Monday, 6 April 2015

Neil Young and Crazy Horse 'Re-Ac-Tor' (1981)




Neil Young and Crazy Horse "RelAclTor" (1981)

Oplerla Star/Surfler Joe and Moe The Sleaze/T-Bone/Get Back On It//Southlern Paclilfic/Moltor Citly/Raplid Translit/Shots

"Past the angry tide, the mighty diesel whines"

Sometimes you don't need to know about the background to an album to appreciate it (something which admittedly makes our website look a bit pointless, so we tend to brush over that a lot of the time!) Sometimes a lot of the history behind a project is so well documented that it's hard to avoid - like the Lagos adventure that seems to be the whole point of 'Band On The Run' despite not providing a note of musical influence or the message behind an album like 'The Wall' which is writ large in the record's packaging, lyrics and illustrations. And then there are other albums which made absolutely no sense at the time, scattered full of 'clues' which only a small percentage of an artist's fanbase was ever going to notice and even less were going to be able to work out. 'Relacltor' - dotty spelling and all - is one of the latter albums which at the time made collectors everywhere go 'what the?' on first playing and perplexed us for many many years until Neil was ready to talk about it. In many ways I still don't think he's fully talked about it - 'RelAcltor' is one of those albums doomed to remain a mystery until the day he dies (or the day music does - I'm not sure which will come first to be honest). So what possible event in Neil Young's life could make him turn out eight of the most mindless, hulking, overblown, noise and humungously big albums of not just his career but anyone's?
The fate of a little boy. Specifically Neil's little boy Ben. Born in 1978 to the cosy warm family sound of the 'Comes A Time' record, Ben was by now three years old and his mum and dad were beginning to get a bit concerned. Neil had already had one son born with Cerebral Palsy, Zeke, born to second wife Carrie Snodgrass and noticed a lot of similarities with his toddler, who like his step-brother just wasn't doing the other things that other children did. After denying this at first - what were the odds of having two children born with the same complaint to the same father by different wives? - the doctors began to latch on: yes Ben had the same illness, but it was a much stronger form and he would probably never be able to speak (Zeke has more recently been re-diagnosed as suffering from a brain aneurism sometime in the womb - the same complaint that will fall his father in 2005). 

Naturally worried, the Youngs vowed to do whatever it took to make their son better. Unfortunately for them their first choice turned out to be the worst thing for both them and Ben: an intensive 14-hour-a-day programme designed to help with Ben's co-ordination and help him to walk. This took place at the family 'Broken Arrow' ranch under supervision and pushed both Neil and wife Pegi near the point of collapse: the change of going from blissful newlyweds to coping with a baby is hard enough for any couple, but this change was so intense, with the couple's lives now centred firmly round their son, with a programme that made them feel guilty for taking a few minutes off. What's more the programme wasn't 14 hours a day of playing or talking to their son - it was pushing him on relentlessly, forcing the poor lad to do something his body just wasn't built to achieve and where his struggling and effort any idea was clearly painful but not resulting in any progress. Only three albums ago Neil had vowed in song to protect his family come what may - but he couldn't protect them from this latest bolt out of the blue. No wonder, then, that Neil was more than a little distracted from his music in the early 1980s, to put it mildly.

Other writers might have channelled that air of frustration and aggression (which Neil was too caring to show at home) into an outpouring of grief. Lesser men might have high-tailed it out of there and gone on the road. Almost everybody would have backed off, let their career take a break for a few years and come back to it later with a 'comeback' album. But Neil isn't most songwriters - feeling the subject was too personal to deal with in song for now and too private to talk about his problems to anybody except his closest inner circle (even Reprise, for whom this album was a 'goodbye' after twelve years and fourteen albums, didn't know about Ben) Neil simply, in his words, 'shut down' whilst releasing an album every year like clockwork so that nobody would think to ask questions. Covering this problem in 1980 had been relatively painfree - 'Hawks and Doves' featured a side of half-heartedly recorded country songs made in a single sessions and a series of older tracks that were just about good enough to get away with the 'eccentric' rather than 'hopeless' tag from confused critics. 'Re-lAclTor', though, is an album that was all new - well, only 'Shots' was an old song (which is lower odds than most Young albums and that was re-arranged so differently from a quiet reflective acoustic song to a spiky angry electric rant that it sounded unrecognisable to how it had been in 1978 anyway). The album was recorded in a hurry and written in even more of a one, a weary Neil spending what little downtime he had writing songs that used the bare minimum necessary of his brain-power. As dark and as flimsily made as the best of his 'doom trilogy', but on subject matters seemingly of far less importance than the death, doom and gloom of that three-part eulogy to lost friends and fading lives everywhere, Neil seems to have deliberately made 'RelAclTor' as empty as he possibly could, finding escapism in the sheer bliss of being able to think about something else for a change, without the emotional capacity to take anything difficult or the brainpower needed to make something good. For years we fans went happily by thinking this rather sorry for itself and wretched little eight-track album was a sign of Neil running out of ideas - which it kind of is; what we didn't know for so long, though, was that it was from choice brought on by difficult circumstances rather than a fading of the light.

Unable to take anymore, the Youngs terminated the programme in 1982 (it's intensity is not something that would ever be allowed today, especially the 'guilt factor' the couple revealed later where they were made to feel like every backwards step was somehow 'their fault' for not trying hard enough - modern therapy sessions tend to be less intense, more understanding and with more emphasis on 'learning through play' rather than pain - thank goodness!) In time Neil will go on to pour out his heart and soul into what I consider his neglected masterpiece (alongside 'Tonight's The Night') in 'Trans' - a concept album about communication from inside the head of a robot who longs to 'connect' with people, made deliberately hard to hear thanks to a vocoder vocal treatment that makes everything sound far away (even then only coming clean about what that record was really about years later). By comparison 'Relactltor' isn't in the same sport definition never mind the same league, a noisy unsubtle burst of adrenalin and noise that in its own way sounds like Neil's therapy sessions, a burst of angry uncontrolled noise that sounds he can pour all of his unfocussed aggression and frustration into. Having spent most of the past year 'reducing' life to its most basic of functions (sleeping, eating, walking - not just reducing life into its smallest stages necessary for survival for the baby's sake but the short time available snatched between sessions for the parents), some of that shaping was inevitably going to colour 'RelAclTor'. It's not for nothing that I keep writing that title out the way it was designed to be read on the sleeve - this is an album reduced to the building blocks of life, with even the tracks listing on the black sleeve divided painfully, syllable by syllable, into blocks of text (except for 'Surfer Joe' and 'T-Bone' oddly - perhaps Warner Brothers misunderstood or perhaps Neil just got bored writing the track listing out?) Both 'Rapid Transit' and 'T-Bone' for instance are a long way from being fully developed songs - both are riffs, played over and over again, the latter with the same silly seven words repeated over and over again like a mantra and the former not even being sung in coherent sentences, Neil having fun with the 'sound' of words rather than the meaning. Coverwise too 'RelAclTor' is just two large slabs of colour imposed on top of each other, red on black (about the two most aggressive colours there are), one cutting into the other jaggedly , like 'Pacman' in the forthcoming computer game or a play button on a not-quite-invented-yet CD player.

The music too is simple, with less chords than on any Young-involved album since 'Buffalo Springfield' fifteen years earlier, Crazy Horse rigidly sticking to the same notes over and over as Neil pitches and pitts away at an unmoving wall of sound, as if willing an obstacle he knows is immovable to get up and walk. Angry without any songs really spouting angry ideas, emotionally intense without any characters ever doing anything interesting enough to be emotional and leaving a bitter taste in the ears despite being the most straightforward and least sarcastic/multi-layered record in Neil's canon, you can see why 'RelAclTor' never got understood in its own lifetime and why even now many fans scratch their heads and move on to something more interesting. Even Neil, a stickler for making sure his 'worst' (ie poorest selling and most misunderstood) albums are out there officially available, alongside his multi-million selling epics, delayed this album's first CD release until as late as 2004, the record clearly taking him back to a very dark place (the same went for its companion in the 'Ben Trilogy' 'Hawks and Doves' - he had no control over 'Trans', the first release for new label 'Geffen'). I'd never in a million years recommend this noisy unfocussed simple bordering on moronic album to anyone who wasn't already a committed Young fan - and yet in many ways I feel this record gets a bad press. Just because this album is simple doesn't mean it's lazy or without and while the similar story it tells is more fragmented and harder to follow than on 'Hawks' or 'Trans', it is nevertheless there for everyone to see, no matter how much Neil tries to hide it.

After all, this is what we're good at you and I (I'll assume for the moment that you are a Young fan to have got this far down the article on an album that nobody seems to like!) Neil's fans have become renowned for their ability to find 'clues' in their hero's work (the use of symbolism in album covers alone are ripe for a full university masters degree) - the strange thing being that most of them really were left for Neil to be found. The back cover features the 'serenity prayer' from the '12 Steps' program: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference'. Only, this being Neil, the line is printed in Latin, so that in the days before google translate only a small percentage of his fans would ever know or bother to consult their phrasebooks to find out what it said. True fans may remember that Neil used a similar 'clue' on the inside sleeve of 'Tonight's The Night', which reprinted a scathing review of his previous 'On The Beach' album in Dutch ('because everything seemed to be in double ducth to me then anyway!') Musically too  , while on the surface about the least interesting thing Neil has ever done outside of (yuk!) 'Greendale', 'RelAclTor' is full of fascinating detail that all too often gets lost. 'Surfer Joe' runs out of steam by the time the tide comes in, but you can sort of second guess where Neil was intending to go with this song before tiredness set in and the track became another 'party' song about the lifestyle Neil's just had to give up. Surfer Joe 'caught the big one he let it go' when something 'bigger' came along; the same could be said for Neil who'd just recovered all his lost ground of the 1970s with 'Rust Never Sleeps' before Ben's diagnosis; Moe The Sleaze, meanwhile is another of Neil's charming loser characters, living his dream thanks to the odd self-indulgent sale and the odd 'handout', a typical self-defensive streak that's been in Neil's psyche since 'The Loner', wondering if his career was worth all that much anyway; sadly though both potentially interesting figures are reduced to caricature by the song's end. Note the sarcasm on the line 'there's somebody satisfied with winning' - Neil's in survival mode and knows how pointless all that searching for fame really is. 'Rapid Transit' sounds like a song that started off as an attempt to get Ben to speak, a children's song with some silly sound effects (stuttered m's, rolled 'rs and sibilant S') turned into a quite different space what sounds like a very angry and adult riff. 'Shots' is the most aggressive, angry song in the Young canon that isn't about politics or politicians, spat out with venom and with the lyrics at time drowned out by the wail of machine-gun-like clatter from his guitar turned up to the max (though written in 1978, before Ben's diagnosis, the song was originally heard as a sad lament about the darkness in the world and knowing how Neil's mind works maybe even written for his new-born son about the dark side of the world he might have to face - here three years on its Neil lashing out that the dark world slapped his son unfairly in the face long before he ever feared it would). 'Get Back On It' quickly turns into the first of many songs about Neil's main hobby of cars but starts off as a sequel to the here-we-go-again tiredness but willingness of 'Coastline' from 'Hawks and Doves' ('We don't back down from no trouble - we do get up in the morning!'), naming some random 'heroes' who happen to be dead while Neil is still very much alive. 'Southern Pacific' is the first of many songs about Neil's other hobby, trains, although it's interesting that in this song the hero Casey Jones ends the song abandoned and forgotten, forced into an early retirement when he still has so much to say (as Neil does - for all he knew in 1981 Ben's programme was going to run for the rest of his life).
The last two points bring us to another point about this album - how mechanical it is. The programme Neil and Peggi were locked into had them doing everything by strict routine - they had to do every step in the right order or be glared at by their supervisor so found themselves repeating the same patterns day after day. Dismissed as many as one block of noise, actually 'RelAclTor' is an even odder album than that, breaking everything down to the barest of bare essentials, the building blocks of life. Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, who like the others hated these sessions (he knew Ben was poorly and that Neil was distracted, but the band were never told quite how badly or how much the guitarist's life had been forced to change), remembers being told to fill these songs with every last inch of noise he could, banging away at a whole host of sound effects for 'Surfer Joe' for instance. 

Neil didn't even care about the beat - he just wanted noise to keep coming, note after note, building block by building block, in an ever circling pattern that wouldn't change - perhaps because that's how his brain had now been re-wired to think. Another example: 'Surfer Moe' can't even get to the end of the song without paring things down, the let's face it not that very developed song anyway  getting pared back verse after verse until it now reads ''Come on down, We're all goin', women, booze!' that gets rids of the conjunctions altogether and reads more like an advertising board than a song. While many people dismiss Crazy Horse as being merely loud and tuneless, usually their albums come full of shades of colour - 'Zuma', for instance, is probably full of more dynamics than any other single Young LP. This record, though, features eight slightly different riffs that play at the same level throughout the songs and at the same level to each other - there are no ballads here, no middle eights even, no variety at all except whether Neil's screaming guitar solo is going to come after the first verse, the last verse or not at all. The whole record sounds as if it's been designed by computers - even more so than 'Trans', funnily enough, which is written 'for' computers to sing - with a world of huge differences separated into digital binary code that's either one thing or the other. The meshing guitars of Young and Sampedro, so integral to 'Zuma' and 'Rust Never Sleeps', doesn't really exist here (except briefly on 'Shots') - instead the pair double each other, over and over, as if re-inforcing the sterilisation and coldness of this new world. Bassist Billy Talbot is reduced to the same few repetitive bass licks over and over. Restricted to working between the hours of 2pm and 6 pm (barely the time Crazy Horse usually wake up) the two just never connected on these sessions.  No wonder Neil's sleepy sub-conscious - all but ordered not to sing about illness or family or anything 'human' that might give the game away - starts thinking about cars and trains, the hobbies Neil simply doesn't have time for anymore (in time, of course, when Ben is better his dad's shed full of model trains will become the special place for the pair to bond, Neil even inventing a special 'train controller' manufactured by toy company Lionel that Ben can control with his eyes).

'RelAclTor', then, is an understandable, even necessary album, delivered to end a recording contract in the easiest possible way (Neil doesn't know what he's got himself into with Geffen just yet...) and probably the best he could make in the circumstances. But is it a good album? Sadly no. The only bit of actual bona fide creativity on the whole LP is Neil's invention of the word 'garfong' on 'Surfer Joe', a word that's since come to mean 'a smokable  substance which gives you a high' according to my hipper friends (no, alright, alright, anyone hip enough to know that word would never know me - I consulted an online urban dictionary instead). The album is repetitive, muddled and often boring; difficult to listen to when heard whole but strangely unappealing when heard in eight single chunks too. Excusable as a lot of this album there really is no place for 'T-Bone' to belong in Neil's canon, a nine minute thrash of the same old chords and just seven words repeated over and over - just because Neil has had to suffer there's no reason we fans have to as well (surely another older song could have been 'borrowed' instead - after all it's not as if Neil didn't have a lot of them, having abandoned his entire 'Chrome Dreams' album a mere four years before!) There's even less excusable for the loose racism of 'Motor City', Neil laughing at Japanese workers who think they can compete with his beloved Detroit-made cars which is almost - though thankfully not quite - as patronising as the right-wing pre-Reagan politics on 'Hawks and Doves' (Roger Waters made the same point with English manufacturers verses Japanese ones on 1983's 'The Final Cut' - what happened to AAA bands in the 1980s?!) Of all the pre-1997 albums (when records like this one begin to look like masterpieces) this must be the Neil Young record I've played least down the years, guaranteed to bring on not so much Neil's usual soothing of the soul and flashes of insight as much as a migraine.

