Album Reviews


David Crosby

If I Could Only Remember My Name  Hear it Now

RS: Not Rated Average User Rating: 4of 5 Stars


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Milking a profitable thing is a fine and honorable tradition in pop music, but like most crass things it tends to lose its charm fast. The past couple of years have seen the ubiquitous nebulas of musicians surrounding Cocker-Russell-Delaney & Bonnie milked almost to death. And if some of this year's best sellers are any indication, the immediate future will probably see both the overtaxed nostalgia for Buffalo Springfield and whatever Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young may ever have represented, throttled by greed and ego right into the same faddist bone-yard as the likes of Grand Funk.

After Dewey Martin's Medicine Ball, it was only a matter of time till Bruce Palmer, long-obscure Springfield bassist, recorded an album. And meanwhile, with the Pud Princes' great double live set waiting in the wings, the glories of Stills' solo effort have been followed, sure as a Rolling Stone interview, by an even more personal revelation from Crosby. Similar in several ways, the new Crosby and Palmer albums mainly go to show that whether you take the high road or the low, a super-jammed ego trip remains just that.

Crosby's album, though the better of the two, is not likely to go down in history, but it is not a bad album. While it's true that it all sounds pretty much the same, we must also note that nothing really jars. In fact, it would make a perfect aural aid to digestion when you're having guests over for dinner, provided they're brothers and sisters enough to get behind it, of course. The playing is sloppy as hell, very modal-funky and guitar centered, somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Spence's great Oar except without the genius, the outrageously eccentric vocal style (Crosby's singing here is even blander and more monotonously one-dimensional that Stills' on his solo album) or the originality of composition.

And oh, the song! They may sort of mumble and drone into each other, but they sure got vibes! While never approaching the Cinerama weltanschauung of a Blows Against the Empire, If I Could Only Remember My Name does take a position, perhaps best exemplified by the words, almost childlike in their perfect simplicity, of the tribal chant composed by Crosby, Young and Nash (I think each of them wrote two words) which opens the album: "Everybody's sayin' that music is love/Take off your clothes and ride the sun/Everybody's saying' that music is fun." And I'll bet they do have fun recording these things. It's long been obvious that they all love each other.

The undisputed masterpiece of the record is Crosby's own eight-minute talk-sung fiction, "Cowboy Movie." Musically it's not much more differentiated than a tape loop, but it's got a great plot which I won't reveal because I know how much fun everybody'll have listening extra-close for the 200th time trying to figure it out. I will say that it ends with Dave saying with bitter disappointment: "You know that Indian girl? She wasn't an Indian–she was the law." You just can't trust anybody any more.

"Traction in the Rain" and "Laughing" are both fine songs, somewhat more substantial than their surroundings, the former sung with as much uncharacteristically clear and disciplined inflection as the latter is not. Although "Laughing" is probably the best thing here, with deep bass rumblings and a lost, crying steel guitar, all very affectingly reminiscent of the middle Byrds' deep Eastern-tinged grandeur.

And yes, before I forget, this album claims at various indefinable places to employ Nash, Young, four Deads, one Quicksilver, four Airplanes (Grace Slick on guitar), two Santanas, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby's brother, and a host of other beautiful people I should probably recognize and promise I will next time. What a gyp. I suggest not buying it until the boycott has forced 'em to dub in Steve Stills. They'll find room for him somewhere.

The Palmer album is not half so stellar or diversified in material, but it flows from similar instincts. The songs, with titles like "Alpha-Omega" and "Oxo," are long, long jams in a kind of limp noodle middling Eastern-Space vein, like a DMT hangover from the psychedelic era. With snakecharmer oboes even. The Chocolate Watchband once did a Satanic Majesties Request type album called The Inner Mystique, which had them tripping up and down the cosmic scales with the aid of lots of studio hornmen to give it more texture and exoticism. That sounded a lot like this, in a way, except that that album had some variety where this one has none, and a sense of (albeit unintentional) humor while this is too laden for the ghost of a chuckle. With any luck, though, Palmer should be able to sign on Paul Kantner's starship or at least make Crosby's next dolorous jamboree. There's always room for one more inside. Just jerk the handle. (RS 80)



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Review 1 of 4

JBH writes:

5of 5 Stars

I found this record at Pet Sounds record store in Newcastle Upon Tyne in about 1987. It was part of an extensive CSN&Y rack and during my 4 year degree I bought up the lot. IOICRMN remains the best possible intro. to the music of CSN&Y. It meanders and swoops, the vocals are fantastic, the lyrics 'stoned' and listening to it always takes me back to my student days and the sheer fun of finding new and beautiful music. LONG LIVE DAVID AND FRIENDS.

Jan 20, 2007 07:53:22

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Review 2 of 4

bigbus writes:

5of 5 Stars

Very nearly the definitive West Coast sound album and one of my favourites. OK, Crosby is not by any means the greatest songwriter and musician of all time, far from it, but "Laughing" is without doubt the ultimate West Coast song and should be considering the line up including Garcia, Joni and Phil Lesh. "Cowboy Movie" though lyrically weak has the most wonderful guitar sound and the guitar interplay between Garcia and Neil Young on "What are their names" is superb. A great album, and definitely not forgotten - if only Crosby were young again.

Jan 17, 2007 02:13:15

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Review 3 of 4

ninetythree writes:

4of 5 Stars

There was a time while I was in high-school that I was really into hanging out in the pottery studio in my spare time, throwing pots and listening to old LPs on the stereo. There were three or four big milk crates full of records in there, but more often than not, i would shuffle between Dylan's Desire, CSNY's Deja Vu and this record by David Crosby. Like other records of the time that Crosby and Co. were making, the songs take on a life of their own. I recommend this record to anyone who has enjoyed the music that was coming from the San Francisco area, and the West Coast in general, in the late 60's and early 70's. It's nothing radically different, but in a way, that's what makes it so good.

Jan 12, 2007 08:29:14

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Review 4 of 4

spoonido writes:

5of 5 Stars

It's truly the ultimate hippy album, and a feast for the ears. It's all about the mood, even beyond the music itself. It may be a time capsule, but no one can touch the style the masters of the day laid out before us. Peace and love forever!

Jan 11, 2007 18:41:16

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