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Monday, August 18, 2014

Desert Island Albums VIII David Crosby If Only I Could Remember My Name

If Only I Could Remember My Name

They say you can judge a person’s character by how well they cope in the face of adversity. By 1971 David Crosby had more than his fair share of things going badly wrong. Long-term girlfriend Christine Hinton had died in a tragic automobile accident and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young were lost in a haze of marijuana smoke and slow-burning enmity. Against such odds, the singer produced a remarkably focused solo album.

A dazzling reconciliation between the conflicting aspects of his musical personality, it threaded a masterful balance between wild, let-it-all-hang-out abandon and the reined-in discipline of a truly inspired harmonist.

Alongside the presence of Graham Nash and Neil Young, it features the great and good of the West Coast scene including members of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, who were at Wally Heider’s studio putting the finishing touches to American Beauty during the day while Crosby worked his magic in the evening shift.

Deploying experimental tunings, daring approaches to form and a genuinely improvisional sensibility, there’s an open-ended, documentary feel to the record, thanks in part to engineer Stephen Barncard’s policy of keeping the tapes rolling throughout the sessions, resulting in a sense that songs don’t so much start as coalesce, gather pace and then gently disappear.

Despite its laconic sweetness, the contemplative drift of Laughing is an acid riposte to the faddish spirituality of the time. True enlightenment however is found in Joni Mitchell-enhanced harmony climb-out and dazzling shafts of Jerry Garcia’s slide guitar, both as radiant as the album cover’s ascending sun.

Instrumentals such as  Tamalpais High and Song With No Words revel in a nimble jazziness but Crosby is at his most vulnerable and naked on I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here, as wreathes of echoing multitracked wordless vocals wail and circle around the memory of his lost love, manifesting a loss too terrible to put into words. 

Against the intricacies of Crosby’s painstakingly constructed, pristine harmonies  there's an scratchy quality to some of the playing. Whatever momentary lapses in technique that exist on the album, overall he’s carried aloft by the sense of transcendent joy that comes from foraging out at the edges of things and relishing his newly acquired freedom.

Arising out of professional disenchantment and the pain of personal grief, Crosby proved to himself - and perhaps more importantly, to sceptical onlookers - that he was capable of standing on his own.

This piece first appeared in Prog magazine

Whitley Bay Daily Photo 231

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Houses In Motion

After a couple of years in their own place, Alys and Adam moved our house today.  Sam, Jo and Toots had hoped to be moving out to their own house by now but it hasn't worked out like that. So, for now Al and Ad will be joining Sam, Jo, Toots, Tom, Joe, Debbie and yours truly. Last night houseguests arrived - Debbie's sister, Dude, Chris, Carly and Leo, and Chris. I think the house is officially packed to the gills but I could be wrong.

The above influx means that the yellow room becomes a storage overflow room, though it should be noted that the office is only one of such rooms with a new designation...

...all of which prompted me to think of this little toe-tapper

Whitley Bay Daily Photo 229


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