However there are many things I like. I love the fact that Neil can make an album so aggressive and so apparently emotional about nothing - songs about cars, surfers, rock and roll, even his lunch - making you feel as if you've been moved by something thanks to the sheer sound and playing if not the songs (despite being hurried and woefully repetitive this is nevertheless a remarkably well played album, with Neil's vocals often adding layers of depth that just aren't there). 'Shots', the song everyone rates highly, is a terrific song full of criss-crossing random violence that keeps interrupting Neil as he tries to warm us about the dangers he sees ahead, played with such cacophony Crazy Horse make the Sex Pistols seems like mere little boys. However there are other songs not as far behind as many would care to think: 'Southern Pacific' - rough but still likeable to become a minor hit single - is a moving song about a man who gave his all and got nothing in return, a backstabbing version of 'Casey Jones' where the villain isn't the driver doing drugs or the railway workers who didn't do their jobs properly but the nameless faceless company who took individuals like that away (the hidden agenda to the song seems to be - think how many people would have died the day of that nasty rail crash another anonymous employee in charge rather than the colourful Mr Jones?) 'Surfer Joe', though woefully undercooked, has a decent song at the heart of it before Neil decides he hasn't got time for all that high-falluting nonsense and turns it into a 'party' song, all about people everyone thinks of as losers and are slightly dodgy, yet nevertheless got to live out their dreams doing something they loved; in contrast who cares what their neighbours and family think - isn't selling a few knicks knacks by the beach in flip-flops less heartless than buying up a train company and kicking out the people who've helped run it for so many years - the people we're designed to applaud in a capitalist society? Even 'Rapid Transit' is kinda fun if you're in the right mood, although by rights it should have been no more than an inconsequential B-side. Best of all, though, is 'Opera Star', a hilarious taunting re-write of 'Roll Over Beethoven' with a deliberately daft Santa Claus chorus ('Ho ho ho ho ho ho!') that seems to both mock us for paying money for something so banal and celebrating the fact that rock can have the power to do oh so many things the more fuddy-duddy old styles can't. The fact that Neil spends the next decade exploring other styles (electronica, rockabilly, country, blues, whatever the hell 'Landing On The Water' is all about) despite promising here that he was 'born to rock' rather than do anything different, just makes his insistence all the funnier. Yes it's hard to listen to and I'm still not sure if the ear-ache I get after any length of time listening to this album is worth it for the few high-points, but there is definitely 'something' worth your while on this under-rated album. In the end, though, what we think about this album doesn't really matter - it helped Neil weather the storm he couldn't face up to in public and manages to be a pretty neat mixture of the two definitions of the album title: a structure in which nuclear fission can be stored where it 'cooks' (and before too long will blow up with a big bang!) and a person who re-acts favourably to a particular kind of drug - with rock and roll a welcome dose of medicine for Neil, even if it isn't always for 'us'.

'Opera Star' is a terrific start to any album - an angry driving honest to goodness rock and roll riff that's typical Crazy Horse catchy and loud. Neil's distracted, demented double-tracked vocal works better here than on the rest of the album - he should sound as if he's distracted, as if rock and roll is so integral to his life that he can't concentrate on anytuing else, including talking to us. Lyrically this song tells us little more than 'you were born to rock and we'll never been an opera star' - which is something we kind of guessed already, although what with all the Geffen experiments Neil's the kind of guy who would have written 'Crazy Horse: The Opera' just to get it out of his system. However like the forthcoming partner 'Prisoners Of Rock and Roll' this song works as more than just demented rocking. While the main song is bouncy enough in both verse and chorus (complete with 'ho hoed' chorus, which sounds like Crazy Horse telling us how many 'ho ho' levels Santa Claus got or perhaps what tools he uses in his garden; yes I did miss my calling in life writing Christmas cracker jokes, thankyou for asking!) there's a curious linking part between the two that slides in every now and again in the minor key: 'Some things never change' scowls Neil 'they stay the way they are'. Given the context, a song about how my my, rock and roll will never change and die, it's a real holt and a slap in the face: does this musician born to play the simple power chords of rock and roll long for something more? Is he fed up of the rock and roll lifesyle rather than the music itself? (There's an unusually graphic-for-1981 second verse about 'getting fucked up in that rock and roll bar, but you never get tired 'cause you're drugs are in little jars'). In context is this Neil, the newly made family man who must have longed for a dose of something and watching his son take an ocean of tablets that don't do anything questioning his earlier softer stance on drugs? Is this even a memory of Danny Whitten again and a repeat of 'The Needle and The Damage Done'? Or is this escapism - something that Neil used to do and longs to do now it's been taken away from him, a night on the town with the boys? (Is that why he's so fed up at his rigid way of life?!) A last verse tries to tie the strands together, Neil effectively being dumped for a cultured man who goes to the opera - but even here 'that's alright' because Neil's narrator can't compete at that level anyway; he was born to rock and no lover will ever change that. A clever dual song that somehow manages to scale the highs and lows of the rock and drug scene while both celebrating and dissing rock, this song is both commentary and celebration, tied together by a slightly dodgy and slow but still rather effective performance (Sampedro's synth chords are particularly good, aiming to give this narrator 'roots' and pulling upwards to the sky just he complains about how 'some things never change', giving us the feeling it's all taking place in his head). A cracking guitar is also nice to hear, proving once and for all that Neil was 'born to rock' as a guitarist, whatever else is happening in his life.

'Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze' is the album's song that got away. Had he written this song in any other era when he had more time Neil might well have turned this song about two people living the dream but seeming hopeless to their friends into a winner. Alas the writing kind of fades away after the opening couple of verses and the Crazy Horse performance truly is hopeless. What's more the band knew it was and begged Neil to re-cut, but without the time or the energy he simply got the band gathered round a microphone banging bits of metal, tambourines, cowbells and anything that came to hand to 'fill in' the holes and cover up the fact that the song slows down and speed up during the course of a tortured four minutes. Most people assume the song is as hopeless as the production, all fake screams and artificial emotion, but actually the song has promise. Neil's scuzz guitar sound, lifted straight out of 'Sedan Delivery' sounds really powerful on this album's slinky groove - by far the most complex on this album, moving this way and that in a world of its own while life (ie Crazy Horse) tries to throw all sorts of obstacles in its way. The lyrics are tight enough to make sense but ambiguous to be interesting - is Surfer Moe, who 'caught the big one but he let it go a 'winner' as he feels he is, a 'loser' as most people see him or something in between (or both?) Ditto 'Moe The Sleaze' who seems in two minds about whether that nickname suits him or not - is it really so bad that he sells bad souvenirs to patronising tourists wo he can live the life he wants on the beach? While people look down on him, who really is the loser in this situation - the tourist who have more money than sense or the hardworking people living lives they don't want to lead in the first place? Later verses have Neil desperately crying out 'he's somebody satisfied with winning..he's somebody, he's somebody!' as if the character is trying to prove to himself that his life is about more than mere existence and 'smoking garfong, watching him ride the big one' (as we've seen, an invention of a new word that took off although my spell-check still doesn't seem to recognise it!) There may be a little of Sampedro in this song - a party animal who lives on the beach - although goodness knows reports of Neil partying the night away are common too - is this Neil remembering how the band boozily bonded during the making of 'Zuma' - and how the circumstances are different this time? Neil, with his radar for 'fakeness' on high alert as ever, sounds on their side, but we never really get to find out because the song soon descends into a generic song about partying, women and booze - like the unwanted spirits of 'American Stars 'n' Bars' being revived. As a finished product this song and recording are awful, but both show shines of promise, with another excellent guitar solo from Neil, phased with so much studio trickery it seems to be cutting in from another dimension.

'T-Bone', however, really is hopeless - a nine minute jam session with the same tired notes and unfunny words ('Got mashed Potatoes! Ain't got no T-bone!') which Crazy Horse have since disowned and claimed to hate. Neil, being Neil, claims it's the only song on the record he actually liked. Most jams go on too long as it is - every band member unwilling to go out on a limb in case it upsets the apple cart and the whole song comes crashing down - but this one is less inventive than most. Sounding not unlike the riff for 'This Note's For You' to come (imagine the song going into 'it's the real thing, baby' after each line), this is the same flipping words heard over and over while Neil finds a new way of saying the lyrics with his guitar as Crazy Horse stuck rigidly to the same old notes. Now to be fair to this much maligned song, the riff is a good one. In many ways including this extended minimalist jam makes a lot more sense than the horrendously drawn out jams on the Horse's collaboration 'Broken Arrow' in 1997 that really didn't need to be tacked on the end - on this song the band sound wide awake and enjoying playing again, which is surely the whole point of the exercise. But you have to say, however many hours of the day Neil was working, he must surely be able to come up with anything on the spot better than what he hasn't had for lunch that day (it could work as some more profound statement about not having the bare essential of life - but we need more lines than just this to go on!) Neil's later comment, that 'I'm not really that much of an inventive guy' is utter nonsense: Neil is about the most inventive writer out there, writing four songs a week for most of his career, with a prolific catalogue full of twists and turns any other writer would love to have and so many unreleased songs his catalogue is perhaps twice the size that it appears on the shelves of HMV. He's a tremendously inventive guy usually - just not here, not on this session, not in this year when everything else is going wrong: if any song sums up just how hard the Youngs were working at looking after their son and how distracted he was then this is the one. You kind of sense too that this noisy mindless song was exactly what Neil needed to forget his troubles - but by the token, why do we still have to listen to it? Even on bootleg you'd feel a bit short changed by this song, which doesn't change beyond two chords once!

Not that the two-minute rockabilly ramble 'Get Back On It' is much better. While a 'proper' song, it's hokey chords and cliched chorus make it sound even less appetising than the average song on 'Everybody's Rockin', a while album of short songs like these. Bland and artificial as songs from the 1950s could be set against their more developed and more emotional counterparts from the 1960s, at least they tended to sound 'alive' . By contrast this song about the thrill of being alive couldn't sound more asleep: the song speeds up and slows again, Neil sounds like he's reading a shopping list on an answering machine rather than actually singing and even his overdubbed guitar sounds muted compared to normal. Lyrically this tale of 'getting back on the highway' harks back to previous songs about life's journey (see 'Human Highway' for one) but doesn't even share that misguided song's attempts at poetry: this song is more concerned with comparing life to a car, complete with tail-lights and pulling heavy loads. There's a truly bizarre third verse which has left many friends scratching their heads ('its too late for General Custer, too late for Robert E Lee, but I'll get back on the highway before it's too late for me!') that must be one of Neil's worst: we think he's saying 'at least I'm still alive', but if so why pick on those names? 'Lee' and 'me' is a shameful rhyme in any case (at least 'Hey Hey My My' used musicians for this sort of a metaphor, comparing the Sex Pistols of 1977 with Elvis of twenty years earlier; this one just namechecks two American Civil War veterans because they're dead: yeah like Neil won't be when he's 150-something as well! Actually scrap that - if anyone's going to live forever then surely it's Young!)

The clanking bell of 'Southern Pacific' ushers in a marginally better second side. A catchy train song with a frenetic train whistle beldning in nicely to the scattershot guitar rioff, Crazy Horse really nail this simple song - Billy's bass runs and Ralph's constant beat make for the best AAA like-a-train recording since The Who's '5:15' (beaten only by Crazy Horse's later 'Trans Am' from 'Sleeps With Angels'). Lyrically too this at least gives us something to focus on: poor Casey Jones, train driver extraordinaire, pensioned off before his time because the faceless train company doesn't need him on the books anymore. Yes financially they compensate with a pension, but that's hardly emotional compensation for losing your livelihood, the thing that makes you you (Neil might well be writing about his frustration at having to give up or at least delay his musical plans here). There are as many different tellings of the 'Casey Jones' story as there are recordings of it, though all refer to the train wreck of 1900 when Casey died trying to avert disaster when his engine lost control in Mississippi - fellow AAA band The Grateful Dead famously had Casey causing his own accident by ';riding that train. high on cocaine!' Casey seems to have survived the wreck in Neil's version which is set soon after when despite being a national hero the engine company still let him go, wondering whether surviving the crash was worth it (a neat personal version of the 'is it better to burn out than to fade away?' mantra from 'Rust Never Sleeps'). However there's another way of looking at this song: 'When I turned 65 I couldn't see right!' cries Casey, with sight clearly fairly important in the career of someone in charge of a motor vehicle. Is this instead an early indication of a now-36-year-old Neil starting to wage against the dying of the light (has Ben's illness made him more aware of how cruel life and illness can be?) Casey's beef then might lie not with the company with his maker, for making him - a hero and national treasure - grow old and feeble and changing his intended 'track' of life (see that theme coming into play again) with 'silver rails' that lead nowhere? Neil's anger heard across this album has a good home here, with the guitarist adding some nice swashes of smoke-fuelled bitterness and his best vocal on the album, full of agony as he shouts 'Mr Jones we're gonna let you go' and laments about a 'long decline'. Of course compared to the best of 'Rust Never Sleeps' even this song is woefully one-dimensional and repetitive, but 'Southern Pacific' does at least sound like it deserves to be a 'song' and is arguably played better here than anything else on the album. despite still being a little too rough for most musical tastes, this song still made it all the way to #70 in the US singles charts - believe it or not Neil's best showing since 'Four Strong Winds' in 1978 - so somebody must have liked it (either that or a lot of retired engine drivers went into the record shops that day!) An even better, slower version of the song can be heard on the 1986 live recording 'A Treasure'.  

My least favourite song on the album is 'Motor City'. This song's smirking riff is irritatingly smug and it's curious waddle is very ungainly so musically this would be something of a misfire anyway. But what are those lyrics? Clearly not learning from the pro-Reagan twaddle on 'Hawks and Doves' which cost him so much of his fanbase ('Neil Young killed my father!' read one sensationalist music newspaper headline, after Young agreed with the president's decision to cut welfare) this is a song about the fact that American should be making better cars rather than out-sourcing to Japanese companies because, well, they're better (and 'there's too many Datsuns in this town' - which is surely a car metaphor too far, bordering on UKIP casual racism). Neil gets on his more unlikeable high horse here, basically telling American workers to get their fingers out and work harder because it's shameful to be beaten by another capitalist society - seemingly oblivious to the fact that this scrawny, badly thought out and horrendously played mess needs a whole lot of work itself (I'd love to have heard an American car planet manufacturer clubbing together to record a 'proper' protest song on the theme, perhaps with the chorus 'whose singing our songs now?' in retaliation). The second verse is better, Neil 'bugged' by an advert that adds to his woes - although to be honest if moaning about an advert is the better section of a song then you're clearly in artistic freefall - but what would have made for a more interesting song is if Neil had followed his one-line chorus: 'Whose driving my car now?' (and would it mean as much to them as it did to him?) The song is livened up by a rather good solo too, but poor Crazy Horse get a really bum deal in the arrangement, set to play the same comedy wobble throughout. Oh dear: 'Motor City' is a heap of junk not even the best second-hand car salesman would be able to sell and features Neil suffering from a large dose of that 'rust' he was telling us to avoid in 1979, as hackneyed and misguided as his writing ever got in the 1980s.

'Rapid Transit' has no right being a song - it's more a long list of eccentric mouth noises - but at least it's fun. Neil isn't trying to tell anybody anything here, he's just having fun with another Chuck Berry-style riff and a daft lyric that calls for him to roll his Rs, stutter his Ps and get extra sibilant on the Ssss. The result is not unlike something that would have appeared on 'Sesame Street' and gives Neil's vocal chords a real workout, with the hint of something faintly subversive in a 'Louie Louie' kind of a way ('I'm standing in my line!' runs the chorus, although it's not clearly whether this non-rebellion is sarcastic or whether Neil is imagining himself in a mechanised motorcar factory again). Notably most of the phrases he chooses to make fun of are all Government phrases: 'Rrrrrrrapid Transit' (effectively a subway), 'Containment' (radioactive waste), 'SSSSSSSSSSSSSSecret SSSServive' (the FBI) and 'PPPPPPPublic Enemy' (not yet a rap star, but Government-speak for someone who dares to disagree with their established way of life). Interestingly too the cod-surfing middle eight (Neil really wants to be back on Zuma beach doesn't he?!) of 'hang ten pipeline, let's go trippin' that sounds like a robotised Dick Dale ends with the line 'no wave rockers - every wave is new until it breaks!' This twists the whole song round as if Neil's no longer being silly but trying to 'invent' the next big thing: repetitive mechanised silliness. He knows that the current vogue for new wave will change that people will get bored and go full circle to empty rockers so here he's trying to speed up the change. Could it be, too, that Neil's stuttering is meant to recall The Who's famous statement 'My G-G-G-Generation' in which an in-articulate youth made some vague threats of solidarity and longed never to get old? Is this Neil now 'playing' at being old (some of these lines make him sound he's wearing false teeth!) and provoking the new wave by wishing they too would f-f-f-fade away? Or is a tired Neil just having fun making music again, with a track that means nothing? Yeah, probably that last one now I think about it.

