Crosby, Stills And Nash
The liner notes to this 2006 ‘Expanded & Remastered HDCD Edition’ of CSN’s monumental 1969 debut album opens with an Introduction from Ahmet Ertegun – founder and owner of the mighty Atlantic Records. It describes the first time he heard the tapes by ex Hollies man Graham Nash who had linked up with ex Byrd’s tunesmith David Crosby and Buffalo Springfield’s guitarist and songwriter Stephen Stills. The canny Record Man was stunned and knew something huge was happening. He quotes “Crosby, Stills & Nash immediately became my No. 1 project…” And even now – in the twilight months of 2015 – a full 46 years after the event – their opening salvo is ‘so’ damn good – a melodious masterpiece still casting a harmony-vocal shadow over today’s myriad musical landscape. Here are the helplessly hoping details of three men on a sofa…
UK released January 2006 – “Crosby, Stills & Young: Expanded & Remastered HDCD Edition” by CROSBY, STILLS & NASH on Atlantic/Rhino-8122-73290-2 (Barcode 081227329020) offers you the 10-track album newly remastered and with 4 bonus tracks. It pans out as follows (53:17 minutes):
1. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
2. Marrakesh Express
4. You Don’t Have To Cry
5. Pre-Road Downs
6. Wooden Ships [Side 2]
7. Lady Of The Island
8. Helplessly Hoping
9. Long Time Gone
10. 49 Bye-Byes
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut studio album “Crosby, Stills & Nash” – released June 1969 in the USA on Atlantic SD-8229 and in the UK on Atlantic 588 189. It rose to No. 6 and No. 25 on the US and UK charts. David Crosby wrote 3 and 9 – Stephen Stills wrote 1, 4, 8, and 10 – Graham Nash wrote 2, 5 and 7. “Wooden Ships” is a co-write between David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane).
11. Do For The Others [Stephen Stills song]
12. Song With No Words (New Remix) [David Crosby song]
13. Everybody’s Talkin’ [cover version of a Fred Neil song]
14. Teach Your Children [Graham Nash song]
The 16-page booklet is tastefully substantial – the gatefold lyric insert that came with original 1969 vinyl albums has been fully reproduced, there’s a detailed and informed essay on the album by DAVID WILD which includes quotes from the trio and reissue credits. They’ve even included the lyrics to the four bonuses. The centre pages have a gorgeous colour photo the harmonious trio wrapped up in furs. But the big news is the fantastic new Remaster. JOHN NOWLAND (who was involved in the highly praised first four Neil Young remasters) has used the original 2-and-8 track analogue master tapes and transferred them to HDCD (High Density Compatible Digital). It’s a better form of Remaster and HDCD do not require any kind of special player. STANLEY JOHNSON and GREG HAYES were also involved in the transfers with the Mastering done by the vastly experienced BERNIE GRUNDMAN. The results are the best I’ve ever heard this album sound (odd they haven’t followed this release up with a similar HDCD version of “Déjà Vu”?)
Right from opening Acoustic Guitars of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (written about Judy Collins) and when those magical three voices blend – you realise you’re in the presence of something very special. Although the song is 7:24 minutes long and even includes a Spanish chant-and-dance break – it never seems to overstay its welcome. Having listening to this opener for over four and half decades on various vinyl originals (UK plum labels included) – the Audio achieved here is truly breathtaking. Graham Nash’s chipper “Marrakesh Express” was the first 45 off the album coupled with “Helplessly Hoping” on both sides of the pond in July 1969 (Atlantic 584 283 in the UK, Atlantic 2652 in the USA) – it hit 28 in the USA and 17 in the UK. It’s followed by the stunning ethereal beauty of “Guinnevere” sashaying into your living room with a softly plucked Acoustic. Then you get hit with the full harmonious power and beauty of those three voices as a wall of one. When the trio first got together in Joni Mitchell’s house – they noticed the ‘timber’ of the combo – and this song more than any highlights that magic. As if that’s not good enough – you get the ‘life on the road’ cautionary tale of “You Don’t Have To Cry” where that Stephen Stills tuneful song magic kicks you in the nuts. Fabulous guitar pings, their voices and those words – “…you are living a reality I left years ago…it quite nearly killed me…” Side 1 ends with Graham Nash’s “Pre-Road Downs” – a treated guitar gives us another touring-is-miserable song about missing the touch and presence of his ladylove.
“Wooden Ships” would turn up on the Jefferson Airplane album “Volunteers” in November of 1969 (it was a co-write with Paul Kantner) and I’ve always loved both versions – a strange hybrid of Soulful Rock that seemed to belong to California in 1969. CSN’s original take is shorter and amps up the Guitar and Organ and once again the Remaster is gorgeous. The bass and rhythm section is so warm and sweet but it’s the Stills vocal followed by Crosby and back again that impresses – beautifully handled in the transfer. “Lady Of The Island” is tender and quiet and Nash’s vocals almost aching with his love (written for Joni Mitchell). “…Letting myself wander through the world in your eyes…” he sings – and it’s beautifully poignant. That harmony magic comes marauding through your speakers once again (but in the best possible way) with “Helplessly Hoping” – a stunning three-part harmony and probably the best Audio on the disc. Although from the pen of David Crosby – the slinky “Long Time Gone” nonetheless has Still’s arrangement and production magic all over it – lifting the song into a CSN recording rather than a solo stab. It ends on “49 Bye-Byes” which always seems to get overlooked – but it has magic in it too – especially in that centre passage where all those melodies on the guitars and vocals build up.
The album was recorded straight (what you see is what you get) so technically there are no outtakes from the sessions per say – but the group continued recording that year and the four bonus tracks come from those sessions. “Do For The Others” would eventually show on “Stephen Stills” – his debut solo album from late 1970. The second it opens – you can hear why its been included on this Expanded CD Edition – not only is this song gorgeous to listen too – it’s beautifully recorded – essentially a Demo with Stills on Lead Guitar while the other two harmonise. It’s a genuine wow. Second up is another harmony winner in “Song With No Words” where they “dah dah” the melody that would eventually appear on David Crosby’s magnificent “If I Could Only Remember My Name” debut solo album in 1971. Truly beautiful is the only way to describe the Trio doing Fred Neil’s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'” made famous by Nilsson’s cover as used in the movie “Midnight Cowboy”. Crosby describes it in the liner notes as “Stills at his best…” There’s a demo of the “Déjà Vu” classic “Teach Your Children” which is nice but nothing as good as the magical trio that preceded it. Fans will know that there are five other ‘outtakes’ from the period on the “Carry On” 4CD Box Set (1991) – one day we might get a Deluxe Edition 2CD set covering the event in its entirety…helplessly hoping…
So there you have – an established 60ts nugget – cool and beautiful like a summer breeze and given a truly beautiful audio makeover. It’s even furnished and burnished in Aldershot Sun with Bonus Tracks actually worthy of the moniker.
“…Going to where the sun keeps shining… ” – Stephen Stills sings on their gorgeous harmony vocal cover of “Everybody’s Talkin'”. I’d travel towards this slice of sunshine if I were you…warm on your soul and your mind…and then some…