Due to the sheer number, and high quality of the submitted reviews, the decision was a difficult one. Here are the Top Ten reviews. The authors will receive an official replica of the original tour laminate - customized with their photo. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!
CSNY 1974 REVIEW CONTEST WINNERS
Sounds Like It Could Have Been Recorded Last Month
While listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young on CSNY 1974, comparisons to 1971’s 4-Way Street are inevitable. Although I like 4 Way Street, this new live collection is far superior. The performances, selected from nine shows on the 1974 reunion tour, sound fresh and contemporary. Much of the improved sonic quality is probably due to the careful attention of Graham Nash. Although there has been some criticism involving the remixing, remastering and technical adjustments, Nash has done an excellent job compiling and presenting this collection of live material. He has approached this project with a desire to maintain its integrity. Personally, I think if someone can improve the sound quality of the original tapes, then why not do it! As a result of the improved sound quality, this album sounds like it could have been recorded last month instead of 40 years ago! In comparison, 4-Way Street sounds quite dated.
Nash handled this project with care. He improved the sound quality, but he did just enough. He didn’t overdo the technical aspects of the project. He left in some of the miscues and a few mistakes, but this is a live collection and those type of occurrences are expected and actually provide an authenticity to the collection.
The song selection is also superior to 4 Way Street. In my opinion, 4-Way Street had too many long extended electric jams. Those may be fun for the musicians, but can become a bit boring and tedious to the listener.
I listened to the three discs of CSNY 1974 in one afternoon, from start to finish. The songs flow nicely as if recorded from one live show. The first disc is electric, with disc two providing an acoustic set. The group returns to electric instruments on the third disc. Although I enjoyed the entire set, Disc two, the acoustic set, is my favorite.
There are a few surprises, at least surprises to me. I love the fact that many of the groups more obscure solo songs were included with the other members contributing to the performances. Many new songs were performed for the first time on the 1974 tour.
This live collection is so interesting, because CSN&Y were at the height of their fame during the early 70s. They were actually on the verge of Beatle-like fame for a time. At one point, for a brief period of time, they were considered to be as big as the Beatles! This set illustrates why they were so popular – so much talent and creativity in one band! It just couldn’t last!
I will not go into individual tracks, there are too many outstanding ones! This is a great collection of music – 40 plus songs! And the packaging and booklet are exceptional as well. I just have to wonder why it took so long for this to be released! I’ve been listening to nothing but these three CDs all week. CSNY 1974 just keeps sounding better with each listen.
A Stunning Document
This 1974 reunion tour was, at the time, the highest grossing and most ambitious tour ever. While some bands played the odd stadium date, this is the first time that any band booked an entire tour in baseball stadiums coast to coast. All of the excess was documented, including professional mobile recording. This three CD/ one DVD box set is a stunning document. Like the more recent Led Zeppelin live albums (How The West Was Won, etc.) this was mixed from the original two track tapes and the sound quality is unbelievable.
While this album is comprised of songs performed on different nights, each show on the tour was at least three hours long and broken down into three segments: Electric, acoustic, and an electric closing set. This triple live album keeps that spirit by splitting the three sections across the three discs. The arrangements are loose, jammy, sprawling and have a fog over them. You can almost imagine a hot, humid, outdoor show complete with the smell of beer, pot, and body odor when listening to Almost Cut My Hair. Neil Young had recently released his On The Beach album, and his take on the title song is fantastic. Don't Be Denied, from Neil's frustratingly out of print, never commercially issued on CD Time Fades Away is part of the rocking ten song finale that makes up Disc Three. Military Madness rules. No band channeled the zeitgeist or reflected the values of the times better than these guys. You get songs from the core band, songs from each member's solo albums, songs that were at the time unreleased and wound up on later albums (Long May You Run), and some that never materialized but are finally available here. Goodbye Dick, which was written the day that Nixon resigned, has been in the vaults since these shows were played forty years ago.
The band sounds great. I have never seen them, any of them in any configuration, live. I need to rectify this as soon as possible. I did sit all the way through all three discs one night, and there is a real emotional payoff when you listen to it that way as opposed to one disc at a time. Set aside an evening, pop some popcorn, and grab a beverage of your choice and give it a serious listen.
