Posts Tagged ‘Crosby Stills Nash & Young’

‘If You Smile At Me . . .’

May 15, 2022

Originally posted August 18, 2009

While driving across town on an errand last week, I heard the oldies station play “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” from Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first, self-titled album. As I listened, I realized that I hadn’t heard the song for a while. After a few moments, I realized as well that it had been even longer – much longer – since I’d listened to the entire album. I’ve written here before about forgetting about albums as meaningful collections of songs because I so often run the RealPlayer on random, and thus get only one piece of an album at a time. And I wondered to myself how well Crosby, Stills & Nash holds up as an album.

So that evening, I listened to Crosby, Stills & Nash from beginning to end, just to see how it sounds as a united piece of work these days. It still ranks pretty high on my all-time list, but I was chagrined to realize that I’d forgotten the running order of the album. As David Crosby’s “Guinnevere” faded away, I couldn’t recall what came next, and hearing “You Don’t Have To Cry” startled me; it sounded somehow wrong. The surprise pointed out to me how much my listening has shifted away from albums to random single tracks over the past ten years.

As I have for years, I found the album’s most interesting song to be “Wooden Ships.”  It’s not the best song on the album; I’d have to give that nod to either “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” or “Long Time Gone.” But it’s always fascinated me with its post-apocalyptic vision of survivors fleeing in the wooden ships on the water.

Beyond the recording itself, there are a couple of interesting things about “Wooden Ships.” The writing credit on the CSN album lists Crosby and Stills, but there was a third writer. Crosby himself tells the tale, as All-Music Guide relates:

“According to Crosby’s liner notes in the four-disc career retrospective Crosby, Stills & Nash [Box Set] (1991), the song was ‘written in the main cabin of my boat, the Mayan. I had the music already [and] Paul Kanter [sic] wrote two verses, Stephen wrote one and I added the bits at both ends.’ He also explains the cryptic lyrics such as ‘silver people on the shoreline’ – which are those left behind in their nuclear radiation suits. Crosby concludes that the authors ‘imagined ourselves as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilization.’”

I’m not sure who’s responsible for the spelling error in that paragraph, but the third writer was Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane. And “Wooden Ships” was included on the Airplane’s 1969 release Volunteers. (The writing credit there is “Crosby-Kantner-Stills.”)

Wikipedia helps clarify things: “Kantner could not be credited as one of the joint authors-composers on the original release of Crosby, Stills & Nash due to legal issues, but he is thus credited on the 2006 re-release. The song was also released by Jefferson Airplane the same year on the album Volunteers. Both versions are considered to be original versions of the song, although they differ slightly in wording and melody.”

(Wikipedia also notes that co-writer Stills’ interpretation of the song differs from Crosby’s, saying “Stills has stated at music festivals that the song is in fact about the Holocaust in Europe during World War II. Though the obscure lyrics do not refer specifically to the events of the war, the story of the song can be interpreted as the meeting of two deserters or non-Jewish individuals who are fleeing Europe to avoid starvation or participation in anti-Semitic violence. In this context, the ‘silver people on the shoreline’ may refer to Nazi soldiers. The lyrics ‘Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries, / Stare as all human feelings die’ could indicate that the characters in the song are observing a horrific slaughter yet can do nothing to prevent it.”)

Anyway, if both versions are considered original, then neither is a cover? Well, okay. But one of them was released first. Which one was it?

Crosby, Stills & Nash was released on May 29, 1969, according to AMG. Finding a release date for Volunteers is a bit murkier. The album’s page at AMG has a release date of November 1969, but the AMG page about the song “Wooden Ships” says the two albums were “issued within months of each other in the spring of ’69.” I’d lean toward a November release for Volunteers, as the Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums has the album hitting the chart in late November. (The album spent thirteen weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 13. Crosby, Stills & Nash reached the album chart in the first week of July 1969 and spent forty weeks in the Top 40, peaking at No. 6.)

[Note from 2022: Wikipedia has a U.S. release date of November 2, 1969, for Volunteers.]

There aren’t a lot of covers of the song; AMG lists a total of ninety-three CDs that contain a version of the song, and the vast majority of those are by CSN or Jefferson Airplane or combinations of members of those groups. Others listed as having recorded the song are: Animal Bag, The Browne Sisters & George Cavanaugh, Matthew Cook, the De Capo Players, the Future Sound of London, Andy Guzie, Chris Harwood, Lana Lane, Jennifer Matthews, the Rochford Jazz Ensemble, Son of Adam, II Big and Zion I.

