The sucky thing about having a (mostly) classic rock blog is that you find yourself doing a lot of r.i.p. posts. Many of my favorite artists are in their 80s now, and it’s easy to fool myself into thinking they’re immortal. Especially when they’re still reviewing doobies on Twitter during their last week on earth. But alas, I knew something was up when a friend of mine posted a flurry of David Crosby-bashing-the-Doors tweets on his Instagram story, which—in a way I can’t explain—instantly told me all I needed to know.
So in honor of Croz, I’ve pulled out a CSNY classic:
Quick side note: I don’t remember where we got this album, but it’s a promo copy with “KERS” written in blue sharpie on either side of the record. From what I can tell, KERS was a student-run radio station at Sacramento State in the late 60s/70s. Cool! Our copy is definitely a little worse for wear, but luckily this is one of those albums that benefits from the static pops. (And uhhh, at the risk of sounding like a weirdo, I LOVE the smell of the inner gatefold, it very distinctly reminds me of my mom’s high school yearbooks from the same era.)
Anyway, onward to the B-side!
- “Déjà Vu” – 4:10
- “Our House” – 2:59
- “4 + 20” – 1:55
- “Country Girl” – 5:05
- “Everybody I Love You” – 2:20
We start things off with the title track, written by the late great David Crosby. The introductory jam and in-your-face vocals send you right into the stratosphere, then the pace slows almost immediately and you proceed to drift through clouds of Beach Boyesque vocal riffs, spacey electric guitar, and tasty bass (ok Greg Reeves!). “Déjà Vu” feels like a semi-uncomfortable glimpse into David’s headspace at the time….the internet informs me his girlfriend Christine Hinton had died in a car accident during the making of the album, which contributed to his detachment and substance abuse. I feel like there’s a lot to unpack with this song, but we don’t quite get enough time to do it!
Next, “Our House” turns Graham Nash into the Paul McCartney of CNSY, with this catchy little Brit-pop vignette. It’s about his relationship with Joni Mitchell, who I’m pretty sure he was living with when they started recording the album and was broken up with by the time they’d finished (who got custody of the cats??). Goodness. Considering how much heartbreak was going on in their personal lives, CSNY sure did make a fine album out of it.
SPEAKING OF HEARTBREAK, “4 + 20” is a quite the depressing story (nothing to do with marijuana, btw), this one coming from Stephen Stills. I mentioned earlier that it’s hard for me to pay attention to lyrics, but props to Stephen for making me actually pay attention upon first listen: Morning comes the sunrise and I’m driven to my bed / I see that it is empty and there’s devils in my head. “4 + 20” is just a single vocal and a guitar for a little over two minutes, and it packs a punch.
With a name like “Country Girl” and opening chords like that, we all know who wrote the next one. 🙃 It’s technically three songs in one but they’re all from the same cloth: “Whiskey Boot Hill”, “Down, Down, Down”, “Country Girl (I Think You’re Pretty)”. If I can admit, this is probably my least fave out of the bunch. Neil songs just kinda get too plodding for my taste, sometimes. But the harmonies are great and the organ+harmonica buildup at the end is so very epic.
“Everybody I Love You” is that late 60s sound I love so much. Bright electric guitar, driving bass, tasteful organ, and a wall of vocal harmonies singing about loving everybody. It’s the perfect closing song to the album, and to the 1960s. I love it and I have nothing more to say about it.
I guess I can see how the somewhat depressing B-side of Déjà vu would get overshadowed by the A-side, which is basically 5 iconic songs in a row, feat. steel guitar from Jerry Garcia and songwriting from Joni Mitchell. But honestly I think the B-side is a very honorable embodiment of CSNY’s talents (I say this without being very knowledgeable of the CSN/Y canon, but from a casual’s point of view it’s just a great collection of songs!). Yes, the themes are dark, but I’m glad these four guys (and their muses) could channel it into such a masterful album.
I’ll finish this off with some supplementary David Crosby material. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the two times I saw him on stage: once with CSN at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show in 2009 (really crossed a lot off my list with that one) and again with CSNY at the Bridge School Benefit Concert in 2013. One of my lasting memories of that Bridge School concert was seeing David standing at the side of the stage watching the band fun. as they performed their acoustic set. I’m sure he had a tweet-worthy opinion of them, and who knows if it was scathing or complimentary, but I’ve respected how in-tune he’s always been with artists new and old. You know he’s at least listened enough to have an opinion on them.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this lovely performance of “Guinnevere” by Croz and Chris Thile: