To underscore the unity, every track credits vocals to “Crosby, Stills, Nash”, as if there was any doubt. Beyond that, each man contributes instrumentally to his own compositions, with Stills more often than not playing lead guitar wherever one calls for it. The rest of the backing is courtesy of various regulars from their work apart, such as Russ Kunkel, Craig Doerge, George Perry and Joe Vitale—Miami meets L.A., if you will.
Crosby was still pulling his weight at this stage, as the excellent “Shadow Captain” demonstrates atop side one. “Anything At All” seems a tad dramatic, but “In My Dreams” is more along the lines of his ruminations. Nash’s high harmony is everywhere, and his songs vary from tedious to striking. “Carried Away” and “Cold Rain” are slow and depressing; the same could almost be said of “Cathedral”, but here he manages to nail the dynamics and near-psychedelia. The one everybody remembers is “Just A Song Before I Go”, famously written in ten minutes.
There were five slots open for the rest of the LP, and Stills comes through fairly well. “See The Changes” was left over from three CSNY attempts previous, and has the simplest performance. “Fair Game” and “Dark Star” have just enough of those Latin touches he was starting to put on everything, but both stand out—the former for rhyming “watch” with “crotch”, and the latter for its chorus. “Run From Tears” sports a guitar intro right out of a Neil Young album, with a simple riff that sticks. Finally, “I Give You Give Blind” is stuck underneath a way-too-tense string arrangement.
CSN is a demonstration of the sum being greater than the parts, which they already kind of knew anyway. More so than anything any of them had done in a while, it’s a good album, worth revisiting.
Crosby, Stills & Nash CSN (1977)—3½