The finale 'Shots' is finally both well played (though still not quite up to 'Sleep' levels of intensity) and has a meaningful message to point out. Nearly eight minutes of aggression, with machine-gun fire chasing us at every turn, Neil's happiness keeps being exploded by metaphorical shots everywhere he turns. Everyone around this narrator 'strikes out' about something - things which now seem wholly minor to a recently tragedy-struck Young, who may well have been reminded now about this earlier song through his line about 'children lost in the sand, building roads with little hands, trying to join their father's castles' which must have been powerfully poignant given the circumstances and Ben's attempts to join in with all the father-son things Neil had planned and please his parents with his progress. The lyrics are full of aggressive imagery: 'like a venom in the sky' and 'machines...looking strong, building roads' which like many a road built by machines in Neil Young songs turns out to be the wrong road for mankind to travel down (I like to think this road is the same one seen on the cover of 'Trans', with a robot hitch-hiking getting a lift). A later verse turns to 'lust, creeping through the night to feed on the heart of suburban wives' as if these 'shots' are made up of lustful thoughts as well as aggression and disaffection. Similar lyrically in many ways to the future 'Driveby' from 'Sleeps With Angels' (musically these two songs couldn't be less similar) this song describes outrageous violence and painfully asks 'why?' without expecting an answer. Mankind doesn't know why it does these nasty things either, but people are driven to it by a life that's so hard. No wonder then that Neil's life is disturbed by wondering what sniper's going to get him next, with the last 90 seconds or so of the song having Neil still trying to tell us something important, but drowned out by machine gun rattle that finally 'gets' him. Till now Neil's been speeding away with Crazy Horse doing a nice galloping pony impression and a slight cowboy 'yee-hah to the song - but this ending is incredibly powerful, Neil who so far has been fairly immune (punk bands even liked him for goodness sake!) falling off his 'Crazy Horse' steed in a hail of bullets. The gory death that Casey Jones saved himself from earlier, is it really better to burn out here than it is to rust? The end certainly sounds messy, full of chaos and sorrow, but is the intention of this song to be that it's better to go out in a haze of glory than hang around waiting to be pensioned off?  Whatever the cause, their ferocious arrangement is oh so different to the one that fans were expecting to hear on record circa 1978 - a sweet ballad performed on the 'Comes A Time' tour that sounds like a subdued lament to those who never got the chance to do what their hearts desired. This version, though usually compared unfavourably, is actually much better to my ears - a scary, aggressive, frightening world where everyone is doomed to fall off their own metaphorical 'horse' and suffer a hideous death. Thanks for that Neil.


Overall, then, 'RelactlTor' is an odd little album. Many of the mistakes can be excused away - the lack of time, the distractions on Neil's life, the fact that Crazy Horse are here simply to be used as noise rather than given any directions on what to play. Throughout the band are 'attacked' by the sounds of a Synclavier, a sort of digital synth played by Neil. The guitarist later recalled that by cutting himself off through his emotions and concentrating on 'surviving' he cut himself off from his music - but that isn't totally true. Bits of the 'real Neil' keep peeking through and it's those songs that work best, Neil identifying with the fading hero of Casey Jones, the surfer and sleazy seller who live life on their own terms, the rock star who doesn't know how to do anything else and the chaos of life that is 'Shots'. It's just a shame that Neil didn't have that tiny bit longer and that extra 5% of his brain allowed to work on these songs to make them really good and up to his usual standard, although that said this album doesn't fall to the low standards everyone assumes. The worst mistake, 'Motor City', you sense is one that would have been passed through anyway whatever album Neil was working on and whole Crazy Horse are far from inspired they do in fact do so much more here than just create noise. Yes the band sound distracted. Yes this is a poor album by their standards. No you probably wouldn't want to hear another album made on similar lines (sadly there is a sequel of sorts - 'Landing On Water' in 1986 - and it's not a pretty sight). But Neil is re-acting to events beyond his control, unable to quite deal with them head-on yet never mind tell us about them, and while this album is many ways merely a postcard compared to the novels of Neil's best albums, it's still a highly revealing and entertaining postcard, full of flawed but still likeable moments if not many fully brilliant songs. However compared to the chaos of the Geffen years, at least this is Neil on auto-pilot doing what he does best, rather than being on auto-pilot on someone else's territory. In many ways it's a palette-changing album that allowed Neil to keep in touch with his muse just long enough to consider his next idea - and given that this next album is the remarkable, highly creative and personal favourite album 'Trans' (which continues the story of Ben's progress and the frustration of having a body that doesn't do what your mind wants it too) I'll forgive this album anything, even 'Motor City'. 


Other Neil Young and Crazy Horse articles from this site you might be interested in reading:

'Neil Young' (1968) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/neil-young-1968-album-review.html

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-everybody.html

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/neil-young-after-goldrush-1970.html?utm_source=BP_recent



'Fork In The Road' (2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/neil-young-fork-in-road-2009.html

'Le Noise' (2011) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/news-views-and-music-issue-94-neil.html

'A Treasure' (1986/2012) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/news-views-and-music-issue-147-neil.html


'Storytone' (2014) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/neil-young-storytone-2014.html

The Best Unreleased Neil Young recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/neil-young-best-unreleased-recordings.html

Crosby Stills Nash and (sometimes) Young: Non-Album Recordings 1962-2009



Also available to buy in ebook format 'Change Partners - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of 







