Tuesday, July 31, 2007

album of the day

Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In theory it sounds great to have a whole bunch of independent singer-songwriters in your band; everyone's only got to write a couple of songs each, so you can just cherry-pick the best ones from each party.

Of course in practice this can make for rather lumpy and inconsistent albums; the later Beatles albums, for instance, like The White Album or Abbey Road, suffer from this problem.

And, to be fair, so does this one. The first Crosby, Stills & Nash album was a bit more consistent in tone, but the addition of Neil Young to the mix had a couple of effects: a slightly harder and more electric sound and a general increase in the levels of anarchy and chaos - this is par for the course for anyone working with Young, as Jimmy McDonough's fascinating biography Shakey makes clear.

So the album is divided into four distinct sections (all mixed up with each other): Stills' folk/rock numbers Carry On and 4+20 and his cover of Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, Crosby's amusing cocaine paranoia on Almost Cut My Hair and Déjà Vu, Nash's romantic pop sentiments on Teach Your Children (lovely) and Our House (nauseating), and Young's gorgeous Helpless and slightly overwrought Country Girl. Stills and Young's collaboration Everybody I Love You finishes things off.

The key to all this, of course, is the three and four-part harmonies, and I suppose it's a bit like loud electric guitars, in that it either sends shivers down the spine, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, take a look at yourself, have a word, and possibly have your vital signs, pulse, etc. checked.

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