David Crosby


Band members                              Related acts

- David Crosby -- vocals, guitar

 

  backing musicians (1971):

- Laura Allen --
- Jack Casady --

- Ethan Crosby (RIP 2007) -- vocals

- David Frieberg -- bass
- Jerry Garcia -- lead guitar

- Mickey Hart -- drums

- Paul Kantner -- guitar
- Jorma Kaukonen -- guitar
- Bill Kreutzmann -- drums

- Phil Lesh -- drums

- Joni Mitchell -- backing vocals
- Graham Nash -- vocals, keyboards

- Gregg Rolie --
- Michael Shrieve -- 

- Grace Slick -- vocals

- Neil Young --

 

  backing musicians (1989):
- Jackson Browne -- vocals 

- Kim Bullard -- synthesizer 

- Craig Doerge -- keyboards 
- Tim Drummond -- bass

- Dan Dugmore -- slide guitar

- Mike Finnigan -- keyboards
- Gray Grant -- horns 

- Michael Hedges -- guitars, vocals 
- Jerry Hey -- horns

- Kim S. Hutchcroft -- horns

- Jim Keltner -- drums

- Kenny Kirkland -- keyboards 
- Danny Kortchmar -- guitars

- Russ Kunkel -- drums, percussion

- Joe Lala -- percussion 

- Mike Landau -- guitars 
- David Lindley -- slide guitar 

- Steve Lukather -- guitars

- Graham Nash -- vocals, keyboards 
- George Perry -- bass 

- Bonnie Raitt -- vocals 

- Leland Sklar -- bass 

- Joe Vitale -- drums, organ

- Lawrence L. Williams -- horns

 

  backing musicians (2015)

- Todd Caldwell -- keyboards

- Steve DiStanislao -- drums, percussion

- Marcus Eaton -- guitar, sitar, vocals

- Shane Fontayne -- guitar, bass, percussion, vocals

- Mark Knopfler --- lead guitar

- Wynton Marsalis -- trumpet

- Kevin McCormick -- bass

- James Raymond --- keyboards, synthesizers, backign vocals

- Leland Sklar -- bass

- Steve Tavaglione -- wind instruments, sax

 

  backing musicians (2017)

- Mai Agan -- bass

- Steve DiStanislao -- drums, percussion

- Michael McDonald -- backing vocals

- Jeff Pevar -- lead guitar

- James Raymond -- keyboards, backing vocals

- Becca Stevens -- vocals

- Steve Tavaglione -- wind instruments, sax

- Michelle Willis -- keyboards, backing vocals

 

 

 

The Byrds

- CPR

- Crosby and Nash

- Crosby, Stills and Nash

- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

 

 

 


 

Genre: psych

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  If I Could Only Remember My Name

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD-7203

Year: 1971

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4885

Price: $20.00

 

 

This is one of those sets where there are no fence sitters.  Fans praise the collection as a lost period classic reflecting Crosby's creative zenith (not that there's much to compare it against).  Critics savage it as one of the worst pieces of putrid puff ever released by a big name act.    

 

 

I'll readily admit that I was less than impressed the first time I heard David Crosby's 1971 debut solo album.  I remember playing it a couple of times and just not being able to get into it.  Consequently it sat on a shelf for over a decade.  I didn't rediscover it until recently when I started to weed out some of my collection and before donating it to charity I figured I'd listen to it one more time.  Glad I did ...  

 

So here's the thing about Crosby.  He's a self-centered, opinionated, blow-hard, who seemingly manages to piss off everyone at one time or another.  If there's an easy way to get something done, he almost instinctively has to try something else.  At the same time he's archetypically American.  That screw-authority personality may make him irritating as hell, but because he is so friggin' different, he's worth checking out.  Much the same can be said for his musical catalog.  If you're looking for smooth, easy-going top-40 pap, or AOR, this simply isn't the place to be.   

