is still capable of sounding as tender and gentle as ever, but after the first feeling of moderate warmth and soothiness at the almost New Age textures of 'Anything At All' is over, so is everything else. It's almost as if he just improvised on the spot... just making up a barebones theme to hang on and then carrying on with the others following. Such a technique works for Neil Young when he's doing Mirror Ball or something; it certainly doesn't work for these guys. Oh, at least 'In My Dreams' has this unexpected 'rougher' coda that sharply kicks you in the butt just as you're ready to doze off forever. That's a nice touch.

Well, anyway Mr Cros' only has three songs on the record. Nash has four, and they're much better. I actually think that if anybody of the three actually did change and "mature" with the years, it's Nash - going from simpler (and occasionally simplistic) shallow funny stuff on the first albums to much more introspective material on the later ones. (Not that it's an actual improvement, but at least it's nice when you have a desire to transgress any given formula). His major number on the record is 'Cathedral', where he describes the results of his actually having an acid trip inside Winchester Cathedral - replete with an aggressive anti-organized religion rant, no less, and moving from a slow, almost Crosby-like lethargic (but subtle and slightly menacing) section into a fast angry chorus section. It's arguably the most complex song he had done up to that point and one of the album's highlights. His other songs don't really come close, but are fairly decent anyway - the steady waltz-tempo 'Carried Away', the friendly and humble folksy ballad 'Just A Song Before I Go', and the little McCartnyesque piano trickeries on 'Cold Rain' (which could also be easily mistaken for a Paul Simon song) all qualify as good efforts, although it's hardly possible to develop a lifetime attraction to the songs unless you listen to 'em every day for ten months in a row, all the time repeating "I want to have Graham Nash as my favourite composer cuz I'm a weirdo. I want to have Graham Nash as my favourite composer cuz I'm a weirdo.'

Still, as it happens so often, Stills is again the leading composer, and it is his material that acts as the "stimulating" material actually helping you to sit through the album without slumping in your chair. 'See The Changes' is one heck of a fun 'Judy Blue Eyes' re-write, showing that Stills still hasn't forgotten the power of vocal complexity or the potential effect of the stop-and-start game. 'Fair Game' opens with the record's second-best, Latin-tinged acoustic riff, and leads us into a well played, concentrated, sarcastic tune with Stills ruminating on... well, let's say on the problems of self-deception? (Or make it uncontrolled sex, whichever one you prefer). 'Dark Star', then, has the album's first-best riff and the album's best melody - darker than anything else, with a beautiful, poignant vocal delivery from Stills and a great crescendo throughout towards the climactic chorus, and that's not mentioning the cool keyboard work on this severely underrated jazzy piece. And did I yet say how gloomy these Stills songs are? He's actually the least idealistic guy of the three at the point, and most of the hippie charm had by this time been scratched off of the man in favour of black disappointment and disillusionment... that's the primary mood in which he'd been ever since, and the further the worse - culminating in his poisonous 'Seen Enough' rant on the latest CSNY album.

But anyway, I was talking about this 'Dark Star' song, which is absolutely amazing. However, while he doesn't actually top it further on, at least he has the good sense of "distracting" us with the only two songs that rock on the album. 'Run From Tears' starts out in a dreamy, slightly plaintive mood, with Stills taking the lead and then joining the other two in a high-pitched immaculate harmony chant, after which the song takes off in a series of inspired bluesy distorted riffs - after which it's cycling and recycling time. Cool riffs, cool changes. And then finally, the only song that actually does rock from the beginning to the very end is 'I Give You Give Blind' - a jarring contrast to previous CSN record-ending numbers, not a peace-and-love anthem, but a desperate plea for peace and love from a highly sceptical Stills who doesn't actually seem to put that much hope in his 'you gotta believe in something' preachings. At the end, for a few tacts he finally lets rip with a flaming guitar solo - and then brings it down with a sudden wham and that's that. The album's over. The "dark" part of the journey that began as a promisingly "light" one has now ended. Now comes the "old fart" part.



(released by: GRAHAM NASH)

Year Of Release: 1980
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Watch everybody's favourite wimp enter the Eighties! (Gee, he kinda looks like me).

Best song: LOVE HAS COME

Track listing: 1) Earth & Sky; 2) Love Has Come; 3) Out On The Island; 4) Skychild; 5) Helicopter Song; 6) Barrel Of Pain (Half-Life); 7) T. V. Guide; 8) It's All Right; 9) Magical Child; 10) In The 80's.

