Thursday, November 10, 2011

259. Crosby Stills and Nash- Even better than the sum of the parts.

Album: Crosby Stills and Nash
Artist: Crosby Stills and Nash
Year: 1969
Genre: Folk


  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

The term Supergroup was created to describe a rock group made up of people who already had some fame behind them. A bunch of musicians who were already big stars when they bumped into each other at their drug dealers house and decided to combine their musical talents. Supergroups occur when a mutual group of talented admirers pool their abilities and attempt to make audio magic. Usually they suck.

On paper the Travelling Wilbury's should have been brilliant. Bob Dylan working with George Harrison helped by Tom Petty should have been enough to create an eargasm. Despite having a wonderful time in the studio they could only manage one half-decent song (Handle With Care) and a two fairly forgettable albums which aren't as good as the unreleased demos. Most supergroups don't do nearly as well.

The most notable exception is the most super of all supergroups: Crosby Stills and Nash. Ex-Byrd David Crosby and former Buffalo Sprinfield Co-leader Stephen Stills started writing and performing together and singing some songs around California. They lusted after the dulcet tones of Englishman Graham Nash, who was singing with the Hollies and decided his voice would perfectly round out the new sound they both heard in their heads. Thankfully Nash ditched his former band and joined up.

The result is a Supergroup that is even better than the sum of its parts. I enjoy Buffalo Sprinfield, don't mind The Byrds and can put up with the Hollies in small doses, but I love this album. In fact I'd even go so far as to say I had a mild obsession with it at one point. I managed to find a second hand copy of the CSN biography, which is one of the best pieces of rock and roll writing I've ever enjoyed. Listening to it gave me a new appreciation of this album and I got a bit hung up on in. Four times a day, 7 days a week hung up in fact. In true David Crosby style I became hopelessly addicted and couldn't put it down. It was a wonderful drug whose only side effects were tunes endlessly playing in my head and keeping me company throughout my day.

Crosby, Stills and Nash not only overcame the standard supergroup pitfalls (rampant egos for example) they dodged individual obstacles throughout the album. They recorded a long suite without making it sound pretentious (Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), they descended into total hippiedom without anchoring their song in an era that it couldn't escape (Gunivere), they recorded a post-apocalyptic tune without becoming hoplessly mawkish (Wooden Ships) and even put together a tune heavilly relying on alliteration without sounding like a whimsical wordy wankfest (Helplessly Hoping). And all throughout there are those harmonies. Three voices that sound like they were made to sing together. Close your eyes and put on earphones... aaah. Bliss. Just bliss.

There were rocky years ahead for Crosby, Stills and Nash. They got old and their band got Young but decades later the force of their musical connection is so strong that they're still playing together in 2011. The world's best supergroup and one of the sixties best albums.

Highlight: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Lowlight: Lady of the Island

Influenced by: The groups they left
Influenced: The "Folk revival"

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "There's nothing here. "Suite Judy Blue Eyes" is one of the longest, most boring songs ever."

-Quality aside, if you think a song that's under 7 and a half minutes is one of the longest ever you clearly need to be exposed to more music.

So is CSN bigger than the sum of their parts or less? Let me know below.

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