 

1971's "If I Could Only Remember My Name" was released in the wake of Crosby's mega successes with CSN and CSN&Y and for better or worse Crosby's solo debut reflected the influence of those two groups in a number of ways including the fact the lead off track 'Music Is Love' was a CSN&Y outtake.  Elsewhere, material like the beautiful ballad 'What Are The Names' and 'Traction In the Rain' melded CSN&Y-styled harmonies with biting social and political commentary.  Showcasing Crosby's affection for jazzy riffs the wordless 'Tamalpais High (At About 3)' and 'Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)' were reminiscent of his earlier 'Guinnevere' and future work with Graham Nash.  Exemplified by the pseudo-Gregorian chant closing number 'I'd Swear There was Somebody Here' (reportedly written for Crosby's late girlfriend Christine Hinton), the collection was wrapped in a dark and slightly ominous atmosphere, giving the album a less than commercial feel (certainly less commercial than early releases by Nash, Stills or Young).  Interestingly the absence of a hit single or even significant airplay didn't hurt sales with the album hit # 12, selling gold.  The release was also interesting in sporting one of the most impressive supporting casts I've ever seen including most of The Grateful Dead, a significant part of The Jefferson Airplane, members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, former squeeze Joni Mitchell, Carlos Santana, Graham Nash, Neil Young and others.  

 

"If I Could Only Remember My Name" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Music Is Love   (Graham Nash - Neil Young - David Crosby) - 3:16   rating: *** stars

The multi-tracked vocal and melody took a minute to kick in, but when it did, this one exhibited a distinctive CSN&Y vibe (must have something to do with those strumming acoustic guitars).  The fact the song was a CSN&Y outtake also probably played a role in underscoring the comparison.  Even better, Young's voice was very prominent at the end of the song.   Lyrically there wasn't a great deal to this one; basically the title repeated over and over and over.  That said, it was one of the album's prettiest and most commercial tracks which probably explains why Atlantic tapped it as the leadoff single.

2.) Cowboy Movie   (David Crosby) - 8:02    rating: **** stars

One of my favorite Crosby performances, 'Cowboy Movie' was also one of the hardest rocking tunes he'd ever written.   Full of jamming guitars (Crosby, Jerry Garcia and Neil Young all contributed), the track had a great melody, a  razor sharp groove, fascinating, if obscure lyrics (always wondered what it was really about), and Crosby's instantly recognizable voice seldom sounded as good.   How often can you say an eight minute song flew by in a flash ?    

3.) Tamalpais High (At About 3) (instrumental)  (David Crosby) - 3 :28   rating: **** stars

The beautiful 'Tamalpais High (At About 3)' was one of those quasi-jazzy wordless numbers that Crosby seemed to love (thank along the lines of 'Guinnevere')Edited down from an extended  studio jam that featured members of The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane, (with a little effort you can pick out Jerry Garcia and Jorma Kaukonen), the results were  far better than you might have expected.     

4.) Laughing  (David Crosby) - 5:20    rating: **** stars

Probably my pick for the album's standout performance, 'Laughing' was one of the prettiest and most heartfelt things Crosby ever wrote.  The melody was mesmerizing; the harmony vocals were too-die-for; Jerry Garica's pedal steel guitar was haunting, as was Phil Lesh's crushing bass (if you listen closely, you cam hear Joni Mitchell on backing vocals).   I have no idea if it's true, but read somewhere that the song was intended as a suggest to George Harrison and others, that their pursuit of enlightenment through Eastern religions might be misguided.  Simply one of the best songs in the entire CS&Y catalog.       

 

(side 2)
1.) What Are The Names  (Neil Young - Jerry Garcia - Phil Lesh - Michael Shrieve - David Crosby) - 4:09    rating: **** stars

No matter what you thought about the politics (remember this was the early '70s), 'What Are The Names' certainly had an impressive pedigree with Crosby being joined by an all-star cast including David Frieberg, Jerry Garcia, Paul Kantner, Phil Lesh, Graham Nash, Michael Shrieve, Grace Slick (easy to pick out in the mix), and Neil Young.   Musically the track had the same biting sense of moral outrage and frustration found on CSN&Y's 'Ohio'.   Funny but some forty years later the lyrics still seem apt.  