Look, Ma, I've got the liner notes to this album! I can actually name every musician that played on it by his or her own true name! I therefore feel a moral obligation to mention that yes, believe it or not, Deborah Yamak and Daniel Smith played on it. What, you've never heard of these people? Shame on you, Ma. They are responsible for some of the most generic strings-work on an overproduced soft rock album ever, and you don't know them? What if nobody else knows them as well? What if I google for Deborah Yamak and am not able to find her anywhere? No, wait. Why am I guessing? Let me see... okay, here goes a link! "University of Puget Sound Hosts 'Evening in Vienna': ...additionally, cellist Deborah Yamak, will perform in the program. Yamak, a former student of Wikarski-Miedel, is co-principal cellist in Spainís Orquesta de Cordoba.' You don't say! Unless it's a different Deborah Yamak, which I find hard to believe, the lady made herself quite a career since having last been spotted among the credits to a Graham Nash album in 1980. Maybe playing with that guy brings good luck? Say Mr Nash, can I hold the tambourine for you or something?

Okay, enough with the "critic asshole with nothing better to do" stylistics. I think I was just driven to it by my subconscious for a moment because here were these liner notes and they were, like, so huge and involved so many people when the actual album was so midgety-sounding and, in the end, so eminently forgettable, that the disproportion had disrupted my balance. Anyway, this record was the first serious musical venture of Nash's since CSN, and it took him exactly three years to bring the germs of the new late-Seventies duffy-stuffy production to a state of complete maturity. Upon first listen, Earth & Sky seems more like Hammer & Anvil: it catches you in between the two and slowly and meticulously dispenses you of oxygen needed to boost up your daily existence. I think that for many a listener, the first thirty seconds of this overproduced little behemoth will be more than enough. No, it's not the Eighties, and to be perfectly honest, it doesn't even feature any synthesizers, but whatever they have done to these instruments is still the musical equivalent of turning potentially good meat into spam. Oh, you ask your local technical guy for details; I'm just here to give you my impressions.

It's a goddamn pity, though, because the actual songs are good. Now I know you do not believe me. I didn't believe myself at first. I conducted a rigorous cross-examination, downloaded the lyrics (which turned out to be predictably abysmal), dissected Danny Kortchmar's guitar parts and played them first at snail, then at Dee Dee Ramone speed, finally listened to the album backwards hoping to decode a message of peace and love - nothing worked: it was still just a moderately good Graham Nash album, only produced by the same guy who ruined American economy in 1929, shot the Kennedys, and committed adultery with David Coverdale's mother.

You just have to get past that first song, a most boring, tedious piece of minimalistic junk swollen to ridiculous proportions by making that piano and bass sound really really fat and "heavy". Plus, Joe Walsh is on lead guitar, so that should give you a few pointers, too. (It's not that I find Joe Walsh a bad player, you know. It's just that in 1980, Joe Walsh was a member of the Eagles, and just a year ago, the Eagles had released The Long Run. Get me?). But already the second song is very nice, if you can stand soft-rock at all. The main guitar line is simple, but very pretty - gets me every time, and I'm not the kind of guy who falls for anthemic soft-rock every time it appears on the horizon. The vocals are pure corn, of course, but sometimes you have this effect of "vocal corn multiplied by cool guitar line = cool vocal corn", one of those rare cases when corn can really appear cool. You know what I mean. It uplifts me and my spirit so desperately in need of uplifting.

Even if the production of 'Love Has Come' makes you sick as well, though, later on Nash finally gets to go acoustic and minimalistic on our asses, the way he used to in the good old days - although even his quiet stuff is marred a bit by all the silly echoes and treble and whatever other techniques are used to make us really suspect that Graham Nash, Esq., is truly and verily occupying that position in between hard materialistic substance commonly known as "earth" and transparent spiritual essence regularly referred to as "sky" exactly the way as reproduced on the vinyl sleeve. Crazy idea, if you ask me. Everybody knows Graham Nash, Inc., is really your typical downhome guy, sweet as sugar, simple as sunshine, thick as... uh, okay, whatever. This is just not nice, I'd say: I want him close, and he hides behind everything that can be hidden behind. It's a really hard chore when "everything" consists of a wimpy drum pattern, a few acoustic chords, and minimalistic electric piano tinkling, but he does manage. Oh, the song is named 'Out On The Island', by the way. It's supposed to be the best known tune off the album, in case you're collecting trivia. It's a good song. It's memorable.

A [Crosby]-[Stills]-[Nash] album is, of course, unthinkable without a big booming [protest]-[socially-conscious]-[anti-establishment] tune; here it is 'Barrel Of Pain', subtitled 'Half-Life' but presumably not having anything to do with the PC game of said name, unless the creators were big fans of Graham Nash which I doubt because Graham Nash is a pacifist and the creators of Half-Life are anything but. (Ever tried having fun smashing a dead sergeant's skull with a crowbar? DUDE!). Again, there's little here that would make the song any worse than the average Nash composition - except the production. Some really fabulous female background vocals here at the end, too, acceptably epic in scale and all. The bassline smells suspiciously discoified to me, but maybe that's just paranoia creeping in, because this is definitely not danceable stuff. Decent, but not danceable.

Once I got to 'Magical Child', it somehow struck me that there's really not too much of the 'sweet sugary' Nash represented on this album. All the previous songs had a whiff of either homebrewed mystique to them ('Out On The Island'), or that big pompous sound, or even creepiness ('T.V. Guide'); the sap only strikes hard on 'Magical Child', and even then it's more of a Carole King-style sap rather than the "post-Hollies" sap we all know. Maybe it's just that by 1980 Nash was so firmly embedded in the coke-addled, bellybutton-flashing L. A. scene that the last of his roots had finally withered away? But fear not! In classic style, he finishes the record with the fastest, most upbeat, most defiantly dumb-headed, most ridiculously cheerful tune on the album: 'In The 80's'. The quasi-shit especially hits the quasi-fan on the chorus - 'You and me we gotta decide/Cause we'll be lucky if we survive/In the Eighties we must come alive!' Poor man, if only he knew just how much alive "we" were in the Eighties... all the more fun to put this optimistic ditty on twenty-five years later and revel in its unabashed idealism that not even a whole decade of 70s could squeeze out.

Let's make it clear now - the songs are all good. Hooks in place, melodies written, not stolen, lyrics, as usual, not to be paid attention to, voice in place, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, floozies, and California sun not major obstacles. The big rub is - who needs it? I'd take it, but I really hate Graham's moustache on the sleeve, much more so the idea of being photographed wearing one. You'd take it, but you're probably too busy hunting that last Decemberists record. CSN fans would take it, but judging by the amount of reviews this album has so far garnered at, they're a bit more careful about their money than I used to think. God would take it, but who gave that guy the right to pose as some kind of Moses in sneakers? So, as you can see, until the choice of target audience is finally settled, we're all doomed to be looking for an answer.



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1982
Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Hoo-wee look at that - Graham Nash trying to rock out? This deserves bonus points.


Track listing: 1) Turn Your Back On Love; 2) Wasted On The Way; 3) Southern Cross; 4) Into The Darkness; 5) Delta; 6) Since I Met You; 7) Too Much Love To Hide; 8) Song For Susan; 9) You Are Alive; 10) Might As Well Have A Good Time; 11) Daylight Again.

Essentially this is a record that introduces an as of yet unheard configuration of the stars: Stills-Nash. By 1982, Crosby was in total disrepair, and no matter how vivid his grin is and how fat is the cat upon his shoulder on the inside cover photo, this still cannot conceal the fact that not only is he credited for just one composition on the album, he doesn't even sing harmonies much of the time, leaving that to special guests such as Art Garfunkel and Tim Schmit of the late period Eagles fame (indeed!). So it's mostly up to the two other guys to save the day and prove that CSN is still a force to be reckoned with even in the third decade of its existence.

Amazingly, they are doing just that. Or, at least, they are capable of coming up with one last breath of freshness before succumbing, six years later, to the classic Eighties disease of overproduction. The sound on this record is still totally Seventies - overall, not differentiating much from CSN, with normal sounding drums, normal sounding guitars, and only very occasional splurges of synths (normally they are playing pianos and organs when a keyboard is needed). Considering that quite a few of their contemporaries had already relocated to the "new technologies" department by 1982, this is one little bit of conservatism I fully approve of.

