Monday 10 July 2017

CPR "Just Like Gravity" (2001)

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CPR "Just Like Gravity" (2001)

Map To Buried Treasure/Breathless/Darkness/Gone Forever/Eyes Too Blue/Jerusalem/Kings Get Broken/Angel Dream/Katie Did/Climber/Coyote King/Just Like Gravity

'Any father should find his children and his life...'

By 2001 and a new millennia, David Crosby had been around the block enough times to know when he was crashing back to Earth. In truth it had been quite a creative period for Croz, stretching right back to his release from prison in 1987 that had seen him release one CSNY, two CSN, two solo and two CPR albums in fourteen years, as well as writing a lengthy autobiography with a second on the way, not to mention giving birth to a son and re-discovering an old one given up for adoption in 1962. Crosby has taken a while to come to terms with the monumental changes in his life, including nearly dying several times from drugs and then from a liver transplant in 1994 and had written himself silly for more than a decade, trying to make sense of where life was taking him and just why he had been 'spared' by the grim reaper he'd been dancing with for so long, determined to make the most of his new chances. Stills, Nash and even Young a little bit must have looked on in envy as the writer they'd spent their creative lives waiting to finish a couple of songs a year suddenly showed them all up in middle age. But every career goes in fits and bursts and this album finds Crosby gradually sinking back to Earth, going back to writing about the outside world rather than his own life and becoming one of three voices rather than the driving force of CPR. That's not a complaint by the way, that's 'normal' for a writer approaching their sixtieth birthday - Stills and Nash had reached this point much earlier after all. And unlike the drug-numbed years of 1978-1986 this feels natural this time around, the way things should be and a sign that at last Croz is coming to terms with the rollercoaster his life has been for so long. It's just like gravity, in other words, mirrored on the album cover by a 'Wooden Ships' style sailing vessel being sucked back into a black hole after so long sailing in a bright and brilliant sky (after a slow decade, broken by just the one Crosby*Nash studio record, David has been back there since, with three albums in seven years).

There's a sense of contentment about this record that makes it both less interesting than 'CPR' and most of Croz' other 1990s efforts - and more so. This is the first time we've really heard Crosby, one of the counterculture's greatest rebels always desperate to break conventions, taking it easy (for now the '1000 Roads' covers album doesn't count). He's not here to tell us how he nearly died, how we all should live or trying to fight a system that won't let us live in peace - instead he's thankful just to 'be', with a rosy glow of contentment from this album matched only by his recent 'Lighthouse' (2016). The spooky vibes have been replaced by something that almost sounds like 'normal' chord progressions, the sourness of modern-day living is replaced by sweetness and only the scratchy sombre bluesy title track isn't surrounded by lush harmonies tugging at out heart-strings. Low on the autobiography related to CPR after their moving debut, many fans were disappointed by this album's sheer normality. But it's not a boring or dull album by any means - indeed, it's an album where a normal quiet period of stability sounds like the rarest, most sacred and amazing thing in the world.

This is, for the most part, a record more concerned with what's going on in the outside world behind closed doors. That too sounds  like a typical Crosby conceit but only 'Kings Get Broken' (which refers back to old CSNY songs about themselves as 'kings' (from Nash's 'King Midas In Reverse' via 'I Used To Be A King' to Croz' Byrds song 'Long Live The King!') breaks the album 'rules' by taking one last wicked look at corruption and power, while 'Climber' (a 'Looking Forward' outtake better than almost anything on CSNY's album) which continues Crosby's tales of mankind striving forward, sound anything like the 'old' days.  Instead this is an album of exploring, of trying new things simply because you can: 'Map To Buried Treasure' is another Croz tale of searching for something more out of life (and finding it in wife Jan's smile), 'Darkness' is a song of guilt and loneliness that's unusual for Crosby, a final outpouring of having finally got what he wanted during his darker days of decades before now he has his family, 'Katie Did' is the tale of a hippie groupie runaway that sounds more like a Jefferson Airplane song as well as shock at how Crosby used to live, 'Gone Forever' worries about all the chances that might never be taken by those who aren't bold enough to say 'I will' or 'I love you' or 'I'm gonna start a band!!!' and the title track turns Croz into a blue singer, part Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane, part Stephen Stills, as the narrator's life is shaped by the pulls of love, curiosity and needing something more. Though the clothes are different (less political, less about greed, less about the self) these songs are still audibly Crosby songs in the way his curiosity led him and still leads him to embrace the world anew, still searching for what he set out to find back in his teens and twenties. Whereas 'CPR' was about looking to the past. 'Gravity' looks the other way and embraces the future, all the more because it's unknown and wild and dangerous - but now also seems more 'safe' given that Croz actually has a home and family to come back to, for the first time in his life, without major life dramas getting in the way.