2.) Traction In the Rain   (David Crosby) - 3:40   rating: *** stars

I guess there is such a thing as too-much-of-a-good-thing on an album and the jazzy-ballad 'Traction In the Rain' probably qualified on this set.  Elsewhere the song probably would have been an album highlight, but here it was pretty with mildly intriguing lyrics, but ultimately an also ran performance.  I'd argue it's better than the studio version, but YouTube has a clip of Crosby and Nash doing a live performance of the song at the BBC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kD42yG5Hc8c  

3.) Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)   (David Crosby) - 5:54    rating: **** stars

It seems you either love, or detest Crosby's wordless compositions.   I've gone both ways and it basically seems to depend what mood you're in at the time.  With that category, 'Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)' is actually one of the prettier things Crosby's written and even if you find it dull and pretentious, you have to admit that Crosby and Nash had a special chemistry when it came to harmonizing.  

4.) Orleans   (traditional arranged by David Crosby) - 1:56    rating: **** stars

I've always been surprised that Atlantic would have tapped 'Orleans' as a single.  Mind you the acoustic piece was pretty enough, almost sounding like a church piece, but the lyrics were in French which would have sent most US radio stations running for the doors.  Guess the music business had some courage back then.    

5.) I'd Swear There was Somebody Here   (David Crosby) - 1:19    rating: **** stars

If Orleans sounded like something out a church mass, then 'I'd Swear There was Somebody Here' appeared to have been swiped directly from a Benedictine monastery.   As mentioned above, the song was apparently inspired by Crosby's late girlfriend Christine Hinton.  Just Crosby singing a cappella, the song was simultaneously bizarre, disconcerting, but somehow intriguing in a whacked, acid-drenched fashion.

 

For Crosby fanatics Atlantic pulled two singles from the album:

 

- 'Music Is Love' b/w 'Laughing' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2792) # 95 pop

- 'Orleans b/w 'Traction In the Rain' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2809)

 

I remember being less than impressed when I originally heard the collection.  Crosby's fascination with non-commercial arrangements and those wordless Gregorian chants wasn't what I was expecting.  That said, it's an album I've had in my collection for thirty years and on those occasions I play it, I find something more to like about it each time.  Besides, how can you not be curious about an album that the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano put on it's list of Top 10 Pop Albums of All Time?

 

One last comment about Crosby; I saw him touring with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills in July 2009.  They were performing at Wolf Trap Farm Park in Northern Virginia and it happened to be Crosby's birthday.  Anyhow, much to my amazement, Crosby came off the best of the three.  For a guy who should have been dead several times over, he seemed to be fairly good shape for all the wear and tear he'd experienced.  And his voice ... well it was amazing.  Maybe because he hadn't used the instrument much over the ensuring decades, but his solo shots and leads were easily the show's highlights.  Ya' simply never know.

 


 


Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Oh Yes I Can

Company: A&M

Catalog: 395232-1

Year: 1989

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: German pressing; includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3200

Price: $10.00

 

Given the downhill spiral that marked Crosby's mid-to-late 1980s life, including a serious drug problem that ultimately got him locked away in a Texas prison for nine months, it was a major miracle that he lived long enough to release a sophomore solo album.  Released in 1989, "Oh Yes I Can" must have set a couple of records, including the amazing number of friends and guests playing on it, as well as length of time between albums (18 years).  Perhaps because my expectations for this album were so low and my penchant for the underdog, I'll admit that the collection was actually better than I expected.  Clearly intended as a message of survival and personal rejuvenation, Crosby sounded surprisingly good for his circumstances.  Sure, nothing here was going to change your world outlook, but original material like the bouncy 'Melody', the pretty 'Flying Man' (which recalled something off of a Crosby and Nash LP), 'Distances', and 'My Country 'Tis of Thee' were all worth hearing.  Sure, there were plenty of mis-steps.  Crosby the hard rocker was merely funny ('Drive My Car' and 'Monkey and the Underdog'), while 'Drop Down Mama' made it equally clear blues weren't his calling.   Clearly one's reaction to Crosby's new, more commercial orientation was a highly personal call, but in my case once I got over the initial shock there was something comforting in hearing his instantly recognizable voice wrapped around songs sporting true melodies and traditional chords ('Melodies' and the pretty ballad 'In the Wide Ruin').       