What's more, Daylight Again actually rocks more than CSN: no, not "heavier", don't misunderstand me, but Stills manages to get that 'edgy' soft-rock vibe just right on most occasions, and even Nash, of all people, comes up with 'Into The Darkness', arguably his "hardest" song to date, with a crunchy and very dark riff driving the message home. That message? 'Into the darkness soon you'll be sinking', rendered a bit cheesy by Nash's standard kiddie voice, but in any case, the song is memorable and convincing, opening up strange new capabilities in Mr Nash that I guess he himself wasn't aware of earlier. Guess working with Stills was a good influence.

His other two contributions are more typical of the usual style, with at least one song, 'Wasted On The Way', holding a deserved high reputation among CSN fans - a light country shuffle created by three interlocking acoustic guitars and Wayne Goodwin's sentimental fiddle solos, all moving at a steady tempo that gets your foot a-tappin'. Perhaps the song doesn't exactly have a well-established hook, but it has boatloads of the trademark Nash charisma which helps it not get "wasted on the way". The other tune, 'Song For Susan', however, is nothing special and easily the least exciting thing on the entire record... or maybe it's just a case of me falling rather for fast-paced country-rockers than for slow-paced country waltzes. Or maybe falling rather for friendly atmosphere than for a confessional one, especially on the part of Mr Nash.

The Reverend Dr. Crosby, as mentioned above, contributes one obligatory piece of dreamy mush, 'Delta', all based on a Craig Doerge-played minimalistic piano melody and a not too obtrusive synthesizer background. When overproduced, it could function as a great musical accompaniment to a sex scene in your average soap opera; without overproduction, it could function as a great musical accompaniment to a "Protagonist Walking Along The Streets Of His Hometown Lamenting The End Of An Affair Which Ended For No Apparent Reason Other Than The Scenarist's Obscure Design" scene in your average intellectual movie. In other words, it's neither good nor bad per se, but in the context of the album, and out of the context of any similar numbers because the record doesn't host any, it works, and that's a compliment. Crosby also sings 'Might As Well Have A Good Time', a late-night smoke and booze barroom piano number that might have been fun in the throat of Tom Waits, but it's fun to see ol' Cros singing it as well because he never really did anything like this earlier. Not that he wrote it - it's credited to Judy Henske and Craig Doerge again.

The other six songs are ruled by Mr Stills, although all but one of these tracks were actually written in collaboration. 'Turn Your Back On Love' is a classy near-robotic rocker that is vintage Stills, with vintage Stills twists and turns of the melody and gloomy and gritty guitar lines (and an almost disco bass); fans, however, prefer betting their money on 'Southern Cross', which is very pretty and humble and charming, but that's all I can say about it. Then there's also stuff like the moderately catchy 'Since I Met You' and 'Too Much Love To Hide', all of 'em bouncing along at a good speed and all of 'em having different guitar tones when it comes to soloing. In short, Steve is in high spirits here, only really showing his "I'm so pissed off" attitude on 'Turn Your Back On Love' and preferring to kick ass in a more lightweight way. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Oh wait, there is a certain gloomy sense in that the band finishes the record by reiterating the 'Find The Cost Of Freedom' refrain. But it sounds like it almost does not belong after the record, hey, after all, it ain't called Daylight Again for no reason. It never reaches the same peaks as CSN does with 'Dark Star' or 'Cathedral', but overall, it's more consistent, and the less Crosby there is on a record like this the better it actually is - let him save his ambiency for his solo projects.



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS & NASH)

Year Of Release: 1994
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

Treasure the vibe! TREASURE it!..

Best song: IT WON'T GO AWAY

Track listing: 1) Only Waiting For You; 2) Find A Dream; 3) Camera; 4) Unequal Love; 5) Till It Shines; 6) It Won't Go Away; 7) These Empty Days; 8) In My Life; 9) Street To Lean On; 10) Bad Boyz; 11) After The Storm; 12) Panama.