Non-Album Recordings #1a: 1962
The earliest surviving CSN recording - beating first Hollies single 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' by a year - is that of a just-turned-20-year-old Stills taking time from his studies at Louisiana State University (where he was taking English) to record a song for nationwide public broadcaster service 'Voice Of America' when they came to his campus looking for singers. Stills is already confident enough to record one of his own songs, [1a] 'Travelin', a track which sounds like a traditional folk tune and starts Stills' career obsession with having his characters lots down dusty roads and looking for directions. For now he sounds just like every other earnest folkie, singing in a higher and rather stylized voice that will suit him well during his days in folk troupe 'The Au Go Go Singers' (and not a million miles away from Crosby's earliest days as a folk singer covering 'Willie Jean' and recording his early song 'Everybody Has Been Burned' in 1963 under the watchful eye of manager Jim Dickson a year before forming The Jet Set, soon to morph into The Byrds; we've elected to cover those songs in our 'Byrds' book given that to date their only official release has been as part of the group archival recordings set 'The Preflyte Session's, 2001). Stills copes well for what must have been a nerve-wracking experience and while this song isn't a lost masterpiece it does show that the talent was already burning bright a full four years before his first recordings with The Springfield. How no one snapped this boy up back then I'll never know. Find it on: the Stills set 'Carry On' (2013)
Non-Album Recordings #1 1968
A) David Crosby recorded his gorgeous demo of his gorgeous [13a] 'Guinevere' during his 'missing months' of early 1968 in between getting fired from The Byrds and partnering up properly with Stephen Stills. His one long song from this period (compare to the more prolific Stills' whole tape of unheard songs - the 'Just Roll Tape') makes up in quality what he lacked in quantity. While the song is obviously missing those gorgeous full CSN harmonies, many multiple Crosbys sound every bit as sumptuous and enticing and add a lovely sleepy feel to this usually more dramatic song. This version benefits to from a marvellous fat line from the Jefferson Airplane's Jack Casady that adds a real bite and even more of a jazz kick to proceedings than usual. Like many of these early CSN demos, I'd never claim it was up to the finished product but it's fascinating in hindsight to see how much of the 'magic' is there on tape even before CSN have started working together properly. Find two so-similar-they're-twins mixes on  the 'CSN' box set (1991)  and Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006)
B) Stretched out to a mesmeric five-and-a-half minutes, the original Crosby demo for [14a] 'Triad' is quite, quite different to the poppier three-minute version The Byrds got and much more like Crosby's solo spot on 'Four Way Street' will be. This version is just as slow but rather more together, Crosby drifting his way through the song and punctuating all of his partner's sudden 'should we be doing this?' looks with a ringing guitar sound that stops the song mid-track. Crosby's mischievous aren't about a threesome as many fans assume but about a love triangle that Crosby doesn't want to break: why should he restrict himself to just one lover when he genuinely loves two women and neither of them mind it? A typical piece of Crosby society-bashing, then, but this song is smarter and more poetic than many others, Crosby imagining the 'ghost' of his mother symbolising the parental generation tut-tutting at his shoulder ('her face like ice, a little bit colder') and yet so sensible are Crosby's points here that you end up agreeing with him by the end (Crosby did indeed have several girls on the go at the time, although noticeably he drops this popular song from his setlist once Christine Hinton dies in 1970 and he effectively realises in retrospect that she was 'the one'). One of Crosby's better demos. Find it on: the Crosby 2006 box set 'Voyage'
C) Stills' demo for [15a] 'You Don't Have To Cry' is fragmentary, suggesting it's one of the earliest CSN demos we have (however it's also conspicuous by its absence from his 'Just Roll Tape' set recorded earlier in the year, suggesting it was a brand new song when Crosby and Stills met Nash at that party - wherever it was). Folkier and closer in style to his fingerpicking 'Know You Got To Run'  than the finished poppier version, it already sounds like a great song, turning from a reluctant, groping verse into the full bloom of the triumphant chorus. Stills sounds great on this version too even if you miss the CSN harmonies, making it one of the better finds on the 'CSN 'Demos' set. Find it on: 'CSN 'Demos' (2009).
D) 'Another man took your hand...and said let's go!' One of the most surprising finds on the Stills box set 'Carry On' was an even earlier demo of [16a] '49 Reasons' (missing the 'Bye Bye Baby' ending which turned it into '49 Bye Byes') than the celebrated bootleg one featuring Crosby throughout (although that still sounds like him to me at times whatever the credits say). On this version, taped the same month as the final Buffalo Springfield concert in July 1968, Stills plays everything: most strikingly lashings of backwards wah-wah guitar (an effect only minimally on the final product) as well as piano, bass, organ and drums (Stills hasn't met Dallas Taylor just yet). The song sounds a little unsteady on it's feet but is taking shape nicely, with only subtle variations from the finished product (well, apart from the whole missing second, obviously). There are bits and pieces that sound as if they date from another era, though, such as the 'let's go' remark above which suggest that Stephen was still writing with his poppier Springfield mindset here. The result is an exciting find, proof both of how talented Stills was even without anyone else in the room and how gloriously Crosby, Nash and Dallas Taylor between them developed the song before final release. Find it on: Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)
E) Meanwhile, Nash is in the final days of The Hollies, demo-ing songs that he knows the band will never accept. CSN didn't accept his folky [17a] 'Right Between The Eyes' either, bumping it from the album in favour of last minute Nash compositions 'Lady Of The Islands' and 'Pre-Road Downs', but the song remained a concert favourite for many years, most notably being heard as part of 'Four Way Street', the CSNY live set of 1971. Funnily enough, though, I've always thought of this song as more of a 'Hollie' song - it's at one with tunes like 'Clown' ('For Certain Because' 1966) and 'Stop Right There' ('Evolution' 1967) that were very much about Nash breaking up with first wife Rose and hating the suffocation of being in a 'pop' group, Nash perhaps urging himself to dig behind his 'mask' and meet his inner feelings head on ('A man's a man who looks a man right between the eyes'). Nash won't need such hard-talk once he joins CSN, a group who thrive on telling each other the truth - sometimes more often than they should and this song, though a nice bonus as an unreleased track, always seemed a little like an anachronistic relic. It's a nice lost anachronistic relic, though, with an 'upright' tune and an unusually serious set of lyrics. The demo version from Nash's 'Reflections' box set isn't far removed from the more famous 'Four Way Street' version actually, lacking just Crosby's velvety harmony and 'accidental' interruption over the intro! Find it on: 'Reflectiuons' (Nash box set, 2009)
F) [18a] 'Marrakesh Express' was first intended for The Hollies and was probably first demoed by Nash solo, but the version on 'CSN' demos features Crosby's harmony vocal prominently, suggesting this was a second version from a fair bit later. The pair certainly seem to know the song well, Crosby delighting in doing his bit as a platform announcer ('All aboard the train!) and bouncing off each other well (this version is very similar to how the pair played it in concert as opposed to the version on the first album - is this perhaps a bit of a 'cheat' and taken from rehearsals from that tour? Compare to the pair's first joint performance of it during the BBC's 1970 'In Concert' show where it's virtually identical). What comes over most is how jolly this song is: the finished record is an exuberant song by anyone's standards but here particularly Crosby and Nash sound as if they're having a ball together. Joyous. Find it on: CSN's 'Demos 1968-72' (2009)
G) No demo shows just how much CSN brought out of each other than the long-rumoured demo for Crosby's classic [19a] 'Long Time Gone', one of the first things taped in 1968. As written and planned by Crosby it's a turbulent angular blues song, similar in feel to his 'angrier' Byrds songs like 'Psychodrama City' ('Never Before' 1987) and the cover of 'Hey Joe' ('Fifth Dimension' 1966). Crosby doesn't so much sing as sneer, while sticking rigidly to the same churning riff that never has the space to fly. In short, it sounds not unlike the dreaded Tom Jones recording of the song (as seen on his show and backed by an increasingly hysterical CSNY), done for cleverness and point-scoring not heart. What Stills did was to take the song, with Crosby's blessing, and 'fiddle' around with it, coming up with the pulsating organ part and the way the guitars growl a warning rather than point an accusatory finger as here (an effect that soon gets wearing), freeing Crosby's vocal part up with the space for David to pour his heart out. To be totally honest this 1968 recording, made before Nash even joined the band (though you wouldn't know it - even Stills only sings one brief harmony vocal on this version, suggesting the pair were still toying with two solo albums-with-help rather than a full-on collaboration here) is awful, lacking the distinctive harmonies, tension and power of CSN even at their worst and perhaps the most miserable excuse for a recording in this whole book. But fans have to hear it, just to see how a second pair of eyes saw something in this song that Crosby himself couldn't see and how adaptable and fresh to ideas the whole trio were back in 1969. Somewhere along the line a terrible ghastly song gets turned into the work of genius - and there can be no more thrilling change between an outtake and a finished product than that. Find it on: the Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006)Non-Album Recordings #2 1969
A) The first ever 'proper' recording to feature Crosby Stills and Nash together was - rather aptly - the first song they ever sang together, [15c] 'You Don't Have To Cry' . Recalling the event years later Nash recorded it as 'beautiful - if a little fast', claiming that they were both nervous and pumped full of adrenalin. He's right: compared to the album versions' beautiful tortoise, this is a hare rushing headlong into goodness knows what and leaving the band rather breathless, although conversely that rather suits this song about trying to break away from a clock-watching city way of living ('You can argue right or wrong but I have time to cry my baby!') What doesn't work quite as well is the very different guitar ideas Stills has for the song. He sounds afraid to leave the song as a bare and basic acoustic track so he adds everything he can find, including some very Springfield-style echoed guitar that bounced from the left to the right channels apace, alongside some lightly rattled Dallas Taylor drums. The magic is already in the room - CSN might not be quite as tight on this version but still have an almost supernatural blend already - but not quite down on tape. Still, a fascinating moment of musical history and what box sets like the superlative CSN one were made for. Find it on: the CSN box set (1991) and compilation 'Carry On' (1991)
B) Only CSN could kick-start a four disc box set with an unreleased alternate version - and for that alternate version to sound fabulous. [10c] 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' is staggering in any version but particularly this one, which is both better recorded and slightly tighter than the finished version. In truth the arrangement isn't all that different (there's just a few subtle differences like less sound of Stills whacking his guitar during the middle, slightly heavier drumming from Dallas Taylor, a slightly new vocal line on Stills' 'Tear in yourself' section and a few slight alterations using echo on the voices, which is less psychedelic on this version). While not actually faster when played side by side (ah the things I do for Alan's Album Archives!), this alternate version sounds as if it is, thanks to the extra emphasis on rhythm and a bit of extra guitar-work from Stills on electric, dubbed discreetly in the bottom of the mix. The harmonies are exceptional, CSN navigating Stills' tricky song with aplomb (Nash, awed by what they've just done, adds an involuntary 'beautiful!' after the 'ruby throated sparrow' section and I can't say I blame him; even compared to the finished version this is sublime!) So good is this version you wonder why the trio went to so much trouble re-recording it (especially as it 'sounds' so much better - admittedly it's a 1990 mix using better technology but even in the 21st century no one seems to be able to re-mix the first album as well as this), but then CSN in 1969 had energy and enthusiasm to spare. Find it on: 'CSN' (box set 1991) and 'Carry On' (two-disc reduction of the box set, also 1991)
C) I can't wait for CSN to release an entire album of Crosby demos. Reduced to their basics, the released demos of songs like 'Guinevere' and 'Deja Vu' sound even more mesmerising than the finished products, stranger and more other-worldly before everybody else's contributions were added on top. [22a] 'Games' is perhaps the 'one that got away' the most from the demo, recorded here astonishingly early (three years before the finished version on 'Graham Nash, David Crosby') and probably written even earlier (the copyright date is 1968, dating this to the post-Byrds pre-CSN period alongside 'Guinevere'). The finished version is similarly acoustic but builds to the point where it's positively operatic by the end, more than nice enough in its own way but this delightful demo passes on all the possible distractions and simply delights in the space of one of Crosby's prettier melodies and more poetic lyrics. David's voice doesn't sing, it purrs and his acoustic guitar playing is pretty spectacular too. One of the highlights of the 'buried treasure' disc from... Find it on: David Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006)
D) Crosby's demo for the future title track of [23a] 'Deja Vu' is already 90% of the way to glory, Crosby and Nash navigating his unusual and groundbreaking chord structure with, if anything even more aplomb than the finished version. The only thing lacking is the odd group harmony, John Sebastian's harmonica and the slightly rockier section where the electric guitars finally kick in. The piece's mood of spooky ambiguity is already here, though, with Crosby and Nash clearly revelling in each other's company. This version does sound as if we know it all before, but the impressive thing is just how much like this song's future incarnation it really is. Find it on the Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006) and CSN set 'Demos' (2009)
E) Back in the early days of recording the CSN album they'd had half a mind of getting it released on the Beatles' label Apple, going so far as to set up a meet8ing with George Harrison that came to nothing. The cover of [24] 'Blackbird' - taped during the first album sessions and a live regular, though not heard on record until the box set in 1991 - sounds like CSN casting around for a CSN-ish Beatles song they might impress their new bosses with. 'Blackbird' as it turns out is a better fit than they could ever have expected: it wasn't until the 1990s that Paul McCartney finally revealed that he'd written it, not about a blackbird, but about a civil rights protestor 'taking broken wings' and 'learning to fly'. That instantly makes it the sort of thing CSN would do, although performance here is unusually wooden and 'proper'  (Stills' militaristic discipline coming through on the speech at the start: 'we'll do it once more and we'll go all the through and get it all right. Right?...') It's also rather slow, with McCartney's wonderfully pinging guitar work strangely passed over by Stills (who was pretty good at this sort of thing, as 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' attests). Later live versions by CSN  are much more fun, with a spark and wit this early version really doesn't have. You can almost hear George listening to this song (and most likely already cross the trio haven't bothered learning one of his songs: CSN would have done a fabulous 'Here Comes The Sun' or 'Long Long Long'!) getting bored and glancing at his watch. One other thing to note: whose the mysterious 'Arnie!' who crashes through the studio door after the trio have finished singing and greeted by Nash like a long lost friend? None of my sources (well, the internet: that's a source) seem to have anyone named Arnold connected to CSN at this time.  Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991).
F) [25] 'Who Ran Away?' is an unusually poppy 'Deja Vu' era outtake that turned up without comment or backstory on Stills' box set 'Carry On'. The song must surely be another tale of Stills' on-off affair with Judy Collins, dealing with a character who blows hot and cold. However this song is a tad ordinary by Stills' standards, sounding a little anonymous compared to 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' and other songs about Collins. The backing track is a final return to the poppier Latin style used with the Buffalo Springfield and sounds not unlike 'Uno Mundo'. Modern ears would probably be able to hear Ricky Martin doing this song while dancing the vida loca - which sadly shows how ordinary the song is by Stills' standards! Find it on: Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
G) The CSN Atlantic CD re-issue series of 2006 sadly only lasted two albums, the debut album (on something like it's seventh re-release in 20 years) and the more obscure 'Daylight Again'. The goodies on 'Crosby, Stills and Nash' this time around included some lovely demos taped shortly after the album was made, back before Neil Young joined the band and the trio were still speaking to each other. The best of these is surely Stills' delightfully folky [26a] 'Do For The Others', which sounds all the better for some golden Crosby/Nash harmonies on a song that must have been uncomfortable for them to sing (not to spoil the party for when you get to the review of the finished version on 'Stephen Stills' but it was written about Crosby as a song of support after the death of his girlfriend Christine). This version is even closer to folk than the Stills solo track, taken at a faster lick and with only Stills' acoustic guitar for comfort. It's a fascinating glimpse into what that second record might have sounded like without the need to have electric songs for a touring band to play, darker and sadder than the first record, like the resulting 'Deja Vu' album, but maintaining the beauty of the first LP. Presumably this song was still in the running for 'Deja Vu' until the others heard and fell in love with Stills' similar sounding '4+20' from slightly later in the year. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Crosby, Stills and Nash' (2006)
H) One of Nash's better loved songs, the Crosby-Nash acoustic demo of [27a] 'Teach Your Children' sounds charming but somehow less substantial without Stills' country-tinged re-arrangement added at a later date. This version is folkier, more like the future live versions of the song will be, with an extended ending with Nash shrieking 'and know they love you!' like a gospel singer. The song is clearly still fresh, with Nash asking Crosby at the start if he can 'remember the words' - Crosby is his typical word-perfect self as it happens. The joy isn't with this as a performance so much (the chords are basic, the tempo sluggish, the performance tentative) but the joy of hearing a song Crosby and Nash will perform together more than perhaps any other for the very first time. 'It sounded ok' Nash quips. True - but it will sound glorious pretty soon. Find it on: bizarrely, the CD re-issue of 'Crosby, Stills and Nash' (not 'Deja Vu'!)
I) One of Stills' all-time favourite songs was Freddy Neil's witty [28a] 'Everybody's Talkin' aka 'Everybody's Talkin' At Me', a song that suits both his deep growl and intensity and his all-or-nothing personality ('I can't hear a word they say!' is the next line). He re-recorded it several times, including here in demo form in 1969 shortly after the first album sessions where Nash invites him to sing it (so he's clearly been doing it for a while) and both he and Crosby add some lovely harmonies to the second and third verses. While this version didn't come out till as late as 2008, Stills often revived it for his concert shows, including a bare-bones version for 'Stephen Stills Live' in 1975 and a similar studio re-recording for all-acoustic album 'Stills Alone' in 1991. This version is clearly the 'one', however, thanks to some natty guitar picking and Crosby-Nash's contribution. Find it on: the 2006 CD re-issue of  first album 'Crosby, Stills and Nash'
J) Crosby's solo demo for one of his better known songs [29a] 'Almost Cut My Hair' couldn't be more different to the fiery angry rant of the 'Déjà Vu' version. This one is a slow moody acoustic song with distinct blues overtones, with Crosby already turning in a powerful vocal performance. Less direct than the finished product and with a rather rambling instrumental section in the middle, this song is going for smoky contained power rather than all-out rant. Find it on: David Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006)Non-Album Recordings #3 1970
A) [46]  'Ohio' is the song I always used to play people whenever they asked why CSNY were such an obsession of mine. It demonstrates everything that made the band great: entranching melodies, enriching harmonies, superb musicianship - and the guts to speak their mind during a time when speaking your mind could get you killed. Written by Neil the day after Richard Nixon ordered the first shootings of civilian protestors on American soil since the American Revolution (theirs was a peaceful demonstration against the Vietnam War held at a university, so were only really preaching to like-minded souls anyway), it was recorded the next day (a scattered CSNY all dropping what they were doing to meet up and record it) and out in the shops within the week - quicker than some magazines. The best example of Neil's 'first thought, best thought' motto held throughout most of his working life, you can still feel the rage and anger dripping through the song. Even at their most political there's usually something 'fun' about CSNY (even 'Long Time Gone' has a hopeful middle eight and a twinkling organ part) but not 'Ohio': it's the most deadly serious song in their canon. You can tell the band are moved to tears and Crosby has something of a nervous breakdown over the fade-out, howling 'Four?...How?...Why?...How many more?!' that shows just how affected the quartet were over the shooting of 'their own'. I've always been amazed that more wasn't made about this event (by anyone other than CSNY) because it really drew a line in the sand from Nixon being a bit old school and un-hip and being intrinsically evil (or at least paranoid to shoot anyone who disgreed with 'his' idea of democracy). While everyone else ummed and ahhed and made excuses (not till 'Watergate' was dissing the president something Americans did as a matter of course), CSNY absolutely drew the line, naming names and shaming shames: 'Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, we're finally on our own...' Neil's vocal is one of his best, so cross he sounds as if he's about to punch someone; CSN are the perfect backing band, as ragged as they'd ever been u[p to that point while the backing is superb: the way the whole record lifts during Neil's passionate solo to the point where it feels as if it's flying, only to thud back to earth with a crash, would be tremendously affecting on its own even without the words. It's the opening rush that still hits me every time though, especially when this song comes on after something else: Neil plays his sad head-hanging riff before the band join in  by one, like a bank of protestors piling in behind the head marcher, with Stills upping the tension and accelerating off to goodness knows where, hinting at all the sadness and anger only just concealed behind Neil's gentlemanly vocal and guitar part. You can tell that all the band pull together on this one like never before, forgetting their differences in their desperation to tell the story (Nash even ordered Atlantic to pull 'Teach Your Children' - inevitably heading into the top three that week - so that fans wouldn't get confused and would only have the one single to buy), despite the fact that the writer is Canadian and one of the four an Englishman. That makes no difference though: this is CSNY at their absolute best, giving a voice to those who don't have one and standing up, articulately, for a whole generation of peaceful protestors outraged at the actions of their elders who seemed convinced that violence was the only answer. While only barely containing it's own violence, 'Ohio' is a special song, one that made people feel that at least somebody out there noticed and was speaking up for  'the truth' (most of the papers of the times stuck up for Nixon and claimed the un-armed teenagers were a 'threat' to America' stability- yeah and the guy who orders soldiers to shoot on sight isn't?!) What a shame, then, that this is CSNY's last great moment as a four-piece before the split, with just one posthumous live record and two patchy reunion albums to come. CSNY were never braver, stronger, more powerful or more important than they were here. Find it on: all good CS compilations including 'So Far' (1974), 'Greatest Hits**' (2006), 'CSN' (box set, 1991) and Neil's solo compilation 'Decade' (1977).
B) Needing a B-side in a hurry, Stills offered his song [47a] 'Find The Cost Of Freedom' which had been doing the rounds for a couple of years. An unfinished track submitted to the 'Easy Rider' film, it would have been the perfect accompaniment to the end scene where the hippies are shot off their motorbikes. The 'finished' version (improvised at a Manassas concert in 19723 - which unbelievably exists and should get a release right away - before being pared back to become the equally superb title track of CSN's 1982 LP 'Daylight Again') is more about the American Revolution: of brother fighting brother 'with muskets and claws'. However Stills is too clever a writer to tie his statement of the inevitability of death to one event and the one stark verse that exists here is a neat coda to 'Ohio', dealing not with finger-pointing and flag waving but the sad death of those who went too young. Re-writing the biblical tale of 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' a full decade before David Bowie mangled the sentiment, the one verse is powerful even by Stills standards, with a directness mingled with philsophy that's among his better lines and powerful stuff when first spoken in a whisper and then yelled with a scream. CSNY's voices are spookily together, almost joined, horror and grief uniting them as never before (the full lines on this version: 'Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground, Mother Earth will swallow you - lay your burden down'). The opening is quite magical too, with Young playing the main tune frill-less on the right channel while Stills rises from the ashes like a phoenix on the right, worrying his way all over his partner's phrases as if searching for answers he can never find. The end result is one of CSNY's most bare-bones recordings but all the more powerful for it and the ultimate accompaniment to Ohio's specifically time-centred moment, suggesting that 'we have all been here before' and have to stop, now, in the name of humanity and peace. Find it on: 'So Far' (1974), 'CSN' (box set, 1991) and the full version on 'Daylight Again' (1982).
C) The full unedited nine minute take of [29c] 'Almost Cut My Hair' is more of CSNY at their best. Opening with a false start that's a tad too slow and features first Stills, then Crosby, then Young grinding to a halt, Crosby re-counts them in for the take that ended up on the 'Deja Vu' album that explodes out of nowhere. The 'new' part of the song starts at around the 5:30 mark (the original simply fades at this point) and continues the excellent jamming session going on between the three guitarists, all chomping at the bit to have their say (if you're wondering where Nash is, he's holding the track together on organ). Neil starts up with a typically turbulent solo, before the quartet all mutually slow things down and Stills starts up one of his typically bluesy low runs to fill up the space. This then inspires Neil to join in and the rest of the band to swell up to absolute mayhem. The result is one of the mothers of all jam sessions by anyone anywhere, a world away from the Springfield's last attempt (on Stills' original seven minute version of 'Bluebird', something that only came out by accident on a compilation LP in 1973) and better even than CSNY's in-concert jams (as heard on 'Four Way Street'). While using this full recording would have unbalanced 'Deja Vu' terribly, it's a great shame this full length- version couldn't be used: the tension and drama doesn't lessen for a single second and even after the song has collapsed nobody wants to go home, with Dallas Taylor still keen to re-kick the song back in with a roll around his drum-kit. Do track it down and listen to it if you can and are already in love with the original. I feel as if we owe it to someone! Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991)
D) Still worried about what they might sound like with Neil added to their established sound, CSN took things gently during the second half of 1969. The first song recorded by the full CSNY quartet wasn't a classic rock song, an elaborate prog rocker or even a simple acoustic but a re-make of a song already out on the first album.  [11c] 'Helplessly Hoping' is re-cut with oodles of lovely guitarwork and a 'live' feel quite at odds with the polished precision of the original. It's nice, though, Neil keen to add his signature sound without getting in the way and Dallas Taylor adding a nice ba-boom-chick drum part that keeps the song rattling onward. You can understand why CSNY never released this version of the song at the time - the original is far superior and this was solely an experiment they probably never played back more than once - but what's odd is that CSN/Y never returned to this arrangement in live concert as with a bit of work 'Hoping' could have sounded every bit as good done like this. The love in this song isn't lying, it's in every loose guitar lick that lingers. Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991)
E) [48] 'Horses Through A Rainstorm' (Man With No Expressions)' was a 1968 vintage Graham Nash song first submitted to The Hollies when they asked for something a bit 'poppier' then the psychedelic gems Nash had been creating throughout 1967. Still eager to please, Nash even brought in a new collaborator to keep on the straight and narrow: his new protégé Terry Reid (whose first album he produced in 1968 - he wasn't yet the writer of the elongated murky swampy blues he's best known for; much of his first self-titled album sounds like this** seed full of memory nash produced?) The Hollies had a go at it during one of Nash's final sessions with the band but like a lot of Nash's 1968 material it stayed in the vaults when he left the band to become an American. That's a shame because their version (given the original title 'Man With No Expressions') was right up their street: Fun, catchy, light, enticing and with a neat message about no one ever being quite able to understand the people around them completely. (The Hollies version was released first in Germany as part of the excellent retrospective '30th anniversary' in 1963, which sadly we never got, although the track did appear on their 2003 box set 'Long Road Home'). The song suits CSN less well (Nash's comment in the box set sleevenotes about it 'smacking a little too much of the pop prisons we'd all just escaped from' is spot on) but they still do a good job, with Crosby especially doing the little twinkly high parts he always used to do with the Byrds (but never really bothered with for CSNY). Revived during the interminable sessions for 'Deja Vu' (and possibly knocked out of the track listing at the last minute when Stills came up with 'Carry On'), it was probably a right decision to dump it in 1970, but it made for a fascinating listen in 1991 when the world first heard it. The opening snatched conversation also appears to be where Crosby's line about '...proceeding to tangle the entire area..' heard before 'Almost Cut My Hair' on the original 'Deja Vu' album came from. Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991).
F) Crosby's delightful [49a] 'The Lee Shore' used to be regarded as the most famous CSNY outtake. For starters, it's the one that fans knew best, a regular in CSN's set lists (a live solo version first appeared on 'Four Way Street' in 1971). An early example of Crosby singing about the healing properties of the sea, this nautical but nice song features Crosby at his most blissfully serene and content. If in truth the song turns into a little bit of a 'what I did on my holidays' song by the middle (sounding like one of those essays about sailing Arthur Ransome used to write in between Russian polemics and children's books - actually that's not a bad summation of Crosby's work too!), it's a hauntingly beautiful song that lesser bands would have turned into the hit single, not booted off an LP when it was found to be under-running. Recorded by the full quartet for 'Deja Vu' (making it one of only four songs to feature all of CSNY in the same room playing live), Nash turns in some typically excellent harmony work while Stills and Young bounce off each other nicely (that's Neil talking about his worry of getting 'carried away' when the recording starts - he does indeed!) The song was particularly popular with Stills, himself a sailor ('Southern Cross' is like a slightly sped up version of this song) and for a time when he knew this song was still up for grabs he recorded it himself, loosely intending to record his heavier, electric version on 'Stephen Stills II'. Typically, Stills turns Crosby's laidback bliss into an uptempo exercise for his favourite Latin rhythms although he adds a lovely bluesy guitar part too.  In the end that version didn't appear either until his solo 'Carry On' retrospective of 2012. Find it on: The 'Crosby' version appears on 'CSN' (box set, 1991) and Stills' version appears on his 'Carry On' box set (2012).  
G) There aren't all that many songs tried out by CSNY that went entirely unreleased and unused on their solo or joint work. [50] 'Sea Of Madness' is a rare case of a Neil Young song that fell through the gaps, a surprisingly poppy track that the band never did record in the studio. The version readily available is, ironically, one of the most widely bought records CSNY appeared on: the various artists Woodstock compilation. Only some research done in the 1990s suggest the version performed by CSNY on the album was actually taped a few weeks later at Big Sur (memories - suffering from age and drug fumes - differ as to whether CSNY even featured the song in their set at what was, after all, only their second gig). Nash adds a delightful second vocal (his voice blends with Neil's even more than Stills' does) and Stills turns in a fine, almost gentlemanly guitar solo which almost seems to look down it's nose at the mayhem of the ragged performance around it. However the song is one of Neil's 'cryptic crossword' songs that would have been better suited to Crazy Horse than CSNY (Danny Whitten would have been perfect for both the harder-edged harmony and staccato guitar playing) and seems at odds with their typical 'honesty' and straightforwardness. The song was announced at the occasional gig as 'coming from our next LP', suggesting it was intended for 'Deja Vu' (the same fate announced for other non-shows like 'Bluebird Revisited'), but the band don't ever seem to have taped a proper studio take of the song. That's no great loss in the sense that it's weaker than all the tracks that made the albu, but it's too good a song to have gone unclaimed for the better part of 50 years with a great riff and a fiery performance. Find it on: the Various Artists set 'Woodstock Volume One' (1970)
H) Stills' wonderfully energetic demo for [37b] 'Love The One You're With' is the revelation of the past ten years of CSN collecting. Ragged and less polished than the first version it might be, but this fully acoustic version is tremendously exciting and Stills' vocal purrs with barely contained energy throughout. Light years better than the 'acoustic' version taped on 'Four Way Street', it sounds more like a hit than ever with Stills' paean to free love hypnotically catchy and already full in place (all its missing is the 'doo-doo-doos). Stills open the demo by claiming 'this is a really fun game' - he's not wrong there; I don't know if anyone's sounded as if they're having as much fun as here. Oh to be Stills in 1970, firing on all cylinders, with music pouring through your veins so fast you barely have time to get it all down on tape! Find it on: CSN 'Demos' (2009).
I) Recorded late in 1970, a stark reading of Crosby's [51a] 'Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)' was taped with him and Nash sparring off each other, a few months before the 'solo' (ie all-star cast) version that appeared on Crosby's 'If Only I Could Remember My Name'. Nash was rather fond of this eccentric wordless instrumental (the 'Tree With No Leaves' subtitle is his very poetic take on Crosby's composition and sums it's stark bare-bones beauty up well) and excels here even more than the song's composer. The pair's flying-information harmonies are exquisite and almost telepathic here, Nash switching around so that he's never quite doubling or directly harmonising with Crosby anywhere. A 'thankyou' for Crosby's delightful unplanned singing on his own 'Lady Of The Island', it's the biggest proof yet of just how many levels of brotherhood the pair are working on in this period. While perfectly respectable, the re-recorded Crosby version which made the record (basically featuring just him) is a pale replica of what the pair achieved so brilliantly here. Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991).
J) Still unsure what to do with one of his loveliest songs, Stills returned to [2b] 'So Begins The Task' in 1970, recording a second demo to his first in 1968 with a folkier, more laidback flavour that's a stepping stone to the full and final countryfied version recorded another two years later on the first Manassas album. Stills' song sounds magical on any version, but this version doesn't quite have the impact or the passion or the other two. We do get an extra verse though, fitting in between the third and final rather over-wordy verse and not featured on either the first or third version that runs as follows: 'Then perhaps it is I who is trapped by illusion, for the first time in quite a while I doubt myself, all of these words are like any other words, only echoes of shadows within myself'. It doesn't add much to the song but does give Stills another verse to explore his pysche. Find it on: Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
K) Don't be fooled: this may be an early version of it, but [52] 'No Name Jam' was only very briefly a jam and certainly does have a name, although you can see why Stills might be sensitive about releasing a song named 'White Nigger' in today's climate. A highlight of many a CSN bootleg, the 'finished' (but unreleased) version intended for the 'Stephen Stills' LP contains such lines as 'My brother's help me move, bow your head to no man, it's enough to make you shiver, and that's why I guess I figure you can call me a white nigger!' The reasoning behind the bluesy song (and the jam) makes more sense if you know that this was a long-awaited originally full-length collaboration between Stills and his old friend Jimi Hendrix (heard here in an earlier, faster version before Stills re-wrote and re-worked the song to be slower and with words). The pair played together long before anyone knew who they were, a fleeting but important friendship for the young Stills before his ever-restless family moved yet again and the pair lost touch. Legend has it that Stills was readily accepted by the 'black' community for his bluesy ragged voice and that in turn the young Stephen helped open his white friend's eyes to the African-American community in the deep South. Stills is clearly remembering his past here, remembering 'how there's nothing worse than having no friends' before finding a new community where he least expected, 'the minute I let my guitar fly'. Anyone who wants to know what the original wordy version of the song sounded like should look for the Manassas song 'High and Dry' (from 2009's outtakes set 'Pieces') which keeps the sentiments and drama whilst losing the controversial title. However it's a shame that record companies are so squeamish today - while the title would no doubt raise eyebrows (and does when spotted on CSNY bootlegs) in context it makes perfect sense: this is Stills commenting on himself, throwing in his lot with a group of musicians his strict Southern family told him do him no good and finding they're among the most nicely brought up, talented, charismatic people he's ever worked with and how much identification he has with them. In other hands this might have been crass, but you can tell Stills means every word, with his and Jimi's fantastic guitar duel (far better than the released one on 'Old Times Good Times') proof of how sympathetic and indeed similar the two old mates are (it's hard to work out where one ends and the other begins - unlike, say, Neil Young's guitar duels where the differences between the two usually shine out at you).  Find it - well the instrumental 'No Name Jam' version anyway - on the Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)
L) One of the reasons Neil Young later gave for leaving CSNY was that he'd heard Stills sing a blistering raw first take of [32b]  'Woodstock' and then he and his partners had conspired to re-work it in the studio until it lost all its fizz and fire. This is all a part of Neil's mind set of the time, that after a difficult overdubbed-to-death debut album and a sparkier second record with Crazy Horse he's figured that his 'first through' is his 'best thought' and that he'd rather have the muse with the mud than miss out on the magic (or something like that). Fans have often wondered what that alternate Stills vocal might be like - and to their shock they heard it in 1999 when a 30th anniversary 'Director's Cut' of the film first came out, with 'Woodstock' the song a natural choice for the re-made closing credits (it almost, but not quite, made up for the lack of extra CSNY in the new edition).  The verdict is that Young was right: there's a real power and commitment about Stills' vocal which sounds oh so joyous to be alive - exactly what you need as a celebration of a time and a place on a film revisited three decades on. However you can also see why CSN didn't like it: it's in danger of making Stills look simple rather than joyful at times and is clearly not intended as a 'proper' vocal - it's just the singer having fun. It would have sounded out of place on 'Deja Vu', an album all bout shadows rather than bright sunlight and would have mucked up the order too, coming so soon after Crosby's similar squeals on 'Almost Cut My Hair'. Still, that was then - this is now and a 'proper' CD release would be highly welcome. Find it on: The DVD 'Woodstock - Director's Cut' (1999) or the four disc 2009 edition.
 Non-Album Recordings #4 1971
A) The alternate take of Crosby's fiery [54b] 'Cowboy Movie' is one of those recordings that would sound horrible if you didn't already know the original: the tempo is slower and the bursts of guitar that bit more unrehearsed, so that Neil and Jerry Garcia often clash with Crosby and with each other. However as the chance to hear a legendary recording fall into place it's fascinating: Crosby already knows exactly what he's doing with the vocal and hearing Jerry and Neil play is always a delight - so the chance to hear them play more together is a real treat. However there's no getting away from it: the band are struggling with the riff, which is more awkward and less fluid here, with only Crosby's rhythm part where it should be. There's also an extended jamming session that puts even the version on the album to shame, with an extra two-minute burst of guitar between the last couple of verses. This extends the running time to a full eleven minutes instead of the already pretty lengthy eight. There's no way this is better than the finished version but it's still good to hear. Find it on: 'Voyage' (David Crosby box set 2006).
B) The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra, as members of the Dead, Airplane and CSNY dubbed themselves, spent a lot of time jamming in between recordings and had the bonus of being able to pay for as much session time as they wanted. Bootlegs reveal an awful lot of acoustic jamming sessions (almost all involving Crosby and some with Nash), some of which were later turned into songs - and some of which should have been. [81] 'Kids and Dogs' is a nice folky acoustic melody Crosby and Garcia came up with one day. The creators clearly took a shine to it: Garcia's appreciative chuckle at the 0:35 mark is exactly the laugh he gave when he was having fun. Crosby too seems to have spent more time on this piece than he did on, say, 'Music Is Love' (another improvised fragment, this time time overdubbed by Nash and Young)  at some stage overdubbed all sorts of gorgeous multi-layered wordless harmonies over the top. This turns the mysteriously titled 'Kids and Dogs' (accompanied in the Crosby set by a picture of him as a kid with the family dog - did the picture come first?) into a dreamy, hopeful, healing balm that Crosby's 'If Only' could have done with and it was a lovely find for fans desperate to hear anything useable from these album sessions. In truth, though, it's not quite as inventive as other wordless Crosby songs ('Tampalpais High' 'Tree With No Leaves' 'I'd Swear There Was Somebody There') and four wordless Crosby instrumentals may well have been one too many. Find it on: the David Crosby box set '#Voyage' (2006) and the CD re-issue of 'If Only I Could Remember My Name'.
C) As we've seen already, Nash's [64b] 'Be Yourself' is a lovely song, but it's a surprise to me that this simple and understated tune seems to have taken on a life of it's own in the past few years or so, to the point where it's many fans' favourite Nash song. This is mainly thanks to the clever use of the demo of the song in the 2009 comedy 'Up In The Air' , which is effectively one of those 'on a journey finding the self' films that had it been made in the 1960s would undoubtedly have featured motorbikes and Dennis Hopper. A parable that says nothing new but does so in a rather gorgeous and spiritual way, you can see why Nash's so-simple-it's-profound song struck a chord with movie-goers. Luckily CSN had a demos album in the works and Nash managed to sneak it out on that, even though the differences between it and the finished version are pretty minimal: basically all that's missing is the power chorus of Rita Coolidge et al on backing harmonies. Find it on: CSN set 'Demos' (2009)
D) Virtually identical to the 'Four Way Street' live version, you dread to think what Joni Mitchell made of her beaux Nash thumping her beloved piano as hard as this when he was writing [69b] 'Chicago'. A paean to the Chicago Seven/Eight put on a mock trial for daring to be rude about Nixon (and jailed not for that - there wasn't any evidence - but for contempt of court until the charges were overthrown), this simple demo still has the taste of injustice in the air and in Nash's lungs as he launches himself into one of his better known protest songs. He stumbles a little on the last verse (so the song is clearly still new), but even so I rather prefer this simplified version to the dressed-up version that ended up on 'Songs For Beginners' later in the year. Oh all except for that curious last comment 'help us make some more', later changed to the almost-as-bad 'throw 'em all out the door', Nash's muse deserting him right at the end. Find it on: CSN set 'Demos' (2009)
E) The first Crosby-Nash session - held at the start of 1971 - ended in dissarray and bad blood between the pair, who wouldn't get back together until the following year. The only song completed was, typically, a Joni Mitchell song (Crosby discovered her in 1968, Nash lived with her between 1969 and 1970). [82] 'Urge For Going' is one of her greatest songs: a poignant reflections on changing seasons and comparing the inevitable changing nature of a relationship to the seasons outside. In a way it's also an update of her other CSN cover 'Woodstock', with Joni reflecting on how the sunshine and happiness and solidarity couldn't last forever (it's like her better name 'Circle Game' but better, strangely relegated solely to a B-side in Joni's own canon). The song must surely have been at least partly about Nash and the switch of personal pronouns (to make the narrator 'male') makes it sound ever more like a conversation between the pair ('She got the urge for going - and had to let her go'). The pair cleverly decide to split up the vocal chores between them: Nash takes the first verse, all frosty and wintery (he added it after the row as a 'sorry' gesture to Crosby and doesn't sound his usual ebullient self, although he could of course just be a great actor!); Crosby takes the second, all light and summery and the pair combine on the final verse (where in one of Joni's most poetic lines the 'Warriors of Winter cast a cold triumphant shout; all that stays is dying - all that lives is getting out'). The result is one of the more interesting period recordings by either men that would have made a nice addition to the under-running 'Graham Nash, David Crosby' album. Find it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991).   
F) [83a] 'My Love Is A Gentle Thing' was clearly a song close to its composer's heart and one he struggled to get right. The sleevenotes to the CSN box set call this a 'love song' to the Hawaii islands and their healing effects Stills cooled down from a tempestuous 1970 CSNY tour when he hurt his hand and the band broke up the first time round. However it sounds more to me as if there is a 'person' at the heart of this, Stills perhaps taking a leaf out of Nash's 'Lady Of The Island' as he sings to the only person who knows how to reach him and calm him down (my money's on Judy Collins). In total Stills recorded it three times - as a demo for an unspecified project but presumably 'Stephen Stills II' in 1971 (released as 'CSN Demos' in 2009), for Manassas in 1973 (as released - and reviews by us separately - on 'Pieces', also in 2009!) and in 1975 for 'Stills' (as released first, on the CSN box set of 1991). All three versions are similar, acoustic and intimate, though are subtlety different: the 1971 demo is my favourite, a Dylanesque still inner debate where Stills' guitar hops from note to another with restless impatience and there's the addition of a whole rather lovely counter-part dropped from the other versions ('Come to me silence lover, quietness brings us close together, oceans hover, floating love - is there anything else?') The Manassas version and the 1975 recording are very like each other (they may well be different mixes of the same recording, in fact, although that's not what the sleevenotes for either set suggest), with a slightly more polished but still gentle sound of Stills rattling the back of his guitar (as he didn't have any bongos with him!) and plucked bass strings for atmosphere. These versions are more like reggae than folk, with two extra Stillses joining themselves on the choruses. All three are dreamlike, remembering a blissful time before things went wrong in a paradise island, although only the first sounds truly memorable, Stills singing with a 'wasn't-it-all-better-then?' sigh that's more intense and moving than the peaceful bliss of the other two. It's also more developed, at two and a half rather than one a half minutes, not exactly a long lost missing classics but still a perfectly acceptable song that would have sounded nice on the first Manassas set especially (where this song would have nestled onto the third folkier side with songs mainly about loss and heartbreak rather nicely). Find it on: 'CSN Demos' (2009), Manassas 'Pieces' (2009) and the CSN 'Box Set' (1991)
G) Stills returned to [76b] 'Singin' Call' several times down the years suggesting it was one of his favourite songs, although all three versions (recorded between 1971 and 1991) are all remarkably similar (compare to, say, 'Word Game', which sounded different every time he played it). A sweet serenade to nature, this demo lacks the sweet harmonies of the 'Stills I' version or the stark authority of the 'Stills Alone' version but in many ways is the best of the three, combining the best of both worlds. Stills' hasn't yet written the lines about 'weary of the travelling' and simply blocks in the lines with a bluesy moan that's entirely in keeping with the feel and texture of the song. Delightful. Find it on: CSN 'Demos' (2009)
H)The early version of  [84a] 'The Treasure' taped during sessions for 'Stephen Stills II', on the other-hand, couldn't be more different. A smoky double-tracked Stills vocal, some hammy piano and a shortened, compact feel makes this future prog rock jamming highlight of the first Manassas album sound distinctly ordinary. The biggest difference is a curious counter-verse structure that makes the song a little muddled and harder to follow, despite containing some more fascinating insights into Stills' chase of Rita Coolidge (sample lyric: 'When she moves it was a dance, we opened ourselves and I had no chance, and the life fell on another, she was born to discover...the treasure'. The whole piece is missing that vital spark the as-live Manassas take possess however, fading at the four minute mark at the point where the finished versions' seven minuter has only just got going. The difference between the two is that on 'Manassas' Stills sounded like someone who would got to the ends of the earth to retrieve the 'treasure' he knew to be there; by comparison the 1971 model sounds as if he's about to nod off to sleep. Find it on: Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
I) Any lesser writer would have stayed put with [73b] 'Little Miss Bright Eyes', a first stab at what will become 'Sugar Babe'. Harder-edged, with two lots of fuzz guitar, this version is fascinatingly different, with the same theme ('stop playing games Rita Coolidge and marry me!') but a very different way of going about things, with only the stinging 'so close...then again so far away' tag line in place. Some of Stills' alternate lyrics are great and more than deserved to make the final cut: 'I loved her so and gave my soul, I didn't have much else to give her heaven knows, she looked at it once wondering what it could do her...I'm on a train to nowhere and she gonna pay the fare!' , while the line 'she never looked my way' makes more sense of the whole 'Little Miss Bright Eyes' metaphor. I still prefer the finished version, with all it's under-stated beauty and cold hard logic, but I'd have been more than happy had the ever-thinking Stills simply settled for his first idea. Find it on: The Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)Non-Album Recordings #5 1972
Clearly it's no repeat of 'Ohio', but I have a soft spot for [120] 'War Song', a Neil Young song recorded with Graham Nash and released as a flop single in 1972 (Young fans tend to regard it as a CSNY work and CSNY ones as a solo piece so it's been all but forgotten since; in case you were wondering Neil released 'Sugar Mountain' for the umpteenth time as the B-side and Nash doesn't appear; in protest at this song being airbrushed out from history for so long I'm going to include it in both, so there!) By now the fire in the belly of 'Ohio' has slowed to a dignified waddle, the out and out war between generations reduced to a wary disrespect of Nixon and hope that after an ugly period America will finally have a leader worthy of its constitution. The last political Neil Young song of any kind until 1980 (I'll quietly ignore the improvised 'Goodbye Dick!' if you will), it's so out of kilter for Neil in the 'Harvest/Time Fades Away' period (the Stray Gators are the backing band, as per both projects) and so clearly crying out to be a CSNY song you wonder why all four aren't on it (perhaps Young was still feeling the burn-out from the last reunion, or perhaps he just didn't want the 'fuss' of a full reunion at such a 'low' point in his life and career?) Ostensibly Neil wrote the song 'for' George McGovern's democratic campaign against Nixon in 1972 - one he lost, badly (perhaps that's why this song got lost so quickly?!) However even if Neil failed to move anybody but himself at the time, it's still an extraordinary song, picturing himself as a soldier in Vietnam in a scene that goes all surreal and Dylanesque('In the morning, when you wake up, you got planes flying in the sky, flying bombs, major break-up, of the lines in your eyes') The tune -  a highly pretty one though treated with heavy weight here, like a gloved iron fist -  is not unlike Neil's astonishing vindictive against 9-5 workers everywhere on 'Last Dance' which also starts with the words 'Wake up!' hinting that one morphed into the other. The chorus gets things moving, although weirdly enough most modern listeners who hear the lines 'there's a man who says he can put an end to war' will immediately think of another democrat (Obama's campaign - which CSN raised money for long before most people knew who he was - also used 'yes we can', just in case generations in a century from now need a reminder). The song then veers off sideways into a rant about how 'they shot George Wallace' (Democrat Mayor of Alabama'), though the real assassination attempt took place in Maryland not 'Mirauwakee' as Neil appears to sing here (or is he singing 'he'll never walk again' - if so Neil's diction is terrible!) and left Wallace confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The anger of the end of that middle eight ('Get in and kill those Vietnamese' when the 'real' dangerous assassin is America's own president and the killers who take shots at world leaders under his watch) is palpable, a crescendo of madness in a weary song so desperate to find a solution. The last rousing verse and chorus put a brave spin on things though: love really is coming to us all because McGovern really will put an end to war and victory is assured just as soon as we vote him in. Showing off his typical ear for arrangements Neil somehow manages to make it so that his lone guitar growl, hurling off snarled insults throughout most of the song, is joined by everyone else by this last verse as if isolated voters without a voice really are coming together. Nash doesn't get a lot to do in truth but you'd miss him if he wasn't there, adding a soft gentlemanly part to Neil's snarling lead throughout the song. Throughout Neil sounds as if he's rather be doing anything but writing and recording another protest song - he thought that job was done and dusted - and the recording has the same world-weary weighty feel of much of his  1972 material (the last few songs for 'Harvest' and the 'Doom Trilogy' to come), but he's still ready for one last knockout fight and the plodding song bares it's teeth nicely across it's three-and-a-half minutes. A song that misses out on the great CSNY irony (the worse the world gets and the more there is to complain about, the 'better' and more alive their songs), this poorly publicised and rather ignored track sounds as if it's been made out of duty rather than hope, a last message from public cryer Neil Young before he throws down his church bell for good.  The result is a quiet triumph: OK it failed at its main objective of beating Nixon in '72 and will never live as long in the memory as 'Ohio', without the same line-drawing and how-dare-you slap in the face politics and far blunter and less eloquent. But Neil had a real knack for writing these sorts of pretty little protest songs and this is one of his most unfairly overlooked songs of the 1970s, senselessly missing from the 1977 'Decade' compilation. A subtle performance and mix, bordering on non-descript (Nash is hard to hear despite his co-billing), suggests that Neil doesn't really want us to hear it - but he should; 'War Song' is one of the more under-rated moments in his canon, an 'I told you so' sung without glee or need for revenge, just sadness and tiredness. Find it on: the Neil Young box set 'Archives' (2009)Non-Album Recordings #6 1973
In 1973 CSNY shocked everyone - including themselves - by reuniting at the end of a Manassas show at San Francisco's Winterland Theatre on October 4th 1973. Typically CSNY they appeared unbilled, both out of humility (they admit they hadn't had much rehearsal time) but also to avoid the spotlight they knew would be thrown on them when they weren't too sure about getting back together again themselves. That Winterland half hour is a marvellous show, though, full of CSNY at their best, all four in very good humour and casually throwing out one great newly written song after another. Hopefully they'll release the show one day - while rougher even than 'Four Way Street' it's the best existing tape of what CSNY meant at their peak and the crowd reception was phenomenal. That good humour carried on in the studio where the band rushed to prepare their next move, banging down a hurried version of a brand new Stills song [141a] 'See The Changes' (curiously not a song they performed that night) before agreeing to go their separate ways for now and come back next year (the reunion lasting for one long epic world tour and half an album - what will become the unfinished 'Human Highway'). Released years later on the box set, this first attempt at Stills' haunting classic is a case of right band wrong song, with a funky rhythm and a fast tempo not really suited to Stills' glorious song of growing older but not necessarily any wiser. Re-recorded for 'CSN' in 1977 in fully acoustic form, this song is a meticulously crafted stunner with some of the best CSN vocals there is - this take is simply too happy, the band too impatient to get going with the art of creating and enjoying each other's company (turn the song up LOUD and you can hear all sorts of things going on in the backgr4ound, from Crosby's delightful laughter at around the 1:30 mark and what sounds like a heated debate at 1:40). Interestingly Neil sings along with the other three - the first real time this had ever happened to a non-Young song and it sounds rather good, adding a brittled edge to the track somewhere between Crosby's and Nash's parts. However a curious 'do you?' tag line at the end of each chorus and an improvised section where a future guitar solo will go sound scrappy by CSNY standards. Presumably the song would have changed a lot had the band chosen to release it on 'Human Highway' (it may even be here that the song developed into a slow ballad for the first time). However even in rough form this take is fascinating - not since the debut album had the band sounded quite this alive and it's fascinating too that Stills should leave this song for so many years and solo albums (it would have suited 1975's 'Stills' particularly well), 'See The Changes' clearly already earmarked as a 'trio' song even back then. Find it on: 'CSN' (Box Set, 1991)Non-Album Recordings #7 1974
A) How ironic, how CSNY, that one of only two/three songs properly recorded for intended 1974 reunion LP 'Human Highway' should be Crosby's gorgeous, [160a] 'Homeward Through The Haze', a typically self-deprecating song about finding thinking you're God only to find out you're a bit of a mess (best line: 'It's 'my first hollow echo in halls of praise'). Later re-recorded as a slightly tighter pop song for Crosby and Nash's 'Wind On The Water' LP, this full quartet version is looser, slower and jazzier, making the most of Crosby's unusual time signatures. Oddly there's less of a 'CSN' sound in the harmonies here than in CN's version, with Crosby mainly singing via the magic of overdubbing with a bit of Nash near the end although there's some great guitar work from Stills, clearly relishing the bluesy mood of the composition (so similar to his own work). I'm not sure I prefer this to the finished version, but it is awfully good and shows again that 'Human Highway' might have been the best CSNY LP of all. Hear it on: 'CSN' (box set, 1991) and David Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006).
B) A second song salvaged from the 'Human Highway' sessions is Neil's lullaby [161] 'Through My Sails', a song clearly written about the quartet's time in Hawaii. A sleepy, weary song, he later chose to make it the closing track of his reunion with Crazy Horse 'Zuma' where it sounded rather out of place following the harsh history lesson of 'Cortez The Killer'. Like many a Young song, it speaks of love of the countryside over the city (see 1968's 'Neil Young' in particular), Neil standing on the shoreline and feeling that despite his problems 'love takes care'. CSN take a highly unusual vocal line across this song, with Crosby singing Stills' usual part (very deep), Stills taking Nash's part (a delightful falsetto) and Nash singing Crosby's (straight in the middle). Was this a deliberate attempt to do something different or proof that Neil didn't have them in mind originally for the song? The loveliest part of the song is when CSNY split in two, Crosby and Young setting off for a wordless 'ahh' which see-saws across Stills and Nash coming in the opposite direction. The song is certainly lovely and deserves to have been revived by Neil a year later, but it's not as substantial or as emotional as the best CSNY songs. Hear it on: Neil Young album 'Zuma' (1975)Non-Album Recordings #7 1975
Stills' epic acoustic guitar medley [183] 'Crossroads/You Can't Catch Me' was often a highlight of his live shows, showing off just how easily Stills could blend from pure rock and roll to blues and proving once again that there's not that much difference between the two really. Stills' ever busy fingers are the highlight of a song that just won't sit still, finding a riff that between the two that has common ground and switching between the two and back again in a blur of strummed chords and 'Black Queen' style demented blues vocals, Stills at his showboating best. Find it on: 'Stephen Stills Live' (1975)A) Almost unbearably poignant, [203b] 'Taken At All' is Nash's sequel to Stills' 'Change Partners' about his worry over CSNY's direction and their many wasted opportunities over the years, painting 1976 as a crossroads in his life to staying as part of the CSNY family and going solo ('Lost it on the [Human] 'Highway...You were going your way, I was going mine'; Crosby gets a co-credit for adding a few lines to the song). Ironically, it became one of only three songs known for certain to have been completed at these sessions before the quartet split again (they clearly weren't listening to the lyrics!) Interesting this version is slower and sadder than the released version, re-recorded more or less straight away and added to the third Crosby-Nash album 'Whistling Down The Wire', which finds the pair in a much jollier mood (something that's always struck me as odd, given that Nash's bit of fortune-telling had just been proved to be accurate - and in 1976 CSNY seemed 'over' even more than it had in 1974). This lovely song sounds ever more lovely in this version, with Stills, Nash and Young's acoustic guitars all melting into each other as a fine reminder of everything lost over the years. Crosby and Nash take the lead in unison before Stills and Young kick on the chorus, the result being one of the most breathtaking short bursts of harmony the full quartet ever offered (and seemingly proving the message of the song: that the four are better together, if more argumentative too). Stills' falsetto ad lib (a second '...on the way' after Nash's lead) is a prime example of one of the four taking a song by the others and re-shaping it to the benefit of all. Can this road be taken at all? A resounding yes! Delightful and one of the highlights of the 1991 box set (as an added bonus, amazingly the bootleggers hadn't got to this one first!) Find it on: 'CSN' (Box Set, 1991).
To date only two songs have been released featuring the full CSNY harmonies from the 'Long May You Run' album (how did both of them survive Stills slashing them with a razor-blade, then? Is that story apocryphal? Or was he choosy with what he chose to attack that drunken night that CSNY nearly ended for good?) Both sound slightly fuller, as you'd expect from all that extra space, but both are rather woolly suggesting CSN never quite perfected what they wanted for the record (then again, neither did Stills/Young, who both admitted the album was rushed).  [209b] 'Black Coral' survived the better of the two, with Crosby and Nash only joining in at key moments and with a part that sounds properly worked out rather than just 'let's sing it all' (the soaring upward harmonies on the line 'she'll show you glimpses of the stars' is majestic). However all three sound in ropey voice, suggesting that Nash's comments that the songs were 'un-singable' (especially the glorious 'Guardian Angel') may have not been far from the truth after all. Find it on: Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)Non-Album Recordings #9 1977