 

"Oh Yes I Can" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Drive My Car   (David Crosby) - 3:36  rating: ** stars

As reflected by the faux rocker 'Drive My Car',  the late-'80s were a challenging time for Crosby.  I guess you couldn't blame him for wanting to cash in on the public's demand for "big hair" rock, but it just wasn't a genre Crosby was suited for and the accompanying promotional video was simply silly:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9nvNTsx7gw    Ironically, years later, while driving on a California highway, Crosby hit and nearly killed a jogger.  A&M tapped the song as a UK single:

- 1989's 'Drive My Car' b/w 'Tracks in the Dust' (A&M catalog number AM 500)  

2.) Melody   (David Crosby - Craig Doerge) - 4:08   rating: *** stars

The patented '80s production hasn't aged all that well, but at least 'Melody' sported some nice layered vocals and a memorable, bouncy melody.

3.) Monkey and the Underdog   (David Crosby - Craig Doerge) - 4:17  rating: ** stars

'Monkey and the Underdog' was another track where Crosby seemingly felt the need to shore up his rocker credentials.  I guess it could have been worse, though he just didn't have the gravitas to pull it off.

4.) In the Wide Ruin   (David Crosby - Judy Henske) - 4:48   rating: **** stars

With a major assist from Jackson Browne sharing lead vocals, 'In the Wide Ruin' was a beautiful ballad and one of the album's true highlights.  Other than the fact Browne overshadowed Crosby's vocals, I've always wondered why this one wasn't tapped as a single.

5.) Tracks In the Dust   (David Crosby) - 4:48   rating: *** stars

Crosby's somber reflections on changing times - kind of depressing like this pretty ballad.  Michael Hedges on lead guitar.  The song's a staple in Crosby's live show.  Here's a May 2017 performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2mWca4uO0Q 

 

(side 2)
1.) Drop Down Mama   (David Crosby) - 3:06
  rating: ** stars

Hum, 'Drop Down Mama' may have shown Crosby had an affection for blues, but the performance also demonstrated this wasn't a genre he was particularly talented at.

2.) Lady of the Harbor   (David Crosby - Craig Doerge) - 3:19  rating: ** stars

Compared to the rest of this collection, 'Lady of the Harbor' was rather commercial, which wasn't to say it was very good.  Sappy and obvious, sounding like something that might have been written for ABC's School House Rock, you would have expected something more insightful from Crosby. Bonnie Raitt on backing vocals ?   Interestingly it was tapped as the album's second UK single.

- 1989's 'Lady of the Harbor' b/w 'Drop Down Mama' (A&M catalog number AM-502)

3.) Distances   (David Crosby - Craig Doerge) - 3:35   rating: **** stars

The opening of 'Distances' reminded me of Crosby and Nash's 'Carry Me'.  A pretty, acoustic number the tune appeared to be a reflection on Crosby's recent personal, professional, and legal issues.  One of the few album highlights.

4.) Flying Man (instrumental)   (David Crosby - Craig Doerge) - 3:24  rating: ** stars

One of five tunes co-written with keyboardist Craig Doerge, the jazzy instrumental 'Flying Man' sounded like something that might have been intended for inclusion on a release by The Section (Doerge's side band).  To be honest, Crosby's scatting vocals were simply irritating, giving the song an unfinished feel.

