[Review] Crosby, Stills & Nash: CSN (1977)

From the shadows, CSN emerged for what might be their last great voyage together.

Kronomyth 4.0: CSNchantment.

Something magical happens when those three letters come together. It’s not just the harmonies, although that’s certainly a big part of it. When their voices mesh, it creates a sound that is not simply a greater sum, but sumthing altogether different where the human individual is subsumed by an angelic host. You can’t simply pull apart those harmonies and say this is Stills or this is Nash because it doesn’t work like that.

As I said, though, it’s not just the harmonies; it’s the entire songwriting experience that gets elevated. Illegal Stills and Whistling Down The Wire couldn’t hold a candle to the songs on CSN. Yes, “Carried Away” does sound like “Marguerita” and “Anything At All” really isn’t. The rest of the songs on CSN are inspired: “Dark Star,” “Shadow Captain,” “Just A Song Before I Go,” “Cathedral,” “Cold Rain.” They’re some of the best songs that Crosby, Stills and Nash ever wrote, period.

In looking for the catalyst to CSN’s resurgent greatness, I’m stumped. Stephen Stills was in the middle of a difficult divorce, David Crosby was in the middle of being Crosby, and Graham Nash was in the middle of a wounded heart and a hard drug user. Somehow, improbably, it added up to a classic studio rock album that eventually became the band’s biggest seller. Subsequent reunions revealed them to be merely mortal, but for one shining moment in 1977, Crosby, Stills and Nash defied time and even their own personal history to create magic once more.

Original elpee version

A1. Shadow Captain (David Crosby/Craig Doerge) (4:32)
A2. See The Changes (Stephen Stills) (2:56)
A3. Carried Away (Graham Nash) (2:29)
A4. Fair Game (Stephen Stills) (3:30)
A5. Anything At All (David Crosby) (3:01)
A6. Cathedral (Graham Nash) (5:15)
B1. Dark Star (Stephen Stills) (4:43)
B2. Just A Song Before I Go (Graham Nash) (2:12)
B3. Run From Tears (Stephen Stills) (4:09)
B4. Cold Rain (Graham Nash) (2:32)
B5. In My Dreams (David Crosby) (5:10)
B6. I Give You Give Blind (Stephen Stills) (3:21)

The Players

David Crosby (vocals, acoustic guitar, string arrangement), Graham Nash (vocals, acoustic piano, harmonica, string arrangement), Stephen Stills (vocals, electric guitar, slide guitar, acoustic guitar, electric piano, timbales), Craig Doerge (acoustic piano, electric piano), Russ Kunkel (drums, congas, percussion), George Perry (bass), Joe Vitale (organ, drums, electric piano, flute, timpani, percussion, vibes) with Joel Bernstein (string arrangement on A6), Tim Drummond (bass on B2), Mike Finnigan (organ on B3), Jimmy Haslip (bass on A3), Gerald Johnson (bass on B3), ? (congas on A4), Mike Lewis (string arrangement on A6/B4). Produced David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash with Ron Albert and Howard Albert; recorded by Ron Albert and Howard Albert.

The Pictures

Art direction and design by Gary Burden for R. Twerk & Co. Photography by Joel Bernstein. There are actually two cover variations of the cover from the same photo shoot, with one version featuring the trio smiling.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette  and 8-track on June 17, 1977 in the US (Atlantic, SD/CS/TP 19104) and the UK and Israel (Atlantic, K50369) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #2 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 4x platinum record) and #23 on the UK charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in the US (Atlantic, SD 19104/-2).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Atlantic, 82650-2).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc on November 25, 2015 in Japan (Atlantic, WPCR-15253).
  4. Re-released on remastered 24k gold compact disc in 2013 in the US (Audio Fidelity, AFZ 144).

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