Monday, 16 July 2018
Available to buy now in ebook format 'Change Partners - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young' by clicking here!
Dear all, we'll get back to our 'landmark concerts' and 'key cover versions' next week but we thought you deserved a break about now so instead here is one of our occasional 'extra' columns, this one an extended version of one of our original 'top five' pieces from 'News, Views and Music' issue #33 back in May 2019
Look around you. Look at CSN’s life before you. Shouldn’t this book be even – gulp – bigger? Have you noticed the odd reference to an album you can’t find in this book? Don’t despair because most likely its int his section, a part we’ve dedicated to C/S/N/Y albums that for one reason or another were wasted on the way, these roads apparently unable to be taken after all. Would these alternate C/S/N/Y albums from a parallel universe run rings around the way it could have been? Possibly not – some of these albums were even improved by record company interference or the addition of certain songs – though you have to feel for ‘King Of The Mountain’ and ‘Samurai’ particularly, two Crosby songs that nearly came out on three extra projects before finally seeing the light of day on the box set ‘Voyage’. Other albums feature songs lost that have since been added on re-issues, alternate mixes that have leaked out on Stills and Nash sets ‘Carry On’ and ‘Reflections’ or the CSN box or in the case of the last album on this list have never seen the light of day at all. Here’s our run down of what could have been and where you can hear what’s left of each record.
1) ‘Human Highway’ (CSNY 1974)
Potential track listing:  See The Changes  Little Blind Fish  Prison Song ‘Human Highway’  As I Come Of Age  Time After Time  To The Last Whale  Carry Me  First Things First ‘Pardon My Heart’  And So It Goes  Homeward Through The Haze  Fieldworker  Myth Of Sisyphus  Through My Sails Reason Unfinished: Row
We start with the most famous entry on this list. Back in 1970 CSNY split acrimoniously, Crosby and Nash complaining of being ‘Stills’ backup band’ and Young disappearing as quickly as Crazy Horse could carry him, not to mention the love triangle between Stills, Nash and Rita Coolidge. Time, though, is a great healer (as well as  ‘The Final Currency’) and by 1973 enough water had disappeared under the bridge for CSNY to be friends again when they met up chance in Hawaii. A favourite spot for all four members – and where Nash ill later make his home for thirty years – Crosby-Nash were taking a break before discussing their second album when they bumped into Stills who happened to let on that he’d seen Young there earlier in the week too. The timing seemed perfect so Nash urged them to shoot a ‘holiday photo’ intended for use as an album cover (you know the one, they’re in holiday gear in the sunset, with Young sporting a rare beard) and they made plans to get back together again soon. Against all odds this happened, the quartet agreeing to take the pressure off themselves by appearing unbilled at the second half of a Manassas show booked at San Francisco’s Winterland Arena. The four men all played new songs as well as a few oldies and they talked openly about wanting to include them on a new album, the honorary follow-up to ‘Déjà vu’. As 1973 turned into 1974 they embarked on a lengthy and lucrative stadium tour playing four hour shows to their fans which started off as warm and snugly and were turning slightly fractious by the end. Undeterred they set off into the studios anyway and got as far as recording the first ‘fast’ version of Stills’ ‘See The Changes’ and Crosby’s ‘Homeward Through The Haze’ (both available on the box set), Young’s ‘Through My Sails’ (released on his 1975 Crazy Horse album ‘Zuma’) and a song of Crosby’s sung by all four members which after a lot of stripping down to the basics will appear on CPR’s first album (1998) – the first version taped in 1974 still hasn’t appeared officially anywhere yet (though it turns up again in our ‘unreleased recordings’ section). The quartet then split, old grievances coming to light a bit too painfully, leaving another album tantalisingly unfinished. We know what would have been on it though thanks partly to the songs played at Winterland and on tour and in discussions and interviews with the four – all agreed quickly that a new country-ish song of Neil’s would be the title (he’ll release this odd song himself on 1978’s ‘Comes A Time’) while other tracks will turn up on Nash’s ‘Wild Tales’, Crosby-Nash’s ‘Wind On The Water’ and ‘Stills’ across 1974 and 1975 (as with all the listings here our running order is a guess based on how the album ‘feels’ and the patterns of CSNY with a song each at the start rather than any actual running order as none of these albums ever got that far). What would it have been like? Superb! A little heavy on ballads perhaps, but almost all the songs here are first class and would have made good use of those famous harmonies with an overall album theme of growing older and going down different avenues, balanced by songs about ecology and Nash’s past.
