Record of the Day: Graham Nash, "Songs for Beginners"

Record of the Day: Graham Nash, “Songs for Beginners”

Graham Nash
Songs for Beginners (Cd Atlantic 7204-2)

Compared to his friends Crosby, Stills and Young, Graham Nash has never considered a solo career a priority, making few records and dedicating himself above all to collaborating with the other three musicians. In the early 1970s, however, Nash released two albums under his own name in a short space of time, “Songs for Beginners” and “Wild Tales”, which remain among his most significant works.

Compared to his colleagues, Nash has always been considered the most musically pop soul, often engaged in sugary ballads like “Teach Your Children” and “Our House” which seemed unable to hold a candle to the Latin-rock grafts of Stills or the intense songs by Young. Surprisingly, these solo albums reveal a much more determined and politically aggressive side of his musical personality thanks to songs like “Military Madness” and the famous “Chicago”, true political manifestos of that turbulent era.

Of course there is no shortage of mellow ballads like “Wounded Bird” and “I Used to Be a King” but the general sound of the album (while maintaining the intertwining vocal harmonies typical of this musical genre) is decidedly more angular and raw than in the records with Crosby & Co., more oriented towards a rock field that strongly underlines lyrics steeped in utopias on the possibility of changing the world solely through one's own willpower.

Numerous luxury guests accompany Nash on his first solo journey, from the voices of Rita Coolidge and crosby to the guitars of Dave Mason, Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcìa.

The songs are all very short, they don't get lost in quibbles, they have the urgency of messages sent in a bottle; they tell us about war, lost loves, prophetic warnings about the fate of the planet (“There's Only One”), disillusioned dreams and disenchantment (“Be Yourself”) but also about tenderness (the sweet “Sleep Song”) and domestic tranquility (“Simple Man “), giving voice to a generation of young people still uncontaminated by post-Vietnam cynicism, full of hope and desire to fight.
Unfortunately these records did not achieve particular success and for over a decade Nash did not make any others under his name; today the musician's solo discography includes a total of six works.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.