Crosby isn't the albums' chief voice anymore though and the biggest development since the first album is the rise of James Raymond, Croz' son given up for adoption back in 1962. Raymond was superb at embellishing and adding to his dad's songs on the first album but here, with Croz' creativity stalling and an album to full, he really comes into his own. Raymond's songs actually sound more like his dad's usual work than Croz' do: it's James who comes up with the weird atonal jazz tunings, whose bright shining voice tugs at the heart and whose lyrics of loss and melancholy makes you cry on this album. Raymond had, after all, experienced many of the same shocks as his dad in this period. Only a few years ago he'd been a struggling jazz pianist who'd wondered for years who his biological parents had been and was astonished to find that his dad was one of his musical heroes; for all he knew his famous millionaire dad was going to reject him again. Instead the pair discovered a telepathy rarer even to musical fathers and sons who grew up together in the same house, the same influences, the same writing quirks, the same sense of despair at the way the world was heading, singed with a familiar sense of hope that one day mankind might just get his and her act together after all. What's more, Raymond was himself a new dad, with all the worries and responsibilities that brings, the factor that had finally led him to trace his real father in the first place in a need to share his pride and maybe see where his and his daughter's genes came from. After an album where father was in shock at discovering a ready-made family to be proud of, suddenly the son is having the same culture shakes and it's James' songs that stick in your memory the most from this album. 'Breathless' is a 'will they won't they?' love song that's dark and brooding, touching on several Crosby themes like re-incarnation ('Deja Vu') beauty and fate ('Guinnevere') and desperation and apology ('Oh Yes I Can!') 'Eyes Too Blue' is haunting, Raymond's narrator imagining his wife slowly and silently walking away from him into the rain with the sudden panic that he might never see her again, her eyes as blue as Stills once thought Judy Collins' were. 'Angel Dream' bids goodbye to a loved one, watching out for the sudden flash of inspiration as they pass over to the next life and imagines their spirit essence re-incarnated in the body of a new-born baby. Only 'Coyote King' goes anywhere near the more ordinary sound of James' songs on the first CPR album. Croz, of course, had a hand in all these songs (as did Pevar, CPR being more of a democracy than CSNY ever were) and shares vocals on many of them, which makes them sound ever more like Crosby compositions. But it's James' work that rings in the eyes and in the emotional memory box after this record has stopped playing and the pianist was never better than here, singing with a force and passion that automatically shifts the band's three-part harmonies around so that, more often than not, his voice is at the heart of things (and his dad, one of the best harmony vocalists out there of course, slots in effortlessly alongside). Crosby fans, then, might not like this album much - and the few who actually heard this low-selling album said so at the time of release - but it's still a pretty great album, just with a different creative talent in charge of things.

While James' first love was always jazz (something you can hear more on this album than ever, with his dad a major fan too), he also brings a whole new flavour to this album which we've never really heard from a Crosby-related record before: gospel. Those piano chords, that voice, those harmonies: all of them sum up a sort of serenity and peace which can't often be heard on the angrier CSN recordings (except on occasional love songs) and couldn't that often be heard on 'CPR' (an album that, because of the content, often found Crosby singing his heart out alone, sounding lost). This album though comes with great swathes of heavenly angelic comfort - heck, the best tracks is even a prayer for an 'Angel Of Mercy' to come and put things right. Oh and another song named 'Jerusalem' (although it's actually the most cutting song on the album, about how Biblical characters would be acting badly had they lived today). As that song says 'nothing is quite what it seems' and none of these works are 'religious' or 'spiritual, even in the lopsided 'what the hell are you doing?' way of the choral 'If I Could Only Remember My Name' from 1971, with its 'Orleans' list of Cathedrals and massed chants. There is no mention of God, no word on Jesus and not even the sense of brotherhood and coming together of CSN at their peak. And yet it's this album that sounds the most spiritual in the CSN catalogue. There's something about these three different voices coming together, on songs that are largely about finding direction and hope, with a jazzy piano centre-stage that dominates the guitars, that makes you think of 'church' (rather than their usual 'Disneyland' - Crosby-Nash bootleg in-joke!) Perhaps, too, that sense comes from the many album references to deja vu, reincarnation and coming back again because of something still unlearnt from the last Earthly incarnation offers this view - this is, after all, an album about making the most of your chances while you can. No wonder, then, that there's a sense of a ticking clock counting down to what happens next.