I adore physical media, and the tactile experience is what makes it real in my mind. You can keep your mp3s; I'll stick with my friend the compact disc. The digipak is one chunky monkey, with a four-sided foldout complete with an honest to gosh plastic hub for each disc. The 180+ page book has it's own pocket, and is jammed with great liner notes and tons of pictures. While it may seem like a chunk of change to buy this, it is totally worth every penny. There is a deluxe wooden box set with LPs, BluRay audio disc, and all sorts of bricabrac for the super diehard well-heeled fan. This average consumer edition is fine by me.
A Great Tribute To One Of The Finest Bands In Recording History
When Graham Nash recently approached Neil Young with his newly-found desire to release material from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1974 tour, Young was less than enthusiastic. Why return to the past? Young is reported to have said. Indeed, the 1974 tour was one that was fraught with difficulties, ranging from drug to money excesses. But Nash persisted. There is energy here, Graham responded.
Indeed, there is energy. CSNY 1974 is probably the best album produced from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in a very long time, and its release is well worth the wait. Unlike their earlier effort, 4-Way Street, CSNY 1974 is obviously a less intimate affair, having been recorded at open-air stadiums in front of millions of people. There are no truly extended jams beyond the scope of the originally recorded studio albums, though new arrangements abound. In-between chatter is also at a minimum. Part of this is due to the fact that this is a representative concert as opposed to a complete one recorded at a specific venue
But despite the fact that the album is a collection of different concerts, efforts have been made to make the album as seamless as possible. It is to co-producers Graham Nash and Joel Bernstein’s credit that the album is as beautiful as it is. This is not to say CSNY 1974 is without flaws. Vocals are sometimes rough or unintelligible, and the picture quality on the DVD, despite modern technology, reveals the limitations of the medium back then.
Still, for an album forty years in the making, the music quality cannot be beat. Following the electric-acoustic-electric set format that has been the band’s mainstay for years, the album opens with a lovely and rousing rendition of Love the One You’re With,punctuated by Joe Lala’s percussion. The song moves quickly into Wooden Ships,with Stills and Young trading licks before turning to a slightly slower, but powerful version of Immigration Man. The electric set then becomes a bit softer with Young’s Helpless, actually better than the studio version, and Crosby’s Carry Me, his voice as pristine as always. An original number, Traces, by Neil Young follows, very much in the CSN vein. Nash’s Grave Concern is next, preceded by some mocking Crosby flippancy about the Watergate tapes. The Watergate scandal, very much the news of the day back then, underscores much of the political songs of the album. The first set then wraps up with three powerful numbers, the first being Young’s On The Beach, which loses none of the bluesy punch seen on the studio album of the same name. The song is followed by a thoroughly electric and hard-driving Black Queen from Stephen Stills and an equally majestic version of Almost Cut My Hair from David Crosby.
The second set opens with Stills’ Change Partners, often seen by Nash as a possible analogy for the many personnel differences in the band over the years. The gently lilting lyric moves easily into the equally lovely sailing tune, The Lee Shore, by David Crosby. Not quite as intimate as 4-Way Street or as electric as the CSN compilation album, the song still radiates with echoes of the sea and shore life. Young’s Only Love Can Break Your Heart is next, coupled with soothing harmonies from the rest of the band and some excellent piano accompaniment from Stephen Stills. Individual band members continue to play solo or in various combinations for Our House and Fieldworker by Nash, Guinevere and Time After Time by Crosby, and Nash’s protest about marijuana laws in Prison Song. Stills and Young unite for Long May You Run before a slew of Young tunes, including the whimsical, one-off Goodbye Dick (a Watergate satire), and Mellow My Mind, with Young on the banjo. A beautiful version of Old Man with Tim Drummond on bass follows before Stills takes over again with a blistering version of Word Game and a soulful rendition of Myth of Sysyphus. Then it’s Young again for two new numbers, Love Art Blues and Hawaiian Sunrise before the band closes the second set with Teach Your Children and Stills’ epic Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.
The third set returns to electric music, beginning first with Crosby’s ethereal Déjà Vu, punctuated by Joe Lala’s percussion and some excellent piano from Neil Young. Stills’ My Angel follows with a strong Latin beat before the band moves to Nash’s Pre-Road Downs, more raucous, perhaps, than some other versions. Two powerful songs from Neil Young are next, Don’t Be Denied, the autobiographical tune from the long-sought-after Time Fades Away album, and Revolution Blues, allegedly inspired by the Manson murders. The electricity continues to build as the band works through Nash’s Military Madness, Crosby’s Long Time Gone, and the previously unreleased, haunting Young number, Pushed It Over The End. The album then closes with a guitar-enhanced version of Chicago and the now-famous CSNY anthem, Ohio.