5.) Oh Yes I Can   (David Crosby) - 5:08   rating: *** stars

The good news about the title track was found in the fact Crosby's voice didn't seem to have suffered from his earlier problems.  It was also nice to hear Crosby's message of self-redemption.  The bad news is this big, radio-friendly ballad suffered from horrible '80s production and simply wasn't very good.

6.) My Country 'Tis of Thee (traditional) - 1:58   rating: **** stars

Crosby and Nash, CSN, and CN&Y have all frequently played 'My Country 'Tis of Thee', but I think this Crosby solo rendition may be the best of the lot.  It's over in a heartbeat, but capture's Crosby at his best.  As one of those people who grew up singing this song every day in school and working my entire adult life for DoD, it's hard not to choke up hearing the track.

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Croz

Company: Blue Castle

Catalog:  BCR1143-8

Year: 2014

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3405

Price: $40.00

 

Wow, hard to imagine a 72 year old could bring this much energy and passion to an album ...  

 

Recorded over a two and a half year period using son James Raymond's California home studio, 2014's "Croz" marked David Crosby's first solo studio album since 1993's "Thousand Roads".   To be honest, given Crosby's long, tortured personal history, even though he'd seemingly conquered many of his personal demons, I wasn't expecting much from this set.  Yeah, the set marked a collaboration with long lost son James Raymond and had garnered strong reviews from the critics.  Still, I was skeptical.   Shame on me.  After giving it a couple of spins I reached the conclusion "Croz" was a surprisingly enjoyable comeback from one of America's overlooked rock stars.  I'm certainly no Crosby scholar, but to my ears the album's most  most impressive facet proved to be Crosby's voice.  Yeah, he occasionally sounded a bit fragile and may not have had the flexibility of his younger years, but maybe due to the fact he hadn't used those vocal chords much over the last two decades, he sounded invigorated and pristine throughout the collection.  He certainly sounded in better shape than compatriots Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, or Neil Young. In fact, listening to tracks like the top-40 friendly single 'Radio', 'What's Broken', and the breezy, Sting-esque closer 'Find a Heart' you were left to wonder how he could possibly sound so young.  The album wasn't perfect - 'If She Called' and 'Morning Falling' were examples of Crosby's affection for tuneless pseudo-jazzy moves.  Still, bBy my count, six of the eleven tracks were keepers; the highlights including the single 'Radio', the autobiographical 'Set the Baggage Down' and 'Dangerous Nights'.  Six out of eleven winners equals to a 55% winning rate.  That's a darned impressive success rate in life.  Nice comeback and well worth digging out.

 

The set hit # 36 on the US album charts.

 

"Croz" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) What's Broken   (James Raymond) - 3:48   rating: **** stars

Geez, how is it radio ignored this tune ?   Written by Crosby's son James Raymond  and featuring Mark Knopfler on lead guitar, 'What's Broken' trashed the notion Crosby couldn't sing a commercial tune if his life depended on it.   Stunningly pretty and with support from Marcus Eaton, the layered harmonies were immaculate.  The sound and video quality aren't great, but recorded at New York's The City Winery, YouTube has a January, 2014 performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXi_GU5TqBs 

2.) Time I Have   (David Crosby) - 3:49   rating: ** stars

Pretty acoustic ballad with some self-reflective commentary, but ultimately, in spite of the fact the lyrics made reference of "cognitive dissonance" 'Time I Have' didn't stick around in my head. YouTube has a clip of Crosby performing the song at a June 2015 show at Alexandria's The Birchmere.  Be warned, Crosby gives an extended monolog before launching into the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iVFXYEDIe0 

3.) Holding On To Nothing   (David Crosby - Sterling Price) - 3:41   rating: *** stars

One of Crosby's patented pseudo-jazzy, vaporous performances.  His voice remained an amazing instrument and the harmonies ultimately saved this one from being an also-ran performance. Wynton Marsalis guested on trumpet.   Another clip from his New York's The City Winery show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWBTe_y1sZw 

