Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CSN 7: American Dream

By now Neil fans were used to one new album, more or less, per year. We thought we were getting a bonus when David Crosby stopped doing drugs and Neil made good on his assertion that then and only then would he do another CSNY album.
Nice of him, but he shouldn’t have. Really.
American Dream is a big step back from the strides Neil had made of late, and his presence and participation doesn’t seem to inspire the other three any. Nearly every track suffers from contemporary production, even Neil’s title track with its a silly synth flute line and sillier video. As bad as it is, it’s one of the better songs on the album. But it’s not as good as “This Old House”, which came out of the Farm Aid mindset and would probably have been received better had it come out in the context of his 1992 project, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. “Feel Your Love” isn’t horrible, but deserves better lyrics, and “Name Of Love” is just ordinary, with an ill-advised call-and-response motif.
Nash cries sad tears about the environment and its neglect by governments (“Shadowland”, “Clear Blue Skies”, the excruciating “Soldiers Of Peace”) except for “Don’t Say Goodbye”, which sees him alone at the piano with a lead guitar break from Stills. As for Crosby, he’s just glad to be alive. Per usual, he brought two songs to the table. “Nighttime For The Generals” is loud and angry, but not very convincing. The big focus, rather, was on “Compass”, where he directly addresses his struggles with addiction and subsequent imprisonment. It has the potential to be embarrassing, but the delivery and exquisite production make it succeed.
Stills doesn’t dominate the proceedings for once, letting his guitar do the talking when Neil’s isn’t. But he’s just as insufferable as ever, giving “Got It Made” and “That Girl” mushmouthed deliveries and yacht rock arrangements. “Drivin’ Thunder” is a collaboration in credits only with Neil, as is “Night Song”, which is the most welcome song here, as it’s the last one in a program over an hour long. (It would turn up again on Neil’s next album, but rewritten, and without Stills’ input on the track or the writing credits.)
If we really expected a miracle, we were only kidding ourselves. Basically Neil let them use his ranch and choose their own rhythm section, and thus American Dream ended up as the bare minimum. It’s clear his mind was elsewhere, and was a rare case of him actually making good on a promise to people who ultimately needed him more than he did them.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young American Dream (1988)—

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