It would remiss not to mention, at least in passing, the DVD and booklet included in the 3CD/DVD set upon which this review is based. The booklet is a thick 188-page affair, beautifully illustrated with many black and white and color photographs, a lengthy essay by Pete Long describing the original tour, a tour itinerary, credits for each song, and a brief introduction by Graham Nash. The DVD is a collection of eight songs, the first four from Capital Centre, Landover, Maryland, and the second four from Wembley Stadium, London, United Kingdom. The song recordings seem to be the same songs presented on the compact discs. Picture quality varies from grainy, slightly out-of-focus shots to clear presentations. The better video appears to be Capital Centre recordings, but the DVD was only intended to be representative, as video quality in those days was vastly inferior to what is possible today.
Of course, 2014 is not 1974, but it is to the band’s great credit that this album has finally been released. CSNY 1974 stands as a great tribute to one of the finest bands in recording history.
Mark Edward Askren
As If We Were Listening To Them Today
So much more dimensional over my favorite 4Way Street, CSN&Y 1974 recaptures the feelings of that time, without being stuck in time. In the early 70’s.
4Way Street was the voice of all the anti-war activists. When the crowd responds, I found that I was the crowd and had the same energy, feelings, the chills and the silence of listening to the four…it was as if time stopped and we were listening to them live today.
Listening to the same tracks, without the same musical inflections and order of songs, was so refreshing and made each song new again. There is a lot of interaction between CSN&Y which made me feel like I was there with them. I love this album and have been playing it nonstop since downloading it from ITunes…A+++
Flawless From The First Note
I had never seen CSN&Y before and I was only 16 years old, so I had not really had much opportunity. They were coming to the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood and I had heard that the shows were long and amazing!. So I clled my friend Chris F. and asked if he wanted to go to Tower Records on Sunset and wait in line with me for tickets. For sure he said without hesitation, and we were off in my 1969 orange and blue VW bug to wait in line with the others who had taken the day off of work to have a party in line for awhile. I do miss the days of standing in line for tickets for Bruce or The Dead etc., because everyone was very cool and like minded for the most part.
This is just the start of the memories that have come back and flooded my head as I sit and listen to CSNY 1974 for the first time. The one thing that as always fascinated me is the dynamics of the music and how Crosby with a hand gesture will get the crowd no matter how huge to shut up and listen to the slower songs. Conversely, Stills and Young and band can tear apart the house when they plug in and turn it up!! All this and much much more is on display in the new release by CSN&Y.
I would have thought that Neil would oversee the production of this 3 disc set, but, it seems that Nash did all the gritty archival searching. It's flawless from the first note on CD1 to the last song on CD3 and it leave one begging for more and hoping that there actually IS more. We have all heard these songs before many times but to hear all the boys playing together and singing harmony on every song transcends the listening experience. One of my favorite moments is when they play Don't Be Denied, a song from the still not on CD Time Fades Away by Neil Young. This is a more cohesive performance with Stills and Young traded guitar parts and the song hits on all cylinders. Goodbye Dick is also a true gem that is a mirror of the political landscape in 1974.
In closing, buy this CD box set and you will not be disappointed.
This Is The Album Of The Summer
It has not stopped playing since Tuesday. I always loved for years 4 Way Street, so I knew this was going to be monumental. The musicianship is stellar. Just when you get comfortable with the the music, on comes David Crosby's Guinevere. What is that?!!! What a flipping arrangement! My Dad brought me up on The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield (his favorite) and my Mom loved the Hollies. I was born in 1969 so this music is in my DNA. Miss them both and get emotional hearing some of the songs like Wooden Ships. The version on this is rock perfection. I really dug Stephen's solo live version from that Stephen Stills Live album, but this version felt like pure musical power hammering you with beauty, fear, and technique.
Graham Nash should get so much credit for two reasons; one, he meticulously put this whole recording together and it shows. His effort in not only providing a documentation of a moment in time, but sonically hammering us in 2014 with 2014 power!!, Reason two is Immigration Man. Are you kidding me? Tuesday I heard this song for the first time and I thought it was a gimmick, something to update the lyrics. I posted his lyrics on my FB page and asked, So Graham Nash wrote this in the early 70's? Turn on the news. Coulda fooled me. Also, the banter between David and Stephen about the Watergate Scandal, and Neil's Goodbye Dick makes this an important artifact not just for music lovers but for historians as well.