Of all the covers of “Wooden Ships,” only two of them are listed from the years before 2000: Animal Bag’s cover, which was on a 1994 release titled Offering and about which I otherwise know nothing, and Chris Harwood’s version, which was on her 1970 album, Nice to Meet Miss Christine. Reviews of Harwood’s album – and of her version of “Wooden Ships” – are spotty. But it’s always interesting to hear another singer’s take on a song. (My thanks to Lizardson at Time Has Told Me.)

[Note from 2022: The website Second Hand Songs lists seventeen covers of “Wooden Ships,” though few of the artists listed in the preceding paragraph are mentioned there. Seven of those covers are dated before the year 2000. Artists mentioned at SHS include Christine Harwood, Lana Lane and the Ides of March. Notes added May 15, 2022.]

So here are the two original versions of “Wooden Ships” (that still sounds odd to me) along with Harwood’s cover from 1970 and, as a bonus, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s performance of the song at Woodstock in the early morning hours forty years ago today.

“Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash from Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1969

“Wooden Ships” by Jefferson Airplane from Volunteers, 1969

“Wooden Ships” by Chris Harwood from Nice to Meet Miss Christine, 1970

“Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at Woodstock, August 18, 1969

The Great Covers List
There was quite a nice response to my post a week ago when I asked which recordings would wind up in a list of best cover versions of all time. We got a couple of fifteen-song lists and a few other comments; the resulting collection of songs would make up a couple of very good CDs. And I’m going to add five recordings to the list as my nominees:

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Helpless” from She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina, 1971
Johnny Winters’ “Highway 61” from Second Winter, 1969.
Ike & Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” Liberty 56216, 1971
Joe Cocker’s “Cry Me A River” from Mad Dogs & Englishmen, 1970
The Band’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” from Cahoots, 1971

What cover versions grab you? Leave a note, and in a few weeks, I’ll likely start digging into them.

Saturday Single No. 774

February 19, 2022

First of all, our cat, Cubbie Cooper, seems okay. We still don’t know about the lump in his abdomen – we’re waiting for lab results – but nothing in his lab work seems to show a problem, suggesting the lump might not be a problem. So we’ll just rest quietly until we get the lab work back next week, and we’ll go from there.

Secondly, today is our condoversary: It was four years ago today that the Texas Gal headed out from the house on the East Side, following the moving van across town, and I followed a few minutes later after turning off the light over the garage for the first time in nine-and-a-half years.

There are a lot of boxes on shelves in the garage that we’ve let sit, but almost all of the boxes we brought into the condo itself have been dealt with. There is one box not far from my desk – some of Mom’s photo albums, some of my old papers, and a few other things – that still requires attention. Maybe this summer.

Thirdly, and most importantly, today is the Texas Gal’s birthday, falling – as it always does – just a few days after the anniversary of our meeting online. We met on either February 15 or 16, 2000. We know it wasn’t the 17th, because that was the day she and a friend headed to Houston for the rodeo. We know it wasn’t the 14th, because, well, I had a difficult Valentine’s Day in 2000.

So, we met in the third week of February 2000, just before her birthday, and eighteen years later became homeowners on her birthday, and to mark all that in song – even though we have no fireplace, even though we have three cats instead of two, and even though they never go into the yard – I can’t think of a better tune for the day than Graham Nash’s 1970 celebration of the domestic bliss he’d found with Joni Mitchell.

Their bliss didn’t last. I think ours will. So here, from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, is “Our House,” today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 764

December 4, 2021

I invested a few words two weeks ago answering some questions I found at Facebook:

Do you remember the first five albums you bought (or at least chose for yourself)?

Do you remember the next five?

Do you listen to any of those albums today?

In that post, titled “Saturday Single No. 762,” I dealt with the first five albums I chose for my collection in 1969 and 1970. Today, for what it’s worth, we’ll look at the next five, all acquired during the summer and autumn of 1970:

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
Best Of Bee Gees
Hey Jude by the Beatles
Magical Mystery Tour by the Beatles
Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

I was clearly catching up on things as well as beginning my quest to acquire all eighteen American Beatles albums in the next two years. (My pal Rick had challenged me to do so, timing the deadline with his entering his senior year of high school in September 1972.)

And even after fifty-some years, those are five very good albums. While Sgt. Pepper might have lost some of its luster – it was, course, widely considered at the time to be the best album ever released, a judgment that’s since moderated in many corners – it’s still a very good album, an evaluation that’s been supported by the remastered versions released in recent years.

