Everything I’ve ever heard by Crosby, Stills and Nash sounds gorgeous. Yet not all of it, to be honest, is equally memorable. Their first, eponymous, album is a stream of classics almost from start to finish (including Guinnevere, which is one of my all-time favourite songs by anyone). But the follow-up, Deja Vu (with Neil Young), despite some fine individual songs, just doesn’t hang together as well.
So what of their unimaginatively titled third album, CSN? (Back to a trio this time, and a full seven years after Deja Vu.) The odd thing is, having listened to it seven times in 2011, I still can’t make up my mind. I have to admit that when I’m in the middle of the album I sometimes struggle to know which particular song I am listening to. Still, once more the highpoints are superb. Hopefully some time in 2012, it will all fall into place as an album that I don’t just like, but love.
For now, here is Cold Rain — not one of the album’s more celebrated songs, but one of the ones that I find most striking. Specifically, the transition from the verse into what we might call the chorus: “Don’t I know you? Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” I love the way all the richness of the harmony vocal falls away and we’re left with a single plaintive voice (sounding extraordinarily like Paul Simon, by the way.) A piano and a cello provide the only accompaniment — absolutely the right choice.
[You can buy CSN at amazon.com or at amazon.co.uk. But if you’re British then frankly you’d do better to buy their debut album, which is inexplicably available for £3.99 including delivery at amazon.co.uk.]