4.) The Clearing  (James Raymond) - 4:00   rating: **** stars

One of the album's standout performances, 'The Clearing' found Crosby working with a full band arrangement that really explodes mid-song.   Very nice and his voice proved more than capable of dealing with the arrangement.  Another New York The City Winery performance; fun to see the look of joy on Crosby's face at the end of the performance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s1L3dcV_gM 

5.) Radio  (David Crosby - James Raymond) - 3:45   rating: **** stars

Featuring what was simply a haunting melody; Crosby's instantly recognizable voice (how could a 70 year old sound like this?), glistening backing harmonies, and a sweet, inspirational message, you had to wonder how radio managed to overlook this wonderful song.  One of those rare solo sides that would have given the CSN and CSN&Y catalogs a run for their money.   YouTube has a wonderful clip of Crosby and company playing the song for BBC Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o44h4Igb5Rk   

The song was tapped as a red vinyl, 10" 45:

- 2014 'Radio' b/w 'Dangerous Night' (Blue Castle catalog number BCR 4111-1)

 

(side 2)

1.) Slice of Time  (David Crosby - James Raymond - Marcus Eaton) - 4:16   rating: *** stars

An older tune (Crosby had previously played it while touring with Graham Nash), 'Slice of Time' had one of those sneaky melodies and nice, layered harmony refrains that climbed in your head and wouldn;t leave  Those harmonies matched anything Crosby had done with his CSN and CSN&Y partners.  Recorded at Long Beach's Terrace Theater, YouTube has a March 2011 Crosby-Nash performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH89ehrGXv8 

2.) Set the Baggage Down   (David Crosby - Shane Fontayne) - 4:01   rating: **** stars

Kicked along by some glistening Byrds-styled jangle-rock guitar, 'Set the Baggage Down; was the closest Crosby's come to a straight-ahead rocker n decades.  Crosby's said it ws at least partially inspired by his recovery programs.  Regardless, it was an awesome performance and one of the album highlights.  Should have been tapped as a single.  Another The City Winery performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mhp4MnrKIeU  

3.) If She Called   (David Crosby) - 4:59   rating: ** stars

'If She Called' was another one of Crosby's patented dreamy, lyrically dense, stream-of-conscious, mid-tempo tunes.  Would not have sounded all that out of place on 1971's "If I Could Only Remember My Name".   The lyrics were reportedly inspired when Crosby spotted some ladies of the night trolling for business outside his Belgian hotel.  He wondered how these young ladies managed to compartmentalize their work and private lives.  Kudos for being willing to take on such a topic, but the bland melody didn't do much for me.   YouTube clip from New York's The City Winder:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Laf9c1Q43MI 

4.) Dangerous Night  (David Crosby - James Raymond) - 5:57   rating: **** stars

Say what you will, but Crosby has a knack for crafting catchy, martial tunes.   His lyrics can be infuriating, but on this outing the were stunning - "I try to write Buddha and it comes out guns ...".   This one's always reminded me of something off an early Bruce Hornsby and the Range album.  Echoing something off of CSN's 'Wooden Ships', I've always loved the brief, backward guitar solo on this one   Another live clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwq3iQYqLo4 .   

5.) Morning Falling  (David Crosby - James Raymond) - 3:41   rating: ** stars

'Morning Falling' was best described as a bland, forgettable, over-orchestrated ballad.  The song may have been a commentary on drone warfare (beats me), but its interesting musical facet was the vaguely Middle Eastern sound.  