Hey Jude (titled in some places as The Beatles Again) was a collection of singles from over the years that had never made it onto albums in the American market: From “Can’t Buy Me Love” through “The Ballad of John & Yoko,” it provided a (necessarily limited) primer on the Beatles’ career arc for the inexperienced listener that I was. I’d heard most of the tracks at least a couple of times before; I think, though, that Hey Jude brought me my first hearings of “Rain” and “Don’t Let Me Down.”

Of the three Beatles releases on that list of my second five, the lesser release is Magical Mystery Tour. The six tracks on Side One in the American configuration, the soundtrack to the group’s disastrous television special, aren’t entirely dismissible, but only two of them – “Fool On The Hill” and “I Am The Walrus” – have to me any historical weight (although for a time I loved “Your Mother Should Know” for its period campiness). Still, it’s hard to dismiss the album, as its real weight comes on Side Two, with the astounding and eternally pertinent 1967 double-sided singles: “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever,” “All You Need Is Love/Baby You’re A Rich Man,” and “Hello Goodbye” (which had been backed with Side One’s “I Am The Walrus”). After the general froth of Side One, Side Two is a mother lode of musical genius.

Best Of Bee Gees is a good summation of the first two years of the long and eternally changing career of the Brothers Gibb, with hits ranging in time from 1967’s “New York Mining Disaster 1941” to 1969’s “First Of May.” It never got as much play in the basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard as Sgt. Pepper, Hey Jude or the second side of Magical Mystery Tour, but it wasn’t ignored, either.

The odd album out in that list of my second five is Déjà Vu. Not because it’s not good or because I didn’t listen to it regularly but because I acquired it when it was relatively current. (Well, I’d acquired Hey Jude not long after it was released, but the music it offered wasn’t current.) I’m not sure how I managed to make the leap to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Maybe hearing “Woodstock,” “Teach Your Children” and “Our House” on the radio in the past few months had led me to purchase the album in October of 1970. And I liked all of the album, especially Stephen Stills’ spare and haunting “4+20.”

So, how pertinent are those five albums to my listening life now?

I’d say they’re all pertinent, even though the only portion of Sgt. Pepper in my iPod (and therefore part of my day-to-day listening) is the final suite: “Good Morning, Good Morning/Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)/Day In The Life.” But the album is one of nearly three hundred I’ve ripped as part of my full album project, meaning that when I’m in full album mode, it’s one I’d like to hear. (And it crosses my mind as I write that I should pull George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” into the iPod.)

Ten of the tracks on Hey Jude are in the iPod, so all except “I Should Have Known Better” and “Old Brown Shoe” still matter. Also in the device are “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “Penny Lane” and Hello Goodbye.” I should likely add “Fool On The Hill” and “I Am The Walrus.” I’m weary of “All You Need Is Love.” So, Hey Jude and MMT matter.

As to the twelve tracks on Best Of Bee Gees, the iPod is missing only “World,” “I Can’t See Nobody” and “Spicks & Specks,” so that album still matters, too.

And then, Déjà Vu. Seven of its ten tracks are in the iPod. I’ve skipped only the two Graham Nash songs, “Teach Your Children” and “Our House,” and the closer, “Everybody I Love You.” I’m likely to add the last of those three, but for some reason, I am not at all inclined to add the Nash songs.

Anyway, here’s likely my favorite track from Déjà Vu, the title track. It took me years, but I recall my “oh, of course” reaction and my widening eyes when I realized that David Crosby was singing about reincarnation. So, here’s “Déjà Vu,” today’s Saturday Single.

Forty-Nine Years

May 4, 2019

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young with the version of “Ohio” that was included on the live album 4 Way Street, assembled from 1970 performances in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and released in 1971.

Forty-Eight Years

May 4, 2018

May 4, 1970: Four Dead In Ohio

Allison Krause
Jeffrey Miller
Sandra Scheuer
William Schroeder

Here’s the original Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young single of “Ohio” from 1970, written by Neil Young.

‘Can This Road Be Taken . . .’

April 1, 2016

Things come together and things fall apart.

I read in the last week or so news accounts from the world of Crosby, Stills & Nash indicating that the journey of the three is over. Evidently David Crosby has said or done something that offended Graham Nash on such a basic level that Nash had said he’ll no longer work with Crosby.