Neil's On the Beach is my favorite track of his on the collection. You hear someone once again waiting on the tarmac to fly off into another solo mission without compromising the integrity and sincerity of what was happening on stage with his three brothers, (along with the totally amazing and underrated percussive trio of Russell Kunkel, Tim Drummond and the late Joe Lala). What these three players bring to the Lee Shore (which was my favorite on 4WSt), is immeasurable.
This collection is truly complete; Jazz/Psychedelic rock (Deja Vu), Guthrie-level protest (Fieldworker), Hard rock (Wooden Ships), Ballads (Helpless), and dare I say some melodic metal (Pre-Road Downs). This is high and low, soft and hard, meaningful and at times even silly. This is the album of the summer; for road trips, beach staring, relaxing and contemplating. It's music to listen to with the one you love, or the one you're with.
David C. Laffin
All Four Members Of This Supergroup Shine
To say this much anticipated box set was a Long Time Coming is an understatement. Having attended several shows on this tour back in the summer of 1974 it ranks as one of the most desired releases from CSNY that I can think of. Forty years ago I had just graduated High School and this tour promised to be the highlight of my summer. When the shows were announced and Milwaukee, Wisconsin was included, I was probably the first one in our city to get tickets...I was that excited. I had the good fortune of seeing all four in 1973 having attended Neil Young's Time Fades Away tour, Stephen Stills & Manassas show at Summerfest and a Crosby-Nash show in Madison, Wi. All three concerts were amazing so I knew this reunion show would be one for the ages!
So here we are in 2014...July 8th couldn't get here soon enough. It was almost like 40 years ago waiting for the concert to get here after you bought tickets. The day finally arrived and I headed down to my local record store (shout out to The Exclusive Co) to get my copy which I had pre-ordered. I could hardly wait to get out of the store before I started to rip the plastic off this beautiful looking box set and get this disc into my car CD player. Before I get to the music however, let's look at the packaging. When I heard this box set was finally coming out I knew it would be presented with impeccable packaging. Graham Nash has done an amazing job putting together career-spanning box sets of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and his own (not to mention several others) in years past. And Neil's Archives Volume One was incredible also. On top of that CSNY is surrounded by some fantastic associates who always go the extra mile with what they do.
The CSNY 1974 box contains an outstanding booklet with over 180 pages of great pictures, a lengthy write up by well known author Pete Long, A tour itinerary and a track by track listing of all 40 songs on the CD's and more. The pictures were mostly taken by Joel Bernstein who does a wonderful job of capturing the tour from a photographers viewpoint. A written introduction by Graham himself explains that this release is intended to represent a typical show from this tour.
The box set kicks off with my favorite version of Love The One You're With. Upon hearing this I am immediately taken back 40 years to Centerfield at Milwaukee County Stadium on July 21st. The sound couldn't be better and the performances are top notch throughout. The first set (disc one) features 11 songs which is several more songs in the opening set than what I saw at the shows I attended. All four members of this supergroup shine in the opening set.
Song selection follows the pattern of the majority of set lists I have seen for the reunion tour. In addition to the opening song, highlights include a Buffalo Springfield-like song Traces and On The Beach from Neil, a blistering Black Queen from Stills, Carry Me plus Almost Cut My Hair from Crosby and Nash with Immigration Man. Then we get an acoustic set (disc two) that features 19 songs. All four are again very well represented on this CD.
The harmonies on many of the songs are amazing. It has always been a wonder for me how they can rock out and then settle down moments later in an acoustic setting and sing like nobody else can. How do they do that? I love every single song on this disc but I would single out Word Game and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes as show stoppers from this set. The third set (disc three) has ten songs. As you might expect it rocks out with some great music starting with the title song from the CSNY album Deja Vu. Two out of the next nine songs were unreleased at the time. The Stills song My Angel features a Latin flavor with some nice keyboard interplay. Later in the set comes a Neil Young song that finally gets an official release on this box...a nearly eight-minute Pushed It Over The End. The three CD's from this set will be music I listen to often for a long time to come. The DVD that's included is the icing on the cake. Eight great performances that leave the viewer wishing there was more!
CSNY 1974 is a fantastic box set that captures the magic of an amazing tour that took place 40 years ago.
Tim and Lisa OHalloran
Immaculate To Listen To
In 1974 we experienced the end of the Nixon era, muscle cars were in, 8 track stereo gave us the sounds, and the Cold War was at full strength: CSNY provided us the expression of this era and impressed upon us freedom, love, and hope for good days to come. The 40 song set of this new compilation of CSNY 1974 brings us back to these days in the 70's and back to the time of our youth and the possibilities of days to come.
