Crosby , Stills, Nash and Young
Produced by Niko Bolas with Crosby Stills, Nash and Young
Assisted by Tim Mulligan
I Feel Your Love & Night Song: produced by Stanley Johnstone
|side one||side two|
(Stephen Stills, Neil Young)
|Got It Made|
|Clear Blue Skies|
|Name of Love|
(Stephen Stills, Joe Vitale, Bob Glaub)
|Don’t Say Goodbye|
(Graham Nash, Joe Vitale)
|This Old House|
|Soldiers of Peace|
(Graham Nash, Craig Doerge, Joe Vitale)
|Nighttime For The Generals|
(David Crosby, Craig Doerge)
|Feel Your Love|
(Rick Ryan, Graham Nash, Joe Vitale)
(Stephen Stills, Neil Young)
Graham Nash: The shot on the album cover was actually a shot of me, David and Stephen, with Neil Photoshop-ed in. There were two versions — in one, Neil’s wearing a white hat, and in the other he’s wearing a black hat.
Goldmine, 20 January 2009
It wouldn’t have been Photoshop in 1988, but pictures have been manipulated in various ways since the beginnings of photography. It’s significant.
David Crosby- vocals
Graham Nash – vocals
Stephen Stills – vocals
Neil Young- vocals
For other instruments see individual songs.
US #16 (Billboard)
US #15 (Cash Box)
US Platinum (1,000,000 sales)
US Modern Rock #4
Night Time For The Generals
US Modern Rock #39
Got It Made
US Modern Rock #1
US Adult Contemporary #11
This Old House
US Country #92
US Modern Rock #25
So this was the deal. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had not made a studio album since Déjà Vu in 1970. They’d done Four Way Street live, but the planned Wembley 1974 live recording turned out to be a load of crap. I know. I was there. I saw it … they were awful. But every one of them knew a full four piece reunion was the crock of gold. Trouble is, Neil Young was “difficult.”
Back in 1983, Neil promised Crosby that he would do a reunion album and tour when Crosby stopped drugs and cleaned up. It was like The Eagles saying they’d reform when hell freezes over. It could never happen, but it did. Crosby went to prison, got clean and Neil was as good as his word, so we got what we had waited for over an eighteen year period – a second full CSNY studio album.
The deal was not made in heaven. David Geffen was overheard demanding 50% of the proceeds for Neil Young.
David Geffen: Crosby, Stills and Nash are fat old farts. The only one with any talent is Neil Young!
Reported in Jimmy McDonough, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography, 2002
Then CSN wanted Stanley Johnson as engineer. Neil Young demanded they use Niko Bolas.
Niko Bolas: Neil said he wouldn’t do the record without me. We did it on his turf, with his guys, in his style.
Jimmy McDonough, Shakey: Neil Young’s biography, 2002
The balance had certainly shifted. Young and Stills spent a preparatory week together before the others were involved.
The recording was fraught. Nash and Young got into a major row when Nash licensed his Our House to a Sears advert for $100,000. Young had lampooned the commercialisation of rock songs for advertising, and was furious as his name was on the record. Nash pointed out that Neil Young had neither played nor sung on the original recording.
None of these guys were angels. Crosby had come out of prison clean, but was sick with what turned out to be Hepatitis C.
Joel Bernstein spoke to Jimmy McDonough for his biography Shakey:
Crosby spent the whole time lying on this couch in front of the console, struggling to get up to sing his vocals. He was like this beached whale.
As did producer Nick Bolas:
Graham is the real workaholic – first one to get there, last to leave. He stayed with me finishing the production until the last CD was pressed.
During this one, Stills appeared to have replaced hCrosby as the stoned passenger. McDonough interviewed Crosby and Nash in 1990:
David Crosby: Stephen showed up expecting his larger-than-everyone-else’s portion of the record and he didn’t have any songs – at least none that I thought were worth a damn.
Graham Nash: I have seen cocaine totally ruin his songwriting – I personally don’t think he’s written a great song in years … I think he’s clinically insane. I think if he hadn’t been Stephen Stills, he would have been put away years ago.
Jimmy McDobough, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography, 2002
The history …
First there was CSN. Then Stills brought in his old Buffalo Springfield cohort, Neil Young. That was because Stills had played most of the instruments, and they needed another guitarist while Stills played keyboards. So Neil Young had been added to CSN for their second album, with its two million advance orders.
Over those eighteen years between 1970 and 1988, they appeared in various combinations, most often Crosby and Nash, or Crosby, Stills and Nash. Stills and Young had got together for The Stills-Young Band. Neil Young was never a team player. Even while they were recording Déjà Vu, Young was working on other songs for After The Gold Rush.
Even at the time of Déjà Vu CSNY wrote their songs separately. Neil Young recorded his contributions in a separate studio. They didn’t all play on each other’s songs. They were very different people. The combination was the voices uniting to harmonize.
Neil Young: They were a big group, and it was easy for me. I could still work double time with Crazy Horse. With CSNY I was basically an instrumentalist that sang a couple of songs with them … People always refer to me as Neil Young of CSNY, right? It’s not my main trip. It’s something that I did every once in a while.