It wasn’t surprising reading. The clashes and estrangements of the three men – Crosby, Nash and Stephen Stills – from one another over the years (and the same with the occasional fourth, Neil Young) are long the stuff of newspaper, tabloid and blogpost headlines. It’s been a dysfunctional family for years, one that occasionally gathered to make music, some of it great. The fact that the dysfunction has finally outweighed the benefits makes me wonder, honestly, how someone’s limits weren’t reached long ago.

The news of Nash’s pronouncement wasn’t something I planned to mention here. But this morning, I asked the RealPlayer to find me tracks recorded in April, wondering if I were lucky enough to find something recorded on some April 1 years ago. And the RealPlayer gave me, among many other tracks, an unreleased version of “Taken At All,” a song written by Crosby and Nash and released in a country-folk version on the duo’s 1976 album Whistling Down The Wire.

The unreleased version showed up on the 1991 box set CSN, credited to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and it was recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami on April 1, 1976, forty years ago today, which makes for a nice accident of timing.

This is me. Can you take another look?
Did I see you looking blindly at your book?
Is it all that you thought, that you thought it took?
Can it be taken, taken at all?

Were you looking for signs along the way?
Can you see by your lonely light of day?
Is this road really the only way?
Can this road be taken, taken at all.

We lost it on the highway
Down the dotted line
You were going your way
I was going mine

We lost it on the highway
Things were out of sight
You were going your way
Trying to make a light (along the way)

Can you see by your lonely light of day?
Is this road really the only way?
Can this road be taken, taken at all?
Can this road be taken, taken at all?

‘The Many-Colored Beast . . .’

March 16, 2016

Forty-five years ago this week, as I was entering the home stretch of my senior year of high school, the top three spots in the Billboard Hot 100 were occupied by Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGee”), Tom Jones (“She’s a Lady”) and the Temptations (“Just My Imagination [Running Away With Me]”).

None of those really spoke to me, nor did much else in the Top 40 at the time, but I was still listening late every evening in my room. Early portions of the evenings were taken up at the time by keeping the scorebook at St. Cloud Tech High wrestling matches; by rehearsals and eventually performances of Don’t Drink The Water, the spring play at Tech; and by plenty of table-top hockey.

How much hockey? Rick, Rob and I had decided during the autumn that we would try to play a full 76-game schedule for our twelve-team league (the NHL’s Original Six and its first six expansion teams). That would have come to 456 games. By the time March rolled around, we realized that we weren’t going to finish the task. So we trimmed the schedule to 52 games per team, which still accounted for a pretty impressive total of 312 games (not counting the playoffs, which went around 40 games).

(It’s remarkable what’s stayed in my head over the years. Rob was clearly the best player that season: His St. Louis Blues were 36-8-8, and his New York Rangers were 30-10-12 and won the Stanley Cup.)

And there was music from the stereo as the games went on in the basement rec room. The two brothers would occasionally bring one or two albums with them, but usually, the music came from my slowly growing library: Seven Beatles albums (Beatles ’65, Let It Be, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Hey Jude, Revolver, and the White Album), Chicago’s second album, the 5th Dimension’s Aquarius, The Band’s self-titled second album, Best of Bee Gees, and an album that was becoming a favorite (and remains so to this day although it never seems to make those Top Ten lists I occasionally put together): Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu.

I didn’t quite get everything on the record: It took me years to figure out that David Crosby’s title tune was a reincarnation metaphor. Even so, I liked the track and the rest of the record enough that the process of having the music pretty much embedded in my mind was underway. (It’s still embedded; unless I purposefully divert it, the sounds of Déjà Vu will be running through my head the rest of the day.) And not only was I hearing the album as background for our rather loud hockey evenings; I was also listening to it at other, quieter times, absorbing what that quartet of gifted men were offering as musicians and as songwriters.

As a nascent songwriter myself – I’d bought my first guitar from a friend a few months earlier – I tried figure out how the four performers were putting their songs together. Some of them were far too complex for me to try to replicate (at least until I bought a songbook a few months later that offered the songs on Déjà Vu as well as those from the earlier Crosby, Stills & Nash album). Some of them, I wasn’t particularly interested in playing. But one of them caught my interest and was workable:

Four and twenty years ago, I come into this life,
The son of a woman and a man who lived in strife.
He was tired of being poor, and he wasn’t into selling door to door.
And he worked like the devil to be more.

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so.
Night after sleepless night, I walk the floor and I want to know:
Why am I so alone? Where is my woman? Can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away? Is she gone?

Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed.
I see that it is empty, and there’s devils in my head.
I embrace the many-colored beast.
I grow weary of the torment. Can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.

