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  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    David Crosby

    1st

    If I Only Could Remember My Name( 1971 )
    Music Is Love / Cowboy Movie / Tamalpais High / Laughing / What Are Their Names / Traction In The Rain / Song With No Words / Orleans / I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & of course Neil Young all released a flood of solo records in the early seventies to capitalise on the success of the 'Crosby Stills Nash & Young' grouping. This was David Crosby's offering and it sold pretty well but not as well as he might have hoped. He surrounded himself with his friends, most notably Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Graham Nash and Grace Slick. It is very much David's show however. The sound of the record carries on from the 'Crosby Stills & Nash' record in a sense but also from David's final compositions for The Byrds. Some of these songs were originally intended for The Byrds. There is no doubting David Crosby had a remarkable singing voice. Those years of 'training' in The Byrds had served him well! It's less well acknowledged but still talked about how his sense of harmony singing was so well developed. He was certainly the key figure in The Byrds harmony work. He was at the centre of the harmonies for Crosby Stills And Nash and that work later influenced The Grateful Dead - most obviously on their 'American Dream' record.

    Here we have a few short songs which work as meditations. The words are completely unimportant and in some cases comprise little more than humming and nonsense syllables. The opening 'Music Is Love' musically is sparse with strummed guitar. The vocal consists largely of the phrase 'Music Is Love' repeated over and over. So, why does it sound so damn good? The vocals are placed on top of each other to create a dual effect and it works very well. 'Cowboy Movie' is a song that could have worked well on a 'Crosby Stills And Nash' record. An extended workout, good playing from all involved and a rootsier vocal from David. 'Laughing' is a song that would later be performed by The Byrds on their 73 reunion album. Here is the original version and it is indeed something special. Haunting pedal steel guitar and such a crystal clear wonderful lead vocal. It sends a shiver all over my body and would have sounded great on The Byrds 1968 'Notorious Byrd Brothers' album. The pedal steel replaces McGuinn in effect. A wondrous song. 'Tamalpais High' is one of those wordless humming vocal workouts. Outside of The Beach Boys I can't think of too many singers with such an accomplished sense of vocal harmonies and arrangements. 'What Are Their Names' works less well than other songs here and only gets going at all half way when an admittedly impressive electric guitar enters proceedings. Faintly reminiscent of 'Fifth Dimension' era Byrds that section, actually.

    'Traction In The Rain' deserves a special mention. Another impressive, even soulful and crystal clear vocal from David. Its been placed up close to the listener, so to speak. The music consists of a single guitar, sparse and effectively atmospheric effects add to this. It's just so very beautiful, especially when the harmonies come in :) 'Song With No Words' and 'Orleans' both create great atmospheres that rely on the sound of the human voice. 'Orleans' shows off Davidís gift for harmony extremely well. And the short 'Id Swear There Was Somebody Here' consists of nothing but holy sounding vocals, no words but very spiritual. The album works as a whole. It maintains an atmosphere, consists of some frequently astonishing moments and is recommended to both fans of The Byrds and 'Crosby Stills And Nash' as an essential recording.

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    Readers Comments

    Joncros1@aol.com
    I always admired CSN as a young kid, especially Crosby. When I was about 16, (1974) I went to a yard sale and bought an 8 track of Crosby's " If I could only remember my name" and have been hooked on Crosby ever since. I never heard an album so beautiful and yet not commercial in anyway-which really is his trademark. His writes great stuff and is always unique. Its good to see he is still writing good music and will always keep buying his music as long as he keeps recording! He never dissapoints.

    Mike Harrison fughedaboudit455@yahoo.com
    This is one album where I think I enjoyed the music a little bit more than the lyrics, only because some of the lyrical passages are a little too close to being generic hippie platitudes ("Music is Love" is a good tune musically but sounds somewhat like filler). But, considering when it was released, the album really doesn't stray too far in that direction. And the music is mostly wonderful!! Crosby is definitely a master of creating emotional atmosphere, and "Laughing" is one of the best post-Byrds examples, as well as one of his best songs. "Cowboy Movie" has interesting guitar work, and I agree with Adrian in that it would have worked as a CSNY tune. "Traction in the Rain" is quite melancholy.....a perfect rainy-day song. And the wordless "I'd Swear There Was Somebody There" is a chilling album closer.

    Bbdem1@aol.com
    One of the greatest songs ever written. I could listen to it 100 times straight.

    David Overton overdav@comcast.net
    If Only I Could Remember My Name is the perfect album for a darkened room, a good set of headphones and a mellow drink. I've always loved the "Orleans" track, which is short, lush and mysterious. Its lyrics are merely a recitation of villages and landmarks in France's Loiret valley (I don't know why) but once heard, it is tenaciously haunting, bubbling to the surface of your thoughts in quiet moments.

    JBWilliams jbwilliams_designer@yahoo.com
    I've always enjoyed David Crosby's guitar playing while in The Byrds. The sound of his rhythm playing, as well as his vocal contributions, helped forge The Byrds' sound just as much as McGuinn's. When "IICORMN" was first released, I was immediately and deeply entrenched with the song "Laughing". I have NEVER heard a more hauntingly beautiful song as "Laughing"!! At one point in time I actually owned 7 copies of the album!! I kept on playing and re-playing and re-playing the album so much that while playing the album on one side, the songs on the opposite side would playback in reverse!! (Just kidding!!). (I'm just illustrating the point that I played this album quite a bit!). Now having the CD-version of the album, I can play the CD over and over again without any fear of wearing it out. My favorite sequence of the songs are: 3, 7, 6, 4, 8, 9. In a related note, about 20 years ago I got a "LIVE" unreleased cassette recording of David Cros! by and a backup band playing in a small club in NY. Someone I knew at the time was the soundman of the club and he secretly recorded the show. The cassette is incredible, not only because of the material, but also because of being able to listen to David's humor and rapport with the audience. You should hear how David tries to handle blowing some wad of snot out of his nose, while being the main focus sitting in front of an audience. It's hilarious!! Well.....David Crosby is "my man". I wish someday that I could not only meet him, but also be able to record him and a backup band (I have a "LIVE" recording business).

    chris krspham@hotmail.com
    Unfortunately, I've discovered this album only recently, after realizing the originality of crosby's songs in CSN. I truly think he is an amazing song writer and this is a GREAT album that more people my age should listen to. I love "song with no words", amazing guitar!

    phantomgrower phantomgtowner@hotmail.com
    I hated it on the first couple of plays but I've learned to love it. It's gentle and atmospheric in a way few Lp's are. In fairness, some of his tunes on CSN and CN records are plodding and tuneless. It took him years to follow it up unfortunately.

    gary garyhess44@hotmail.com
    This was the direction the byrds could have moved in if they had shown crosby a little more respect - judging by the 1st two CSN albums and this he had way better material than mcguinn and hillman . Instead the byrds became a mediocre country rock act . Here dave plays with the cream of west coast rock musicians and turns in something unique and timeless. Adrians right , theres something deeply spiritual and haunting about this album and the remastered version sounds awesome . A hidden gem of an album .

    Paul Curtis London
    What Are Their Names' works less well than other songs here and only gets going at all half way when an admittedly impressive electric guitar enters proceedings."It's interesting you say that as the highlight of this whole album to me is the first half of this song (whereas to you it seems it is the 'lowlight'). That is one of the best openings of a song I have ever heard - wonderfully powerful, emotive and above all well-structured. I love it.


    this page last updated 19/09/10


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