2) ‘Long May You Run’ (CSNY 1976)
Potential track listing:  Long May You Run  Taken At All  Black Coral  Midnight On The Bay  Time After Time ‘No One Seems To Know’  Beaucoup Yumbo  Broken Bird  Out Of The Darkness  Fountainebleau ‘Will To Love’  Guardian Angel Reason Unfinished: Row
This album was even more fractious. Divided into two camps in 1976, Stills-Young were working on their version of ‘Long May You Run’ partly as a kind attempt to boost Neil’s stalling career in the wake of his ‘doom trilogy’ (how ironic does that seem now – Young’s never offered to help Stills the other way around in the forty years since!) while Crosby-Nash were busy making ‘Whistling Down The Wire’. Realising that ‘Run’ was turning out ragged and solid rather than spectacular Stills got on the phone without asking Neil and got hold of C-N at their studios and played them some songs. ‘Hey guys what do you think? I think its lacking something. ‘Yeah’ giggled Nash ‘Us!’ Putting their album on hold (despite a tight deadline) Crosby-Nash rushed to help out singing harmony vocals on at least ‘Black Coral’ (a CSNY mix of which will turn up on Stills’ box set ‘Carry On’ in 2012) and with C-N offering up their own newly written song about the 1974 split called ‘Taken At All’. S and Y add their own distinctive touches to this song – their version will turn up on the CSN box set of 1991, while the pair will re-record it as the highlight of ‘Whistling Down The Wire’. C-N were next in the studio recording harmonies for ‘Guardian Angel’ when Nash admitted he had a problem. ‘I’m sorry Stephen, this is just too hard to sing, is there any way we could change it?’ he asked. It was a big moment: CSNY had never asked each other to change one of their songs before. What he perhaps didn’t realise was that of all of Stills’ personal songs this may well be the most personal – the passionate cry of a man whose drowning in self-hatred and longing to be saved by an outside force and Stills had spent several hours tryin to perfect it already. In a drunken rage he probably feared that his own self-prophecy was coming true but, rather than listen to reason, he started an argument that lasted into the evening when Crosby-Nash were staying at his rented apartment and got so ugly he threw them both out. Legend has it Stills also shredded the mastertapes of everything the duo had added in the past few weeks with a razorblade, though if so perhaps he missed the recording of ‘Black Coral’. ‘I will never work with that man again’ said Nash in the press. ‘The last time I saw him he wiped some very precious work of David’s and mine’. What would this second lost record have been like? Well better than either the way ‘Long May You Run’ turned out when pared back to a very rough and ragged Stills-Young creation that’s for certain and better than the rather lifeless ‘Whistling Down The Wire’ too, with the one recording started from scratch ‘Taken At All’ one of the unheralded beauties of the CSNY canon. But Crosby-Nash had no new material after making their record and the result would still have been a bit cobbled together, with C-N adding to what was already there and sweetening the sour passages of Stills’ darker material rather than starting from scratch.
1) Untitled (CSN 1978)
Potential Track Listing:  Drive My Car  Can’t Get No Booty  Helicopter Song ‘Mirage’ ‘Jigsaw’
Just a few months after CSN (‘the one with the boat’) the trio were back in Criteria Studios again, having enjoyed that experience so much that they were keen to make up for lost time and make another album straight away. But the band didn’t have enough material yet and had just come off the back of the longest tour they had ever played. Disagreements began to rear their head again with only five songs partially recorded. Interestingly none has yet to appear on bootleg and nobody seems to have a clue what the last two tracks are, except to say that Nash is the author of ‘Mirage’ and ‘Jigsaw’ is a rare Crosby-Nash collaboration. Stills took all his songs with him to CBS to make ‘Thoroughfare Gap’, while Crosby and Nash decided to have a bash at making a fourth joint album. It won’t go well…
2) Untitled (C-N 1979)
Potential Track listing:  Drive My Car  Out On The Island  Samurai  Barrel Of Pain  King Of The Mountain  Helicopter Song  On The Other Side Of Town  Love Has Come Reason Unfinished: Crosby’s Drug Habit
A tentative fourth Crosby-Nash record didn’t even get that far, being abandoned during its early stages after the moment discussed in depth in the autobiographies of both Crosby and Nash. Rehiring the same ‘Section’ players heard on ‘Wind On The Water’ and ‘Whistling On The Wire’ the band were enjoying a great jam session which Nash was secretly hoping might end up on record. The buzz from the amplifiers was so loud and strong that Crosby’s cocaine freebasing pipe gradually moved its way to the edge of a piano and shattered on the floor. Crosby could have got another one easily – he could have sent off a runner to get one in a few hours – but Croz was by then so secretly addicted that he couldn’t face even that long without a hit and got the band to stop so he could pick the remnants off the floor and smoke them. Nash, already concerned that his best friend was hiding his habit from him confronted him about just how addicted he was and Crosby’s gruff dismissive ‘I’m fine’ reaction cast a pallor over