You don't know what an awful pain it is to rate CSN records. You simply can't imagine all the suffering and toil I have to go through... before I dub each and every one of those goddamn records an overall ten which essentially means nothing. And yet, these albums are all so far from nothing - they're very much something. It's just that this something has two distinct sides. One, the Dragonside, is the songwriting. Jesus, why can't these guys be more consistent? Come on now, is it that hard to throw in a couple extra hooks to raise the spirits? The other, the St George side (why St George, you ask? Why, that'd be me!), is the vibe. The vibe is, hey, it's delicious. After The Storm heralds a return to the 'classic vibe' for the band - after spending the Eighties dabbling in synthesizers and adult contemporary, the band returns to clear-cut guitar arrangements, trademark vocal harmonies and traditional folk/country/rock'n'roll stylistics. No psychedelia, but a lot of feel-good atmosphere anyway, and it makes the record excellent background music. Just excellent.

Essentially, there ain't a bad stinker among the twelve songs - except maybe for the closing 'Panama', which shows Stills doing that dreadful generic Latin rhythm schtick. It brings visions of Ricky Martin to my mind, and that can't be objectively good, so I'll pass and leave it up to Latin rhythm lovers. For me, it's just a hideous anticlimactic conclusion to the album... thankfully, it's the last track, so you know what to do!

Elsewhere, let's do the usual routine and discuss the veneered gentlemen one by one. Stills' voice has by now seriously deteriorated - he sings as if he's lacking most of his front teeth, but this actually gives his vocals a certain ragged old man charm that's just as endearing as his former romantic introspective high-pitched croon. Discount 'Panama', and his other three compositions all qualify; the opening fast ballad 'Only Waiting For You' is touching and gentle, albeit pretty hookless and way too slick to present any new kind of excitement, and 'Bad Boyz' rocks pretty darn heavily for CSN at this point, even if the main riff is recycled from Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)'. Of course, Stills is no Hendrix, but he does play a mean an' lean echoey solo that matches the song's energy and makes you bang on a can whenever there's a can nearby. Far better, though, is Stephen's other rocker, 'It Won't Go Away', depicting his sincere anger with the crash of the American Dream. He would capture that wonderful "we're all fucked up now" atmosphere even better on 'Seen Enough' on the band's new album, but in fact, there's no denying that 'It Won't Go Away' bites far, far deeper (after all, it's nicer and more adequate to hear Stills rave on about the betrayal of the American Dream rather than about the perils of the Internet, right?), and it's also a far more energetic number.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention that Stills also throws on a pointless, but inoffensive acoustic rendition of 'In My Life'. The only thing I can say here is that the band does its harmony schtick with so much dedication and Stills sings his 'solo lines' with so much passion that I wonder if they had all actually signed a pact back in 1969 to perform this song when they'd all turn fifty.

Nash is Nash, which means all of his songs sound good but you'll hardly be able to remember the man's first name when they're over. 'Find A Dream' is slow, somber, lumbering, and melancholic. 'Unequal Love' is slower, mellow, meandering, and romantic. 'These Empty Days' (co-written with Crosby) is mid-tempo, lightweight, playful, and phlegmatic. 'After The Storm' is slower, dreamy, hopeful, and philosophic. Now change all the epithets the other way round, and you'll get pretty much the same picture. That's all I can say about Nash, whom I certainly love as dearly as all you people out there.

For me, if there are any minor surprises here, they're actually all Crosby-related. And it's not just because his voice sounds the youngest and strongest on here - energetic as a Duracell and sharp as a Gilette (that's me trying to be a little commercial). It's also because he managed to pen a few songs that are songs, not just misguided rantings (which they are as well, but in this particular case this can be deemed irrelevant). 'Camera' bounces off nice and fine, with a catchy refrain to boot; 'Till It Shines' has a terrific vocal part, where Crosby, instead of venting his frustration in a stupid angry mood, puts on a real show. And 'Street To Lean On' is actually the second best song on here, equally sharp and concentrated, with a well-placed piece of naive, but working social critique. It's interesting to see ol' Cros get out of la-la-land, isn't it? And sing about 'em gang bangers and stuff like that?

That said, this is still a tremendously frustrating album, the kind of record that works fine while it's on but... you know the rest. It's a real treat for CSN fans, though, which simply can't go wrong if they head in this direction. In fact, I can certainly say that the Nineties' version of CSN is a really unique phenomenon: if not the only, then certainly the best example of a quintessential Sixties-symbolising hippie band take on a 'wiser' stand and treat today from the positions of tomorrow. It's nostalgia, yes, but not the kind of glossy commercial nostalgia or stupid manneristic nostalgia you'd expect, rather an intentional wistful look at The Past from a "Guru" position. And yes, these guys have earned the right to be gurus, no doubt about that.



