Archive for Crosby Stills and Nash

Old Guys and Rock & Roll

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by 30daysout

Paul McCartney, at age 70, is a textbook example of how old guys can still rock.

It used to be very true that rock and roll was not made by old people. “Old” used to mean people over age 30. So what happened?

Bob Dylan (age 71) just released Tempest to glowing reviews – it should appear on the upper reaches of the Billboard album charts in a few days, but probably not at No. 1. Paul McCartney (age 70) is currently performing close to three-hour sets on his “On The Run” tour, which began last summer in New York City. Roger Waters (age 69) and Rod Stewart (age 67) are also touring, while relative youngster Bruce Springsteen (age 62) can’t be dragged off a stage for anything.

Paul Simon (age 70), Crosby, Stills & Nash (average age 69) and the Beach Boys (average age 70) have live DVDs and/or CDs from recent tours. Van Morrison (age 67) is about to release his 34th studio album, Born To Sing: No Plan B, in early October. Mark Knopfler (age 63) and ZZ Top (average age 60) have strong new albums out, Neil Young (age 66) is readying a new album and tour, and the Rolling Stones (average age 68) keep threatening to do something to celebrate their 50th anniversary. And you can’t stop Willie Nelson (age 79)!

So what gives? Is there something in the water?

Well, pretty much all of these guys mentioned above are big draws on the concert circuit so one can cynically say that the lure of the big bucks is enough to get these codgers out of their rockers. Nobody makes money off albums any more, so each of these acts will go on the road to support an album if they haven’t already. Hell, Dylan’s been touring constantly since the early 1980s.

You think maybe it’s an indication that music being produced today somehow doesn’t measure up to those classics of the past? Perhaps – nothing sends concertgoers to the restrooms/beer vendors faster than “a new song off our latest album.” Even superstars like McCartney and Dylan know better than to populate their concerts with new material.

And it’s tempting to say worthless stuff like “do you think we’ll be paying to see Bon Iver or Green Day live in 15 years?” Because unless you are a total idiot, you know the answer is yes. It may not be Bon Iver or Green Day specifically, but it could be that Weezer reunion or the surviving members of Mumford and Sons or the remnants of Radiohead.

Because it’s not necessarily about who is playing, but what they’re playing. It’s rock and roll, and despite what smartasses over the years keep saying, it’s not dead.

It’s pretty damn old, and it’s not pretty (take a close look at the cover of the latest issue of Rolling Stone). But rock and roll is still alive because we want it to be. The footsoldiers of rock and roll are sticking around because we want them to – the audience changes more than the artists, and as we discover new acts we like, we also go back and appreciate the past. My kids know more about the Beatles and the Stones and the Who than I ever did, when I was a teenager and those boys had brand-new songs on the radio every day.

Women seem to know better, they know when it’s time to fade away – although you can make a pretty good case for rockers like Joan Jett and Bonnie Raitt being here for quite a while. Pop artists are another thing entirely: Madonna has well overstayed her welcome and the decline of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, et. al. won’t be pretty.

Perhaps it’s best just not to think about these things. We’re all going to get to the end of the trail – literally and figuratively – one day. Rock and roll is here to distract us from that brutal truth, to keep us dancing until we can’t any more.

So. The Rolling Stones may tour next year? Don’t know about you, but I’m gonna buy a ticket. For a few hours, I’m gonna be young again.

New (Old) Stuff!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by 30daysout

COVER        cover

So the summer’s here and even though the major record labels are basically drowning in their own red ink, they still manage to throw out these repackages to make a few quick bucks.

The Beach Boys’ Summer Love Songs is the third themed repackaging in as many years from Capitol Records.  Far from scraping the bottom of the barrel, this one is themed “love songs” and “summer songs.”  I guess.  It doesn’t matter – this is still great stuff, even though most of it is more than 40 years old!   There are new stereo mixes of “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “Hushabye,” there is even a previously unreleased Dennis Wilson tune, “Fallin’ In Love” (which was an Australian single B-side).

