The unparalleled chemistry of Crosby, Stills & Nash

The unparalleled chemistry of Crosby, Stills & Nash

On May 29, 1969, 55 years ago, a trio formed the previous year who would write some truly unforgettable songs made their debut on record. A trio that, occasionally, would turn into a legendary quartet, with the addition of Neil Young. We are talking about Crosby, Stills & Nash and their self-titled first album. To celebrate the anniversary we propose that you read our review that is about twenty years old, this is why some temporal references could disorientate the reader.

You say Crosby, Stills & Nash and you think of the open spaces evoked by the melodies, of the music “on the road”, of the West Coast sound of which the three were among the best-known representatives. Indeed, they are: with the addition of the “fourth wheel” Neil Young, the group is in the midst of one of their periodic reunions, which took the form of a tour of the United States.

As has been written, CSN was one of rock's first supergroups.

Take three-four musicians from different backgrounds and put them together: David Crosby, veteran of the psychedelic folk-rock of the Byrds; Stephen Stills, who comes from the country-rock band Buffalo Springfield; Graham Nash, the Englishman, coming from the pop-rock of the Hollies. Add a “flying” fourth member, one of the caliber of Neil Young, by definition the eclectic of rock. Mix well and the cocktail will be similar to what you can imagine: a group that blends all these traditions together. A group that, however, will be successful above all due to a “chemical” issue, so to speak, which the sum of the absolute value of the individual factors cannot guarantee: those three-four voices produce a unique mixture, which has become a symbol of popular music Contemporary.

CSN(&Y) were and are a reaction that in some moments worked, in others it didn't: the history of the group is made up of unions and breakups. “Crosby, Stills & Nash”, his debut album from 1969, is one of the best examples of this concatenation of elements. The opening of “Suite: Judy blue eyes” is enough to understand what they are made of: the piece, written by Stills, is an acoustic pop-rock, with a wonderful mix of voices that blend for over 7 minutes, closing on Latin atmospheres.

The album continues showing all those that will become the characteristics of the supergroup: the vocal harmonies, obviously; the stylistic maturity and the sometimes pop, now rock, now psychedelic veins. The different weights in the group's economy also stand out: the authors who provided the best things have always been David Crosby (author of the ethereal “Guinnevere” and “Long time gone”) and Stephen Stills, while Nash has always had the task to propose the most “radio-friendly” pieces (such as “Marrakesh express”). Even if the true masterpiece of the album is “Wooden ships”, co-written by Stills and Crosby, a wonderful and acid anti-war ballad.

A year after this album, the equally beautiful “Deja vu” was released which marked Young's entry into the lineup. It didn't last long: in 1971 the live “4 way street” was released, published after the group's first dissolution. Who reunited for a tour in 1974 (without releasing original material, but only the collection “So far”) and then again in 1977 (but without Young), giving birth to “CSN”. Between pauses and restarts, the saga of the trio-quartet will continue to the present day, even if subsequent record releases will never be at these levels again. The following albums, including the recent “Looking Forward” (1999, recorded with Neil Young) have never been completely convincing. Indeed, on more than one occasion they have often left much to be desired.