These 40 songs will take up a full day's of listening and reflection and the quality of what emits from one's speakers or headphones is clean, pure and immaculate to listen to....these 3 CD's bottle the magic, both of time and of Crosby Stills Nash and Young themselves, quite well. Each of theses four artists bring fresh, new solo material into the fold, and hence, CSNY had a treasure chest of great new material to share with the large, stadium audiences during the 74 tour. To me the Neil Young songs sound great, with tunes that included Love Art Blues and Pushed it over the End.
But it is On the Beach where Neil leans into his vocal, brings on an intensity for the ages and stretches his range way farther than you can here on the studio recording. And as I witnessed on the CSNY tour back 10 years ago, the song includes a firey exchange of guitar solos between Stephen Still and Young that will leave your ears ringing. To me it's about the music, I recommend this CD package wholeheartedly to those new and old, and these CD's also make you think and wonder what could and might have been, had CSNY left their egos at the door and their substances aside, and created that 3rd studio album back then.
The Best Things Come To Those Who Wait
Finally. Officially released after years of rumor, conjecture and speculation the new forty track Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young document from the famed 'doom' tour of 1974 has hit the shelves of your local record shops. Compiled and developed by self proclaimed group archivist Graham Nash and famed rock photographer and Neil Young archive keeper Joel Bernstein the box set is a true labor of love for an era of the band which has been misrepresented by the passing of time, flapping of lips and rumination by the media.
The 1974 CSNY tour was a massive stadium tour brimming with all of the usual rock excesses, unfortunately magnified to extravagant and unbelievable levels due to the size of the undertaking. Drugs, attitude, money, mental derangement, unbelievable talent and extravagant actions all combined to cover this concert tour with an air of mystery, dread and 'rumored' sub par performances. While all of this and more may be true, this era was also a time of four individuals reaching summits of their respective careers. Neil Young in particular was composing songs of stunning power and was wading through the most prolific time of his storied career. Stills was playing unbelievably well during this time and Crosby and Nash both has a sheath of new songs of grace and beauty. True, the harmonies suffered due to the imposing stadium venues and the ongoing volume competition on stage between Stills and Young, but there were plenty of moments containing that spellbinding magic. The massive venues while a sonic struggle, also allowed for a certain poignancy to be touched upon during the concerts, due to entire crowds becoming silenced through unique musical moments, as well as through experiencing the kinetic energy exchange between crowd and performer.
Nash and Bernstein painstakingly waded through the existing tapes from ten concerts hailing from Landover, MD, Chicago, IL ,Hempstead, NY, Wembley Stadium and a Crosby/Nash concert from December to develop the ideal representation of the concert experience developed over the course of 31 dates. While musty and aged treasures still remain to be found among the numerous field recordings of these concerts, Nash and Bernstein have finally compiled a definitive statement on the tour containing pristine sound quality, rare cuts and true representations of what happened musically on this legendary excursion. Yes, there are songs missing that I wish were included, "Southbound Train', Pardon My Heart', 'First Things First' and an extended rendition of 'Carry On', but as Nash as stated, sometimes versions of tracks were not sonically up to par, or the performances suffered. What has resulted from the producers choices is a true representation of the tour that puts the band in the best light possible. The hourglass of time has revealed this tour to be clouded by the principal’s bias views, we must be ecstatic that it has finally gone under a microscope and is receiving a proper examination.
The collection begins excitedly with the usual opener for the tour, an undulating 'Love the One You're With', the song augmented by the legendary rhythm section of Russell Kunkel, Tim Drummond and former 'Manassas' percussion master extraordinaire Joe Lala into a swirling rhythmic stew.
For too long now the only official live representation of CSNY has been 4 Way Street, a proper collection yes, but too narrow a view for the fan peaking through the keyhole. After hearing the first track of the set, even the layman can realize this is an entirely different glimpse of the group. The simulated first set moves along expectedly through well played renditions of buoyant 'Wooden Ships' and serious 'Immigration Man' before settling in on the first major highlight of the recording, a full band rendition of one of David Crosby's finest compositions, the yet to be released, 'Carry Me'. The normally placid song settles in with a slight funk and is delicately interpreted by Crosby with both Young and Nash contributing on creaky backing vocals. Immediately the marvelous sound quality is noticeable and welcomed, each instrument in perfect balance, each individual harmonious voice retrievable in the sonic palette.
