Crosby Stills and Nash will wrap of their 80-concert world tour next month with a gala performance of their debut album in its entirety at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
The seminal supergroup was formed when David Crosby (the Byrds), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (the Hollies) got together for an informal 1968 jam at the home of the late Mamas and Papas singer Cass Elliott. Such was the interest in the band that its first gig was at the legendary Woodstock Festival, in front of more than 500,000 mud-covered fans.
The 10-song Crosby Stills and Nash would go to No. 6 on the Billboard albums list on the strength of two Top 40 hits — “Marrakesh Express” (No. 28) and then “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (No. 21, both in 1969). CSN were named the year’s best new artists at the Grammy awards, and their debut was honored among rock’s 500 best albums by Rolling Stone magazine.
Crosby Stills and Nash’s 1970 follow up, Déjà Vu, would include occasional collaborator Neil Young — and would likewise find a home on Rolling Stone’s list. Later, their 1977 album CSN would spawn “Just A Song Before I Go,” the group’s initial multiplatinum single.
This new tour, which actually concludes with a five-night stand at the Beacon, follows reunion jaunts in 2000, 2003 and 2006. The idea of performing Crosby Stills and Nash from start to finish began, David Crosby tells Joe Bosso of MusicRadar.com, when the group did a run through of the memorably episodic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
“Only recently we were able to play the suite after 20 years,” Crosby tells Bosso. “Stephen got into a good place and started being able to do it. We tried it by ourselves, then we played it live, and people went batshit. They were literally going out of their gourds. So we thought, Hey, that’s pretty cool. If we could do that, we could certainly do all the other stuff. The suite’s the hard one.”
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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Crosby Stills and Nash. Click through the titles for complete reviews …
CROSBY STILL AND NASH – CROSBY STILL AND NASH (1969; 2011 AUDIO FIDELITY REISSUE): boy, what a debut. This record captured the three at the peak of their songwriting powers, guys whose average work exceeds the quality of many a rock composers’ best work. That isn’t to say every single song on Crosby, Stills & Nash is a classic, but the magic emanating from these sessions make it feel like every cut is, anyway. Instrumentally, this is a Stills record; he played everything save for rhythm guitar by Crosby and drums by Dallas Taylor. Though Stills is a highly skilled guitarist, his organ and bass work are also notably top notch on these songs and the production from all three stand the test of time due to avoidance of any clutter getting in the way of the songs and a superb mixing job. All this makes way for the dual star attractions: those voices, and those songs.
CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH – DEMOS (2009): There are a few revelations in this collection, which covers their creatively rich era of 1968 to 1971, but not necessarily the kind you might expect. The first one is that Crosby, Stills and Nash only appear all together on one track, Graham Nash’s “Marrakesh Express” that kicks off the album. Furthermore, these tweleve tracks aren’t limited to merely CSN songs; only three later appeared on the debut album and two more on CSNY’s Déjà Vu. The rest of these songs appeared on the the individual group members’ respective solo albums that immediately followed Déjà Vu, if at all. And except for “Long Time Gone,” all of the cuts are accompanied only by acoustic guitars.
STEPHEN STILLS – JUST ROLL TAPE (2007): It’s not everyday that tapes like these just turn up, but this one did after being forgotten for almost four decades. Seems Stills was in the already in the studio finishing up for some session work for Judy Collins and armed with an acoustic guitar. He bribes the engineer to “roll tape” so he can lay down some demo recordings for a new batch of songs he had just written. Many of these songs in fuller form went on to become part of Stills’ legendary canon: “Wooden Ships,” “Black Queen” and yes, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The recording quality is uneven, there’s several guitar missteps, and Stills didn’t always hit the high notes right; these are old demos, after all. But Stills’ voice is relaxed and in generally good shape (which makes one sad to hear it in such rough shape today), and all things considered, the tape’s in decent shape. Most importantly, the songs themselves are all uniformly good-to-excellent and don’t need much help to make them so.
DEEP CUTS: CROSBY AND NASH, “LAY ME DOWN” (2004): By all accounts, these guys can still perform at peak level. That said, given the lack of quality material in recent years—heck—decades, it might be easy to accuse them of sailing on cruise control and resting on their laurels. A few years ago, however, Crosby and Nash recorded their first album as a duo since 1976’s Whistling Down the Wire. The plainly titled Crosby Nash has its share of ups and downs but even though it’s an overlong 2-disc offering, there’s plenty enough highlights on it to best anything from Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) since Daylight Again. The song out of that thick new collection which most hearkens back to the salad days of the early seventies is the first one. “Lay Me Down” has spiritual-type lyrics about a yearning for rejuvenation (which fits these guys’ style perfectly) and is backed by a beautifully spare arrangement blissfully devoid of the slickness that’s plagued much of their more recent studio recordings.