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Crosby, Stills & Nash - CSN


June 2nd, 2008

First let me say that of the four artists in CSNY Neil Young is probably my favorite. I “collect” Neil Young. I’ve got all the albums. I’ve got a ton of bootlegs. But I sincerely believe he ruined Crosby, Stills & Nash. I think it was a mistake to add him to the group after the first album. He didn’t bring anything to the group as a “band.” It was always like Crosby, Stills & Nash AND Young. The three of them with Neil Young tacked on. They would have been better off without him. I think Déja Vu is a fine album, but it’s nowhere near as good as this album or the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album. Neil’s just not a “team” player. The great thing about CSN was/is the way they blend together so seamlessly. If you stop and think about each song it’s very clear which one is a Stills song, a Nash song or a Crosby song. But, if you just put the music on and listen to it, get lost in it, it’s all just Crosby, Stills and Nash. Hard to explain really, but if you know what I mean that makes sense to you.

By 1977 these guys had splintered, soloed, grouped, regrouped and splintered again. In the 8 years since the first self-titled album had been released they had recorded quite a bit of music in various incarnations. Stills had made several solo albums, and two albums with Manassas. Nash had made a couple of solo albums and a couple of albums with Crosby. Crosby had made one solo album and the aforementioned albums with Nash. Between the three of them they had made an astounding number of fine albums, some of them all-time masterpieces. They had become huge superstars. The stories of egos, drugs, money and fame are legendary and endless. We had no right to expect this good of an album when they regrouped for a “comeback.” It had been seven years since Déja Vu. But, wow, what a great album this is. Next to the first album, this is the highlight of the group for me. Never again would they come anywhere near to making this fine of an album.

There’s not a bad cut on the entire album and a handful are just plain classics. “Shadow Captain,” “See The Changes,” “Dark Star,” “Just A Song Before I Go” and my favorite, “Cathedral.” I never get tired of listening to these songs. In fact, I may be listening to the CD now more than I ever did before. It just seems to get better and better with age. Like I say, the first album is still my favorite, but there’s a certain “dated” feeling to it. It’s full of beautiful music and songs but, for me at least, it’s rooted in 1969. CSN feels timeless. I don’t know if they feel they had something to prove at this point or if the simple, pure joy of singing together again just pushed them on. This album is like reconnecting with an old lover and remembering how great it was before, finding that magic for the second time.

Note that for some insane record label reasoning this album appears to be out of print in the US! It’s available on Amazon as an import for $30. Ridiculous. You can still buy greatly inferior CDs like Live It Up and After The Storm for $12 but not this one. Just ridiculous. No wonder the music business and the major labels are such a mess.

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2 Responses

  1. billbolivia says:

    Steve, For What It´s Worth, you are straight up wrong on saying that CSN would have been better off without Neil. He did ruin them, that is right. But that he didn´t bring anything to them as a band is wrong. They might have lasted longer without Neil but they never would have played to the level they got to with him, especially live but in the studio too. We could have had some more of beautiful harmonies but you can get that on CN albums. The first CSN album is a classic. But as CSN&Y, Neil turned Stills up and brought out great things in him. Stills knew it or why would he Stills be getting back and playing with Neil since Buffalo Springfield? Because, even though it ends fast and mean, it is worth it.

  2. Steve says:

    I stand by my comments. I still think CSN would have been better off (even much better off) without Neil ever being involved. Sure, Neil’s a great player, a great songwriter and one of my very, very favorite artists. But, I just don’t think CSN was a good match for him. They just don’t fit. And I disagree, I don’t think Neil brought them to “levels” they would not have gotten to without him. Maybe different places, sure. But I think they would have gone to even better (though different) places if he had never been brought into the band. As for Stills, well, Neil and Still’s always had a very rocky relationship. A lot of competition, a lot of jealousy, a lot of good times, but a lot of bad times as well. Neil certainly brings out something in Stills, but I’m not sure it’s always a good thing. And as for why would he go back to playing with Neil after the demise and hard feelings of Buffalo Springfield? Well, just look at any bad love relationship where the couple keeps getting back together even though they know they’re no good for each other. There’s a bond there, something that could be great, they know it, they feel it, but in the end they just can’t make it work and the bad stuff outweighs the good stuff. But the pull to keep coming back and trying again can be very, very strong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that CSNY didn’t make some great music. I’m just saying CSNY would have made even greater music if Neil hadn’t gotten involved.

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