Though we've talked about the content-ness being a theme, there's also a sense of restlessness and nervousness at this album's heart, particularly on James' songs. There's a sense, from the album cover through to the material, that life is just pausing for breath before things get difficult all over again - the eye of a hurricane or a black hole that's about to disrupt everything. You can hear this a little bit in other periods of Crosby's life: his songs for 1977 album 'CSN' have a similar eerie calm (as well they might just before the drug years and collapse) while his compositions for 'After The Storm' show a similar 'coasting' quality (in contrast to Nash's love and Stills' anger on that under-rated record). But just as this is an album more concerned with the outside world than the inner one, so this disruption proved to be universal, not personal. This is, if you write them all out in a long line of 480 (ish) the last of the AAA albums to be released before 9/11 (Paul McCartney's anxious 'Driving Rain' being the first to be released afterwards if you were wondering, though that album would have been ever so nearly finished at the time with only awkward clappy-happy single 'Freedom' added on the end as a postscript). CSNY were, despite being a quarter Canadian and a quarter Mancunian, always the biggest town-criers for America and what prisons the land of the free had ended up in this time. Their last joint work 'Looking Forward' from 1999, which interrupted early sessions for this album, features a similar nervy 'something not quite right but it hasn't exactly gone wrong yet' vibe. Somehow it makes perfect sense that it's Crosby who rings out the changes for the world as it plunged from post-cold war peace into terrorism and propaganda in a new era of world politics. Somehow the theme of 'do what you can before it becomes too late' and the unsettling title track, which after forty minutes of lushness takes things back to its bones, is deeply unsettling when released just three months before the world changes. We didn't make enough of the 'peace' in the twelve years we had it (when CSN were there at the start too, appearing in Berlin the very week the wall falls down and rushing to play a benefit show there) and so we got war - again. Oddly, though, Crosby (like Stills) will all but ignore 9/11 in their later work, though it becomes central to Nash and Young's (the non-Americans, remember) next run of albums.
What we have here, then, is an album of contradictions. It's an album of cosiness that still feels slightly threatening. It's an album primarily concerned with love and family that nevertheless seems to spend a long time talking about death. It's a record that loves stability and normality and yet has a restless compulsion to turn the page and see what happens next - 'Page 44' if you like, the one after the 'comfort' in the instruction book of life heard on 'Page 43'. It's nowhere near as moving or as impressive as the first 'CPR' album - and yet it's also another deeply under-rated album from a great talent that deserved to be far more widely spread and much more well known, with some real beauties here. 'Eyes Too Blue' and 'Angel Dream', especially, are really moving mournful brilliant songs and even if Crosby wasn't the chief writer on them they still feel like the best things on the set, while the title track is a much better attempt at returning to a dark stark bluesy feel than any of Crosby's sometimes clumsy goes at this on the 'Live It Up' and  'After The Storm' CSN albums.

Alas After this album CPR were no more. Even minor label Gold Circle became frustrated at the lack of sales, as did guitarist Jeff Pevar who left to work full time with the Grateful Dead spin-off band 'Phil Lesh and Friends' (though he'll be back to help out on 'Crosby*Nash' in 2004 - oddly enough on Nash's songs rather than Crosby's). James, of course, was tied to this band by DNA as much as salary and he'll be there for pretty much everything his father has done since, including writing by far and away the two strongest tracks on that 'Crosby*Nash' CD and a fair bit of 2012's 'Croz', as well as most Crosby/Crosby-Nash/Crosby Stills and Nash/Crosby Stills Nash and Young tours since then. His voice, a neat halfway pitch between Crosby and Nash's, also means that he's a useful middle ground on stage, although his similarity to his dad does make it sound sometimes as if there are two Crosbys on stage (it's a wonder his competitive colleagues haven't tried to do the same - especially with Christopher Stills sounding much like his old man too!) It's a real shame there never was a third 'CPR' album because it feels a little bit like unfinished business. We've had the creative burst looking at family and changes, the sequel that's slightly more subdued looking at the outside world and we really needed a third album to bring everything back together again. Maybe we'll get it someday? But then again Crosby's never been very good at delivering third albums with any line-up, be it Byrds or CSN and just as Crosby Stills and Nash took a full seven years to make their third LP maybe it's just taking this band a little longer? Let's hope so because, while CPR might not be as loved or as renowned as the CSN parent band, they are a great and under-rated act that especially on the first album brought out the best in Crosby's personal off-beat jazzy writing and a stunning mix of originality, cerebralness and emotional heart that few other bands can match. Much as I love Crosby's recent run of works, with 'new' discoveries Snarky Puppy and Rebecca Stevens offering up a sort of 'Steely Dan acoustic' feel to his works, if we can't have Crosby as part of CSNY (and we can't, at least not until Trump does something so monumentally stupid this band has to put aside their differences and protest - which at this rate might well be next week) then CPR is the best place to hear him.

