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Music Review: Crosby, Stills, & Nash – Demos

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Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s Demos — released June 2nd — is their attempt at releasing unreleased material in the vein of Neil Young's Archives, but I'd much prefer that there was one complete "lost album" from their first period instead.

This is still a great project, though, and at least it arrived when the guys said it would (hint-hint, Neil). Almost everyone’s songs here ultimately surfaced on their own solo works, except for David Crosby's, as three out of his four tracks are from the CSNY album, Déjà vu. Overall, it’s interesting to hear how all of these songs evolved — even if they’re not in best form here.

Nash's "Marrakesh Express" is one of the finest songs on the whole album, resembling more of the Crosby/Nash live version. Actually, most of Nash’s songs here are some of the set's best. Next is Crosby’s "Almost Cut My Hair," and similarly his best song from the whole disc. After that comes Stephen Stills’ 1:30-minute demo of "You Don’t Have to Cry;" it’s gone before you know it, and it made me long for much, much more.

Even on a better song, Crosby still manages to drone on a bit, like during "Déjà vu," which is a little too long for an acoustic demo; it's striking how close to the final version it sounds, nevertheless. Culled from his solo debut, Songs For Beginners, Nash offers up the rarity,"Sleep Song." It's a perfect example of what he's known for — nothing deep or powerful — but rather just a pleasant and thoroughly enjoyable song. "My Love is a Gentle Thing" is his best song here by Stills, which goes to show why he has a demos album all his own, 2007's Just Roll Tape. Clocking at just under two minutes — still a tad short, or at least short compared to Crosby’s six-minute epics — one could only wish the rest of his tracks here were this good. Also from Nash's debut comes another quality song, "Be Yourself," which, by this point, strikes me as a little fishy given that his demos are the best here overall — especially since Nash personally assembled this set. I wonder if there remains a rivalry among these men after all these years.

The only song here to feature Neil Young is Crosby's "Music is Love," which also includes Nash. It's another nice addition — along the same lines as Nash's "Sleep Song" — and Young can be heard peeking through just a bit. It's a shame he doesn't show up more often in this set, but then again, his monstrous Archives project more than makes up for that.

Next is Stills’ "Singing Call," which later appeared on Stephen Stills 2 and holds up pretty well here, but not to the quality of Nash’s or Crosby’s contributions. It's clear that Stills released his strongest demo material on his own aforementioned 2007 set. The only song here accompanied by a full band, Crosby’s "Long Time Gone," is the only one that is majorly different than the finished version. It’s jazzier with noticeable changes in lyrics, and it really works without the electric guitars, which I was pleasantly surprised by. Nash’s last song here is "Chicago," featuring him on piano, and it's a good version, but if you want the best by far, get the one on the CSNY live album 4 Way Street. Actually, you'll find a lot of the definitive versions of their songs that classic album.

Concluding this album, though, is Stills’ "Love the One Your With," which is very up to par with the original, and a very nice way to end Demos, leaving you wanting to listen to and explore even more of the music of Crosby, Stills, & Nash.

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