6.) Find a Heart  (David Crosby - James Raymond) - 5:04   rating: **** stars

Kicked along by Steve Tavaglione's sexy sax and a swinging melody, 'Find a Heart' found Crosby dipping his toe into what sounded like a hybrid of Steely Dan and Sting-styled adult contemporary pop.  In theory it shouldn't have worked very well, but I've got to admit he pulled it off with pizzazz.  The sweet harmonies gave the song a mild CSN flavor.  One of my favorite performances on the album.  Would love to hear this one live.  And another The Winery performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOI-p7m1QdU 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Sky Trails

Company: BMG

Catalog: 383033730

Year: 2017

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: double LP

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3904

Price: $40.00

 

 

I'll be the first person to admit I was totally amazed at how much I like David Crosby's "Sky Trails"  I sure didn't have high expectations for the album.  C'mon, a 76 year old burn-out stumbles into the studio ???   How good could this have been ?    Just goes to show what I know.  And if, like me, you were skeptical of the second halfcareer rebound, well, just  take a look at David Crosby's career.  Over the first 22 years of his solo career, starting with 1971's "If I Could Only Remember My Name", Crosby managed to crank out three solo albums.  Since  2014, he's matched that record.

Since  2014, he's matched that record and two of the three are quite impressive..

 

Anyhow, co-produced by Crosby and his son James Raymond, most of the ten tracks on "Sky Trails" were apparently written at the same time Crosby was working on his "Lighthouse" album.  Unlike the former set, this one found him working with a full band and pulling out an unexpectedly impressive set with a discernable jazz-rock edge.  Surrounding himself with a young and energetic band (bassist Mai Agan, drummer Steve DiStanislao , lead guitarist Jeff Pevar, Raymond and  Michelle Willis on keyboards), certainly seemed to have invigorated Crosby.  A nasty break-up with longtime musical partner Graham Nash and the rest of the CSN&Y crew seems to have also given Crosby something to prove.  And while all of his former partners have continued to release material, this album stands as one of  most consistent and enjoyable collections released by any of the CSN&Y clan.   

 

So let me get the negatives out of the way first.  Crosby has never been known for crafting the most melodic material you've ever heard.  Many of his best known tunes have a quasi-jazzy, drifting and vaporous feel that leaves me cold.  Co-written with Michael McDonald, the ballad  'Before Tomorrow Falls On Love' and 'Home Free' were both additions to that chapter of Crosby's catalog.  Crosby's activist agenda has also occasionally pushed him into self-serving, navel-gazing pomposity.  That activist edge remained intact, but the good news was on tracks like 'Sell Me a Diamond' and 'Capitol' his criticisms were on target and wrapped in nice melodies and memorable performances.  And now for the good news - for a man who has lived a truly hard life (much of it self-imposed), Crosby's voice remained in amazing form.  Of the whole CSN&Y crew, now in his mid-'70s, Crosby's voice remained in the best shape of the quartet.  How he pulled that off is simply miraculous.  Maybe because he didn't use it very much for decades ?   And best of all, this time out Crosby seems to have rediscovered the concept of melody.  The opener 'She's Got To Be Somewhere' was simply the best Steely Dan song not written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.   The title track, 'Sell Me a Diamond', the Sting-esque 'Here It's Almost Sunset' and his cover of Joni Mitchell's Amelia' were all wrapped in to-die-for pretty melodies and vocals. Simply the biggest surprise and one of the most enjoyable albums I've heard this year.

 

"Sky Trails" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) She's Got To Be Somewhere  - 4:50   rating: ****

What the hell ...  Never in a million years would I have expected to hear David Crosby sing the best Steely Dan song Walter Beck and Donald Fagen never wrote ...  Right down to the jazzy horns, silky smooth melody and Michael McDonald on backing vocals, 'She's Got To Be Somewhere' nailed the Dan sound.  Awesome performance !!!   YouTube has a clip of Crosby performing the song on The Tonight Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYwo0ZhzFLM 

2.) Sky Trails  - 4:50   rating: ****

Another complete surprise ...  the title track was a stunningly pretty duet with Becca Stevens.  With a soothing, jazzy feel, the song sounded like Crosby had been listening to more than his share of Sting.    Beautiful.   Here's what Crosby had to say about the song's inspiration: "[Stevens and I] both spend a lot of time on the road, and when youíre on the road, after the second or third week you donít know where you are. Youíre out there somewhere, and all the cities look roughly the same, and you lose track. I know it sounds funny, but it happens to us road musicians all the time, and that leads to a kind of disorientation. Thereís no instruction book for this, you know?"    YouTube has a clip with Crosby talking about the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0HQudspvco   