One of Crosby's great loves is Steely Dan. I must admit as a CSNY fan I've never quite understood why - CSNY's music is quite often intellectual, but it's emotional first and foremost, driven by anger, love, lust or frustration. Crosby's songs especially go where they damn well want to, driven by the need to get the story across - regardless of conventional tunings, keys, time signatures or tonal progressions. 'Steely Dan' always felt a little rigid to me, stuck in place, dominated by the thought rather than the feeling. 'A Map To Buried Treasure' is Crosby's most 'Steely Dan' like song, with a monotonous theme, carefully arranged jazz piano chords so different to his usual instinctive work and lyrics that describe love in terms of a treasure hunt rather than the thrill of the rollercoaster chase we usually get. The lyrics, too, feel more cerebral than usual for Crosby, who wears his lovers 'allegiance like a cloak of trust' protecting him throughout the day and sees the couple tied together by their shared experiences 'welded by laughter and sealed in pain'. There is, at least, a brief return to the old 'sailing' metaphor as the lovers get tossed and turned by a storm and only have each other to cling on to, but otherwise it's as if a 'pirate' has somehow attacked the Crosby vessel and kicked his usual musical instincts onto touch. In truth it's a formula that doesn't quite work: unusually for CPR the melody and lyrics go in separate directions  - the lyrics are less about the treasure at the end than the difficult search for them, whilst the melody has the same brassy-eyed stare as Steely Dan's manically happy songs. It all feels a bit disconnected, especially when James Raymond plays the most carefully pre-prepared jazz piano solo in history. Only a gutsy Crosby vocal (with some age-old 'hmm hmm hmms') really catches the ear, adding some overdue emotion, but even that gets lost in the sea of the backing. Not the best place to start the album.

'Breathless' is uniquely credited to the whole CPR band - including drummer Steve DiStanisloe and bassist Andrew Ford - which suggests it started off life as a band jam somewhere down the line. What's odd is that this is the sparest, sleepiest song on the album, at least until the chorus suddenly kicks into gear. This song is better all round, more like the songs from the first CPR album dealing with love and trust. One metaphor - probably James' - is that love is a 'bell that once struck will ring forever'; you can't ever undo it once you've fallen in love, no matter how well or how badly things go. Another - Probably Crosby's - is that love is a 'dance that leaves me breathless', with moods always shifting, goals always changing and people ever evolving. I suspect too that a third verse about being walked into the forest of love, scared about what waits there but willing to put trust in your loved one to go there, is Crosby's too. A shame, then, that this song about unpredictability is so darn predictable, going from quiet verses to booming choruses with regular monotony. There is, at least, the best Jeff Pevar blues howl of a solo on the album to shake things up and some typically gorgeous three-part CPR vocals that don't just sing but soar. It's interesting that father and son, when writing to find some common goal, have both chosen love - both had just become fathers, while James only married his long-time girlfriend shortly before finding out who his 'real' dad was. They both have a different takes on it though - Crosby, typically, feels that love is fated and that he has been here before with his lover, while for James everything is new and exciting. An intriguing collaboration.

'Darkness' too is the track on the album most like the first, dealing with guilt and restrictions from past experiences that still haunt us even in a future life where most things worked out the way we wanted them to. Crosby's life is now happy and bright, but he well remembers a time when it wasn't, when it was all too easy to get depressed and 'blue tones leave you lonely - and lonely leaves you scared'. Crosby may well be remembering his prison years here, when he was left in literal darkness night after night, 'a truth left unsaid' that haunts him about what his life had become. But this isn't a depressing song but a song about the power of optimism. Crosby could so easily have gone 'under', giving way to the mess of his life, but something within him kept him searching for the 'light'. Crosby also imagines his soul glowing red with rage and fire, desperate to live, which somehow extinguishes the blackness around him even if he can't quite burst into light the way he wants to. It wasn't that he didn't feel the darkness the way his fellow miseries did, but he felt the difference between 'shadow' and 'shade', his clever quirky twist on the glass being half full or half empty, it being half-shade dark rather than half-shadowed. The lyrics are excellent, as worthy as any other track around dealing with depression, surrounded on all sides by an inky-blackness that the narrator refuses to let near him, no matter how isolated, lonely and afraid he feels, unwilling to lose hope in friends and loved ones. Once again, though, this song lacks the sheer melody and beauty of the songs from the first album, sounding as if the simple tune was crafted around the lyrics and was the only thing the band could get to 'fit'. It's all very Crosby, to the point of recycling, sounding like a slowed-down 'In My Dreams' crossed with  'Rusty and Blue', but lacks the sheer originality of some of his best melodies.

