Wednesday, June 18, 2008

CSN 3: 4 Way Street

The egos within Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ensured that any unity would be threatened, particularly when they grew into such a successful concert draw. But first they had to find a new rhythm section after dumping both Greg Reeves and Dallas Taylor. Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels and Johnny Barbata learned their parts, and are featured on 4 Way Street, a double live album basically designed as a corporate response to bootleggers. While occasionally grating, it’s a pleasant time capsule, with several songs predating their studio releases, and others unique in their own rights. (A lyric sheet was included, which was nice.)
The discs are evenly split between the acoustic “wooden” portion and electric showboating, with mostly equal time given to the four composers. The program fades in with the coda of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”—supposedly because the full Woodstock performance of the song had just been released on that movie’s soundtrack album—before Neil is introduced. “On The Way Home” is very well restored in this format, leading into a creaky “Teach Your Children”. Crosby and Nash come off only mildly stoned; David delivers a transfixing solo “Triad”, and the dynamic duo combine for a lovely pass at “The Lee Shore”. Graham pounds the piano through “Chicago” to end the first side.
He opens side two with “Right Between The Eyes”, a treacly number thankfully left aside. Neil’s subdued takes of “Cowgirl In The Sand” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” rival the studio versions and are worth the price of admission, especially since Stephen derails his own sweet piano version of “49 Bye-Byes” with a diversion into a variation on “For What It’s Worth” copyrighted as a ranting “poem” called “America’s Children”. The gang comes back together for “Love The One You’re With”, to the crowd’s delight.
The electric half is nearly as democratic, but doesn’t show off the alchemy of the instrumental interplay as much as how loud they could play. “Pre-Road Downs” churns by, and “Long Time Gone” gains a little in the live setting. Unfortunately “Southern Man” and “Carry On” drag on for thirteen minutes each. Both sides of their standalone single are played—Neil’s reaction to the Kent State shootings in “Ohio”, and Stills’ “Find The Cost Of Freedom” sending the crowd to uneasy slumber. (Both were eventually available in their studio incarnations on 1974’s So Far cash-in collection, while “Ohio” would feature on Neil’s Decade set.)
Some twenty years later, in the wake of the trio’s retrospective box set, Graham Nash chaperoned an upgraded 4 Way Street for the album’s CD debut, adding four tracks to the acoustic portion, each solo performances. Once again, the choices were democratic: he plays the Hollies hit “King Midas In Reverse”; David offers up a gorgeous “Laughing”; Stephen’s “Black Queen” is repeated from the box set, giving collectors another chance to hear him admonish the crowd for laughing at his bluesy vocalizing. Once again Neil steals the show, with a strange but successful medley combining “The Loner”, “Cowgirl In The Sand”, and “Down By The River”, running ten minutes.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 4 Way Street (1971)—
1992 remaster: same as 1971, plus 4 extra tracks

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