the rest of the sessions which gradually wound down. In truth Crosby didn’t have that music yet – since the CSN reunion in 1977 he’d been struggling to be creative, the drugs filling up his musical veins. Nash wasn’t that worried – Crosby’s songs had always tended to turn up last out of the four (Young wrote approximately ten times as many songs as Crosby in their heyday) but he was still coming up with the lion’s share of songs discussed at the sessions. Most of these will be re-recorded for his 1980 record ‘Earth and Sky’ which duly includes guest appearances by Croz on ‘Helicopter Song’, suggesting that this song at least may have started life at this session. But it seems more likely that everything in this list was started from scratch and it is probably the least likely out of all of these six albums to have been made in the way we’ve listed here. We do know that the charming ‘On The Other Side Of Town’, of Daddy Nash’s guilt over his baby son’s loom of betrayal when he had his first injection, was intended for this album though before being revived for the fourth Crosby*Nash album when it finally appeared much delayed in 2004. Would this record have been a classic? No, but ‘Earth and Sky’ is one of the more overlooked albums in the CSNY canon and could only have been enhanced by the handful of songs Crosby had with him in this period.
3) Drive My Car (Crosby 1980)
Potential track listing:  Drive My Car  Might As Well Have A Good Time  King Of The Mountain  Melody  Distances  Delta  Samurai  Flying Man  Kids and Dogs Reason Unfinished: Rejected by Record Company
His options disappearing, Crosby quit Atlantic to sign with Columbia. Intending a whole new sound, full of more up to date technology, Crosby was stymied by his creativity, about two-thirds of the way to an album. Columbia thought so too, rejecting it outright and asking for something more ‘radio friendly’, particularly disliking the choral chant ‘Samurai’ already offered for the Crosby-Nash album. The album was abandoned early on, but not before a few tracks were recorded: ‘Distances’ turned up more or less unchanged on Crosby’s eventual replacement ten years later ‘Oh Yes I Can!’ and this first rockier version of ‘Drive My Car’ on the CSN box set, while this album’s notably mournful ‘Samurai’ is the version included on the ‘Voyage’ box set. The album’s most famous recordings though, ‘Delta’ and ‘Might As Well Have AS Good Time’ were both added to bulk out ‘Daylight Again’ with the addition of a few Stills-Nash harmonies. With the pick of this album’s sessions to choose from I’ve often wondered why the pair didn’t pick ‘Distances’ too – it would have been perfect for that slightly cagey album with its tale of differences between people who used to be close and Crosby sounds far more ‘with it’ than he does on the rest of the album. This and ‘Delta’ would have made the album a mini-masterpiece alone, while ‘King Of The Mountain’ which had been looking for a home for years by this time would have found a particularly welcome home here. The rest might perhaps not have lived up to Crosby’s reputation though, especially if the timid recording of ‘Samurai’ is anything to go by.
4) Untitled (S 1980)
Potential track listing:  Cherokee  Southern Cross  You Are Alive  Feed The People ‘Precious Love’ ‘Dangerous Woman On The Loose’ ‘Streetwise’ ‘One Way Ride’ ‘Palace Of The King’ Reason Unfinished: Rejected By Record Company
Captain Many Digits, meanwhile, became the first musician anywhere in the world to record using digital technology. Always interested in new techniques, The Record Plant in Los Angeles knew that Stills was a likely guinea pig for their new technology – apparently this was the ‘3M’ system of digital recording, which used a whole new mixing board to replace the old analogue one. Barry Beckett was the producer and Michael Braunstein the engineer for this illustrious event and Stills was thrilled, using his short-lived ‘California Blues Band’ with keyboardist Mike Finnigan to back him on some tight and fairly robotic versions of an old friend and a new one. ‘Cherokee’, already released on his first solo album, sounds good in new clothes, the band using the spacey funk arrangement they’d been playing in concert and this song about Rita Coolidge suits the monotony of the extra drums and stylised production values. ‘Southern Cross’ though sounds horrid, a warm song sounding harsh and sterile and lacking both the more ‘human’ verses that make this song the gem that it is and the C-N harmonies. CBS, already underwhelmed by ‘Thoroughfare Gap’, asked Stills to think again and be more commercial – ironically Stills’ sound was just a few years too early and son everybody will be sounding like this. Unwilling to compromise the two agreed to go their spate ways instead and the tapes are still lying in a tape vault to this day (except for two songs on bootleg – one more we know was recorded here and resurrected for ‘Daylight Again’, ‘Feed The People’ will be resurrected a full quarter century later for ‘Man Alive’ and ‘Precious Love’ and ‘Dangerous Woman’ can be heard on live bootlegs, but the other song titles are a mystery, reported as being recorded at the time). Fun as ‘Cherokee’ is, we may have had a lucky escape as a whole album of this would have been hard-going. In the end Ry Cooder became the first artistxto release an album recorded digitally!
