Friday, April 27, 2007

Find a Place In Your Heart for David Crosby...Snorting Blotter Vol. 2

It's taken me 27 years to come to the realization that David Crosby is a genuine American badass. Funny thing though, what pointed me towards this revelation wasn't the fact that he co-founded one of the most influential bands of the 60's in the Byrds or his underrated work with CSN/Y (those first two records sound great right now, sue me!). It wasn't that amazing mustache that he's been rocking since '65 or his artificial insemination of a famous lesbian rocker or even that awesome footage of his arrest during those cracked-out rock-bottom 80's. Sure, all of those things add to the enigma of David Crosby, a man who more than anybody else in popular culture has reflected the ups and downs of this country over the past forty years. What really knocked me out about this guy is a record I stumbled upon in the dollar bins at Used Kids called If I Could Only Remember My Name, Crosby's only solo record from his prolific early era.
I'll tell you right now that you don't have to be a fan of Crosby's other bands to appreciate what's here on If I Could Only Remember My Name, although the record, released in 1971 does bear a resemblance to CSNY's Déjà Vu in sound as it shares many of the same players and guests, including members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. But this is Crosby's first "whole" vision on record, one where he called all the shots and wrote all the songs, as far as he remembers. And no Stills, that hack. The mood is down and out, with little hope. Although mellow throughout, Crosby's sounds as if on the verge of a nervous breakdown, with every song basking in a post-Altamont, acid-comedown glow, full of paranoid tales of murder, despair and battles lost.
The eight-minute long "Cowboy Movie" sets the tone, with a mid-tempo rhythm that betters Crazy Horse and guitar leads better than Neil's as Crosby mutters a Mansonian ballad. It's On the Beach before Mr. Young began writing that record, and I'm sure that Neil was a proud friend upon hearing this collection of stunners. Elsewhere you get the classic "Laughing", a rich folk-rock tune embellished with slide guitar and multi-tracked vocals. And there's the strange "What Are Their Names", an outright political calling-out where you can practically hear Crosby give up and stop caring half-way through the song. A few other tracks veer into an interesting jazz/folk/harmony fusion, with Crosby's subdued freak flag consistently permeating the mix.
It really is something to absorb this album a few times and attempt to relate to what he was going through at this point in his life. You hear about so many records documenting the end of the 60's, the death of the flower generation, but this is one of the few works of this nature I can take seriously. The record bizarrely ends with Crosby layering echoed tribal chants, and its impact on the listener is unusual. Does it represent a new age for the man, a push away from society? We all know his story by now, but it makes you wonder what types of demons are being exorcised.
I guess its high time we all re-evaluate Crosby's masterpiece, as it seems Rhino has issued a deluxe edition with a bonus track, fancy mixes and extra video footage. Whether the masses embrace this as a lost classic is anybody's guess, but this record is out there in the new racks and the dusty bins of stores across the country for you to hear. I have a feeling Crosby finds great joy that this record is destined for positive re-evaluation, as it's evident in the music that he was more than a little bit misunderstood and, strangely a little bit ahead of his time. I never would've guessed.

1 comment:

electric pure land said...

why have i never heard this record before?

meandering madness!