The emotional desolation in the song resonated with me, longing as I was for the company of one particular young lady (though the thoughts in the song were framed in far more adult ideas – the empty bed, for instance – than I could have found at the time). So I painstakingly worked out the chords. And though the emotional anguish that Stills chronicles is long gone from my life (it showed up a few other times along the way), the song “4+20” remains one of my favorites from Déjà Vu.

The Center Of My Universe

June 18, 2015

One of the least-used reference books on my shelf these days is Billboard Top 10 Album Charts, which covers the years 1963 to 1998. There are times when having the Top 10 week-by-week from those years can be handy, but what would be even more handy would be to have the entire album chart from every week. At one forum or another some years ago, I lucked into finding the weekly pop singles charts from 1954 into 2004, and it’s a find that’s been a great tool for use here and a great toy for my leisure time.

But, as limited as the book is, it has its uses, and this morning, I glanced at the Top 10 albums from this week in 1965, fifty years ago:

Mary Poppins soundtrack (Sherman & Sherman)
My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand
The Sound Of Music soundtrack (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
The Beach Boys Today!
Dear Heart by Andy Williams
Introducing Herman’s Hermits
Goldfinger soundtrack (John Barry)
Girl Happy soundtrack by Elvis Presley
Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan
My Fair Lady soundtrack (Lerner & Lowe)

Two of those albums were at home at Kilian Boulevard during that summer week fifty years ago: The Mary Poppins and Goldfinger soundtracks. In the fifty years since, only two of the other eight have found a home in my collection: The Texas Gal brought along the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music when we merged households in 2001, and I got Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home as a gift during June of 1987.

Beyond that, I have about half of the tracks from the Beach Boys’ album on some vinyl compilations and a few of them on the digital shelves, and I have a couple of tracks from the Herman’s Hermits album on the digital shelves and one of them on a fifty-year old 45. I do have four versions of “Dear Heart,” the title tune from the Andy Williams album, but not Williams’ version (and that absence surprises me as Williams’ version was a favorite of a college ladyfriend).

So, and this is not surprising to me at all, the popular records of the summer of 1965 have drawn only a little attention from me over the years. Let’s move ahead five years and see what happened. Here are the Top 10 albums from June 20, 1970:

Let It Be by the Beatles
McCartney by Paul McCartney
Woodstock soundtrack
Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Greatest Hits by the 5th Dimension
Live At Leeds by the Who
Chicago II by Chicago
Band Of Gypsys by Jimi Hendrix
Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel
American Woman by the Guess Who

At the time, three of those LPs were in the house on Kilian: Let It Be, Chicago II, and Bridge Over Troubled Water (though that latter album was my sister’s, and I would take some years to replace it after she took it with her into her adult life). Déjà Vu would show up in a couple of months. Four of the other six would eventually reach my shelves as well: McCartney, Woodstock, Live At Leeds, and Band Of Gypsys. I found a different 5th Dimension anthology and never bothered with the Guess Who album (though I have a digital copy of it now).

Let’s do one more jump and look ahead to the beginning of summer of 1975 and the Top 10 albums in Billboard:

Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton John
Venus & Mars by Wings
That’s The Way Of The World by Earth, Wind & Fire
Tommy soundtrack
Welcome To My Nightmare by Alice Cooper
Stampede by the Doobie Brothers
Four Wheel Drive by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Chicago VIII by Chicago
Spirit of America by the Beach Boys
Hearts by America

I owned none of those at the time, and only five of them ever made it to the vinyl stacks: the albums by Elton John, Wings, America and Earth, Wind & Fire and the Beach Boys’ anthology. The Texas Gal brought along the Doobie Brothers’ album on CD when she came to Minnesota. The only one of those albums that I’d consider essential listening, however, would be That’s The Way Of The World (I anticipate and welcome differing opinions from readers), and it and Stampede are the only two albums from those ten that show up in toto on the digital shelves.

So we’ve found another way to document my sweet spot, as if I needed another reminder that my musical universe is centered in 1970. I’m not sure that all this says anything else, except that I went from being eleven to sixteen to twenty-one during those ten years. It might also say that I had good taste pretty much all along the way (though I am sure there are those who will debate that).

Anyway, here’s one of my favorite tracks from an album that I’ve not written much about but that resides pretty close to the center of my musical universe. Here’s David Crosby’s rumination on reincarnation: the title track from Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Forty-Five Years

May 4, 2015

Forty-Four Years

May 4, 2014