CSNY – [Album]

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Funny thing about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – the member that joined last has been singularly responsible for keeping the other three from going broke. Since the group’s hippy-dippy heyday in the early 70s, Neil Young has kept a constant release schedule and has been the one to – perhaps out of a sense of charity – keep reconvening the quartet as their stacks of medical bills grow ever taller and continually rehash the same well-worn standards for a hefty ticket price.

In 2006, CSNY came together again for a tour in support of freedom of speech. Of course there was a film crew in tow to document the endeavor for prosperity (directed by Young) and Déjà Vu Live functions as the soundtrack by bring together the highlights off the performances.

Now, before going any further, let's be clear: there is exactly nothing wrong with this performance. In point of fact, there is a bit of magic in the air as CSNY's trademark harmonies recast songs like ”After The Garden,” “Living With War” and “Let’s Impeach The President” and give them a warmth that the original studio cuts simply did not have. With the eight hands of these four men on them, the spirit of community – as if to say “we’re all in this together” – is palpable and it’s impossible not to want to fall in line behind the group in support of an anti-war inquisition of George W. Bush. The catch comes when listeners realize that none of those aforementioned songs – and none of the others on Déjà Vu Live for that matter – are actually CSNY songs.

While each of these songs can boast a writing credit of at least one member of CSNY, other than “For What It’s Worth” (which was originally done under the Buffalo Springfield moniker) and “Wooden Ships” (which originally appeared on the joint Crosby/Nash effort Crosby & Nash), all of these tracks are solo work that has been conveniently reconstituted.

With nine of the sixteen songs that comprise Déjà Vu Live (it goes without saying now that there’s no similarity between this album and the one released in 1970 by the same name) credited to Young, the record really does feel like Crosby, Stills and Nash are just along for the ride and to make a couple of extra bucks. While the performances are great (the set opens exquisitely with “What Are Their Names”) and really sets the tone of questioning the political powers that be which endures through the rest of the set) and find all four men in fine voice as well as laying down some cathartic guitar parts in “Military Madness,” “Let’s Impeach The President,” “Looking For Leader” and “Roger And Out,” in spite of the fact that they’re all singing together it feels very hollow and discouraging. It’s a really implacable sensation, but it’s impossible to miss that there’s something missing from Déjà Vu Live.

Because there are no actual CSNY songs present in the set, it’s difficult to call it an honest effort by the band. It’s not as if anyone could reasonably expect a non-stop presentation of moldy oldies if the band was going to hit the road, but why not take some time and scribble some new material so it at least it didn’t feel contrived? Or, failing that, go back to the original Déjà Vu and try to revive that spirit? Because no such thought was put in for this release, it just seems like an easy way to pad bank accounts with guaranteed ticket (and resulting album) sales. Déjà Vu Live is pretty good, but it's obvious that the band isn't trying very hard. While CSNY may have purportedly embarked upon this venture in the name of free speech, one has to wonder what the price tag would have read for a genuine effort to be made by the band.


CSNY/Deja Vu Live by Crosby Stills Nash & Young — Buy it NOW on

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