Sunday, September 29, 2013

David Crosby 2: Oh Yes I Can

After pulling the best survival stunt next to that of Keith Richards, one wants to truly root for David Crosby. The least prolific partner in the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young law firm, his comparatively miniscule output can be put down partially to years of drug addiction and subsequent incarceration. Giving only two songs to the American Dream project, one hoped that he was holding out the really good stuff for his own solo album, which arrived only 17 years after his previous one.
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

1 comment:

  1. Interestingly, this is one of the few Crosby albums not available on Spotify. Could be that in retrospect, his assessment of it is similar to yours. For the most part I have been a great appreciator of his work. Admittedly, his lyric writing is inconsistent. But musically!... his jazzward bent, his sense of melody, and his smooth supple voice speak to my tastes. And when his lyrics are good, they're great. Also, the kind of live band he tends to assemble, and the type of noise it makes, also right up my alley. But yep, this album? Not so much.