'Gone Forever' is one of the album's more immediate tracks, which probably links Crosby's verses with James' chorus, which balances very 1960s Indian drumming and hippie-ish guitars against a very millennial sounding barrage of noise. The chorus is delightfully catchy, taking up the last song's cue by crying out the depressing lines 'gone forever!' with all the make-the-most-of-it excitement and restless energy of a pop tune. The lyric is another Crosby attack on the world repeating the same old mistakes, of fighting the same wars just against a different set of people. The world and its history books are groaning under the weight of too many to truly tell you what happened and Crosby admits, in contrast to his jokey know-all persona on 'Anything At All', that 'I don't feel qualified to tell you why'. Crosby, reeling from the heartache loss and devastation he sees repeated around the world generation after generation, once more struggles to get his head around it all. He knows how brilliant life can be, giving us a list of all his favourite moments that's quite revealing ('Moonlit landscapes' 'That feeling when you're alone that you've just been kissed') and wonders why mankind is so content to stay over on the dark side instead of the light. He's experienced them both and knows which one he'd rather stay in! Crosby returns to 'Page 43', telling us that we've been stuck on this page of mankind's evolution for far too long and need to work past it, to embrace peace and wisdom more than we do. In a moving last verse he also tells us that he's been around a while now, that he's climbed a way up the mountain (but in this new-look humble Crosby form 'not at the peak') and that he knows stuff, more than he used to when he was young and that what has hurt him most is seeing how many people who think like him fall off the mountain along the way. He doesn't want to see that hope, that optimism, that spirit 'gone forever' the way of the people who've lost their loved ones in wars too. A late rallying cry for the hippie movement, updated for the 21st century, it's a clever mix of the old and the new and one of the better album songs.

The album highlight though is 'Eyes Too Blue', a slow Raymond ballad that sounds so like his dad's heartbreaking working from the days after Christine Hinton's death. It's a devastating tale of sorrow that says much in so few words, the love of the narrator oozing out of the song even as he admits defeat and lets his lover go, watching her walking off alone into the rain. 'It's cold out there' father and son sing, paternally, meaning both the weather and the world when you're not in love anymore, while in a nod of the head to Stills and Judy Collins her blue eyes somehow glow bluer, sadder now there isn't any love in them anymore. There's another CSN reference too where her 'sister sailing ship' is no longer floating alongside his, but 'paired against the sea', moving out of port. Then there's that chorus, that somehow makes perfect sense of sounding alone and lost even though it's sung in stunning harmony, the pair of singers lamenting the fact that there just isn't a happy way out of this story as she steps out into a new life 'arms too empty, voice too true, voice too distant - eyes too blue'. For once on this album the melody is every bit as heartbreaking as the words are, haunting and sad and the perfect fit for a song that offers one last lingering look of goodbye, knowing that it's too late for apologies or recriminations to do any good. There is, though, a shared middle eight where first he and then her 'hold on', struggling to cope with life alone but somehow finding a way. Crosby and son's harmonies on this track are truly delicious, though it's James' sad harmonica part that steals the show, turning this folk song into pure blues, just for a second. Truly haunting, as cerebral as the rest of the album but yet far more direct, this is one of the best CPR songs of them all.

By and large CPR are better when they're being heartfelt and low-key and upbeat and commercial really isn't the right sound for them. James' 'Jerusalem' is a case in point: it's good but way out of the league of the last song. Raymond seems to have inherited his dad's opinions as well as his DNA, as he takes a holiday to Israel to see the land for himself - and finds it wanting. All the religious imagery from the Bible , brotherhood and hope, is all long gone. The hint though is that he is 'God' for the course of this song ('Don't you know me by my ancient eyes?' and later 'well-worn shoes?'; James clearly has his dad's big ego too if he's playing at being 'Deity Crosby'!) , returning to see how his people have grown up - and finding out that they haven't. Two thousand years on and all the petty squabbles and struggles for survival are still ongoing. However he sounds more like a hippie-ish New Testament kinda God than the cruel and vengeful Old Testament one and seems more like a tourist: 'It's nice to put the names to the faces' he sighs as he sees the sights. A second verse features the mysterious Magdelena (Mary?) who is still missing her Jesus in the present day and wishing he would come back. It's all a bit...strange, especially as the weirdest, most surreal lyric on the album is delivered alongside the album's most simplistic, derivative melody. It's an experiment that doesn't quite work somehow and even James sounds as if he doesn't quite understand what he's singing here, though oddly his dad does.

