Crosby, Stills & Nash – Same (1969)

FrontCover1Crosby, Stills & Nash is the first album by Crosby, Stills & Nash, released in 1969 on the Atlantic Records label. It spawned two Top 40 hit singles, “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which peaked respectively at #28 the week of August 23, 1969, and at #21 the week of December 6, 1969, on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album itself peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. It was certified four times platinum by the RIAA for sales of over 4,200,000.Crosby, Stills & Nash is the first album by Crosby, Stills & Nash, released in 1969 on the Atlantic Records label. It spawned two Top 40 hit singles, “Marrakesh Express” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” which peaked respectively at #28 the week of August 23, 1969, and at #21 the week of December 6, 1969, on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The album itself peaked at #6 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. It was certified four times platinum by the RIAA for sales of over 4,200,000.

The album was a very strong debut for the band, instantly lifting them to stardom. Along with the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo and The Band’s Music from Big Pink of the previous year, it helped initiate a sea change in popular music away from the ruling late sixties aesthetic of bands playing blues-based rock music on loud guitars. Crosby, Stills & Nash presented a new wrinkle in building upon rock’s roots, utilizing folk, blues, and even jazz without specifically sounding like mere duplication. Not only blending voices, the three meshed their differing strengths, David Crosby for social commentary and atmospheric mood pieces, Stephen Stills for his diverse musical skills and for folding folk and country elements subtly into complex rock structures, and Graham Nash for his radio-friendly pop melodies, to create an amalgam of broad appeal.

CSN3The album features some of their best known songs: “Helplessly Hoping”, “Long Time Gone” (a response to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy), “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” (composed for Judy Collins) and “Wooden Ships” (co-written with Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane).
Stills dominated the recording of the album. Apart from drums, handled by Dallas Taylor, he played nearly all of the instruments on the album. Nash played acoustic guitar on two tracks and Crosby rhythm guitar on a few. Stills played all the bass, organ, and lead guitar parts, as well as acoustic guitar on his own songs. “The other guys won’t be offended when I say that one was my baby, and I kind of had the tracks in my head,” Stills said.

The singles:
Singles

David Crosby bristled over the plan for “Long Time Gone” as he thought he should at least play rhythm guitar on his own song. Stills convinced him to go home for a while and when he returned Crosby was won over by the music track that Stills and Taylor had recorded. In a more recent interview, Crosby contradicted his earlier statement, stating that he had played guitar on the track.

The group performed songs from the album at the Woodstock Festival in August 1969. In late 1969 the group appeared on the Tom Jones TV show and performed “Long Time Gone” with Tom Jones sharing vocals.
This album proved very influential on many levels to the dominant popular music scene in America for much of the 1970s. The success of the album generated gravitas for the group within the industry, and galvanized interest in signing like acts, many of whom came under management and representation by the CSN team of Elliot Roberts and David Geffen. Strong sales, combined with the group’s emphasis on personal confession in its writing, paved the way for the success of the singer-songwriter movement of the early seventies. Their utilization of personal events in their material without resorting to subterfuge, their talents in vocal harmony, their cultivation of painstaking studio craft, as well as the Laurel Canyon ethos that surrounded the group and their associates, established an aesthetic for a number of acts that came to define the “California” sound of the ensuing decade, including the Eagles, Jackson Browne, post-1974 Fleetwood Mac, and others.

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On the cover the members are, left to right, Nash, Stills, and Crosby, for no particular reason, the reverse of the order of the album title. The photo was taken by their friend and photographer Henry Diltz before they came up with a name for the group. They found an abandoned house with an old, battered sofa outside, located at 815 Palm Avenue, West Hollywood, across from the Santa Palm car wash that they thought would be a perfect fit for their image. A few days later they decided on the name “Crosby, Stills, and Nash”. To prevent confusion, they went back to the house a day or so later to re-shoot the cover in the correct order, but when they got there they found the house had been reduced to a pile of timber.