5) Daylight Again (S-N 1981)
Potential Track Listing:  Turn Your Back On Love  Wasted On The Way  Southern Cross  Raise A Voice  Feel Your Love  Since I Met You  Too Much Love To Hide  Song for Susan  You Are Alive  Tomorrow Is Another Day  Daylight Again Reason Unfinished: Atlantic Insist On Crosby Being Added
An easy one this: ‘Daylight Again’ was a Stills-Nash album up until the eleventh hour, the pair having met up for a conciliatory drink and discussing their fading fortunes in the wake of poor sales for ‘Earth and Sky’ and ‘Thoroughfare Gap’. They even agreed to resign for Atlantic. The drug-taking elephant in the room though was what to do about Crosby. Stills figured his drug problem couldn’t be that serious (and he had a developing one of his own) but Nash had seen it firsthand and claimed that Crosby just couldn’t cut it. The pair made an album without him as their safest option, one which included Stills’ new find keyboard player Mike Finnigan as an extra harmony vocal, while James Taylor and Art Garfunkel played at being ‘Crosby’ on different songs (the title track in the latter’s case). Atlantic weren’t happy though: they figured that actually they’d rather have the full trio or nothing, leaving a sheepish Nash to call Crosby and invite him over; in dire financial straits he turned up with his abandoned album in his hand and gleefully declared that the others couldn’t cope without him. It was all a charade though with Stills and Nash adding vocals to ‘Delta’ and ‘Might As Well have A Good Time’ (their two favourite songs from Crosby’s abandoned album) and Crosby singing small parts here and there to everybody else’s songs. The trio only started one song from scratch and Nash actually wrote  ‘Into The Darkness’ after seeing Crosby for the first time in months and being shocked at how ill he looked (it’s a bitter sequel to Croz’s own  ‘Out Of The Darkness’). Some songs were in this early line-up were abandoned – for plagiarism reasons in the case of ‘Feel Your Love’ when someone pointed out that Stills had subconsciously nicked a song by Rose Royce of all bands; to fit in Crosby’s work in other cases, with ‘Raise A Voice’ held back for mostly-live record ‘Allies’ in 1983 and ‘Feel Your Love’ and ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day’ finding a release for the first time on the CD reissue of the album in the early 21st century. What would this album have sounded like? Well none of the rejected songs are classics and certainly none of them are up to the beauty of ‘Delta’. But it would have been fascinating to see how a Stills-Nash album might have gone down with the audience and it would have been a much kinder and much more honest album than what we got. Note too that the original version of ‘Turn Your Back On Love’ was quite different to the one that made the finished album, with a different set of Stills words added to Nash’s urgent riff, although knowing Stills he tidied these up long before Crosby turned up! Session tapes also reveal a groovy and very Stillsy untitled instrumental, though whether this song ever had words and how seriously it was intended to make the final cut is a mystery.