A powerful alternate mix of [224b] 'Cold Rain' was included on Nash's 'Reflections' set in 2009 - not normally the sort of thing we'd cover on this site but worth mentioning because this bleak ballad sounds even more lonely and starkly beautiful shorn of the Crosby-Stills harmonies. The result sounds even more like a Lowry painting, with stick figures navigating their way through the rain, as opposed to the stark broad strokes of a master painter trying to equate this solitude with something holy as per the finished product. On this mix Nash really is 'all alone' and the effect is deeply powerful. Find it on: Nash box set 'Reflections' (2009)Non-Album Recordings #11 1979
A) With Atlantic unwilling to finance a solo album and finding himself slightly estranged from Nash, Crosby looked elsewhere to release his long awaited follow-up to 'If Only I Could Remember My Name'. He turned to CBS, mainly because he had half an eye on joining in with the three-way McGuinn-Clark-Hillman reunion taking place on the same label (Crosby appeared with the trio at a couple of their 1978 gigs but never got an invite to join them full-time, a recently born again Christian Roger McGuinn reportedly less than pleased with the state his old sparring partner was in). Undeterred, Crosby ploughed on with his solo record, reputedly getting as far as two-thirds of the way through it before CBS, alarmed at increasing reports in the press about Crosby's ill health and his many publicised motor-bike crashes asked to hear the album. They refused to release it, claiming that the album wasn't what they wanted and that it was too out of touch with the times and refused - although this seems in retrospect like an excuse to drop a difficult client before he embarrassed himself. Crosby's album quickly got the reputation amongst fans for being 'weird' as a result, especially as fans increasingly realised just how sick Crosby was across the 1980s with drug abuse taking an awful toll on what had once been (and thankfully will go on to be) one of the world's brightest, most charismatic, erudite and inspirational stars. However a quick listen to the record this shelved un-named un-loved album became ('Oh Yes I Can!', released in 1989 for A&M Records) reveals an album that if anything is a little too straightforward by Crosby's standards, lacking his distinctive edge in favour of a more commercial sound. In fact Crosby hadn't been as in tune with the times since at least 1970, with a harder-edged sound to his music that sounds like a sort of new wave choral album! (For the record the tracks recorded for the album include 'Distances' as released in 1989, the Craig Doerge cover 'Might As Well Have A Good Time' as overdubbed with Stills/Nash harmonies for 'Daylight Again' in 1982, plus earlier takes of 'Drive My Car' 'Melody' 'Flying Man' 'Delta' and  'Samurai' and possibly 'King Of The Mountain' and 'Kids and Dogs'  as well, first taped in 1974 and 1971 respectively).
This early take of [239a] 'Drive My Car' is particularly interesting, full of verve and fire compared to the finished take whose slick over-production rather robbed it all of the drama. It could be that Crosby, having come out the other side of the mess his life was in, felt simply too alarmed at the intensity of this first version of the song for comfort. The song is about taking control of your life when it's spinning out of control ('At least a car goes where you steer it - sometimes it's the only thing that does'). However even Crosby's love of driving was proving hazardous, following a series of accidents - most likely caused by sleep deprivation from being up all night taking drugs - that almost cost him his life. Here Crosby sounds wired, as if he's been smoking hundreds of cigarettes and guzzling coffee the whole day of the sessions and you can understand why his perfectionist tendencies prevented him from simply releasing it as-was at the time, even though it's clearly the superior take. Arrangement wise the biggest difference is a lack of 80s synthesisers, the dramatic sound effects at the beginning that make the start of 'Oh Yes I Can!' sound like the start of a Phil Collins record and a curious extra tag line in the chorus that runs 'I needed to roam...to all those people...alone!' Find it on: the box set 'CSN' (1991) and CSN compilation 'Carry On' (1991)
B) Recorded a full quarter of a century before the finished product on 'Crosby*Nash', Crosby's first stab at the a capella [240] 'Samurai' eventually turned up as one of the most eagerly awaited extras on the Crosby box set 'Voyage'. Like 'Shadow Captain' and 'Delta' though not quite up to either, this song is painful and poignant; is Crosby's sub-conscious telling him that he's lost, with surreal drug-hazed lyrics about being an old fighter 'looking for the light' and 'tilting at windmills' going off at a tangent to the rest of the world. The difference between the two recordings though is that between day and night; the 1979 version has Crosby as a lost little boy, adrift in a world without a 'compass' and very much alone; the 2004 is a man who knows his way and has Nash for company. I don't know how a song that's sung a capella can be affected by production values but the two are very different too: the 1979 version is loose, bordering on improvised, the latter rather over-rehearsed and fussed over. Crosby sings rather better in 19790 but the effect is still uncomfortable, his voice breaking under the strain at times and the echo bouncing off the studio walls just that little shade too long to be comfortable. The difference is the difference between waking up from a bad dream and being trapped inside one and points more than any other recording to the pain and isolation Crosby was in across 1979, a 'Where Will I Be?' for the end of the decade without the support of 'Page 43' to soften the blow. Goodness knows what fans would have made of it had it been released at the time - even the 'softened' version in 2004 left fans scratching their heads a bit. Find it - the 1979 version that is - on Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006)
C) [241] 'King Of The Mountain' is the one that got away, unreleased till 2006, a lovely acoustic lament that sounds as if it belongs in the same sense of 'fallen idol' Crosby songs as 'Homeward Through The Haze' and 'Long Live The King'. Actually, Crosby's sleevenotes for his 'Voyage' box set reveal that it was written for Stephen Stills and was 'an attempt to feel my partner's pain'. You wonder if Neil heard this song before writing his own Stills tribute 'Stringman' (itself not released until his 'Unplugged' show in 1993) as the two are very similar. Returning the tribute Stills once gave to him on 'Do For The Others', Crosby portrays his partner as alone in a crowd, searching for the roar of appreciation from a crowd in an empty 'grandstand, alone' (Crosby added that he thought of this line as a pun: his stubborn friend being in a 'grand standalone', increasingly unwilling to communicate to the world outside, making this a pun worthy of the Two Ronnies). Crosby could have portrayed Stills as a figure of pity, the king of a world with a population of one, but he's cleverer than that: Stills lives apart from everyone else's feelings 'with a big smile on his face...having finally found his place'. He even 'borrows' some of his partner's usual style and lexicon, picturing him 'hiding from life and littleness' (although Stills would have added a line about 'walls'). Given the state Stills was in across 1978 (see our review for 'Thoroughfare Gap' a confessional set to disco music in a desperate attempt to change style), this song shows again just how well the quartet of CSNY seemed to understand one another on a deeper level than most friendly musicians. The song is arguably the best to have been recorded for that abandoned Crosby album of 1978 and it's a great shame it wasn't re-recorded along with most of the others for 'Oh Yes I Can!' in 1989. Find it on: The David Crosby box set 'Voyage' (2006) and a curious demo/live incomplete yet somehow longer version as part of the 2000 CD re-issue of the 'Crosby-Nash Live' album (originally recorded in 1977).
D) Meanwhile, while Crosby was trying to keep it together long enough to make an album the Stephen Stills band was out on the road. [227] 'Cuba Al Fin' is another of those 'Latin' numbers Stills loved adding to his catalogue in the 1970s. More upbeat and less autobiographical than most, to date only a live version has ever been known to exist: a noisy powerhouse version taped during the 'Havana Jam' three day festival in Cuba in March 1979 and first released on the various artists record of the event (also titled 'Havana Jam'). It used to be the rarest official Stills release until resurrected for the 'Carry On' box set (it's first appearance on CD, though it's trimmed of a couple of minutes, sadly). Legend has it that Stills leapt into the audience with a specially adapted 'leadless' guitar and sang this serenade to the crowd by remote, the only artist to sing 'cuban' to the crowd that night which went down particularly well (the song title translates as simply 'Cuba...finally!') Rita Coolidge also performed at the festival, which might be why Stills goes the extra mile to impress here, adopting a nicely gritty vocal (all in Cuban!) and some terrific guitar playing. Find it on: the Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)Non-Album Recordings #12 1980
A) How do you release a second compilation album when a) you've still only released three albums and only one exclusive non-album single b) you've been asked to replicate as little as possible from your first compilation album ('So Far', 1974) and c) record company shenanigans means you can't use many songs from the second because Neil Young's lawyers have been on the phone? The answer, you do what Stills did and spend a night in the studio re-working one of your songs until Neil is entirely removed from the track. [30b] 'Carry On' is such an obvious choice it seems odd that it was ever missing from the first compilation and the band clearly weren't going to leave it off a second, so Stills got busy with the scissors and came up with a fascinatingly different edit of the song. The chief casualty of this is the 'Questions' segment with it's lovely Stills-Young guitar interplay: this version has a false ending where the 'love is coming to us all' section should be and simply ploughs back into a repeated mix of that classic 'dur-der-de-der, dur-der-de-der-dee-dee' guitar riff over and over, Stills adding a new guitar part and upping Dallas' drums in the mix to create a hypnotic instrumental break that eventually leads back to that 'love is coming' a capella break a second time. Most fans feel a little queasy about this, as if someone's just carried out needless surgery on an old friend, but taken on its own merits it's another thrilling insight into how this song could have gone. To date this edit of the song has never appeared on CD. Find it on: 'Replay' (1980)
B) The second remix from the 'Replay' album is less daring but still changes the tone a great deal. [226a] 'I Give You Give Blind' is basically the same as one the 'CSN' album but minus the dramatic strings. This turns the track into more of a rocker (and arguably closer to the default sound of the punkish 1977), with Russell Kunkel's drumming sounding especially good and with a few extra fiery bursts of Stills guitar. This version of the song, unavailable on CD for decades, made a sudden shock return back to the catalogue in 2012 when it appeared on the Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012).  Find it on: 'Replay' (1980) and the Stills box set 'Carry On' (2013)
C) At one stage Stevie Winwood was all set to be the fourth member of CSNY. Stills especially was a big fan - Winwood has a voice not unlike his own and a bluesier style he wanted to take the trio in, whilst his fiery keyboard playing would have been a great sound to bounce off live without treading on Stills' toes. Winwood was also used to be with 'all-stars' after a stint in Blind Faith and Traffic following the Spencer Davis Group and success wouldn't have gone to his head the way of some newcomer bands. However Winwood wasn't interested - at the time the band asked him, in late 1969, he was fed up with bands after seeing Blind Faith effectively crumble after Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker butted heads too many times and he also couldn't see himself as part of the CSN sound. [252] 'Dear Mr Fantasy' is the answer, the only Winwood song CSN ever tackled (although there are rumours that the band recorded this one song lots of times from 1970 onwards - alas a studio version from 1980 from the first tentative days of the 'Daylight Again' sessions (and thus without Crosby on board) is all that has turned up to date officially or unofficially). The song is a natural fit, a postmodern take on the art of writing in which Winwood calls out to himself in the third person, wondering why he leads such a lonely life until the moment he hits the stage and 'plays a tune - something to make us happy'. The song sounds remarkably like the many tales in The Hollies of unhappy clowns applying their make-up to mask their frowns (not just Nash's 'Clown' from 'For Certain Because' - 1966 - but the songs they did without him, such as 'Mr Heartbreaker' (out On The Road, 1973) and 'Harlequin' ('5317704' - try typing it out on a calculator to get the joke! - 1978)). As a result is suits both performers like a glove, giving Stills the chance to bring out his swampier side with a wonderfully grungy wailing guitar solo and dropping his already deeper vocals by another few notes. Nash too sounds right on the money on a song so similar to his own early style, his gentlemanly counter-vocal the 'sobriety' that Stills' narrator is desperately to cling to. However the real 'winner' here is longterm CSN keyboadist Mike Finnigan, who usually ends up sounding a little too wild and raw for the trio's live shows (and reportedly didn't get on with Young at all, hence his occasional 'retirements' whenever Neil comes on the scene) but is sensational here, busking away on the Hammond organ and offering an even worthier blues growl than Stills'. With Crosby's sickness forcing Stills and Nash's hand as a 'duo', they're clearly trying the blues out for their new destination - and on this evidence a parallel universe out there with a whole album of this stuff got very lucky indeed. Find it on: The CSN Box Set (1991)
D) [253] 'Welfare Blues' is a slightly less interesting solo Stills track, which sounds more like him messing around with a new guitar sound to be honest than a serious recording. The sleevenotes credit this song as 'live' but I sense only in the sense that it's 'live' in the studio. It's always good to hear Stills return to his blues roots and to his politics - amazingly this is the only CSNY song that seems to speak out against English politics, about how under Thatcher factories have all been closed, jobs have been lost and now 'the welfare money is all gone' as 'the seeds of discontent are all sown'. Sadly this rare combination of Stills blues and politics never really quite takes off and soon drifts into a cheap and easy blues target: 'My lady don't like me anymore'. The metaphor of 'welfare' must have seemed alien to the anglophile American (where the country pays for medical disability and unemployment via the equally complex process of insurance) and Stills doesn't seem to quite understand how it works ('Welfare is my father and I feel as if I ain't left home' he barks; on the contrary anyone whose ever been under the thumb of the British welfare system knows that its like an angry, rude, ignorant Great Aunt that has to be pleased with gifts every time you see them under threat of your legally-entitled inheritance being cut off any second). Find it on the Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
E) Returning to his beloved [38b] 'Church (Part Of Someone)' after a gap of 11 years, Stills re-christens his gospel original as a tight taut chugging rocker for an aborted solo LP. The song feels less 'special' like this somehow, without that marvellous booming organ, although the performance is a good one with another multi-voiced choir sounding more apt here somehow and less overpowering on the song. Presumably Stills was having a go at another album in 1980 but as things work out he won't be back in the studio until 1982 with C and N and won't be making any more solo recordings until 1984, by which time this recording had been long forgotten. Find it on the Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
                                                                                      
