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Music Review: Crosby Stills & Nash – dEMOS

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With all of the attention being paid to Neil Young's Archives set this week — mainly because it's so hard to believe he finally put the damn thing out — you'd be easily forgiven for missing the fact that his sometime bandmates in Crosby Stills & Nash also have their own new retrospective package out.

Though nowhere near as extensive as Archives, the more modest — and moderately priced — dEMOS (their spelling, not ours) makes a fine little compliment to Neil's far bigger deal collection. dEMOS comes exactly as advertised by its title, pulling together twelve demo recordings of songs made famous by various combinations of the three principals.

One interesting point here however, is the fact that on only one track, an acoustic demo of Nash's "Marrakesh Express," do all three members of CSN appear together. This leaves the listener with the distinct impression that these songs truly are the actual demos, as they were brought to various album projects by the individual members themselves.

What this also means, is that you not only get demos for the collective CSN albums, but for the various solo efforts of each of these musicians. Most of these prove interesting enough, although the results themselves prove something of a mixed bag. On Graham Nash's demo for his solo hit "Chicago" for instance, both Nash's vocal (even without a backing choir of female voices) and the signature piano melody remain so distinct you can barely tell the difference between this version and the more familiar one.

Stephen Stills solo demo for "Love The One You're With" likewise maintains the same feel as the original, although it's played quite a bit looser here. More interesting is a version of "Music Is Love," that was originally recorded for David Crosby's overlooked 1971 solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name. Joined by Neil Young, Crosby and Stills' harmonies on this song are fairly remarkable here, even without any overdubs. The addition of Young makes them even stronger.

Crosby's songs for CSN are likewise well represented here. Although his deeper vocal timbre is noticeably missed on solo acoustic versions of "Deja Vu" and "Almost Cut My Hair," it is equally at the forefront of the demo for "Long Time Gone." On the latter, Crosby is also joined by a slightly busy, but surprisingly decent sounding Stephen Stills on drums.

Produced by Graham Nash — presumably around the same time he was putting together his own Reflections anthology box — dEMOS is a decent, if not quite essential collection sure to please CSN's many fans. It also makes a nice companion to the Neil Young box.

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About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at The Rockologist, and at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.