'Kings Get Broken' is a Crosby tale of power and corruption. On one level it's a typical Crosby song about society and people in charge who don't deserve to be: 'The song of the chainsaw and the soldier's toys'. On another it sounds like a Grateful Dead style song about society delivered in terms of both a chess game and a card game, two sides bluffing each other that always comes out worse for the pawns. And on a third it could well be a return to CSN writing about themselves, as per 'King Midas In Reverse' and 'Long Live The King', about their collective fall from grace. Crosby isn't in a happy mood, not liking this time out of the limelight compared to the glory years even if he thinks it's good for the soul ('Hard ain't handsome, hard ain't rich, good ain't easy and hard's a bitch!') The people around him figure that he's just not trying, that he's got a 'secret formula' he's deliberately ignoring that could  make him famous - but every past success was fleeting and unique and there's too much 'noise' for his words to be heard. Still, Crosby faces the choice of giving up or struggling on even when he knows it's hopeless and the song finally rights it's awkward, bruised carcass with the words 'we're finally gonna sing songs of joy!' with the breathless optimism of the good old days when singing a song could change the world (more or less). This is a complex, convoluted song that's more an intellectual puzzle than a piece of enjoyable music and is unusual for Crosby, though he works hard to tie his three strands together: the first verse has him, as a 'real' former King, still singing out against the fake ones who demand the power and riches he's disowned and a final twist at the end where Crosby reminds us that institutions and dictators can tumble down with 'the turn of a single card'. More interesting to study than to listen to, it's not the best song on the album by any means but is exactly what these CPR albums were for, to extend what people's natural idea of  Crosby song could be and on that level (if only that level) is a success. It feels more like a Joni Mitchell song, talking about people and relationships in a more detached and poetic way than normal, which in Crosby's eyes can surely only be a compliment.

Then again 'nothing is ever quite what it seems'. James wrote those words, though they could so easily have come from one of his dad's songs, with the pair sharing a view of something going on in life just outside our reach and understanding. 'Angel Dream' is one of the most far-out on a limb of those songs about what life might be about - but one of the most beautiful. We know Crosby believes, sort of, in re-incarnation, of the idea that man keeps being sent back to Earth to learn how to 'play nice' with each other: it's there in his lyric for 'Déjà Vu' and there in his interviews from all eras where he admits to instinctively knowing how to sing harmonies as a toddler (with a ghost memory of doing it in a previous life) and knowing how to sail a boat the first time he ever stood in one (given that Croz has never been reluctant to come forward about the stuff he can do, we can take it as read that if he believed he knew this from a previous life rather than his own inherent talents he probably did!) Till here, though, that's as far as it's gone, with 'Deja Vu' looking at reincarnation in a more generational, impersonal sense. This father and son collaboration, though, makes it personal. One or other or maybe both of the pair recognise one of their lost relatives in a new child (which could be either James' daughter Grace or Croz's son Django, both born at roughly the same time in the mid-1990s, though as there are more 'shes' than 'hes' I'm guessing James started this song). Not just the usual family things like her nose or her eyes, but their spirit. The song opens calmly that the narrator actually sees an angel 'inhabit the body of my child' and that they physically see them change, suddenly 'radiant and calm, though her eyes were slightly wild'. What's more they pass on a 'message', a 'glimpse' of what is waiting for us when we die and the comforting thought that the love we hold on Earth is endless and will 'never grow hollow' when we pass on, 'the one true flame to fuel your quest'. The angel 'makes no promises' but tells us that our troubles on this planet might be here to teach us something, that we might be welcomed if we are kind and do good and that 'the truth will be found between your pages, blessed'. Far more specific than most Crosby-related songs about death and the afterlife, it's odd to hear him (and James) actually come out and pin his freak flag  colours to his wooden ships mast, as it were. We fans have got used to hearing questions, not answers. But somehow that exquisite vocal suggests that Croz believes this more than any other song on this same theme, matched by his son's and it doesn't sound out of place or 'wrong' at all. Somehow instead of weird experiment this sounds like the most spiritual song on the most spiritual album by one of the most spiritual writers that he's so far released. The most important song on the album also manages to be one of the most beautiful, with some stunning harmonies, a brilliantly gutsy Pevar guitar solo and that jazz off-beat chorus of 'nothing is ever quite as it seems' gorgeously under-mining the expected gospel shuffle of the rest of the song. Sublime - I wish CPR would make another album because other Crosby albums, CSN or solo, can offer unusual pioneering songs like this one and still make them sound like the most natural thing in the world.

