#256: Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash


Crosby, Stills & Nash by Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

Favorite Track(s): "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Marrakesh Express" and "Guinnevere" and "You Don't Have to Cry" and "Wooden Ships" and "Lady of the Island" and "Long Time Gone" and "49 Bye-Byes"

Thoughts: YES! CSN! The men whose harmonies God likes to live in. Caffeine up, this is going to get looooong.

First, some True Confessions.

True Confession #1: I thought they wrote this album AFTER Neil had left CSNY. But instead, it was the debut album of the group! I'm not sure where my misconception came from, except that I thought they started out all 4 of them together first. Silly me.

True Confession #2: Graham Nash is my favorite member, even though Stephen Stills has a song called "Marianne." Is it because Graham's British? Or because he dated Joni Mitchell? And wrote "Our House" about their lives together? And they had a house together in Laurel Canyon? A house that he was re-doing the floors in when the telegram arrived from Joni saying “if you hold sand too tightly in your hand it will run through your fingers" thus breaking up with him? And because he in turn wrote "Simple Man" with the lyrics "I just want to hold you/I don't want to hold you down"? And the fact that the rest of that album, Songs for Beginners, is amazing, and should be on this list? Maybe. Just maybe.

True Confession #3: I am reaaaaaally into 60s/70s songwriters and their love lives. If you are too, here is some recommended reading: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--And the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller and Will You Take Me as I Am: Joni Mitchell's Blue Period by Michelle Mercer.

Ok, the album! "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is of course referencing Stephen Still's former girlfriend singer Judy Collins, who I did not care for for a long time thanks to what I considered her wretched cover of "Both Sides Now." In fact, the last time I was in for an MRI the technician who was HIGHLY disturbing for other reasons (to the point that I probably should have reported him) he decided he wanted to read my tattoo. "Ah," he said, "That's such a great song, by Judy Collins!" and I, already upset, may or may not have retorted, "JONI MITCHELL!" It took my friend Kj giving me the song "Since You've Asked" to open me up to loving Judy Collins and her style.

So! "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." This song is amazing. This whole album makes me think of being with my parents. My favorite part has these lyrics just before launching into the amazing "Do-do-do-do-do-do"'s:

Chestnut brown canary
Ruby throated sparrow
Sing a song, don't be long
Thrill me to the marrow

Voices of the angels
Ring around the moonlight
Asking me said she so free
How can you catch the sparrow?

Lacy lilting lady
Losing love lamenting
Change my life, make it right
Be my lady

And if I had to pick one of those lines, it would be "thrill me to the marrow." I want that as a tattoo! Amazing.

"Wooden Ships" always makes me think of the 1970 film Woodstock which I watched on a library VHS in college (and later the 2009 documentary Woodstock: Now and Then), and the song itself is about the Vietnam War. Jefferson Airplane released it the same year on Volunteers, but it was written by CSN. I don't think I prefer one version over the other--but it is hard to deny the epicness of Grace Slick's voice.

And um, "Lady of the Island." Just...breathtaking.

Holding you close undisturbed before a fire
The pressure in my chest when you breathe in my ear
We both knew this would happen when you first appeared
My lady of the island

The brownness of your body in the fireglow
Except the places where the sun refused to go
Our bodies were a perfect fit in afterglow we lay
My lady of the island

Letting myself wander through the world inside your eyes
You know I'd like to stay here until every tear runs dry
Do, do, do, do, do, do, do ...
My lady of the island

Wrapped around each other in the peeping sun
Beams of sunshine light the stage the red light's on
I never want to finish what I've just begun with you
My lady of the island

And when you're breath is caught and you think, "That's it! This album can hold no more treasures! The rest will be meh," a little song called "Helplessly Hoping" starts up next. I'm just going to post it for you.

How do you harmonize like that? HOW? HOW? HOW? It's the undoing of one's ears.

"Long Time Gone" is just sexy, dirty late 60s rock. With a message of course! "49 Bye-Byes" is just fun and I love the way Stephen Stills sings "'Til the drifter comes" in the chorus.

Is This Better Than Help!?: Yes, and we should all listen to it. On vinyl if at all possible.


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