CD Review of Reflections by Graham Nash
Graham Nash: Reflections
Recommended if you like
David Crosby, Jackson Browne,
Paul McCartney
Label
Rhino
Graham Nash: Reflections

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

T
here have been times when it seemed Graham Nash wasn’t awarded the same credence accorded his fellow travelers in CSN. Compared to the bluesy bluster associated with Steve Stills or the angst-intensive ballads warbled by David Crosby, Nash’s proper English expression and dalliance with precise pop – a throwback from his days with the Hollies, always a commercial combo band at heart – sometimes threatened to diminish his stature. Toss the ever-prolific Neil Young into the mix, and Nash’s presence seemed to fade even further. Indeed, to those who failed to see beyond his handful of hits – "Marrakesh Express," "Our House," "Teach Your Children" chief among them – he was the guy who filled in the gaps with high harmony, an admirable role, but one that also seemed to relegate his role to that of a back-up singer.

In truth, Nash was substantially more than that. Many of his contributions reflected an unmistakable political savvy. "Chicago," "Military Magic," "Immigration Man," and "Prison Song" in particular reflected an outrage and an ingrained sense of insurgency every bit as urgent and incisive as that of his colleagues. What’s more, Nash’s ecological interests have consistently come to the fore, often in tandem with his duo work with Crosby, but just as frequently on his own. "To The Last Whale," "Barrel of Pain (Half Life)" and "After the Dolphin" are but a few of the songs that bear testimony to his activism and concerns.

Consequently, it takes a career overview like Reflections to tie the threads together and put his career in context. The results are manifest in a long-overdue three-disc retrospective that runs the gamut from his bigger self-penned hits with the Hollies to his most recent work on his own. The clipped melodies and simpler sentiments of his initial outings with Crosby Stills and Nash retain their earnest charm, a sense of innocence and indulgence that would carry over into his first solo album, Songs for Beginners and Déjà Vu, the initial album credited to CSNY. However, as the set list works its way into discs two and three, the tone becomes harsher, the arrangements glossier and the melodies more homogenous. Not that Nash was losing his knack for penning winsome tunes; later efforts like "Wasted on the Way" and "Magical Child" rank among the sweetest songs in his canon. Still, given the indelible imprint of his earlier standards, chances are most folks who invest in this set will return to disc one repeatedly – and exclusively – after a perfunctory check for the rarities that reside on the second and third CDs.

Happily, there is some incentive for venturing all the way through, and while many of those rare tracks consist of unreleased mixes and alternate versions, the six wholly unreleased songs – the reverent in "In Your Name" and the lovely "Lonely Man" being the standouts – are well worth their inclusion. Add a sumptuous 150-page booklet boasting an array of archival photos and Nash’s song by song commentary, and Reflections becomes well worth its price tag. Yes, there are omissions, especially given the possibilities offered up by a 40-year career. How about some early Hollies demos, for example, or a few more unreleased original tunes? Even so, with more than 60 selections that attest to Nash’s proficiency, Reflections ultimately gives him his due, affirming the fact that that ‘N’ in CSNY also stood for needed.

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