Non-Album Recordings #13 1981
One of the unexpected last minute highlights of the CSN box set was an unexpected re-make of Stills' charming ode to maturity [169b] 'As I Come Of Age'. The song must have seemed remarkably apt for the band at the time, with Stills peering down the hole that Crosby had found himself stuck in, a mere six years after the former's promise to behave himself better in the future. CSN loved returning to old material and as early as 'Deja Vu' were warming up with numbers from their first album in rehearsals and 'As I Come Of Age' is clearly ripe for returning to, what with the band's deeper, older voices. However why did CSN return to this record here - this came a full year before Stills and Nash properly returned to make 'Daylight Again' together and Crosby is a full member of the trio here - indeed Crosby's part is louder and more focussed than his guest spot on the 'Stills' 1975 original. The box set doesn't give any information (except for Stills' typical blend of ego/modesty that 'the lyrics are self-explanatory') but was there a whole abandoned album here we don't really know about? Taken at a slightly slower lick and with slightly more ragged vocals, this version isn't quite up to the devastating simplicity of the 1975 arrangement, but equally the trio have clearly been paying pain-staking attention to their vocals showing more discipline than Crosby or Stills had for years so equally this is not just a rehearsal by the sound of it. As far as we know, this was also the only CSN song recorded in 1981, suggesting that if this was a whole new project it ended quickly in defiance of this song's lyrics of working together better and turning over a new leaf. Find it on: 'CSN' (Box Set, 1991) and CSN compilation 'Carry On' (1991)Non-Album Recordings #14 1982
A) [264] 'Raise A Voice' was the first song attempted for a follow-up to 'Daylight Again' that never got further than three tracks and was duly abandoned and turned into a live LP. A rare show of solidarity sees Stills and Nash collaborating for only the second time in their career and finds Crosby adding his one cameo vocal to the sessions (and a good one it is too - chances are it's his last time in a studio until his release from prison in 1987**). The song displays elements of both writers, most likely combining Nash's folky opening (complete with Dylanesque harmonica) and lines about 'raising a voice against the madness', before Stills' heavy power cuts in on the middle eight ('Do we run? Do we stop? Do we lie down? I think not!' he snorts, before quoting the title of  his earlier song 'We Are Not Helpless'). Sadly the song never quite gels and - whisper it softly - is a little bit boring by CSN standards, with a predictable set of chord changes and a sleepy tempo on Nash's sections. Worryingly this song is weaker than even the worst that had appeared on 'Daylight Again', suggesting that the 1983 album wouldn't have been one of the high points of CSN's career had it been finished. Find it on: CSN's 1983 live LP 'Allies', the CD re-issue of 'Daylight Again' (2006) and Graham Nash's 2009 box set 'Reflections'.
B) [265] 'Feel Your Love' is a lovely bluesy Stills song that was all set to make the 'Daylight Again' album before the lawyers for Rose Royce got involved and claimed it as one of their own, forcing it off the album (you wonder how they ever got a chance to hear it - something that was never explained, nor have we ever been told the specific song they meant: to be honest all Rose Royce songs do sound a bit the same). The story that a band as average and poppy as Rose Royce got involved had always put me off this song before hearing it, but Stills has a real flair for the smoky passionate ballad and it's tailor made for CSN's smoky harmonies (including the single best harmony vocal of Crosby's during the 1982 sessions). Unable to stay passive for long, Stills turns in a fiery middle eight that charges out of nowhere with an angry guitar solo that cuts up the song nicely. Like much of 'Daylight Again' it's a song about the healing power of love after hard times and Stills' worry about whether it's still there (admitting that 'sometimes I doubt myself'). While far from the greatest song around it would have added a nice frisson of drama to 'Daylight Again' (perhaps in the middle of the weaker second side, which is nearly all made up of love songs) and the trio really should have put it on there even if they'd had to hand all the resulting royalties over (lawyers be damned!) Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Daylight Again' (2006)
C) [266] 'Tomorrow Is Another Day' is arguably the weakest original song recorded at the 'Daylight Again' sessions, the song clearly dropped before Crosby came anywhere near to rejoining Stills and Nash. One of Stephen's songs, it finds him increasingly desperate to sound like what's in the charts in 1982 (clue: Rolls Royce might have had grounds to sue him for his song too), although a fiery performance half-rescues the song, with some dramatic dynamic switches between laidback verses and a noisy power chorus and lashes of Stills' glorious wah-wah guitar. Just as with his songs for Judy Collins and Rita Coolidge Stills pours out his heart and hopes his new love feels the same way in return, but adds that he'd hate to hold back, claiming 'I'll miss you girl - but I won't resist your curiosity'. The sudden violent switches in volume hint that the narrator is secretly furious at the thought of being single again, though. Find it on: the CD re-issue of 'Daylight Again' (2006)
                                                                                

