Unfortunately, most of the music on Oh Yes I Can would have the superfan saying, “Oh, no you don’t.” The arrangements, performed by the usual suspects, still reek of the worst ‘80s adult contemporary touches. “Drive My Car”, which had been sitting around since the previous decade, has average lyrics and showcases David Lindley in an uncharacteristic shredding frame. “Melody” sounds like a Star Search audition, but at least “Monkey And The Underdog” has some decent metaphors along the lines of “Cowboy Movie”. “In The Wide Ruin” is a pretty piano piece written by Craig Doerge and Judy Henske with nice harmonies, but hits an awful cliché when the drums kick in. (Bette Midler would have nailed this one.) Finally, “Tracks In The Dust”, a simple, slow strum performed with virtuoso “new edge” guitarist Michael Hedges and Graham Nash, is exactly what we want, and right in his wheelhouse.
Such a beautiful moment is splashed away by “Drop Down Mama”, a prime example of white man blues hollered badly. Bonnie Raitt does not contribute the dirty slide guitar to that, but she does harmonize on “Lady Of The Harbor”, a love song to the Statue of Liberty that very much in line with predicts the sound with which she would soon take VH-1 by storm. “Distances” begins with some of those lovely wordless melodies, and while it would be better without lyrics, it does follow some of those unpredictable changes we’d been waiting for. “Flying Man” is one of those “songs with no words”, but it’s sung over a generic pop-jazz track led by Larry Carlton, making the vocals practically inconsequential. The title track does have some potential, going through inspired tempo changes, but singing “I’m sitting at my piano” while that instrument plays is just a little lazy. It’s not much better in the next verse where he’s literally sitting in his kitchen, especially considering that it’s supposed to be a declaration of commitment to his one true love. (And in case you didn’t know, “fire and ice makes water.”)
The album closes with a striking re-arrangement of “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” by Michael Hedges, possibly the most political moment next to “Tracks In The Dust”, and again, underscoring just what this album could have been. Sadly, Oh Yes I Can is not a demonstration of his grand return to form.
David Crosby Oh Yes I Can (1989)—2