[Review] Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

An alignment of talent for the ages that, despite clashing personalities, yielded some truly angelic harmonies.

Kronomyth 1.0: Simon and Garfunkel and Jefferson Airplane.

A diamond of the times, again courtesy of the dark forces of Atlantis. (Ah, but what’s puzzling you is THE NATURE of this GEM.) Similar in spirit to Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills & Nash was that duo cubed: three songwriters with unique personalities. Instrumental hotshot Stephen Stills wrote complicated odes to lost love, David Crosby strummed his guitar while spinning magic and social unrest, and Graham Nash injected a dose of British charm into the whole thing.

In a sense, CS&N were like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and Jimi Hendrix swirled into one. That it came together so well so quickly is amazing: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Guinnevere,” “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone” are birthed titans. The remaining tracks sometimes feel unfinished, but there are surprises among the tracks you don’t know (“49 Bye-Byes” for example prefigures Steely Dan’s first album by a few years). The arrangements are solid considering that Stills is often multitracking guitar, bass and organ, and Dallas Taylor provides as solid a backbeat as Ringo ever did.

The real story, of course, is the harmonies; that three voices could mesh so well is still astounding today. They may lay things on a little thick with “Helplessly Hoping,” but used in moderation (“Wooden Ships”) the three voices tuned to one another simply soar. Though their next album, which reunited Stills and Neil Young, theoretically ups the ante, the trio’s first album remains a towering achievement. The music from the Summer of Love seldom burned brighter than it did here. It was the beginning of the end (natch), but don’t be troubled, Little Dreamer. Rest your heads on the soft, harmonious clouds of social destruction and sleep, sleep, sleep…

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Original LP Version

A1. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Stephen Stills) (7:22)
A2. Marrakesh Express (Graham Nash) (2:36)
A3. Guinnevere (David Crosby) (4:43)
A4. You Don’t Have To Cry (Stephen Stills) (2:43)
A5. Pre-Road Downs (Graham Nash) (2:59)
B1. Wooden Ships (David Crosby/Stephen Stills) (5:22)
B2. Lady of The Island (Graham Nash) (2:36)
B3. Helplessly Hoping (Stephen Stills) (2:37)
B4. Long Time Gone (David Crosby) (4:17)
B5. 49 Bye-Byes (Stephen Stills) (5:15)

The Players

David Crosby (rhythm guitar, vocals), Graham Nash (vocals), Stephen Stills (lead guitar, organ, bass, vocals), Dallas Taylor (drums). Produced by Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash; engineered by Bill Halverson. Direction by David Geffen. Spiritual guidance by Ahmet Ertegun.

The Pictures

Cover photo by Henry Diltz. Art direction/design by Gary Burden.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on May 29, 1969 in the US and Canada (Atlantic, SD 8229) and the UK (Atlantic, K 50369) with gatefold cover and lyrics insert; reached #6 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 4X platinum record) and #25 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Atlantic, CS 19117) with gatefold cover and lyrics insert.
  2. Re-released on remastered elpee in 1982 in the US (Nautilus, NR 48) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1994 in the US (Atlantic, 82651).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on December 18, 2013 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-15252).

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