Non-Album Recordings #15 1983
A) [267] 'War Games', another song recorded for an abandoned CSN album in 1983 before Crosby's ill health got in the way and included as a 'bonus' on CSN's live record 'Allies', is like the songs from 'Daylight Again' but more so, merging a strong pop bent with one of only two CSN songs becrying the mid 80s peak of the cold war (the other being Nash's 'I Got A Rock' from 'Innocent Eyes'). 'War Games' isn't one of Stills' best, borrowing it's title from a period Hollywood film ** and it's sneery bounce from Frankie Goes To Hollywood, but it's a fine enough war cry that deserves to be more widely known. At only two minutes, though, the song rather sells itself short and Crosby is sorely missed on the harmonies, while Stills' lyric (sample: 'Either your machine is a fool - or me') is hardly comparable to old classics like 'For What It's Worth' or the similarly titled 'Word Game'. Find it on: CSN's 1983 album 'Allies' or the Stephen Stills box set 'Carry On' (2012)
B) [268] 'For Free' is a Joni Mitchell song that was one of David Crosby's all-time favourites and cropped up in his set lists (mainly solo and Crosby-Nash, though occasionally with CSN or CSNY) more often than most of his own masterpieces. Joni's song tells of a tired rich songwriter dejectedly walking home concerned with money problems until she stops, entranced by the sound of a 'one-man band by the quick lunch stand', pouring his heart out for free, entranced by the music even though nobody seemed to be listening. Crosby first recorded this slice of whimsy on the Byrds reunion album of 1973 where it really didn't fit (this is very much a CSN philosophy than a Byrds one). This version is a near solo performance from a CSN tour in 1977  (the reason there's a sudden cheer near the end is that Nash has just walked on stage to join his partner, cleverly appearing spot on to sing the line 'maybe put on a harmony'). Left in the vaults for six years, it was disinterred in 1983 to give live LP 'Allies' the illusion of a fully functioning Crosby (who got very few lead vocals in the set) and made for a nice bonus for fans who'd always wanted a recording of Crosby singing it. To date the recording is one of CSN's rarest: there was a CD of 'Allies' briefly in the 1990s but it didn't sell and has been rather superseded by the 'Live in LA 1983' set which features the full CSN recording used for the album, whilst omitting the studio tracks and both this and 'Shadow Captain' (also taped in 1977 and the best thing on the record, with some ragged-but-right CSN harmonies enhancing the mystery of the song). Find it on: CSN's 'Allies' (1983).
  [228a] 'Clear Blue Skies' isn't many people's choice of greatest Nash song, although a rare CSN recording from the mid-1980s (with Crosby out on parole but about to enter prison for good - this could so easily have been the trio's last recording) is astonishingly even worse than the version that graced (disgraced?) 'American Dream'. Nash's vocal is treated with the same annoying artificial synths as most of 1986 record 'Innocent Eyes', although this is clearly a full three-way CSN record with major roles for a croaky Crosby and Stills adding some nice falsetto. The pace is slower, the backing even more filled with artificial synths that seem at odds with the song's message of 'purity' and there's an 'extra' repeat of the song's chorus which really does strain your patience. Composition-wise everything is here already, including an additional 'and I know...' line dropped from the finished product. The end result is one of the lesser moments of the Nash box set, but it's still preferable to have an alternate take over the real thing. Find it on: the Nash box set 'Reflections' (2009)


