I still remember the first time I heard Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was 1980, at a summer house party, and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," from their debut album, was played, close to midnight, when there was still just a hint of light in the sky. It was one of those rare, magical, musical moments when it seemed as though time had stood still as I heard a supernatural confabulation of voices.
I've been a bit of a fanboy ever since, despite some of the dodgier, later CSN albums, and I've even grown to tolerate some of Neil Young's irregular interloping. But nothing has come close to those early days when everything seemed possible. Which means that this release is like a gift from on high to me.
However, the title is a bit of a misnomer, for this isn't actually a collection of Crosby, Stills & Nash demos, bar the opening "Marrakesh Express." No, instead, it's a collection of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash demos. But as someone who still thinks that Stephen Stills is the most underrated musician of the last forty years, the appearance of four tracks featuring Stills and his guitar is a rare treat. Add in a couple of numbers from Crosby, back when his voice was still sweet and angelic, and I'm a very happy man. "My Love Is A Gentle Thing" and "Singing Call" from Stills, and Crosby solo turns on "Almost Cut My Hair" and "Deja Vu" are absolutely priceless.
Graham Nash fans aren't neglected either, and there are three solo demos for them to enjoy, with takes on "Sleep Song," "Be Yourself," and "Chicago," recorded back in 1971, when he was working on his solo debut, Songs For Beginners. But it's when you get a degree of cross-pollination that you get to hear the stars collide.
Crosby, Young & Nash get together on "Music Is Love," one of the greatest songs ever written, and although it doesn't quite match the majesty of the If I Could Only Remember My Name version, it comes mighty close. And then you get Crosby & Stills coming together on "Long Time Gone," recorded even before Nash became part of the equation. With Crosby singing and Nash playing, it has a sparse, dark backing that supersedes the released version.
I didn't think things could get any better after the release of Just Roll Tape: April 26, 1968 by Stephen Stills, but this album is a collection of pure joy, from back when music was love and love was music.