Friday, May 10, 2024

David Crosby 9: Here If You Listen

Enjoying the continued collaboration with Michael League, David Crosby kept up his creative run to work with him again—plus two women who’d sung on one song on the Lighthouse album—for his fourth album in five years’ time. (Yes, he actually doubled his output.) He even went so far as to credit Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, and League in that order on the cover of Here If You Listen, albeit under his much larger name, but still. Age did not affect the man’s gift.

The album truly is a collaboration, with everyone either contributing to the songwriting or providing it on their own. Voices blend everywhere, and while his is the most noticeable, the performers are serving the music, not Crosby. Just as he was able to prove in CPR, he does thrive when he’s in a band. With one exception, the quartet provides all the instrumentation, and none of those include percussion of any kind.

“Glory” showcases each vocalist in a lush but not overprocessed mix; indeed, the production is pristine throughout this album. “Vagrants Of Venice” sports a circular riff from Becca and collaborative, poetic lyrics. “1974” is one of two vintage demos newly amended here; wordless vocals from presumably that year scat over a trademark strum before the others join in to fill out the track. Snarky Puppy pianist Bill Laurance supplies the basis for “Your Own Ride”, wherein Crosby directly addresses his mortality inside a song for his youngest son. The lyrically minimalistic “Buddha On A Hill” is most notable for supplying the album title, which is frankly repeated way too many times, but the combination guitar and vocal solo is striking.

Becca set a Jane Tyson Clement poem to her own music for “I Am No Artist”, an eyebrow-raising claim considering Crosby’s history, but it’s not his song. “1967” is the other augmented vintage demo, his familiar “dun-dun” placeholders overlaid with three repeated lines of antiwar prose, fading on hammer-ons a la Michael Hedges. (And yes, we’d love to hear more demos like this.) Crosby alone supplied the lyrics for “Balanced On A Pin”, another subtle meditation on mortality and potential, while League takes the lead on the feminist “Other Half Rule”. Given all that’s come so far, Willis’s “Janet” is a jarring funk detour, and the cover of “Woodstock” is a vocal distillation of Joni’s original and the CSNY cover, but more along the lines of the former.

That sort of thing works better as a concert highlight than an album track. Sure enough, the combo played a short tour in support of the album, one night of which was commemorated on a CD and DVD four years later, and which ends with that very cover. The set is pulled mostly from the new one and Lighthouse, with an early detour to Stevens’ “Regina” from one of her solo albums, and a smattering of jazzier Croz classics. “What Are Their Names” is a minute-long a capella snippet, but “Déjà Vu” is stretched to ten minutes. Throughout the program he’s in excellent voice and having a great time, and it’s clear their natural-sounding blend was not a studio concoction.

David Crosby Here If You Listen (2018)—3
David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band
Live At The Capitol Theater (2022)—3

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