Non-Album Recordings #16 1986
A) Another tribute to wife Susan,  [288]  'Love Is The Reason' is heartfelt but rather forgettable, which still makes it automatically more listenable than most of Nash's artifixcal and forgettable album 'Innocent Eyes'. 'Now the old days are gone, what you gonna do from here?' sighs Nash, perhaps thinking back to his last project - a rather unhappy reunion album with The Hollies, while 'Innocent Eyes' is the sound of a man trying to rekindle a flame by copying what others are doing instead of listening to himself. Find it on: Nash's box set 'Reflections' (2009)
B) [289]  'Lonely Man' is a haunting song that would have sounded right at home on Nash's 'Innocent Eyes', with the same burbling synthesisers and almost the same riff as 'I Got A Rock'. This is a much better song than anything on that wretched record, however, Nash using the antiseptic stripped-of-emotion backing to pour out one of his more heartbreaking lyrics. Written in tribute to wife Susan, it recounts how he's 'waited a lifetime', Nash's typical upbeat sunny optimism suddenly upset by a wild change back to the minor key on the line 'it was only then this lonely man could love'. The sleevenotes to Nash's 'Reflections' box set list this as a CSN recording: while Stills is indeed present and correct (turning in a brief guitar solo), Crosby seems to have been replaced by Mike Finnigan, as per quite a lot of the trio's recordings from the first half of the 1980s. A shame as this is exactly the kind of soulful Nash song Crosby always connected with best and my candidate for Nash's best song of the troubled 1980s. Find it on: Nash's box set 'Reflections' (2009)
C) The alternate mix of [284b] 'Sad Eyes' released on the box set further backs up my prognosis that there's a good album trapped inside Nash's 'Innocent Eyes' LP kicking and screaming it's way out. With so many of the 1980s trappings taken out, 'Sad Eyes' sounds like a typically astute compassionate Nash love song, where Nash is able to talk about his dark side but has the upbeat message that love keeps him right. 'No more bringing myself way down!' Nash sings in tandem with special guest James Taylor (whose voice overpowers Graham's rather in this mix) on a special song that sounds all the better in this version. Find it on: 'Reflections' (Graham Nash Box set)
D) 'Wherever you are, you are here' sings Nash on his latest upbeat ecological ballad [290] 'Water From The Moon', which tells mankind to get on with solving their own problems because there's no higher deity around to solve it for them. Nash was inspired to write the song after an Academy Award acceptance speech by actress Linda Hunt in 1983, whose film 'The Year Of Living Dangerously' from the year before offered her a 'pulpit' to offer her views on  the environment. Nash was particularly taken with her image of the problems evaporating like water from the moon' - a line that doesn't make much sense to me but seemed to strike a chord with Nash who wrote a typical commercial Nash song around the theme. The highlight of the recording is undoubtedly David Lindley's fierce electric guitar - sadly it's his last appearance in this book, the end of a musical relationship that dates back a decade from here. However the song itself is rather forced, full of a rather trite sing-songy melody and the same irritating synths and booming drums from 'Innocent Eyes', the Nash album of the following year. Probably just as well it stayed in the vaults. Find it on: the Nash box set 'Reflections' (2009) Non-Album Recordings #20 1993
A) [343] 'Fare Thee Well' is a rare example of a non-album solo Crosby recording. Taped at the same sessions as 'Thousand Roads', this pretty ballad by Emily Saliers (best known from an Indigo Girls cover) is actually closer in style to Crosby's own work than most of that record, made with a simple 'Guinevere' style acoustic strumming and some gentle harmonies from his backing band. A lullaby well suited to Crosby's still-bright voice and to the loose album theme of 'saying goodbye', it would surely have been an album highlight and is well worth searching out the 'Hero' CD single for (although beware - my copy accidentally swaps this song round with 'Coverage', despite what it says on the sleeve!) In many ways this is Crosby's 'As I Come Of Age', the narrator bidding goodbye to his reckless youth as well as a loved one (the hint is that his dangerous ways have just got someone he loves killed - which must have struck a nerve with how far girlfriend Jan followed him down his drug road), giving one last sorrowful glimpse at 'the vanity of youth' as well as trying to remember 'the colour of your eyes'. Find it on: the CD single 'Hero' (1993) credited to 'David Crosby Featuring Phil Collins'
B) Nash's even rarer [344] 'Try To Find Me' is one of those songs in my collection that changes depending on my mood. At times its almost insufferably sugary, a trite tale sung through the eyes of a disabled child 'trapped in the web of a dark night' that would have made 'Band Aid'think twice. At other times its tremendously affecting: Nash's song is simple but heartfelt, inspired by attending the first of Neil's 'Bridge School Benefit' shows where from the stage he could see a child spend several painful minutes moving his wheelchair to put his hand out to the sobbing girl in the seat next to his. Nash's reflection 'I'm still in here' is a typically powerful uplifting song set to a vintage Nash melody of light and shade. You wonder what Neil thought of this song, after making a whole album of songs like this about his need to communicate with his cerebral palsy suffering son on 1982's superb 'Trans' (ignore what other critics say - it's one of his very best albums when you have the right key to unlock what it all means). Young would never be that sugary (or at least that's what I thought until 'Greendale'...) and the song will do nothing to ease the wrath often heaped on Nash that's he's a 'lightweight' composer. However there's always been a place in pop for heartfelt ballads when they're well made and, not unlike his old band's 1969 hit 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' this song's heart is in the right place even if the sugar isn't. Find it on: Nash's solo box set 'Reflections' (2009). Non-Album Recordings #21 1998
A) One of Stills' live favourites across the 1990s and 2000s which never found a home on a proper studio record was traditional folk song [369] 'Girl From The North Country'. Most famously sung by Dylan on 'Nashville Skyline' (and later sung by AAA favourite Pete Townshend), this gentle English folk tale about love and loss may well be viewed by Stills as at one with his own songs about Judy Collins and Rita Coolidge, the teary narrator asking a friend heading to his old home to 'look for a true love of mine' and see how she's aged. Had Stills been recorded singing it when he was younger and his voice in full bloom this would indeed have been lovely (it's a surprise absentee from his 'Stills Alone' album in fact), but alas the two existing versions (a 1998 version with CSN and a solo version on 'Live At Shepherd's Bush' in 2008) are a little too rough and ready for repeated listening. Had CSN done it in the studio though - perhaps for their infamous abandoned 'covers' project in 2012' - it might still have been a good idea though. Find it on: the CSN version is on the Stills set 'Carry On' (2013) and the solo version is on 'Live At Shepherd's Bush' (2008)
B) Now we're inundated with a bunch of hokey musicals cobbled together out of songs that don't fit ('Mama Mia' must have been what Abba said when approached with such a terrible idea and the idea of a bunch of talentless non-singing actors performing them, however many millions of people went to see it at the cinema) thoughts turn to what a CSN-sponsored musical might sound like. Clearly there'd have to be heartbreak, with at least fifteen splits and reunions before the first interval in order to fit in all those back together/I hate you songs from their setlist down the years. However he closest song in the CSN canon is [345] 'Two Hearts' , a one-off collaboration between Nash and Carole King which just sounds like it belongs in some arch self-conscious musical (or failing that a 'Care Bears' movie - why does everyone laugh whenever I claim the first one to be Carole King's best work, beating 'Tapestry' hands down?!) Recorded between projects in 1998, the collaboration came about when the pair of singers met up at a tribute night for mutual friend Nicolette Larson (who'd sung some very pretty harmonies on some very pretty Neil Young records). Carole suggested the pair ought to work together - Nash replied that he didn't like writing with other people and didn't often write with Crosby or Stills. 'Right, I'll be at your house tomorrow!' she said - this sad and rather awkward song being the result. To be honest the song proves why Nash prefers working alone - when placed together the two writers are too similar to bring the best out in each other and imply multiply their faults, becoming mawkish and sentimental to the power of about three thousand. Vocally the pair are a better fit and it's unusual to hear Nash duet with a female voice (in fact, it's unusual for him to take the deeper part). However this song of two lovers coming together after their own bad experiences and then losing each other by not talking enough is not worthy of either great name. Perhaps sensing this, neither of them released the song for years, Carole just pipping Graham by including the 'finished' version of this song on the deluxe edition of her album 'Love Makes The World' (2007), while the superior demo came out on Nash's 'Reflections' box set (2009). Bet it would go down a storm on something trivial like 'X Factor', though. Find it on: Carole King's 'Love Makes The World' (2007) and Nash's 'Reflections' box set (2009)A) Alas the Nash tribute to Roy Orbison [346] 'Behind The Shades' - potentially a thriller as a singer as great as Graham tackles Roy's wobbly dramatic style - is rather ordinary. Written by Allan McDougal, one-time press officer for The Hollies (and sleeve-writer of the band's fifth album 'For Certain Because...' under the name McDoug, ssh! ssh!) Nash fell in love with it despite not being all that big a fan of the big 'O' - to be honest there aren't that many Orbison references here anyway and could equally refer to Johnny Cash or Bee Gee Maurice Gibb if Nash hadn't put a picture of Roy opposite the song in his box set artwork ('Behind the shades the man in black...') Taped at Nathaniel Kunkel (son of drummer Russell, a Crosby-Nash regular)'s home studio in 2000, in many ways this is a trial run for the 'Crosby*Nash' album of 2004 with the same nice-ideas-sterile-production of most of that album. It's a questionable addition to 'Reflections', though, all but sinking the strong work of the first two-and-a-half CDs along with most of the other unreleased material. Find it on: Nash box set 'Reflections' (2009)
B) A charity song without the excuse of raising money for a charity, the earnest [347] 'We Breathe The Same Air' is an oddly poppy song for the mid-90s Nash to cut. The story gets clearer when you learn that Nash was sent it on-spec by songwriters Marty Jourard and Jay Pinto with the potential of getting The Hollies to sing on it (the songwriters either didn't know about Nash's complicated, convoluted history with the band - or did know it and sent it to him anyway to pass on). Nash did indeed try to get The Hollies to record it for their long awaited return to the studio for a '#30th anniversary single' and frankly it's one hell of a lot less patronising than the song the band chose to record ('The Woman I Love' has hair of blue, a face like heaven and a body like you...' the way the band hadn't sounded since 1962!) I can even hear a Tony Hicks vocal on the middle verse when I hear this song now that I know the background behind it. However the Hollies, not accustomed to being sent songs by ex-members who left them in the lurch, declined. That's probably to the world's benefit although, ever one to help out a fellow songwriter at the beginning of their career, Nash recorded it anyway solo for an unspecified album that never got made (and got replaced by CSN record 'After The Storm', which contains far better Nash songs than the ones listed here), perfectly professionally and commercially, but a little low on charm. Still, far more gormless songs than this have made number one before now, so whose to say who was right? Find it on: Nash box set 'Reflections' (2009)Non-Album Recordings #22 2008
The last released Nash composition at the time of writing, [435] 'In Your Name' sums up the twin Nash themes of quiet rage and shimmering beauty rather well. Leading on rather nicely from 'Jesus Of Rio' on the box set, Nash unusually reaches to God and asks that 'if' he's out there could he place do something to stop the religious wars fought by both sides in his name. While religion as a factor in war goes back to at least The Crusades, it's certainly become a key topic of conversation in the 21st century as the 'war of the West' that treated so much paranoia and fear as a background to the CSN era slowly turned from one based on politics (capitalism v communism) to religion (Christianity v Islam, with the crux of the matter whether insults to God in this world damn us in the next and whether there is a 'next' world at all - which is why America was caught so on the hop by it, fighting a 'foe' that was all too eager to prove itself through suicide and murder rather than fellow humans ready to use all-out warfare only as a last resort. Far from being in the middle of a cold war that everyone pretended wasn't happening except when they needed to look 'tough', this one is a furnace with nowhere safe from the sparks whichever side is 'right' or 'wrong'). Nash's sweet country ballad sounds less defiant than usual for CSN, a weary plea of resignation rather than a demand for justice or a belief that 'we can change the world', Crosby's lovely backing vocal following him down the same road. As a result, it's quietly affecting, with Nash's quiet anger all the more fierce after years of hearing him musically-yelling his heart out. The melody is a pretty one too, neatly balancing the upright structured pop of The Hollies with the lazier jazz chords of CSN. Had this song been written at a time when Nash had an album to make, rather than being between projects, this song might well have become a fan favourite instead of a track that's been rather 'lost' despite being released three times to date (see also the similar live versions on 2011's 'An Evening With Crosby-Nash' and 2012's 'CSN In Concert'). Find the studio take on the Graham Nash set 'Reflections' (2009)





A Now Complete List Of CSN/Y and Solo Articles Available To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:




'Crosby, Stills and Nash' (1969)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-29-crosby-stills-and-nash-1969.html

'Deja Vu' (CSNY) (1970)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-34-crosby-stills-nash-and-young.html

‘Stephen Stills’ (1970)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/stephen-stills-1970.html

'If Only I Could Remember My Name' (Crosby) (1971)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-45-david-crosby-if-only-i-could.html

'Songs For Beginners' (Nash) (1971)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-46-graham-nash-songs-for.html

'Stephen Stills II' (1971)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-48-stephen-stills-ii-1971.html
‘Graham Nash, David Crosby’ (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/graham-nash-david-crosby-1972.html

'Stephen Stills-Manassas'  (1972)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-51-stephen-stillsmanassas-1972.html

'Wild Tales' (Nash) (1973)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/news-views-and-music-issue-75-graham.html
'Down The Road' (Stephen Stills/Manassas) (1973) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/stephen-stillsmanassas-down-by-road-1973.html

'Stills' (1975)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/review-65-stephen-stills-stills-1975.html

'Wind On The Water' (Crosby-Nash) (1975)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-67-crosby-nash-wind-on-water.html
'Illegal Stills' (Stills) (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/stephen-stills-illegal-stills-1976.html
'Whistling Down The Wire' (Crosby-Nash) (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/david-crosby-graham-nash-whistling-down.html

'Long May You Run' (Stills-Young) (1976)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/news-views-and-music-issue-33-stills.html

'CSN' (1977)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-70-crosby-stills-and-nash-csn.html
'Thoroughfare Gap' (Stills) (1978) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/stephen-stills-thoroughfare-gap-1978.html
'Earth and Sky' (Nash) (1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/graham-nash-earth-and-sky-1980.html

'Daylight Again' (CSN) (1982)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/news-views-and-music-issue-131-crosby.html
'Right By You' (Stills) (1984) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/stephen-stills-right-by-you-1984.html
'Innocent Eyes' (Nash) (1986) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/01/graham-nash-innocent-eyes-1986.html
'American Dream' (CSNY) (1988) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/crosby-stills-nash-and-young-american.html

'Oh Yes I Can!' (Crosby) (1989) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/07/david-crosby-oh-yes-i-can-1989.html

'Live It Up!' (CSN)  (1989)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/07/news-viedws-and-music-issue-104-crosby.html

'Stephen Stills Alone' (1991) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.nl/2016/09/stephen-stills-alone-1991.html



'CPR' (Crosby Band) (1998) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/cpr-david-crosby-band-1998.html


‘So Like Gravity (CPR, 2001) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/cpr-just-like-gravity-2001.html

‘Songs For Survivors’ (2002)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/graham-nash-songs-for-survivors-2002.html



'Deja Vu Live' (CD) (2008) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/news-views-and-music-issue-1-crosby.html

'Deja Vu Live' (DVD) (2008)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008_09_21_archive.html

'Reflections' (Graham Nash Box Set) (2009)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/02/news-views-and-music-issue-22-graham.html

'Demos' (CSN) (2009)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/08/news-views-and-music-issue-41-crosby.html

'Manassas: Pieces' (2010)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/01/news-views-and-music-issue-52-manassas.html

‘Carry On’ (Stephen Stills Box Set) (2013)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/stephen-stills-carry-on-box-set-2013.html

'Croz' (Crosby) (2014) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/david-crosby-croz-2014album-review.html
'CSNY 74' (Recorded 1974 Released 2014) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/crosby-stills-nash-and-young-csny-74.html

'This Path Tonight' (Nash) (2016) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/graham-nash-this-path-tonight-2016.html



‘Here If You Listen’ (Crosby) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2018/10/david-crosby-and-friends-here-if-you.html

The Best Unreleased CSNY Recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/csny-best-unreleased-tracks-news-views.html
Surviving TV Appearances (1969-2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/csny-surviving-tv-appearances-1969-09.html
Non-Album Recordings (1962-2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/crosby-stills-nash-and-sometimes-young_6.html
Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One (1964-1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/crosby-stills-nash-and-sometimes-young.html
Live/Compilations/Rarities Albums Part Two (1982-2012) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/crosby-stills-nash-and-sometimes-young_20.html
Essay: The Superest Of Super Groups? https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/csny-essay-superest-of-super-groups.html
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2018/02/csny-five-landmark-concerts-and-three.html