At first glance, the combination David Crosby, Steven Stills, and Graham Nash did not appear to be a sure-fire recipe for success. There were a lot of differences between these three young men. At the time, former Byrd David Crosby was probably more famous for his on-stage political diatribe at Monterey Pop than anything else. With Buffalo Springfield, Steven Stills had written the hit “For What Its Worth,” but it was his guitar playing that got the most attention. And Graham Nash’s experience with The Hollies was not exactly a cutting-edge credential in 1969. On paper at least, the idea that these very different musicians would go on become one of the biggest bands in the world took no small measure of blind faith.
The one thing legendary record executive Ahmet Ertegun believed in beyond all else was talent, which was something CS&N had in spades. Ertegun pulled a lot of strings to land the trio on Atlantic Records, and they certainly delivered. Their self-titled album was not only one of the best-selling debuts of all time, but one of the greatest as well. Even 42 years later it still sounds fresh. Truth be told, I had not listened to Crosby, Stills & Nash in ages, until this new Audio Fidelity 24K Gold edition came out. Based on hearing some of the company’s previous reissues, I felt that this one had real potential. Fortunately, Audio Fidelity delivered. Of all the various remastering treatments the record has received over the years, this one sounds the best yet.
I have held a deep skepticism about audiophile claims for a long time now. Remember when CDs were first introduced as being literally indestructible? We all know how that turned out. But the deal with the Audio Fidelity releases is much more than just a 24K gold gimmick. Not to get too technical, but the process is pretty impressive. After remastering the original tapes, the digital master is then etched onto a glass disc surface in real time by laser. From this, the CD is made out of real gold, rather than the standard and often imperfect aluminum. The end result is a remarkably clean and “warm” sounding product, with the original analog depth intact.
Obviously, a meticulous process like this is going to make just about anything sound better. In the end, what it really comes down to is the music – and Crosby, Stills & Nash remains a truly great collection of songs. It’s there right from the beginning, with Stills’ classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The harmonies these three reach are indeed something very special. One might think that after about ten billion radio plays, one might say that enough is enough. But no, sitting down and listening to the track in this format, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it again, and marveling at just how on top of their game CSN were.
The same holds true all the way through. Crosby, Stills, & Nash is almost a greatest hits in itself. In addition to “Suite” the disc contains such staples as “Wooden Ships,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Guinnevere,” and “Long Time Gone.” It paved the way for the singer-songwriter explosion of the early seventies, and some people were even calling them the “American Beatles.”
Hype is hype, and the future held a lot of changes for the trio, including the addition of Neil Young for their next recording, Deja Vu. It is surprisingly easy to forget all of that though, and just enjoy the music the guys laid down so many years ago. Especially when it sounds as good as this remastered 24K+ Gold Edition CD does.