3.) Sell Me a Diamond   rating: ****

'Sell Me a Diamond' was instantly recognizable as a Crosby tune.  The melody was sweet, though the lyric may have beena little dense for many folks - a guy buying a conflict free diamond while listening to a couple argue ...  YouTube has a clip where Crosby talked about the song's inspiration.  Not sure Crosby intended to do a commercial for DeBeers ...   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nax__EbAWFU 

4.) Before Tomorrow Falls On Love   (David Crosby - Michael McDonald) -   rating: ** stars

The first disappointment, 'Before Tomorrow Falls On Love' mixed Crosby's patented, meandering jazzy moves with a MOR-ish feel.   Pretty, in a Hallmark card kind of way, though you had to wonder how a 75 year old guy with as much mileage as Crosby has, could sound as pristine.

5.) Here It's Almost Sunset   rating: ****

Kicked along by some stunning Steve Tavaglione alto sax, 'Here It's Almost Sunset' was a Sting-esque ballad, but in an attractive fashion.   Once again, Crosby's voice seems to have defied the conventions of aging and when the backing harmonies kicked in ...   sheer joy.  YouTube has a 2017, live performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDO8R441Zbc 

 

(side 2)

1.) Capitol    rating: **** stars

No album would be complete without at least a couple of tunes that expressed Crosby's sense of rage and frustration at something.  On the blazing 'Capitol' I wouldn't give him any bonus points for subtlety, but he certainly captured how many of us feel about this once proud institution ...  The dark, snaky melody was awesome, as was the clear sense of outrage Crosby brought to the subject.  Easily one of his most impressive vocals in years.   It was also another tune that reminded me a bit of Steely Dan.  The video and audio quality aren't great (it was recorded by an audience member), but YouTube has an April, 2017 performance of the song from a set at The Space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DgLgZCVCjE 

2.) Amelia   (Joni Mitchell) -     rating: **** stars

I'm not a gigantic Joni Mitchell fan so the thought of Crosby covering a Mitchell tune didn't exactly fill me with excitement.  The album's lone cover, 'Amerlia' first appeared on Joni Mitchell's 1976 album "Hejira".  While the song's autobiographical reflections of Mitchell's own love life and the references to Amelia Earhart's life made for a typically dense Mitchell song, Crosby's cover stood as one of the album's highlights.  I've ready that Crosby hesitated t record the tune, but perhaps inspired by Mitchell's health issues, he took the leap and the results were mysterious, thought provoking, and stunning.  YouTube has a September, 2016 performance of the song  In the introduction Crosby mentions it's the first time he's ever sung the song in front of an audience (most of the crowd don't seem to know the tune): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7AWVeZnKyc 

3.) Somebody Home   rating: *** stars

A pretty acoustic number, 'Somebody Home' found Crosby dipping his toe back into the jazzier sounds he so loves.  Crosby had actually written and recorded this one with the band Snarky Puppy on their 2016 album "Family Dinner Volume Two".   While the solo version wasn't significantly different, the tune lacked much in the way of a melody and wasn't nearly as impressive as some of the other tunes.   Filmed at Brooklyns Kings Theatre, YoutTube has a May, 2015 Crosby, Stills and Nash performance of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7i40kN9E5c 

4.) Curved Air   (David Crosby - James Raymond) -      rating: **** stars

With Crosby's son James Raymond providing the Flamenco guitar (it's actually him on synthesizers), 'Curved Air' was a breezy view of life's inherent contradictions.  Cool tune.

5.) Home Free   rating: ** stars

Nice to hear Crosby reflecting on how life has ultimately treated him well, but musically it was another patented Crosby jazz-meets-MOR ballad.  Music to stare at your bellybutton by.   Interestingly, this one would not have sounded out of place on Crosby's debut "If I Could Only Remember My Name".  

 

 

 

 

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