ALMOST SLIT MY THROAT
By Benjamin Krepack
CSNY kicked off their 2000 reunion tour January 24th and VH1 broadcast their first 3 songs live from the tour's opening show near Detroit. The opener was Neil Young's Southern Man - - Neil was rocking out on the guitar in his standard jeans and plaid flannel shirt (has he changed his wardrobe EVER in the past 30 years??). CSN were doing their best to harmonize, but it didn't sound too good. They just don't have those young, elastic vocal cords anymore, and what's left of them physically has been permanently damaged by years of abuse. What can you say? We knew them in their prime.
The second song was "Stand and Be Counted" from their latest release as a quartet, Looking Forward. It was a good Crosby lead vocal, but again, the harmonies (from N and S) were painful. The most notable item here was Stills' stinging guitar work. He's still a monster on guitar, and I love him for it. He plays so effortlessly and the licks just roll off of the guitar neck. I think he can even beat up Neil Young on guitar, but I'm sure there's many that disagree...
The third number (no pun intended) was one of my old faves, Pre-Road Downs (that's the one that warned all of us to "be sure to hide the roaches"). The harmonies were slightly better on this one and it was short and sweet, just like the original. It rocked real good and Neil and Stephen traded their licks like the old chums they're pretending to be.
Why should we care about these old dudes? I thought about this as I was sticking my fingers in my ears and wishing I were deaf. Well, I think it's obvious that they were a group that were somewhat of a conscience to our general age group. They sang about relationships, but they also gave us Ohio, Almost Cut My Hair, Long Time Gone and Chicago among others. They were a composite of American and British (i.e., Nash), and they sang soft and they rocked hard. For evidence, dig out Four Way Street, a long forgotten document of how good these guys were on stage in their heyday. A perfect companion piece to Four Way Street is Stills' live album from the mid-seventies, featuring a brilliant acoustic side showing off the very best of his folk and blues roots. You just can't think of those days gone by without reeling in the songs from the first CSN effort, from Déjà vu or from one of the many Neil Young records of the day, like After the Gold Rush, Everyone Knows This is Nowhere, or Harvest.
Clearly, their greatest asset were their soaring harmonies. I have a lot of musical memories, but some of my favorites are the Crosby and Nash shows of the mid-seventies. I must've seen 3 or 4 of those shows in both Chicago and L.A., and they were just magical. I also witnessed the BIG TOUR of 1974, which was Neil Young's last real set of shows with the group (it was a reunion even back then!). It was the greatest outdoor concert I ever saw. It had managed to capture - one last time - the spirit that they helped create in the late sixties and early seventies...
They're old friends to all of us. I still cherish the solo Crosby album (If Only I Can Remember My Name), and - for my money - the best CSN album is the one they did in 1976ish (simply called CSN) which has some outrageous Stills' songs, along with a Crosby song called "In My Dreams" which I think is one of his best compositions. With all that said, I hope some of you make it to the show and tell me all about it. I'm going to look for my copy of "Wind on the Water" (a C&N project from about '77). It's probably somewhere in the closet next to a dusty old bong.