The Legends of Laurel Canyon
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
It’s So Hard To Tell Who’s Going To Love You The Best
Transfiguration of Vincent
Christmas in the Heart
Glitter and Doom Live
Let It Roll: The Best of George Harrison
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane
Playing for Change
Crosby, Stills & Nash
In their heyday, Crosby, Stills and Nash could have been singled out as the most important figureheads of the music driven, politicized hippie movement. They were counterculture leaders whose unity as a group strengthened their individual images, while serving as an example of the bond that ultimately eluded hippie culture. They were musicians who could openly admit that they also loved each other as friends, a quality that is unique and, to today’s cynical culture, sadly quaint. Anybody interested in late ‘60s alternative pop culture does not know half of the story if they don’t know the music of Crosby, Stills and Nash, and this Greatest Hits collection does an excellent job of presenting some of this band’s finest moments.
My only regret with this disk is the decision to exclude all of their work with Neil Young – particularly their stellar recording of “Helpless” – but I can understand the reasoning, since Young’s presence here would have deflected attention from the core trio and may have forced the necessity for a two-disk retrospective. As it is, Greatest Hits consolidates the best material from four separate CD releases, 1969’s classic, eponymous debut album, 1970’s “Déjà Vu”, “77’s “CSN” and 1982’s “Daylight Again.” All four albums are worth owning in their entirety but if you buy this CD, you’re still doing all right – all but three tracks from the debut album appear here, while the truly best songs from “CSN” and “Daylight Again” are compiled here quite nicely. Only “Déjà vu” is short-changed, not just because of the afore-mentioned disregard for Neil Young’s input, but also because of missing classics like Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair”, and Stills’ chilling acoustic tune “4 + 20” – if only they had cut Nash’s hopelessly dated and frankly embarrassing hippie-pop tune “Marrakesh Express” for either of these, but so much for the griping.
The good bits here far outweigh the shortcomings. Hearing the artistry of Stephen Stills in this context only makes me wonder why he never achieved the universal appeal of his lifelong friend Neil Young. His songwriting is nothing short of stunning throughout this collection, while his tasteful musicianship and multi-cultured, blues-y feel makes everything he touched sound timeless. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is a masterpiece for the ages, while “Southern Cross” is a textbook example of perfectly executed song construction. Crosby and Nash have their moments, too, particularly on Nash’s intense indictment of organized faith entitled “Cathedral” and Crosby’s lush, textural “Shadow Captain.” “Wooden Ships” contained a semi-political anti-war message that sidesteps confrontation by utilizing a cinematic approach, which keeps it sounding fresh over three decades later. The pleasant lilt of “Teach Your Children” has also aged well, probably because of the fabulous pedal steel guitar part that is played by none other than Jerry Garcia (who never liked the way he played pedal steel and eventually – regrettably – abandoned the instrument). Their career together was sporadic, full of stops and starts, but this collection proves that what they lacked in continuity, they more than made up for with quality. If judged by the majority of songs on this collection, then it is easy to recognize that Crosby, Stills and Nash are truly one of the most important and relevant bands of their generation.