Dallas Taylor can be seen looking through the window of the door on the rear of the sleeve. In the expanded edition, however, he is absent. The original vinyl LP was released in a gatefold sleeve that depicted the band members in large fur parkas with a sunset in the background on the gatefold (shot in Big Bear, California), as well as the iconic cover art. A long folded page inside displayed the album credits, lyrics, track listing, as well as a quasi-psychedelic pencil drawing.

In a contemporary review, Rolling Stone critic Barry Franklin called Crosby, Stills & Nash “an eminently playable record” and “especially satisfying work”, finding the songwriting and vocal harmonies particularly exceptional. Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in The Village Voice: “I have written elsewhere that this album is perfect, but that is not necessarily a compliment. Only Crosby’s vocal on ‘Long Time Gone’ saves it from a special castrati award.”

In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Crosby, Stills & Nash number 262 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. (by wikipedia)

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The Crosby, Stills & Nash triumvirate shot to immediate superstardom with the release of its self-titled debut LP, a sparkling set immortalizing the group’s amazingly close, high harmonies. While elements of the record haven’t dated well — Nash’s Eastern-influenced musings on the hit “Marrakesh Express” now seem more than a little silly, while the antiwar sentiments of “Wooden Ships,” though well-intentioned, are rather hokey — the harmonies are absolutely timeless, and the best material remains rock-solid. Stills’ gorgeous opener, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” in particular, is an epic love song remarkable in its musical and emotional intricacy, Nash’s “Pre-Road Downs” is buoyant folk-pop underpinned by light psychedelic textures, and Crosby’s “Long Time Gone” remains a potent indictment of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. A definitive document of its era. (by by Jason Ankeny)

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Personnel:
David Crosby (vocals, guitar)
Graham Nash (vocals, guitar)
Stephen Stills (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion)
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Cass Elliot (background vocals on 05.)
Jim Gordon – drums on 02.)
Dallas Taylor (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Stills) 7:25
02. Marrakesh Express (Nash) 2:39
03. Guinevere (Crosby) with Nash 4:40
04. You Don’t Have To Cry (Stills) Stills with Crosby & Nash 2:45
05. Pre-Road Downs (Nash) 3:01
06. Wooden Ships (Crosby/Kantner/Stills) 5:29
07. Lady Of The Island (Nash) 2:39
08. Helplessly Hoping (Stills) 2:41
09. Long Time Gone (Crosby) 4:17
10. 49 Bye-Byes (Stills) 5:16

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The story behind the song “Marrakesh Express”:

With 60s pop music going psychedelic, The Hollies’ Graham Nash wrote a song about the hippie trail in Morocco. But it had to wait till he teamed up with David Crosby and Stephen Stills.

By the late 60s, Morocco was fast becoming an essential stop-off point on the new hippie trail. It was a place frequented by seekers of all stripes, from travellers and the more adventurous tourists through to artists, writers, fashionistas and rock stars. They were all drawn by the exotica of this storied corner of North Africa, whose heady promise of spiritual enlightenment and hashish served to melt away the conventions of the West.

In 1966, Graham Nash made a pilgrimage of his own, one that sparked off one of his most famous songs. On holiday from his day job as leader of The Hollies, Nash bought himself a ticket and hopped aboard a train from Casablanca to Marrakesh. “I was in first class and there were a lot of older, rich American ladies in there, who all had their hair dyed blue,” Nash recalls today. “And I quickly grew bored of that and went back to the third class of the train. That was where it was all happening. There were lots of people cooking strange little meals on small wooden stoves and the place was full of chickens, pigs and goats. It was fabulous; the whole thing was fascinating.”

So rich was the experience that Nash poured it into a vivid piece of psychedelic pop: Marrakesh Express. Mellifluous, carefree and irresistibly catchy, the lyrics made reference to ‘animal carpet wall-to-wall’, ‘coloured cottons’ in the air and ‘charming cobras in the square’. But they also hinted at a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life, as if Nash was on some indefinable quest for something better. Particularly the lines: ‘Sweeping cobwebs from the edges of my mind/Had to get away to see what we could find.’