'Katie Did' finds the album immediately pretending that sudden revelation didn't happen. After all, where can you go after revealing the answer you've spent a career waiting to find? Instead Crosby rushes back to embrace a fellow searcher, one he sees in his audience every night. Quoting from Sarah Woolsley's Victorian childhood books 'What Katie Did' and 'What Katie Did Next', Crosby spends this very Who-like song discussing what it means to be a fan and the relationship between singer and follower that's so unique and special. Katie sounds much like a younger pre-Byrds Crosby, restless to get on with life and feelings the 'winds of change around her feet', 'running' from her life into the music because it represents a warmth and way of living that she can't have in her 'real' life. Crosby pays tribute to her in all sorts of weird ways, with a lascivious wink we've not heard since The Byrds: 'She had a pretty good ear and legs 'up here' and when she did it she felt mighty grand!' The 'it' she did then is clearly sex, perhaps a memory of a groupie from decades gone by - but this is about more than just a physical connection. The two share a spark, a need to fight the corrupt powers that be, a need to stand up for justice, a need to live life to the maximum. Could this song even be about wife Jan, back before she was a wife and just another fan, albeit with something special Croz felt mirrored his soul? Alas she too suffers from his problems, 'high as a kite' on drugs and with the music 'blowing her mind into a snowdrift', presumably of cocaine in her desperate drive to escape her 'real' life. She also misses her peaceful former way of life when she moves from the country to be in the city with her new boyfriend and to live out her new rock and roll lifestyle. Alas this promising song, which adds some grit and growl to an otherwise harmony-drenched set of ballads, ends here just as things were getting interesting and we long to hear 'What Katie Did Next'. Without that resolution we're left hanging: are we fans right to feel that connection with our musicians that feels so special? Or is leaving your life to follow a dream with a rockstar for what starts off at least as a one night stand a reckless thing to do? Both star and music fan himself, maybe the answer is that Croz himself isn't so sure and equally isn't convinced that his wife to be giving up so much to be with him, when he put her open to so much danger from her own addictions, is the right thing to do either.

'Climber' is a lovely song, the third-best song from the CSNY 'Looking Forward' sessions (and given that the best was the very CPR-style 'Dream For Him', about trying to tell your son about the horrors of the world as he grows up, it's safe to say this was a very creative period for Crosby). I got to know the quartet version first, available on Crosby's 'Voyage' box set, so I've always felt this CPR re-recording never quite made the spot, lacking those spooky Stills harmonies and a ghostly ambience that only CSN can provide. CPR sound like they don't quite understand this song, which is strange because lyrically at least it's another track that's very much in their natural style. Crosby is back using a metaphor to describe the human existence again, seeing us all as climbers slowly making it to the top of our particular mountain. Everyone climbs for different reasons: he's climbing to see what likes 'At The Edge' to quote a sister CPR song and 'because he can', but other people do it because they're told to 'be like a man' and 'because it's there'. It may be that Crosby is singing about the adrenalin fuel of living on the edge too, of doing something dangerous for the sake of it. Crosby's poetic lyrics are exquisite in the first verse as he makes the climb sound physical ('The clink of the metal, the hiss of the rope') and admits that he never felt as alive as when he was clinging to the edge of a rock, knowing he could fall off at any time, but also feeling in charge of his fate despite being dwarfed by the sheer size of nature around him. Being out here, where the world is wide and the drop is scary, puts the narrator in better connection with his creative side, the words flowing as he has nothing to rely on except 'listening to my heart'. Interesting, too, that Croz should reveal in the last verse that he's been climbing not a natural rock but a 'wall' - both because that is a man-made construction (suggesting it's a manmade not a natural desire to do this or that it's a man-made obstacle he faces) and because walls appear so frequently in CSN's songs (from Crosby's own 'Wall Song' to Nash's 'Live On (The Wall)' and Stills' many songs about the 'wall' he keeps around his heart). Climbing over barriers is a very CSNY to do, especially when they're of their own self-destructive making and involve living on the edge and doing things that are dangerous, which makes it doubly a shame that this wasn't a CSNY song. CPR never felt quite right for this song, but this song's slow-moving spooky harmonies are great in any version and make for the slow 'grower' of the album.

James' 'Coyote King' is perhaps the weakest song on the album and like 'Jerusalem' another song I'm not sure I entirely understand. It feels like another of those Crosby-style songs about the rise and falls of leaders, but there are no clues as to who this is or where. Jonathan King wrote a loosely anti-Vietnam song about 'King Coyote', but after CPR, in 2007, so it isn't from there - nor does it seem to be from Michael David's 'The Coyote King Memoirs' about a First World War teen runaway who lived in the jungles of Columbia rather than fight, as that was published in 2017. Oddly enough though, it sounds a little like both, a war runaway living a new way of life in the fields who the narrator looks up to but never quite sees. It seems to be someone quite powerful, with millions of lives washed away in his name as he moves on, trying to 'deliver us to Eden' and a 'lighthouse' offering light to those who can't see. Is this, perhaps, not a literal way of life but a metaphorical one as lived by James' biological dad? This coyote king sounds more like a hippie king, trying to save the lives he watches die all around him and living out away from the mainstream, an 'egg snatcher' in a world of dinosaurs (to quote from Crosby's contribution to Jefferson Starship's 'Blows Against The Empire' album, where one by one people doomed to work for the 'man' got rescued to live out their days in a new way of life). Alas the song isn't quite together enough to make the claim stick and isn't interesting enough to be worth your while really, being another of those breezy CPR pop tunes that aren't anything like as convincing as the dark and moody pieces.