(released by: CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG)

Year Of Release: 1999
Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

A fun nostalgic album; the songwriting quality is hit and miss, but at least the guys don't sound like self-parodies.

Best song: SEEN ENOUGH

Track listing: 1) Faith In Me; 2) Looking Forward; 3) Stand And Be Counted; 4) Heartland; 5) Seen Enough; 6) Slowpoke; 7) Dream For Him; 8) No Tears Left; 9) Out Of Control; 10) Someday Soon; 11) Queen Of Them All; 12) Sanibel.

Seems like time really stands still for these guys. I mean, come on, it's been thirty years since they first assembled as a quartet and they're still able to put together a record as incredibly lame as Déjà Vu... wait, stop me before I start ripping off Prindle's style in earnest. Seriosuly, now, I haven't yet heard any of their Seventies or Eighties 'intermediate' output, but comparisons between Déjà Vu and Looking Forward are simply inevitable if one ever makes at least a vague attempt at genuine analysis. It seems like this time the guys are truly intent on recapturing the spirit of the time whatever it costs them, even more so than on After The Storm - and in the deep end they finally succeed, even if it does cost them a lot - namely, very few of the songs are all that listenable.

It is, indeed, a sort of huge appraisal for a record like this, if I accuse it of sharing the same flaws as the band's most critically-acclaimed record: yes, I admit that, while they do sound like exactly the same bunch of fat wrinkly old men that you see on the back cover, they sound with dignity: Looking Forward may be flawed, but it is definitely not a loss of face. It is just a little misguided, that's all. But that's really not attributable to age or something: I repeat that I dislike the record for the same reasons that I dislike Déjà Vu: weak, derivative melodies and not a lot of instrumental prowess going on. The spirit is there, all right, which makes the record perfect background listening in any case.

Let's go over it, then, starting from the strongest and ending with the weakest. Once again, dear old Steve Stills fully justifies my trust in him (he's by now graduated to my all-time favourite member of the band): his material is generally the strongest on the record. Okay, so the opening track, 'Faith In Me', which announces the album on a harmonizing, upbeat note in the good old tradition, has a slightly cheesy feel about it - the ethnic rhythms used on it sound more carnivalesque and crowd-pleasing than, well, truly ethnic. Could be a great sing-along for braindead middle-age audiences. Could be not. Ain't nasty, though. But I usually prefer to concentrate on the marvelous 'Seen Enough', a subtle, sly song with not a lot going on but a very hard-hitting message: Stills concocts a rap-influenced (actually, it's the good kind of rap, closer to 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' than to Puff Daddy, mind you), furious, venomous complaint of an old man who laments about the failed hopes of his own generation and sees no hope in the younger generation. Hey, he even starts an odd attack on the computerized part of population, insulting your humble servant and all you ignorant readers in the process - 'even if they don't know shit, stay in the limelight, start your own website', not to mention direct insults like 'dead-eyed, dead drunk, dead stupid cyberpunks'... He's right, of course; and he certainly knows what he's talking about. I even like his voice on this track - it's significantly deteriorated over the years, but on 'Seen Enough' his old, shakey, mumbling, but still emotional and energetic voice sounds just right in its place. And on the more hard-rockin' 'No Tears Left', with generic, but convincing wah-wah metallic solos, he finally raises it as close to a scream as possible, as he hurts out some more brilliant social commentary.

Compared to Stills, the others' material is definitely feeble. Crosby contributes two numbers, one of which nears genius and the other one of which nears shit. Namely, 'Stand And Be Counted' is an inferior re-write of 'Almost Cut My Hair', which didn't even have a melody in the first place. The distorted, spooky guitar sound might seduce you for a moment, but the moment of seduction turns out to be a passing one in the end. On the other hand, 'Dream For Him' is an inferior re-write of 'Wooden Ships' - okay, not that close, but the song certainly sports a similar lethargic, mystical atmosphere, with Stills playing the same 'dreamy' guitar that he used on 'Ships'. Not that the melody of the song is much more defined than the one of 'Stand And Be Counted', but the song is truly atmospheric, and, after all, CSNY are primarily distinguished by the atmosphere and not by chord sequences. I like the way the song shuffles along towards its conclusion, with the tinkling pianos and the perky acoustic rhythm and that 'dreamy' tone in the background. Kudos to Mr Crosby for really approaching the magic of old, if only for once.

