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Crosby, Stills & Nash - Demos

Crosby, Stills And Nash, Demos

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S a big year for Crosby, Stills & Nash what with being inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 18 and summer tours of both the US and Europe to look forward to.

In order to mark the occasions, Rhino has put together Demos, a behind-the-scenes look at the group’s early days with a collection of 12 previously unreleased demos recorded between 1968 and 1971.

While many demos feature members performing solo, the opening cut includes all three harmonising on the Nash-penned hit Marrakesh Express, recorded four months before the release of the trio’s eponymous debut in 1969. Needless to say, that track is a fine starting point, an acoustic gem and one of the LP’s highlights.

Crosby and Stills can be heard on another song from that blockbuster album, Long Time Gone. The two recorded the demo in June 1968, just a few weeks before Nash joined the group.

Neil Young, whose arrival in 1969 launched CSN&Y, performs with Crosby and Nash on Music Is Love, a song the three co-wrote that appeared on Crosby’s 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name.

Crosby flies his “freak flag” alone on the anthemic Almost Cut My Hair, a track featured on the group’s 1970 No.1 album Déjà Vu. And Stills performs unaccompanied on a 1968 demo of My Love Is A Gentle Thing.

Recorded in 1968, the song was never released on a studio album, although a 1975 recording of the track did surface in 1991 on the boxed set CSN.

More than half of Crosby, Stills & Nash Demos comprises early versions of songs destined for solo projects that each member focused on following the success of Déjà Vu.

Stills released his self-titled debut in 1970, which introduced Love The One You’re With, his biggest solo hit to-date and a live favorite. Stills recorded this version in April 1970, more than six months before recording the album version in London. It brings the album to a memorable, sing-along close, albeit delivered in acoustic form. It’s another firm favourite.

Another Stills demo, Singing Call, features a song that would appear on his follow-up, Stephen Stills 2.

Nearly all of the tracks on Demos were recorded at Wally Heider studios, a popular recording destination on the West Coast for everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Nash chose Heider’s studio to record his 1971 solo debut, Songs For Beginners, demoing much of the album there as well.

This collection includes three of those demos: Sleep Song, Be Yourself, and the politically charged Chicago, another of our favourites.

Occasionally, some of the tracks feel raw, unfinished and, dare I say, a little self-indulgent with David Crosby’s rendition of Deja Vu a little lyric-lite late on, and more of a personal jam than a song. It’ll probably only appeal to the most ardent of fans.

Elsewhere, however, there’s some truly enchanting moments, with the tender, relaxing Sleep Song a near-perfect chillout track that should be compulsory listening for all insomniacs – it’s highly therapeutic.

Indeed, such is the overall quality of the album that there’s no denying the brilliance of their songwriting, the durability of their tunes and the out-and-out appeal of tracks like Love The One You’re With and Chicago, which still sound fresh even in stripped back, early form.

For Crosby, Stills & Nash fans, this is a real gift of a collection – and a perfect way to prepare for their forthcoming live dates if you’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket.

Download picks: Almost Cut My Hair, Marrakesh Express, Chicago, Love The One You’re With, Sleep Song

Track listing:

  1. Marrakesh Express
  2. Almost Cut My Hair
  3. You Don’t Have To Cry
  4. Déjà Vu
  5. Sleep Song
  6. My Love Is A Gentle Thing
  7. Be Yourself
  8. Music Is Love
  9. Singing Call
  10. Long Time Gone
  11. Chicago
  12. Love The One You’re With