Nash, Graham

Band members                              Related acts

- Graham Nash - vocals, keyboards, guitar


  backing musicians (1971):

- Pat Arnold - backing vocals

- Johnny Barbata - drums

- Joel Bernstein - keyboards

- Rita Coolidge - backing vocals

- David Crosby - guitar, backing vocals

- Chris Ethridge - bass

- Jerry Garcia - keyboards, guitar

- Phil Lesh - bass

- David Lindley - fiddle

- David Mason - guitar

- Calvin Samuels - bass

- Dallas Taylor - drums, percussion

- Joe Yankee - keyboards



Crosby and Nash

- Crosby, Stills and Nash

- Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

- The Hollies




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Songs for Beginners

Company: Atlantic

Catalog: SD 7201

Year: 1971

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4436

Price: $8.00

Cost: $66.00


Backed by one of the year's most impressive collections of friends and sidekicks (including David Crosby, Jerry Garcia and David Mason), Graham Nash has seldom sounded as impressive as on his 1971 debut "Songs for Beginners".  As you'd expect, Nash turned in a highly personal collection wiith material such as ''Better Days, 'Wounded Bird' and 'I Used To Be a King' combining his instantly recognizable voice with some great melodies and introspective lyrics.  That isn't to imply the set's aged all that well.  Reflected in the form of tracks such as 'Military Madness', 'Chicago' and 'We Can Change the World', today Nash's more activist side sounds a bit on the dated side ...  Sad to say, but how many folks under 30 will have a clue what 'Chicago' is about?  Yes, it's a sad comment about the state of affairs, but true.   In spite of those minor flaws, it's one of the better '70 era singer/songwriter albums out there with Nash showing his knack for penning catchy and commercial melodies (say what you will about the song, 'Chicago' had a killer hook and was every bit as effective as a political statement as was CSN&Y's 'Ohio', as did the Hollies-influenced 'I Used To Be a King' and the pretty ballad 'Wounded Bird').  I'll even admit to warming up to his brittle tenor voice.  Whereas Nash seemed to be trying too hard on the CSN and CSN&Y albums, frequently turning in vocals that were strident and harsh, this time around Nash seemed to relax as if he didn't really have anything to provide - the difference was substantial.


- One of his classic and most personal tunes, 'Military Madness' managed to meld a charming melody with Nash's usual sense of moral, political, and social outrage.  Yeah, the female backing vocalists (Pat Arnold and Rita Coolidge) were strangely shrill and out of tune and the song's commentary may sound a touch old fashioned, but the overall effect was pretty darn impressive.  The song also showed Nash had a sense of humor - remember he was British after all ("... the army had my father and my mother was having me ...".    rating: **** stars

- It took a while to get going, but when it shifted into gear 'Better Days' stood as one of Nash's prettier compositions, complete with some nice piano, a pounding melody, and glorious backing vocals.  The song would have been even better without the needless sax solo.  Another reflection on Joni Mitchell and lost love ?   rating: *** stars

- No idea when it was written, but the stark, acoustic ballad 'Wounded Bird' was another wonderful effort. Starting out with Nash accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, the song sported a glorious melody and one of Nash's breeziest vocals.  Nash's multi-tracked vocal is fantastic - as good as his work with David Crosby.  Too bad  the track wasn't longer since it seemed fade out after the first chorus.   rating: **** stars

- Nobody could accuse Nash of hiding his feelings ...  Reportedly inspired by Joni Mitchell dumping him, 'I Used To Be a King' may be the best post-Hollies- Hollies tune he ever wrote.  Clearly inspired by ;King Midas In Reverse', colored by some David Crosby lead guitar and Jerry Garcia on pedal steel guitar, the song managed to weld some of Nash's most personal feelings with a melody that was simultaneous brooding and uplifting.   rating: ***** stars

- Another stark singer/songwriter number, 'Be Yourself' sounded like Nash trying on his best Bob Dylan impression.  The group chorus wailing the title over and over was way out of place, though every time I hear him sing 'build yourself a computer ...' I smile.  Pretty enough, but ultimately an also-ran performance.   rating: *** stars   

- It's one of his keynote compositions, but 'Simple Man' has never done a great deal for me.  Boasting another pretty melody, the song was simply too sentimental for my tastes, which is not meant to say the song isn't worth hearing.   rating: ** stars

- Showcasing more Jerry Garcia pedal steel, 'Man In the Mirror' was an interesting stab at country-rock.  Easy to picture it on one of the CSN&Y albums.   rating: *** stars

- Another example of Nash's knack for pretty melodies, 'There's Only One' was a mid-tempo, keyboard-propelled rocker that had a way of popping into your head and not leaving.  Strange, but the female backing vocals and Bobby Keyes sax solo have always reminded me a bit of a Pink Floyd song.   rating: *** stars

- Another pretty acoustic ballad that was probably rooted in his relationship with Joni Mitchell, I'd suggest ' Sleep Song' was the album's one throwaway track.  Though it featured some Crosby and Nash-styled harmony vocals, this one was a case of TMI ...    rating: *** stars

- It had previously appeared on the CSN&Y live set "Four Way Street", but the studio version of  'Chicago' was far better and provided Nash with his first solo hit.  Supposedly meant to shame Stills and Nash into performing at a benefit concert for the Chicago 7 (you'll have to look it up), the song had everything needed for radio play - great melody, one of Nash's most impassioned vocals, and a real sense of enthusiasm.   rating: **** stars

- It's shown as a separate song, but 'We Can Change the World' was really little more than a coda to 'Chicago'.  Similar to John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance', the song structure was basically just the title track chanted over and over, but it was catchy.    rating: **** stars


The album spun off a series of singles:


- 1971's 'Chicago' b/w 'Simple Man' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2804)

- 1971's 'Military Madness' b/w 'Sleep Song' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2827)

- 1971's 'I Use To Be a King' b/w 'Wounded Bird' (Atlantic catalog number 45-2840)


I guess I'm an exception here, but to my ears Graham Nash's contributions to the CS&N and CSN&Y catalogs weren't particularly impressive.  At the same time, with this album Nash can take credit for releasing one of the best solo albums coming out of the CSN&Y family.


"Songs for Beginners" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Military Madness   (Graham Nash) - 2:50

2.) Better Days   (Graham Nash) - 3:47

3.) Wounded Bird   (Graham Nash) - 2:09

4.) I Used To Be a King   (Graham Nash) - 4:45

5.) Be Yourself   (Graham Nash - Reid) - 3:03


(side 2)

1.) Simple Man   (Graham Nash) - 2:05

2.) Man In the Mirror   (Graham Nash) - 2:47

3.) There's Only One   (Graham Nash) - 3:55

4.) Sleep Song   (Graham Nash) - 2:57

5.) Chicago   (Graham Nash) - 2:55

6.) We Can Change the World   (Graham Nash) - 1:00