Neil Young has been tirelessly releasing his vast collection of old tapes, and his recent live offerings have been great to merely OK.  The 8-disc music collection Archives: Volume 1, 1962-1972 (10 discs on DVD) is painstakingly detailed, giving us some of Neil’s first recordings with his Canadian garage band The Squires, some Buffalo Springfield rarities (in mono) and so on, until just after Harvest.   There’s a lot of great stuff here, but if you are not a serious fan you better pass – or at least wait for the truncated CD version.

Not to be outdone by their sometime bandmate, Crosby, Stills and Nash have released the shorter-and-much-sweeter Demos, 12 songs that are mostly just solo performances from the band member who wrote each tune.  The exception is the opener “Marrakesh Express,” which features a gorgeous blending of the voices of David Crosby and Graham Nash that not only illustrates what made not only CSN sound so great, but their old bands too (Crosby in the Byrds, Nash in the Hollies).  Still, this is of interest primarily if you want to hear how these classics started out.

MP3: “Your Summer Dream” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Dance Dance Dance” by Neil Young

MP3: “Marrakesh Express” (demo) by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Review: Ry Cooder, Graham Nash boxed

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by 30daysout

front                cover

A couple of new box sets attempt to take in-depth looks at the career output of two rock artists who may not be A-list famous, but are vital nonetheless. 

Ry Cooder’s 2-CD set The UFO Has Landed reviews the work of the incredible guitarist who’s played with the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison, scored a number of movies and as a solo artist released one of the most eclectic catalogs in recorded music.  This anthology, assembled by Cooder’s son and musical partner Joachim, doesn’t tackle Ry’s work in a chronological order so you have early covers of Woody Guthrie and Willie Dixon next to some of his moody, swirling film instrumentals. 

Less than half of the 34 tracks on this anthology are Cooder originals; the rest are interpretations of traditional music.  But if you aren’t familiar with Ry Cooder’s work, don’t let that stop you: this stuff rocks, sometimes unbelievably so.  “Get Rhythm,” the Johnny Cash cover that kicks off Disc 1, mixes some nasty slide guitar work with a tropical beat that’s instantly infectious.  A cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” has guest performances from Zydeco accordionist Buckwheat Zydeco and Memphis legend Jim Dickinson on keyboards – and of course, it rocks. 

I don’t have enough time or space to riffle through all the tracks, this is all great listening.  Hats off the boys at Rhino Records for this great compilation!  One track they missed though – Cooder’s version of “Across The Borderline,” a song he wrote (along with Dickinson and John Hiatt) for the 1982 Jack Nicholson flick The Border.  The song has been done by Freddy Fender, Dwight Yoakam, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, but Cooder’s version is the best – it guest stars cult movie fave Harry Dean Stanton!

MP3: “Let’s Work Together”

MP3: “Across The Borderline” (with Harry Dean Stanton)

Graham Nash is, of course, the guy we all loved in the Hollies, the dude we were OK with in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the solo artist who went from charming to irritating to “American Idol” over a 30-year span.  And that’s sort of how the retrospective Reflections plays out over three discs. 

Disc One is easily the most indispensable, the curtain rising on three Nash-written classics from the Hollies (in mono!) and rolling right into the monumental songs he did with CSN and Y: “Marrakesh Express,” “Teach Your Children” and “Our House,” among others.  His navel gazer “Right Between The Eyes” (heard previously only as a live version) pops up here as a studio demo.  The first CD winds down with early solo work that’s pretty good; many of these songs (like the wimpy protest songs “Chicago” and “Military Madness’) feature many of the crowned heads of the late ’60s hippie kingdom like members of the Dead, the Airplane and whomever. 

But after that first disc you get two platters’ worth of plodding piano plunkers and hilariously dated synthesizer screamers, interrupted only occasionally by a really listenable moment.  “Wasted On The Way,” a chart hit for CSN, is OK, and buried on the third disc there’s a charming “Two Hearts” which teams Nash and Carole King for some truly impressive harmony work.  The historians at Rhino did some great work for Graham Nash (as they did with the Crosby box set last year, and presumably with the upcoming Stephen Stills set), but I wish they would’a tossed in “The War Song,” the 45 single Nash and Neil Young cut in 1972 to support George McGovern’s presidential bid.

MP3: “Carrie Anne” by the Hollies

MP3: “The War Song” by Neil Young and Graham Nash

Rhino Records official website