Crosby, Stills & Nash: CSN (1977)

The official name of the album was CSN, and it was the group’s second album. Deja Vu was a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album, as was 4 Way Street, their live album.

csn-735x413
An older photo of CS&N

In the intervening seven years between Deja Vu and CSN, there was a lot of recorded music.  Besides 4 Way Street, the quartet mounted a huge stadium tour in 1974.  There were several attempts as a quartet to record a studio album but all efforts ended in failure.  Crosby, Stills and Nash each released solo albums.  Crosby and Nash released two albums as a duo.  Stills recorded with his Manassas group and released an album with Neil Young.

Crosby, Stills and Nash brought their own songs to CSN.  There were fast songs, slow songs, group songs and solo songs. Out of all of this they made their most complete and commercial record.  The songs were personal and philosophical, and played to their strengths.  Stills was the musical director for the project, playing many of the instruments like he had on their debut album.  They also recruited top session players to help fill out the sound.  Albums of the era were polished and full-fleshed in their sound. Rumours and Hotel California were companion albums of 1977.

The difference between Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) and CSN are startling. The times were different. The 1960s were over, disappearing in the rear view mirror. The war was over and Nixon were gone. America was in a period of tranquility, it was party city; disco, cocaine and good vibes. Being a longhair, laid-back, jeans-wearing liberal was a threat to no one. The biggest threat was going into the water at Amity Island, or contact by aliens.

The music on CSN reflected this new vibe.  Each were in their early or mid thirties now and had experienced more than a slice of life.  Marriages and failed relationships, experiences with drugs, stardom, happiness and disillusionment, and the search for meaning in the new world and in themselves.  Even simple love songs had deep complex feelings and observations.

Those who have been put off in the past by Graham Nash’s moralizing, David Crosby’s precious intellectualizing and Stephen Stills’ brash solipsism are going to be relieved to find all three musicians dramatically grown up—but not at all smug. – Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone felt CSN sounded dramatically similar to their debut.  I don’t see that.

Crosby, Stills & Nash – producers
Howard Albert, Ron Albert – co-producers, engineers

Side one

No.      Title            Writer(s)         Length

“Shadow Captain” David Crosby, Craig Doerge    4:32   Crosby’s best song on the album.  Upbeat, musically inviting, courtesy of Doerge’s piano.  Great CS&N harmony vocals.

Who guides this ship
Dreaming through the seas
Turning and searching
Whichever way you please?

Speak to me
I need to see your face
Shadowy captain
In a darkened space

“See the Changes” Stephen Stills   2:56  A reflective song by Stills, a gentle acoustic guitar accompaniment, a strength of Stills.  Wonderfully blending of harmony vocals.

Ten years singing right out loud
I never looked was anybody listening
Then I fell out of a cloud
I hit the ground and noticed something missing

Now I have someone
She has seen me changing
And it gets harder as you get older
And farther away as you get closer

“Carried Away” Graham Nash    2:29  A romantic ballad with Nash on the piano, with his pal Crosby on harmony.  This could easily have been on their debut album.

Moving through my changes as fast as I can
Trying to bring a balance to me and the man
Part of me is screaming to say
I want to be carried away

“Fair Game” Stephen Stills  3:30  A mid tempo Latin beat flavored song.  Nice acoustic guitar and percussion.

Take a look around you tell me if you see
A girl who thinks she’s ordinary lookin’ she has got the key
If you can get close enough to look into her eyes
There’s something special right behind the bitterness she hides

“Anything at All” David Crosby 3:01  Quiet, reflective song by Crosby.  Nice piano driven song with harmony vocals.

Anything you want to know it should be perfectly clear
You see just beneath the surface of the mud
There’s more mud here
Surprise

Is there anything you want to know
On any subject at all?
I’ve go time for one more question here
Before I fall, fall

“Cathedral” Graham Nash   5:15   Epic song by Nash, a mini suite as it changes style several times.  Nash said it was written an acid trip in a cathedral he actually experienced.  Adventurous like “To the Last Whale.”

Side two

No.      Title            Writer(s)         Lead Vocals  Length

“Dark Star” Stephen Stills   4:43  A nice beat and acoustic guitar intro, one of Stills’ best pieces of music.  Of all the songs on the album this may be the bit of music.  Excellent playing.

Dark star I see you in the morning
Dark star a’ sleeping next to me
Dark star let the memory of the evening
Be the first thing that you think of
When you open up your smile and see me dark star

“Just a Song Before I Go”    Graham Nash   2:12  The big summer single from the album.  A mid tempo ballad, perfect for the radio.  Nash is good at the falling in love/ failed relationship song.  Extremely short but covers a lot of ground.

 

“Run from Tears” Stephen Stills  4:09  A sad relationship song, but up tempo rocker from Stills. Nice guitar work by Stills, and harmony vocals.

There’s an empty place in my bed
And my heart is beating against my head, yeah
The blood rushing through my veins
Becomes a flood of tears once again

“Cold Rain” Graham Nash   2:32  Another sad song, this time by Nash.  A very nice melody and performance, vocal work.

Than cold rain out on the streets
I am all alone
With cold rain down on my face
I am heading home

“In My Dreams” David Crosby  5:10  Quiet song by Crosby, strong harmonizing by the group.  Sometimes Crosby’s songs seem to ramble a bit, it does here.

“I Give You Give Blind”  Stephen Stills  3:21  A Stills rocker, another relationship gone wrong song.  The music is great, as are the vocals.  The lyrics are a bit tough.  The string arrangement and piano work are wonderful.

Well, hell if I’ve been had
Then Jesus why’s it got to hurt so bad?
And when could something come and make me glad
To be alive?

They toured for two years on the strength of this album.  When they were done, so was the best era of CS&N. Drug issues, changes in the music industry and in audience tastes, relationship issues, and a creative decline, would change what we would get in later CS&N albums.  It was an era that is sadly missed, but we have the group and individual albums to enjoy.

And it gets harder as you get older –  from “See the Changes.”


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