6) Untitled (C-N 1989)
Potential track listing:  Live It Up!  Yours and Mine  House Of Broken Dreams  Arrows  Straight Line  King Of The Mountain  Anyone Who Had A Heart  Samurai  After The Dolphin Reason Unfinished: Atlantic Insist On Stills Being Added
Following ‘American Dream’ in 1988 CSNY went their separate ways again, but Crosby-Nash were both having a particularly fertile period and were enjoying renewing their friendship after the dark days of Crosby’s addiction. Atlantic were interested in a fourth Crosby-Nash album so they duly set off making one. Most of ‘Live It Up!’ was made this way, with the pair branching out to outside artists to fill in the gaps and – according to an interview made in Record Collector Magazine – this set would ‘at last’ have given a home to both ‘King Of The Mountain’ and ‘Samurai’, a song Crosby had always wanted to make as a Crosby-Nash song. Once again Atlantic began to have second thoughts and at the same time Stills turned up asking to hear how the album was progressing and that without a label of his own maybe they could find a home for his new songs. Fearing what happened last time CSN did far more from scratch on the record (to the point where it sounds as if Crosby is pushed to one side, not Stills) and the album is definitely better for the Nash harmony added to Stills solo recording  ‘Haven’t We Lost Enough?’, the frenetic Stills guitar solo added to  ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ and lots of Stills harmonies across the songs Crosby and Nash had already taped. The one new song taped at these sessions held the album up weeks, with Nash panicking that they could never get the under-rated  ‘Got To Keep Open’ the ‘way we wanted it’ until the trio hit on the brainwave of adding a reggae lilt. The result is a second artificial CSN album in a row, but at least more care was taken making it sound like a three-way effort than its predecessor and arguably the finished product is better than it would have been as a C-N record without an awful lot of changes.
7) ‘Songs We Wish We’d Written’ (CSN 2012)
Potential track listing: ‘Uncle John’s Band’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’ ‘Love Has No Pride’ ‘Fancy’ ‘How Have You Been?’  Midnight Rider ‘Girl From The North Country’ ‘Close Your Eyes’ ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ ‘A Beatles Tune’ ‘Something By Joni Mitchell’ Reason Unfinished: Row
The album that broke CSN up? All we know for certain is that CSN really didn’t see eye to eye with their new producer Rick Rubin, who had resurrected Johnny Cash’s career quite brilliantly in later life by getting him back to basics and embracing his older age. CSN - reuniting for the first time since 1994 (threesome) or 1999 (foursome) - weren’t quite ready for that just yet and began to get worried when Rubin tried to ‘interfere’ with the album they wanted to make. CSN had been talking about a ‘covers’ album for a while – their cover of  ‘In My Life’ had gone down well with fans and the trio had always made a point of highlighting their favourite acts be they known (Dylan, Joni Mitchell) or comparatively unknown (Marc Cohn, Michael Hedges). However they couldn’t always agree on what songs to record (Crosby wanted to do a Grateful Dead song as a tribute to his old friend Jerry Garcia but admitted he hadn’t got a clue what ‘Uncle John’s Band’ meant, while Nash wasn’t all that sure what his choice, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’, was all about either). Without much direction tensions ran high between the trio and the producer – they weren’t yet as hungry or desperate as Cash had been after ten years in the wilderness and had never been used to working with producers. Crosby stifled at Rubin’s suggestion that they keep to just one Beatles cover (‘There’ll only be one Beatles song if we decide there’ll only be one Beatles song! Who the fuck are you to decide?!’) Nash argued that Rubin didn’t get CSN (‘Guide us – yes. Make suggestions – fantastic. ‘Try it this way’ – no problem. But tell us what to do? You can’t!’) However it seems from most sources that it was Stills who lost his temper first and walked out of the project three songs in. Apparently the trio got as far as The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, The Stones’ ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and John Sebastian’s lovely ‘Close Your Eyes’ (there’s a gorgeous live version of this song doing the rounds from their 2013 tour) before calling it a day. Most of the other songs listed here are guesswork, but they did play some of them in concert which means they already had arrangements ready for them: ‘Fancy’ is an Iggy Alazalea song CSNY sang when guesting on a period Jimmy Fallon chat show, ‘Girl From North Country’ is a Dylan cover Stills had been doing for years and which CSN had perfected some lovely harmonies on, ‘Love Has No Pride’ is a Bonnie Raitt song the trio once sang with its composer on stage, ‘Midnight Rider’ is an Allman Brothers song Stills had already recorded in 1978 and mentioned in interviews he’d like to do again and I would have been astonished if the trio hadn’t got round to doing a Joni Mitchell song in there somewhere. Some press reports said that the trio were planning to rework older songs from the Byrds (‘Eight Miles High’) and Buffalo Springfield (‘Rock and Roll Woman’ or ‘Bluebird’) days too, though this seems more speculation than promise. Either way this would have been a strange LP. CSN never seemed quite convinced by any of this material live and they remain more of a creative band than an interpretative one. Any CSN is better than none at all however and it seems a shame that what might have turned out to be the last three-way recordings seem likely to end up stuck in the vaults for the foreseeable future. I bet ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ sounded good though, especially if they nailed the sudden switch from drugged out peace to sudden anger!