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Spins: Crosby, Stills & Nash Debut Album Reissue Box

| January 23, 2023

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Crosby, Stills & Nash  LP reissue box

(Mobile Fidelity/Rhino)

As this pristine LP reissue of 1969’s debut release by Crosby, Stills & Nash goes to press, news has just arrived of the passing of David Crosby on January 18, 2023, at the age of 81. Crosby’s notable career spanned nearly 60 years, with a lengthy solo catalog and influential work with the Byrds. Still, generations of rock and folk fans know Crosby’s name by the inclusion of this album in millions of record collections. The record spent more than two years on Billboard’s album chart and has since gone quadruple platinum. Crosby’s well-known partners in this fledgling venture were Buffalo Springfield veteran Stephen Stills and Hollies tenor Graham Nash. Drawing upon the individual members’ strengths in vocal harmony and acoustic-based arrangements, the trio is commonly cited among pop music’s first genuine supergroups and identified as the band that ignited the Laurel Canyon scene in Los Angeles. Opening track “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was written by Stephen Stills for singer-songwriter Judy Collins as the pair’s relationship was coming to an end. Collins once referred to the captured memories and emotions as flattering and heartbreaking. As he did for much of the album, Stephen Stills masterfully spins sparkling folk, country, and rock riffs on acoustic guitar, bass, and grinding organ while handling the majority of the instrumental duties. The song is a groover, even without the benefit of a drum set. Flowing through four movements, the song cemented the trio’s vocal blend and notched a #21 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

The locomotive pop of high harmony singer Nash’s “Marrakesh Express” was another pop hit, rising to #28 on the Hot 100. “All on board the train,” sings the trio, driven by Dallas Taylor’s brushed snare shuffle. Ironically, the song had been rejected by the Hollies for lacking commercial potential. The song chronicles the sights and wonders Nash experienced while exploring the railroad cars and stops during an actual train journey in Morocco.

Crosby’s intoxicating “Guinnevere” fuses the singer’s roots in jazz and folk. Crosby had revealed that the song was inspired by three women he loved, one of who was Joni Mitchell. Another was Nancy Ross, who “drew pentagrams on the wall” and eventually left Crosby for Gram Parsons. The song was reinterpreted in an expansive version by Miles Davis while recording Bitches Brew.

The cautionary “Wooden Ships” is another of the album’s enduring highlights, written by Crosby, Stills, and Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner. Jefferson Airplane recorded its own version on the **Volunteers album. The song imagines a meeting between survivors of the two sides in a nuclear conflict between the USA and USSR. “Can you tell me, please, who won?” The pair mourn those left to die on the radioactive shores as their wooden ship sails in search of uncontaminated territory. Nash’s voice is highlighted on his gentle and personal “Lady of the Island,” another ode to muse Joni Mitchell. The trio returns to sing Still’s alliterative and clever “Helplessly Hoping,” accompanied by the writer’s tumbling acoustic folk guitar arpeggios.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab pressed this LP using their Ultradisc One-Step Pressing technique, offering the highest fidelity available via the vinyl format. The 40-minute album is split into two platters and plays at 45 RPM. The edition is limited to 12,000 numbered copies worldwide. If you’ve got an OG copy of this American treasure to compare, the sonic superiority is evident with improved detail and imaging. Stephen Still’s acoustic guitar strings ring and shimmer, and the group’s close harmony blend has never sounded more magical during its 54 years on vinyl.

– Jeff Elbel

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