The album closing title track 'Just Like Gravity', though, is as dark and moody as Crosby songs come, more like the work of Stills. The only CPR song to come without any piano and featuring just Crosby alone, he sounds haunted and fragile as he sings a faux blues song about being pulled in all directions, apparently by love. He feels the 'gravity' of his love and responsibilities and aching heart far more than he does the tug from moon and stars and wonders that even while they're apart 'how can she pull so hard from so far?' My take is that this song, so haunting and sad, is another for Christine Hinton and a sequel of sorts to 'Somehow She Knew' from the first CPR set, with Crosby aware that he hasn't quite dealt with her death still even now a quarter century on. Remembering her car crash, he recalls how she went 'faster than light' and is now so far away 'like crystalline nobility', out of sight but never ev-uh out of mind. Sadly Crosby ends the song - and album - realising that he could so easily have joined her, that life leaves us vulnerable and that we are only 'held in place' until something comes along to force us to lose our gravitational grip. Crosby is haunted still by a ghost he can't let go, all his usual hope and prettyness and melody reduced to just his sad lonely little voice and a haunting guitar phrase that still sounds oh so Crosbyish and jazzy, even when he's clearly trying his hardest to sound like Stills, raw and powerful. A great way to end an album - and a band.

Alas 'Just Like Gravity' was even more lost than the first CPR album, all but impossible to buy in Europe and not that common in America. As with our review of the first album these obscure records desperately deserve a re-issue, especially now that Crosby's third bout of creativity has resulted in a much higher profile than he's enjoyed since the 1980s. This is, after all, another great album even if Crosby is in many ways eclipsed by his son on this second record and even if this second record features a third of filler, poppy tracks about nothing that weren't good enough to make the cut compared to the impressive consistency of the first. The best of this record though, the title track 'Eyes Too Blue' and 'Angel Dream', are all three major important and creative songs that deserve to be heard by every CSN fan who ever shed a tear to Crosby's music and wanted to hear more of that emotion, beauty and passion no other writer ever gave us in quite the same way. Taken together, these CPR albums are an impressive pair of albums, emotional, autobiographical, honest and moving - a band that really did give new life to an artist who thought he was out for the count and a glorious way to extend the CSN discography just that tiny bit further.

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

'Crosby, Stills and Nash' (1969)

'Deja Vu' (CSNY) (1970)

‘Stephen Stills’ (1970)

'If Only I Could Remember My Name' (Crosby) (1971)

'Songs For Beginners' (Nash) (1971)

'Stephen Stills II' (1971)
‘Graham Nash, David Crosby’ (1972)

'Stephen Stills-Manassas'  (1972)

'Wild Tales' (Nash) (1973)
'Down The Road' (Stephen Stills/Manassas) (1973)

'Stills' (1975)

'Wind On The Water' (Crosby-Nash) (1975)
'Illegal Stills' (Stills) (1976)
'Whistling Down The Wire' (Crosby-Nash) (1976)

'Long May You Run' (Stills-Young) (1976)

'CSN' (1977)
'Thoroughfare Gap' (Stills) (1978)
'Earth and Sky' (Nash) (1980)

'Daylight Again' (CSN) (1982)
'Right By You' (Stills) (1984)
'Innocent Eyes' (Nash) (1986)
'American Dream' (CSNY) (1988)

'Oh Yes I Can!' (Crosby) (1989)

'Live It Up!' (CSN)  (1989)

'Stephen Stills Alone' (1991)

'CPR' (Crosby Band) (1998)

‘So Like Gravity (CPR, 2001)

‘Songs For Survivors’ (2002)

'Deja Vu Live' (CD) (2008)

'Deja Vu Live' (DVD) (2008)

'Reflections' (Graham Nash Box Set) (2009)

'Demos' (CSN) (2009)

'Manassas: Pieces' (2010)

‘Carry On’ (Stephen Stills Box Set) (2013)

'Croz' (Crosby) (2014)
'CSNY 74' (Recorded 1974 Released 2014)

'This Path Tonight' (Nash) (2016)

‘Here If You Listen’ (Crosby)

The Best Unreleased CSNY Recordings
Surviving TV Appearances (1969-2009)
Non-Album Recordings (1962-2009)
Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One (1964-1980)
Live/Compilations/Rarities Albums Part Two (1982-2012)
Essay: The Superest Of Super Groups?
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

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