A series of special takes on unique tracks follows with an intricate country oasis version of Manassas's 'Johnny's Garden', as well as Young's unreleased song outline 'Traces' and Nash's underrated LP track 'Grave Concern'. 'Grave Concern' is the epitome of the term 'lost classic'. First appearing on 1973's Wild Tales its luminescent and catchy melody covers the slightly dark lyrical content in a peaceful haze. Young is featured on this track playing a solo in his very recognizable and quirky piano style.
Perhaps the peak of the entire first disc and possibly the collection is the version of 'On the Beach' from Young's self titled release that follows the performance of 'Grave Concern'. A dark and brooding late night stroll occurs. Stills punctuates Young's shore lapping vocals with moaning and bubbling statements. Stills and Young eventually embrace for a shady duel guitar captured in a call and response sequence. Separated by an explosive series of dynamic verses, Stills and Young undertake another sonic rendezvous, this time intertwining for a classic 'Buffalo Springfield' guitar interaction and conclusion.
A distorted and spiteful 'Black Queen' follows with Stills examining his blues chops through an impressively loud and extended series of wah-wah'd melodic statements. The disc then close out the first set with 'Almost Cut My Hair', a version also featured on the accompanying DVD that contains selected tracks from the Landover, MD and Wembley Stadium performances. This particular performance hails from Landover and is highlighted by aggressive Stills/Young soloing, though the version suffers from David's voice sounding slightly tour weary. A proper tune for a closing of the first disc in extravagant style.
The hypothetical concert construct now moves on to disc two represents which the acoustic set. A big and beautiful strummy version of 'Change Partners' starts things off with the band sounding giddy, adding extra emphasis on the vocal attack from all of the members. This is an all time performance. Illustrated here, Nash and Bernstein made the important decision to leave much of the important dialog surrounding the tracks to more successfully allow the listener to attend the performance in their own head. "Lee Shore', 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', and 'Our House' follow and all contain masterful performances.’Lee Shore is started with Crosby instructing the overzealous percussion to play 'nice and light' which results in a version that slowly gains momentum waves as it moves forward.
The “rare” solo piano version (Crosby helps at the end) of Graham Nash's 'Fieldworker' is a welcome addition as is the concert staple 'Guinevere' which is always magical. But the real jewel here is the crystalline version of Crosby’s 'Time After Time', breathtaking in its intimacy and vocal touch, thankfully immortalized on this collection. Of note is Stills and Nash offering spine tingling vocal assistance.
Nash's 'Prison Song' comes next with Young pitching in creaky back porch vocals and acoustic guitar before being spotlighted for a definitive version of 'Long May You Run'. Performed as a duo with Stills, their acoustic guitars play as one, their vocals a full bottle of wine passed around a late night fire. Neil's harp a lonesome moonlight train whistle moaning in the distance. A multitude of emotions are disseminated from this pull you close and whisper in the ear version.
The one-time performance of Neil's ditty, 'Goodbye Dick' performed on solo banjo is a one minute rarity, historic and humorous, just the sort of impromptu song choice the later shows in the tour were accustomed to. A neat addition to the song list of the collection. 'Mellow My Mind' one of Young's most beloved songs follows and is another banjo rendition, this time Crosby and Nash drape their vocals over the verses, singing every line with Young, making this track a disc two highlight.
A Stills guitar clinic is illustrated next with a solo acoustic 'Word Game' that never fails to thrill in live performance. Not a wasted note or lick, Stills is in his best gruff throat for this legendary talking blues. Stills 'cuts heads' with this dusty Southern commentary, sketched with some of the quickest chicken picking you will ever here.
Stills sits at the piano next for a personal favorite of this reviewer, 'Myth of Sisyphus', a highlight of many 1974 performances, a commentary on the absurd as well as man's psychological struggles, this sparse piano ballad soaks up the silenced crowd and digs it fingers into the musical cliff it hangs precariously from. Stills ringing piano hits in addition to his sweet reaching falsetto reach deep into his own pain for such a heartfelt performance.
A 'CSN' staple, the version of 'Blackbird' found here proves the straight up assertion by David Crosby that 'CSN' sing it better than the Beatles ever could.
Neil Young's next feature moment in this longer than usual concert representation comes in the form of two legendary unreleased tracks that are seeing their premier on this set. 'Love Art Blues' is a lazy saloon door swinging from a bent hinge and features a full band performance. The song illustrates the internal struggle between creation and relation in a slow country sway. Following 'Love/Art Blues' is the floral island aroma of the unreleased 'Hawaiian Sunrise', a song in the running for the proposed 1974 LP, Human Highway is featured here with Young on beach acoustic and Stills on woody stand up bass. Crosby and Nash wipe off their sandy feet before loaning morning bird vocal support.
