Thursday, November 29, 2012

148. Deja Vu. Add one and multiply by two



Album: Deja Vu
Artist: Crosby Stills Nash and Young
Genre: Folk
Year: 1970

Tracks

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

Crosby Stills and Nash's debut self-titled album was better than the sum of its parts. The three band members had all enjoyed good careers in The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies but when they combined as a trio, their song-writing abilities somehow doubled with every member contributing songs that were far better than anything they'd written before (For What it's Worth is the only song any of the three had written before which would have been worth putting on their first album).

Rather than continue with the delicate three way balance they had maintained, CSN decided to add a fourth element into the mix. After Steve Winwood knocked him back, Stills reluctantly went to his old bandmate Neil Young, with whom he had (and still has) a love/hate kind of relationship.

The introduction of a fourth member could have totally destroyed the band's chemistry, and in fact it probably did. But before they went their separate ways (briefly) the foursome managed to record an album that was even better than the first.

If you read my review of Crosby Stills and Nash you might wonder how I could possibly think any album was superior. I did go on a bit about how brilliant that release is and it's true that I got obsessed with it for a while back when I started listening. I stand by everything I said but this... this is better.

Neil Young is one of the all time great songwriters and in 1970 there were few better. Helpless and Country Girl are two great songs but easily matched by Our House (Nash), Carry on (Stills), Almost Cut my Hair (Crosby) and Woodstock which was written by Joni Mitchell but given a definitive reading here (by people who were actually at Woodstock as opposed to watching news reports in a hotel room which is what Joni was doing).

Neil also added his guitar might to the band's sound and his voice managed to slot perfectly in amongst the vocal harmonies that CSN were famous for. His presence should have tipped the balance from perfection into overindulgence but somehow it made a brilliant band even better.

You might think this is a perfect album and be surprised when I tell you that it can be even better. If you have a CD burner then create a completely flawless masterpiece by doing the following.

Firstly add Ohio to the track listing at the end. After the Kent State shooting, Neil dragged the other three into the studio to record a song he'd just written about the events. It was released as a single and it's presence can improve any album.

Secondly replace the version of Almost Cut My Hair with the version released on the CSN boxed set which is twice as long and four times as good.

Thirdly replace the version of Teach Your Children with a live version available on numerous bootlegs. Teach is a magnificent song totally ruined by some pedal steel guitar. I can't stand the dreadful, cliched pedal steel on this track which causes me a huge amount of anguish because it's being played by Jerry Garcia. My favourite musician of all, time is responsible for ruining a track on one of my favourite albums.

Make these subtle changes and then burn to disc or whack on your MP3 player and you will have an album that I would put up against any release on here for song-writing, musicianship, harmonizing and outright perfection. Burn it onto a CD with the first album and take it with you to a desert Island. It's all you'll need.

Highlight: The whole damn thing (almost)
Lowlight: The pedal steel guitar (sob)

Influenced by: Woodstock
Influenced: Harmonies

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young are the answer to the riddle: WHO is the only group that wondered, "by whom could we do something really... 'heavy?,' and answered... Joni Mitchell?" Have a nice day!"

-I have no idea what you're talking about. It's just as well nobody has ever actually asked me that riddle.

So do you think this is magnificent or have I just got carried away and need a lie down? Let me know below.


2 comments:

  1. Wow, glowing review. Dont you love making your own mp3 versions of great albums and altering them like you suggest. Adding Neil Young was a brave move that paid off. Well for a short time anyway. And whats more I go to see Neil live here in Melbourne in march. Cant wait . Also listen to his latest offering called Psychedelic Pill. Its his best in decades.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't spent enough time with his new album to appreciate it yet but what I've heard I've really enjoyed. You're in for a treat in March.

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