Tag: David Crosby

What’s so great about David Crosby’s ‘If Only I Could Remember My Name’?

By Daniel Margrain

In ‘Revolution Blues’ from his 1974 album, ‘On The Beach’, Neil Young famously spews vitriol on the fake tinsel town celebrity life-styles of the wealthy residents of Laurel Canyon many of whom lionized the killer, Charles Manson:

 “Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars, but I hate them worse than lepers and I’ll kill them in their cars,” sang Young.

Forming part of his ‘Ditch trilogy’ this was Young at his most angriest and bitter. It’s probably the Canadian artists greatest song from one of his best albums that reflected his disillusionment with the idealism of the hippies as the realism of the 1970s began to take hold.

Three years earlier, one of Young’s contemporaries, former Byrds member and long-time collaborator, David Crosby, released a far more cerebral, but no less brilliant take on the pessimism of the age. Indeed, with ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’, Crosby manages to evoke the resigned naturalist idyll of the Bay Area as a catharsis.

Among the seminal musician’s of the period who worked alongside Crosby on the album included Kaukonen, Slick, Casady and Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Garcia, Leisha, Kreutzmann and Hart of Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash.

The creative influence of these brilliant musician’s is tangible, but the sound created is nevertheless ‘neutral’ and not comparable to any other kind in the bay area during the period when it was recorded.

Deeply philosophical and existential, the music and vocals exude a sadness and poignancy. Crosby appears to be lamenting a world lost in the mists of time while simultaneously yearning for spiritual redemption as if attempting to communicate with mirages or ghosts while in a trance.

This is arguably best expressed by the slow progression in the opening ‘Music Is Love’, which consists of a single verse (‘everyone says that music is love’) which is endlessly repeated by Crosby and choir in a mantra like way.

‘Laughing’ is one long note as if suspended between earth and heaven before returning to a resonating echo before it gradually fades into the silence of ‘What Are Their Names’. Possibly the weakest track on the album, the whispered tinkling guitar and harp strings of ‘Traction In The Rain’, evokes crystalline waterfalls.

‘Song With No Words’ is like an intense opera evocative of a subdued and poignant prayer in which the singing soars in a sublime flight. With the closing hallucinatory ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’, a cry of joy and despair is exuded which is a kind of corrective to the ambiguous dream and mystical states that preceded it.

The album which has influenced greatly contemporary musicians of the likes of Julia Holter and Julianna Barwick, is a tonal, harmonic and semi-baroque masterpiece akin to an impressionist painting. In the canon of rock music, it remains, nearly half a century since its release, one of the most absorbing and moving experiences in the history of the genre.

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50 classic albums to listen to before you die (2/5)

By Daniel Margrain

In The Court of The Crimson King (1969) King Crimson
King Crimson’s seminal debut heralded the progressive-rock movement. What set King Crimson apart from many of their contemporaries were the psychedelic overtones, the medieval visions, the Gothic atmosphere and the romantic pathos in their music, particularly in both the title-track and Epitaph. One of the best tracks, if slightly out of place, is 21st Century Schizoid Man’– a brilliant, neurosis-charged distorted jam.

 

Underwater Moonlight (1980) The Soft Boys
The sound of Underwater Moonlight is similar to the work of U.S New Wave band, Television and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd. The band manage to merge the influences of the former and the psychedelic whimsy of the latter with the discordant fragmented blues of Captain Beefheart and the catchy power-pop of the Kinks and the Who. The end result is a distinctive and accomplished post-modern psychedelia that set in motion the psychedelic revival of the 1980s. Robyn Hitchcock is one of the most important British artists in rock history.

 

Exile On Main Street (1972) The Rolling Stones
Exile On Main Street is the Stones masterpiece – representing their coming of age, musically and artistically. The playing is absolutely top notch throughout – at times restrained and understated, whilst at others forceful and aggressive. This album represents the sound of the era’s greatest rock and roll band at the top of its game. Beggar’s Banquet is a close second, but Exile is the Stones at their brilliant all-round decadent best.

 

If Only I Could Remember My Name (1971) David Crosby
This beautifully crafted classic is a spiritual meditation that evokes a memory of a place lost in the mists of time. The atmosphere conveyed is one of sadness – a kind of dreamy lament which is overlayed by a philosophical resignation and existentialism. This is a work that is a tonal and harmonic baroque masterpiece that defines the post-hippie era of disenchantment in which it emerged.

 

The Band (1969) The Band
The Band is the groups masterpiece. It is a superbly arranged and exquisitely played piece of music – a mature and beautifully varied, dense and understated work that chugs to a syncopated rhythm. In many ways, Whispering Pines, the albums centrepiece, is a work of immense beauty.

 

Faust (1971) Faust
Faust is vaguely reminiscent of aspects of Zappa-style collage allied to the psychedelia of Red Crayola and prog-rock. Nevertheless, the album has a unique musical language and atmosphere. It is an audacious attempt at fusing expressionism, surrealism, theatre of the absurd, Brecht/Weill’s cabaret, Wagner melodrama and musique concrete to rock music. On the surface, the sound appears incoherent and ‘ugly’. It’s only upon repeated listens that the recording starts to make sense in its totality, akin to the solving of a cryptic puzzle. It’s not an easily accessible listen for the untrained ear. However, its appeal is one that tends to grow over time. Faust is a beautifully demented, fun and ultimately moving creation.

 

The United States of America (1968) The United States of America
United States Of America is one of the most audacious and inventive albums in the history of rock. It manages to successfully straddle the fine line between parody, cabaret, electronic and psychedelic experimentation. The musical montages are brilliant. The album sounds like it’s from the future while paradoxically remaining an atypical expression of both time and place.

 

 

Spirit To Eden (1988) Talk Talk
Spirit Of Eden is a stunning piece of advanced electronic and celestial free-jazz and rock in the tradition of Canterbury. This astounding achievement is the reference point for the far inferior and overrated ‘slo-core’ band, Radiohead.

 

Highway 61 Revisited (1965) Bob Dylan
For a contemporary audience approaching Dylan for the first time, it is perhaps easy to underestimate the dramatic impact this album made on the cultural landscape of the period. Although Dylan’s phrasing and vocal inflections are very much an acquired taste, the solemness he expresses and his bohemian cynical humour was the template that was adopted by a succession of future generations of musicians. In this regard, Dylan was arguably the first to bring a ‘punk’ persona and attitude to the fore. Moreover, with the epic Desolation Row, he was the first to use rich poetic imagery within the song format. And, with Like A Rolling Stone, he set the template for folk-rock.

 

Shooting At The Moon (1970) Kevin Ayers
Kevin Ayers produced two quirky and eccentric masterpieces  – Joy Of A Toy’ his debut, and the follow-up Shooting At The Moon. Although both albums were in the innocent and playful tradition of Syd Barrett, it was the latter that stamped his claim as one of the greatest and most original British artists of all-time. Themes of existential melancholy, humour and nostalgia that emphasize Parisian decadence and eastern exotica, overlay an enchanting and often unsettling psychedelic underbelly emphasized by Ayer’s use of accordian, clarinet, strings and percussion.