Debut Album From Fifty Years Ago When Crosby, Stills and Nash Were Young
The Rest Of The Record Is Just As Sweet As "Judy Blue Eyes"
Catchy Tunes Belie A Pervading Theme Of Disillusionment
"It's getting to the point where I'm no fun any more" is the line that opens the album, and most of the songs reflect a similar disillusionment. Such sentiment is no surprise, especially when you consider the tragic events that happened in the few years before the release of the record.
The timeless tune "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is of course from the debut album of Crosby, Stills and Nash, which turns fifty this year. It is, either because of or in spite of its pervading theme of disillusionment, a beautiful collection of songs.
Its release came less than a year after the assassinations of two vibrant political leaders, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Democratic Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy. Add to those incidents the election of Richard Nixon as the new President of the United States, and you can sort of understand the sense of pessimism throughout the disc.
Also contributing in part to it is the change affecting each member of the trio, who all had recently parted with extremely popular bands. Graham Nash had just split from the Hollies, while David Crosby had recently parted ways with the Byrds. The former band of Stephen Stills, the Buffalo Springfield, had just broken up after charting several Top Ten records.
A cursory look at the titles of the songs immediately indicates the less than uplifting theme of the album, starting with the Stills compositions "You Don't Have To Cry" and "49 Bye-Byes." More recognizable but just as forlorn is his "Helplessly Hoping", a ballad whose beauty belies its message of eternal loneliness.
What Stills is reflecting, symbolically, is not only the end of the Sixties, but also the end of the optimism that had pervaded that decade until its last few years. That idea is also evident in the lyrical contributions of his two band mates, especially those of David Crosby.
"It appears to be a long time before the dawn" Crosby sings in Long Time Gone, lamenting the failure of the peace movement to bring about change. His disillusionment with the end of the Sixties has Crosby nostalgic for the Camelot of the Kennedy administration of the earlier part of the decade addressed in the song Guinnevere, referred to only with past tense verbs such as "walked through the garden" or "drew pentagrams" or "wandered aimlessly."
Even the songs of Graham Nash, lovely as they sound, hint at a sort of hopelessness. He may be holding the Lady of the Island undisturbed before the fireplace, but at the same time there is apprehension in his admission of the pressure in his chest.
The only uplifting tune, aided sweetly with the jaunty organ work of Nash himself, is "Marrakesh Express." Probably the only reason for its delightful cadence is the fact that its words imagine a world far away from the United States, a land across the ocean where "colored cottons hang in the air" and he can "smell the garden in your hair."
In the middle of the opening hit "Suite:Judy Blue Eyes" Stephen Stills states that laughter is the key to the heart, but there was little joy as the Sixties faded with its once zealous optimism. While there is no laughter on the record, the self-titled debut of CSN in 1969 gave music fans almost a dozen songs that help ease the tumultuous transition to the Seventies.