The song itself was written during The Hollies’ Yugoslavian tour of June 1967. It was one of a number of new tunes that showcased Nash’s outward growth as a songwriter as he attempted to steer The Hollies away from the confines of the singles market into the more lysergic, experimental realm of peers like The Beatles and The Byrds – though the rest of the band didn’t all share his vision. Initially reluctant to record Marrakesh Express _at all, The Hollies only got as far as cutting a backing track at Abbey Road in April 1968. Nash, who remembers that “it wasn’t very good”, explains that he’d written a bunch of similar songs at that point – among them _Lady Of The Island and Right Between The Eyes – which The Hollies weren’t moved by either.

It wasn’t just the tunes. Nash’s burgeoning interest in the counterculture and its lifestyle meant he was the only band member to embrace LSD and marijuana. Allied to the fact that King Midas In Reverse, one of his finest compositions, had only been a moderate hit, Nash sought a move away. “Yeah, it was obvious that my career with The Hollies was coming to an end,” he says.

Not that Nash hadn’t planned for the immediate future. On his first trip to LA with The Hollies, in June 1966, he’d been introduced to the Mamas & The Papas’ Cass Elliot, one of California’s leading scenesters. She in turn had introduced him to David Crosby, ace harmony singer and songwriter in The Byrds. “I’d been in a showbiz environment with The Hollies,” says Nash, “but Crosby and The Byrds weren’t like that. So there may have been a cultural difference, but there weren’t any musical differences with us. I knew he was serious as a heart attack about his music, that The Byrds were a great band and that the modal stuff I was attracted to in their music was mainly down to David. When Cass introduced us, it was instant friendship.”

Crosby and Nash would bump into each other regularly over the next couple of years and, by the summer of 1968, both men found themselves at a critical juncture in their respective careers. Ever the egotist, Crosby had been ousted from The Byrds less than 12 months earlier. And while Nash had already decided to quit The Hollies, Stephen Stills’ tenure in dynamic LA rockers Buffalo Springfield had also come to a close. Stills and Crosby had been jamming informally for months before Nash was invited into the fold. The rapport was sensational. Grounded by Stills’ masterful guitar playing and achieving lift-off with their gorgeous three-way harmonies, Crosby, Stills & Nash were suddenly a serious concern.

In November 1968, Nash officially left The Hollies, heading out to California and taking up temporary residence at Crosby’s place. When it came to selecting songs for their self-titled debut album, Nash revived Marrakesh Express. Easily the most ‘pop’ song in the CSN canon, it was recorded at Wally Heider’s LA studio in February ’69. Stills’ guitar races along at a clip, echoing the literal rush of Nash’s Casablanca train and imbuing the song with a wondrous sense of buoyant optimism. There’s a smattering of nonsensical wordplay to begin, before Nash begins to sing in his warmest tones, exhorting everyone to climb aboard. You can almost feel the sunset through the windows.

Issued in May 1969, the album marked out Crosby, Stills & Nash as America’s first great supergroup and provided the counterculture with its definitive soundtrack. Marrakesh Express was released as the lead-off single and made the Billboard Top 30. Over here it reached No.17 and remains the only UK Top 20 hit of CSN’s entire career. It’s a song that continues to run on in its creator’s heart.

“I thought it was a funny song when I wrote it,” says Nash. “It’s not the greatest song in the world, but people still really like it whenever we sing it live. Whenever we need a little light-hearted, uptempo thing, that’s what we reach for.”

NASH, CASH, BASH

The late 60s found country titan Johnny Cash at the very peak of his commercial fame, hosting a hit show on TV and scoring high with his celebrated live albums Johnny Cash At San Quentin and Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. He also hosted regular gatherings with his songwriting chums at his home in Tennessee.

One night in January 1969, he invited Bob Dylan, Shel Silverstein, Joni Mitchell and Kris Kristofferson. “We’d have a big circle with people passing a guitar around,” recalls Kristofferson. “I remember Graham Nash there with Joni Mitchell and nobody knew who he was. We thought he was just Joni’s boyfriend. Then he picked up the guitar and sang Marrakesh Express. Man, he knocked everybody out with that song.” (by teamrock.com)