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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: Deja Vu (1970)

I have already done the review of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s self-entitled 1969 debut. They were a group that nowadays, either comes across as being rather dated and trite by some people, and for other people, they bring back those wonderful memories of days gone by.

I happen to be the latter, as I was exposed to their music through my parents as I was a small kid at the end of the 1970s/beginning of the 1980s. I don’t listen to them all that much these days, but I really do appreciate what they were doing (at least early on, before hard drugs threatened to destroy themselves). I wasn’t alive during the Woodstock era (I was born in 1972), but listening to their albums gave me the feeling of being actually there, even though back in 1979/’80, I was living in some crappy apartment in Eugene, Oregon.

By the time Woodstock came around, Crosby, Still and Nash added Neil Young, Stills’ former Buffalo Springfield bandmate (although they did not get along). 1970’s Déjà Vu is their first album with Young, and in many ways, I thought was an improvement over their debut, although I thought there was a couple of songs I can live without. Those two were Nash’s compositions, “Our House”, and “Teach Your Children”. I thought those were rather overrated songs, and those songs helped put fuel in the fire to their detractors. But most of the rest of the is high-quality laid back folk rock with their trademark vocal harmonies.

One of them, the opener, Stills’ “Carry On”, is a well-deserved classic. I actually think this is one of the best things CSN(Y) has ever done. There’s “Almost Cut My Hair”, which is a rather bluesy number, and it’s pretty obvious who wrote that song: David Crosby. I heard how he would play that song several times while he was serving jail time many years later to piss off the people running the prison.

Another classic is their version of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. This is a song that if you never heard, there’s a probable chance that that you’ve been listening exclusively to stations that play rap, the Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, and their ilk, you prefer Frank Sinatra and Lawrence Welk over rock and roll, or had been hibernating since 1970. Joni Mitchell’s version of “Woodstock” is much more mellow with electric piano dominating, CSN&Y decided to do a rocking version of that song and succeeded with flying colors (shortly thereafter, former Fairport Convention guy Ian Matthews did a cover of that song and also had a hit with it).

Another classic on this album is the title track, written by Crosby, as well as Young’s “Country Girl”. The latter was more or less a suite. It sounded like three songs in one (it’s strange to see folk rock groups doing suites, after all, suites were far more common in prog rock bands). Then there’s Still’s laidback “4+20” which I didn’t appreciate much as a kid, but I’ve grown to like in more recent years.

This is one album I most strongly suggest you get on LP. The old LP features a nice, textured cover, with cool gold print, and the picture of the CSNY guys and band pasted on the cover. Although I thought some of the material on Déjà Vu was an improvement over their debut, I thought a couple of the crap songs brought it down, that’s why I actually prefer their debut. But regardless, this album is still recommended if you like that soft laid-back folk rock style.

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