Ah, but that leaves us with Nash and Young, and that's where I'm really disappointed. Graham has contributed two songs, Young has inserted four, and none of them are at least a tiny bit essential. As usual, Nash is supposed to be playing the function of 'court jester' - where the others tackle serious matters, he steps in with his lightweight material and relieves the tension where and when needed. But unfortunately, both his contributions this time around aren't interesting at all - 'Someday Soon' is a bland folk ballad the likes of which have been heard before a million times and 'Heartland' is just a cute little pop throwaway that dangerously approaches 'adult contemporary'; the chorus raises it up a bit, but not too much. No crisp melodicity of 'Marrakesh Express' here - sadly enough.

And Neil? Kinda odd; as far as I understand, it was mostly his initiative that the guys reconvene again, and he seriously lets 'em down by contributing very mediocre material. Okay, I take it - 'Slowpoke' is a very nice song, even if it is a rip-off of 'Heart Of Gold'; but both the title track and 'Out Of Control' are for serious Neil fans only. He whines harder than usual, but that has hardly any serious effect; perhaps one should blame it on the rather unimaginative arrangements - I would rather hear some plaintive harmonica lines than the obligatory acoustic guitar/piano duet. In any case, there's something lacking in these songs: they just don't move me to tears, unlike, say, the best stuff on Harvest Moon. 'Queen Of Them All' is so stupid it's almost funny, though.

Lastly, I'm disappointed in the album closer - 'Sanibel', a tune written by Denny Sarokin who also plays guitars on the album, is a really really cheesy ballad. The 'ooh la la' singing really gets on my nerves, and the song itself could as well dwell permanently in the Eagles' territory. What's up with these lame album closers, anyway? First 'Panama', and now this?

But look, don't condemn me. I'm not really dissing the album - in fact, I rate it only one point below Déjà Vu, and that should tell you something. I understand that the overall rating is not that enormous, for sure, but this speaks more of the objective musical value of this album than of anything else. As it is - I'm perfectly glad that the guys reconvened once more and put this out. It's one of the best records of 1999 I've heard, too. I value Crosby's recalling of the old spirit on 'Dream For Him'; I value Stills' biting social critique; I even value Young's whining. I just don't enjoy this album as much as other people would - but I guess one can easily understand it. So go ahead and don't be afraid to waste some cash on this record - it's quite, quite pleasant. And hey, 'Seen Enough' alone is worth the price of being admitted to your collection.

UPDATE as of 13.04.2000. Hmm, what do you know? The album kinda grows on you with time. I wanted to re-write parts of this review here, but then I figured out it would be tons more interesting to leave in this bit of intimate chronology. Yeah, you heard - what the hell, apart from the way, way, way too campy 'Sanibel', there's actually not a single bad song on here. Okay, so Young is Young, and he keeps repeating himself, but that doesn't mean he doesn't repeat himself in a pleasant way. 'Slowpoke' is tear-inducing, and the others are melodic and pleasantly nostalgic, whatever. And 'Queen Of Them All' is cheesy, but after you find yourself absolutely not able to get that 'but it's happening to me so I'll knock on wood' bit of your head... ah man, that's crazy.

I mean, these songs just end up sucking you in. Yes, I still think that 'Faith In Me', 'Queen Of Them All' and 'Stand And Be Counted' are disposable, but I'd never call them tasteless. Pretty little clunks of a long gone hippie world, they're oh so much needed in our time.

So anyway, I pumped up the rating - yes, it's a ten now. A full, glossy, ten, which probably means I like it as much as Déjà Vu. Gross, isn't it? Oh well... Count it a weak ten ("solid, but nothing outstanding") as opposed to that one's strong ten ("solid, bordering on eyebrow-raising"). And one more thing. Apparently, I'm the only person in the world who still thinks that Stills' contributions are the best stuff on the album. People tend to rave about Neil (well of course they do) and some looners tend to rave about Crosby ("Dream For Him? Ooh, kinda groovy, dude!"), saying things like "Steve lost it. Dammit. No, really! What a shame, Steve!" Calm down you people and realize that Stills is the only member of the band who's trying to, like, actually do something on here the likes of which they'd never done before. The others are just rehashing past achievements, even if they mostly succeed in doing that.


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