The acoustic set concludes with crowd pleasing renditions of a full band singalong 'Teach Your Children' marked by Stills twangy Chet Atkins guitar filigrees, as well as a golden and sparkling 'Suite Judy Blue Eyes', one of the finest performances of the song captured for posterity. The trio of 'CSN' move their way through a patient version that gazes out of the windows longingly, each harmony a line of thick sweet honey coating each chosen word.
Disc three represents the second electric segment that bookends the juicy acoustic center of the show. The concluding segments of the 1974 shows often featured extended readings and jammed out tracks. Opening with an extended and starry night 'Deja Vu', the band takes the title track from the 1970 album and stretch it out while investigating its cobwebbed nooks and crannies. A thorough reading of a strange song that continues to be a hallmark of 'CSN' sets to this day. Worthy of attention is Stills hearty SG work and Young's plunky piano coloring.
'My Angel', a track of Stills yet to be released 1975 LP Stills is premiered on this collection in a live version the balances on the edge of funky world music disco. Stills plays piano and Young a slick Hammond B3 while Crosby and the rhythm sections excitedly percolate underneath. The sexy silhouette of the song shadows the stage when Stills takes a exclusive and spongy clavinet solo.
The electric set continues with 'Graham Nash's 'Pre Road Downs', a track from 'CSN's' debut album coming dressed as another definitive version. The song hugs the corners in a precarious tour bus, smoke pouring from the windows, women's garments hanging from windows and antennas. Stills smokes his solo down to the butt, its smouldering remnants left laying on the highway.
A flag flying 'Don't Be Denied' is represented in its 'CSNY' format, the song having been performed with David and Graham on Young's 1973 Time Fades Away tour. This version is similar to those performances; its strength is in the songs enduring melody not in any unique instrumental approaches.
What follows 'Don't Be Denied' happens to be a very unique performance, as well as a highlight of the collection. Young's incendiary 'Revolution Blues' bounds over fences and under barricades under the clandestine cover of dusk. Stills and Young both take aggressive and knifing solo guitar spots, Stills sharp and snakey, Young's blue and shaky. What is interesting is that a few members of the band showed their displeasure at the lyrical content of the song from Young's 1974 On the Beach, so on stage performances of the track are a definite anomaly for the band.
The illustrated set list of the collection now builds to the hypothetical conclusion of the show. 'Military Madness', 'Long Time Gone', 'Chicago' and 'Ohio' all express the political undercurrent and unabashed commentary the band is famous for. The crowd is stirred into a frothing boil of emotion through the fiery renditions of the bands activist sensibilities. 'Military Madness' becomes a joyous sing along with the crowd lending their voices to the 'No more war' mantra sung by the band. "Long Time Gone' has already gained its status as one of the finest 'political' musical statements from the 1960's and here is given an uptempo and chunky reading.
Placed in the middle of the aforementioned four tracks is one of the most legendary and sought after 'missing pieces' from Neil Young's massive discography. 'Pushed It Over the End' is a shifty off tempo musical movement that somehow escaped official public release. It did appear as a 'B' side on an overseas single for a brief time, but otherwise has been left languishing in the vaults for 40 years. In this live set the song is finally given a proper introduction to the record buying public in this power position in the second electric set. The song begins a haunted waltz and dances through feedback drenched pauses, inspired melodic changes, accented rhythmic ideas and four part harmonies. Arguably one of Young's greatest compositions, the song, similarly to Dylan's tune left unreleased 'Blind Willie McTell' was destined to be forgotten and left to collect dust until the time was right. Young coaxes grey cloudy notes from his famed 'White Falcon' as the band swindles up a chunky slab of musical meat. A definite and anticipated highlight of this amazing collection.
'Chicago' and 'Ohio' are given towering and ragged portrayals, the groups excitement unable to be contained on the recording, the music bursting from the seams and leaking from the lids. I am going to assume that these songs originally resided at the end of the respective concerts they were pulled from as the voices are frayed and the instrumentation is rough and ready. Stills stands tall on both of these numbers blowing out distorted guitar lines like a highway tire on a runaway tractor trailer truck.
