CROSBY, STILLS & NASH Crosby, Stills & Nash (Classic)
Its the harmonies that get you, and pretty much immediately. Theres a succession of brickbats that can be aimed at this 1969 debut from a Byrd, a Buffalo Springfield and a Holly the air of smug, satisfied self-regard that it totters perilously close to; the suspicion that, despite its counterculture stance, enough dollars were thrown at this album (obliquely suggested by sleeve notes that credit David Geffen with direction and Ahmet Ertegun with spiritual guidance) to ensure that it simply could not fail but when David, Stephen and Graham begin to sing they conjure up the kind of telepathic closeness normally only heard in sibling partnerships.
And its the opener Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, where you hear them first. But what is it: prog? Folk? Country? Retrospectively, its easy to place Crosby, Stills & Nash on the line that twines Sweetheart Of The Rodeo to Eagles, and its guitar-heavy acousticity part of the general reaction to psychedelic excess that ran from Bridge Over Troubled Water to Led Zeppelin III, but it mustve been deliciously bewildering upon its initial release in May 1969. And doesnt that wordless coda (presumably the part that Stills called the little kicker at the end about Cuba) get you every time? Nashs Marrakesh Express hasnt aged anywhere near as gracefully, especially those painfully Stylophone-esque guitars. You Dont Have To Cry is soured by the acid tang of contempt, giving it a spiny edge that much of the album lacks, and, seasoned music business veterans that they are, they can cram the obligatory rock star whinge (Pre-Road Downs) into their debut. A bluff reading of Crosby and Stills own Wooden Ships bludgeons the subtlety of the songs post-apocalyptic vision with its electric thump; Jefferson Airplane would treat the song with far greater sensitivity on their Volunteers album, released six months later. Long Time Gone is darkly portentuous; written in response to Bobby Kennedys assassination, its chillingly appropriate to a year that would bear witness to both Woodstock and Altamont.
Theres lots to like, if not enjoy, about Crosby, Stills & Nash, an album which, for all its Aquarian age posturing maintains its insular sense of Laurel Canyon privilege even when inciting the kids to protest. Follow-up Déjà Vu would ultimately prove the better work, almost entirely due to the presence of a stomping, snorting Canadian, his songs and his electric guitar. This Classic reissue is presented how all records should be, in a stiff cardboard sleeve with polythene-lined inner, with the original lyric insert on textured paper, and pressed on 200 gram vinyl. The sound is probably as good as the original tapes allow: a little dry and dull, but it does the job.