CD Review of Demos by Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash: Demos
Recommended if you like
Fleet Foxes, M. Ward,
Ray LaMontagne
Label
Rhino
Crosby, Stills & Nash:
Demos

Reviewed by Ed Murray

G
iven Graham Nash's generous box set in February (3 CDs, 64 tracks, 32 previously unreleased), and of course Neil Young's long-awaited, truly massive and bar-raising Archives Vol. 1, this paltry little offering from the legendary band that helped secure the legends of both of the aforementioned artists can be seen for exactly what it is: nothing more than pre-summer tour product. Gotta have something on the racks – virtual or otherwise – if you're dusting off the hits and hitting the road, right?

Still, as a collection of both group and solo demo recordings, Demos delivers its modest goods, namely, a sampling of (some of their) hits in their nascent, pre-studio-polished forms. Everybody's heard these songs countless times on classic rock radio; indeed, you could fairly say they've been pounded into our collective unconsciousness, a testament to their durability as much as it is the myopia of radio in the past 40 years. Hearing embryonic versions of such classics as "Marrakesh Express," "Almost Cut My Hair," "Déjà Vu" and "Love the One You're With" proves that these songs stand on their own, regardless of studio sheen, production values or even the full harmonizing of all band members (including Neil Young, though he does appear on with Crosby and Nash on "Music Is Love," a song the three co-wrote that appeared on Crosby's 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name).

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Demos also exposes the ego-centric attitudes that dogged this band from the beginning – and apparently still does. It boasts a handful of cuts from CSN's self-titled debut album, a couple of tracks from the classic Déjà Vu, and a 1975 tune ("My Love Is a Gentle Thing") that previously appeared only on the CSN box set released in 1991, the rest of Demos is taken up with material from the trio's solo albums. You can almost hear the bickering: "If Graham gets three songs from Songs for Beginners, then I'm definitely including something from Stephen Stills 2!"

That fact, along with what's not on Demos (no "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," no "Guinnevere," no "Helplessly Hoping" no "Carry On," no "Woodstock," no "Helpless," no "Our House") is what's ultimately disappointing about this meager offering. Truth be told, the whole thing comes off as a sampler disc from an upcoming box set. Too bad it's not. Sigh.

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