The collection fittingly concludes with 'Ohio', probably the best example of the 'CSNY' collaborative strength and attitude. The song that illustrated to the band exactly what their music could accomplish given the proper time and attention. A big song for a big concert conclusion.
As previously mentioned, in addition to the three discs of music a bonus DVD is included in the package, lending a visual document to accompany the journey through the 1974 tour. Four songs exist in color pro shot format from the August 20, 1974 Landover, MD show, never before seen and exclusive to the collection, in addition to four songs from the famed Wembley Arena show in England which has circulated in 'bootleg' form for some time now. While the completest would like it all, Nash and Bernstein have distilled the existing videos down to what they regard as an appropriate representation of the band. Separating the 'wheat from the chaff', so to say. The Wembley performance has often been ruminated on because of the questionable condition of its participants, captured here, only the best tracks are disseminated.
It is often said, 'The best things come to those who wait' and that cannot be more relevant than when applied to this lovingly-crafted box set. The CSNY 'doom' tour has become the stuff of legend, sometimes not always true, sometimes maybe too true! Regardless, what cannot be denied is what occurs when the four members put aside their egos and attitudes to create music. In deference to outside forces and factors, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are magical minstrels whose powers increase when placed together. This new anthology disregards the fluff and focuses on the songs, a simple idea that sometimes even the musicians can forget. It took forty years to happen, but finally as fans we can look back at a time we may have lived through, or we may have missed, but we can now know for sure, at this particular time....'CSNY' were the best rock and roll band on the planet.
Literally Hours Of Entertainment
In the summer of 1974, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young embarked on a massive tour that brought their particular brand of singer-songwriterness to stadiums packed to the gills with ticket-buyers. Since their previous tour (and album together), roughly 12 albums’ worth of material had been released between the four of them, in addition to all the stuff Neil still had on deck. Supported by the crack rhythm section of Tim Drummond on bass and Russ Kunkel on drums (with Stills buddy Joe Lala on congas and cowbell), each show lasted for three hours on average, all four anxious to get as many of their own songs in. (Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.)
In the decades since then, the tour has been remembered for its excess, both pharmaceutical and egotistical. Even the participants have expressed varying memories about the experience. Graham Nash, in his role as self-appointed archivist, took up the task of re-assessing the tour from the vantage point of the shows that were professionally recorded, and it only took him about five years to finish it.
In its triple-CD-plus-DVD package, CSNY 1974 offers 40 songs from 10 shows, culled from the 77 different songs played throughout the tour. The program is split into three sets, roughly corresponding to a typical show. The “First Set” is full band electric; the “Second Set” is mostly “wooden music”, acoustic and solo; the “Third Set” brings the rhythm section back in full.
Nash has admitted to tweaking the tapes here and there, fixing harmonies and notes, and flying in other parts of the same track to smooth over a rough patch, so we’ll leave it up to other scholars to identify what songs came from where. For all his work, Stills sounds pretty ragged, to the point where his singing is unintelligible. His attempts to sound “soulful” often come off garbled; even when he’s playing guitar, a certain amount of showboating takes over when finesse is preferred. Crosby is spot on at all times, and Nash is just happy to be there. For all his contrariness, Neil’s quite the team player, happily contributing harmonies, lead guitar and/or piano on the others’ tunes.
The big excitement (for Neil fans, anyway) is the first official release of several songs yet to be otherwise collected. “Traces” is a highlight of the first disc, in all its brevity, as is “On The Beach”, the title track of his solo album just in stores. The second disc has the most surprises, with a early duet of “Long My You Run” with Stills preceding the one-off “Goodbye Dick”, itself a slight variation of “Mellow My Mind” on the banjo, which follows complete with CSN harmonies and an extra line. “Love Art Blues” and “Hawaiian Sunrise” are nice to have in some form, personal as they are. The third disc has a terrific “Don’t Be Denied” (making its digital debut in any legal form) with an extra verse from its Time Fades Away incarnation, an intense “Revolution Blues” and, best of all, the mesmerizing “Pushed It Over The End”, showcasing the band and singers deftly navigating all those shifts from 5/8 to 4/4 over eight minutes. Along with a thick booklet crammed with photos, quotes and instrumental credits, CSNY 1974 does provide, literally, hours of entertainment. Whatever surgery was performed to make it sound good took; it probably helps that the recordings were made towards the end of the tour, when most of the kinks had been worked out, and for the most part, the band cooks. Hopefully this will fan the fire for Neil’s Archives Vol. 2, which should straddle and overlap this era, should it ever come out. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young CSNY 1974 (2014)—3½