Sleeve notes to Déjà Vu 50th Anniversary box set, 2021
David Crosby: We were fully committed. Neil was sticking his toe in the water. He cut two things without us and did them himself. That tells you a lot. I don’t know how I feel. Should I feel like he should have been more in the band? He never was. It never happened.
Sleeve notes to Déjà Vu 50th Anniversary box set, 2021
Young summed up the band:
Neil Young: Crosby was the catalyst, the spiritual leader of the band. Stills was musical director. Graham was kind of like the CEO. Me? Turns out I was just passing through.
Jimmy McDonough: Shakey, 2002
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The album spent twenty-two weeks on the American chart. It sold Platinum, but Young declined to tour following it.
Despite pleasant melodies, the occasional interesting song and the signature harmonies, American Dream is, for the most part a snoozefest … The enervation at the hear of this album suggests the four veterans found themselves washed up on the shores of the late Eighties and – after endless recombinations, solo forays and in David Crosby’s cases, imprisonment and brushes with death- determined to cast their lot together and see what happened. The regrouping has done none of them much good. Even Neil Young, the only member of this quartet to have made records worth discussing in the past decade, indulges his worst tendencies.
Anthony De Curtis, Rolling Stone, 1983
Forget the careerist compromise, dazed ennui and soggy despair, and take this hustle for what it pretends to be and at some level is: four diehard hippies expressing themselves. Poor old guys can’t leave politics alone – there’s more ecology and militarism than when they were figureheads of the pop revolution, and though the rhetoric is predictable, the impulse has a woozy nobility.
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide to Albums of the 80s. C+
It has been suggested that this LP is the result of the compassion of Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Neil Young–a bid to keep their old chum Crosby (who’s spent the last decade in a freebase fog, who’s been to jail and who’s nearly croaked more than once) on the straight and narrow and alive. There again, believe it or no, Crosby, Stills & Nash still haven’t fulfilled the contract they signed with Atlantic 20 years ago–they owe the company this album. Whether they owe it to the world is another matter.
Tom Hibbert Q, December1988
Nash maintained that the album’s songs made good the conceit of its title, that here were a dozen songs about the American Dream circa 1988. But the sad truth was that CSN&Y had little to offer in this department: a few rants about familiar bugbears, and a tired and tiresome reliance on an undefined “love” as the universal panacea. Thee was no bite to American Dream.
David Downing: A Dreamer of Pictures: Neil Young, The Man & His Music, 1994
American Dream is a prime contender for the most wretched album that Neil has ever lent his name to. The Volume Dealers production is awful; a digital nightmare completely ill-suited to a pop-folk quartet.
Jimmy McDonough, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography, 2002
Only the second studio record ever by the full band lineup, it’s an utter failure. Overproduction is everywhere, and even Young falls victim on syrupy soft-rock tunes like “Name Of Love” and the awful country sing-along “This Old House.” His title track is ruined by an irritating Stills synth part, and a couple of Stills-Young rockers suffer from tasteless backing vocals; he only shines on the quiet, over-harmonized ballad called “Feel Your Love.” Stills is in good form, but his songs are essentially solo material.
Wilson & Alroy’s Record Reviews online
I can’t believe one of them didn’t say, ‘Hey, this isn’t good enough for CSNY.‘
Joel Bernstein, quoted by Peter Doggett, below
In Peter Doggett’s 2019 book Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Biography, he devotes just half of page 307 (out of 350 pages) to American Dream.
American Dream had no core, no heart, no community, no soul. Whatever its minor pleasures (and there were several), it didn’t sound like a record by a band, or even the work of four creative songwriters pushing themselves to break new ground .
Peter Doggett Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Biography, 2019
WHAT THE BAND SAID
David Crosby: The whole thing, the recording of American Dream, it got stretched out. And we did not have, really, the best group of songs to work with. Then, even though we did not have enough good songs, we ended up putting fourteen of them on the album! I think that was stupid.
Dave Zimmer: Crosby, Stills and Nash: The Biography 2000
Goldmine: It’s just an awful record, Graham. Nobody I know likes it.
Graham Nash: Neither do we. I think it didn’t work for a couple of reasons. We actually had a great time making it. They were some good songs on it. We may have over-harmonized some of them. We kind of over-compensated. My feeling — and I think David agrees with me — is that Neil over-indulged Stephen on that record. He put a couple of Stephen tracks on there that should not have been on there at all. And left out a version of CSN doing “Climber,” that was written by David, that was just stunningly beautiful. It was decided to take that off and put on “Driving Thunder,” which, to me, is a piece of shit. In an effort to please Stephen, I think Neil made some wrong choices.
Goldmine, 20 January 2009
On American Dream and Looking Forward:
Graham Nash: We tried our best, but they weren’t as good as the others. I don’t think about them, quite frankly.
Toronto Sun, 15 May 2021
Stephen Stills: Well, it was like I as there, but I wasn’t THERE.
by Neil Young
Neil Young- lead vocal, guitars, Stephen Stills- keyboards, Joe Vitale- drums, Bob Glaub – bass.
The ‘piping sound’ must be from the keyboard. I wondered if it was supposed to channel a Revolutionary War fife (musket, fife and drum), and that’s just what Stephen Stills is playing on the MTV video.
It was performed on Young’s 1987’s ‘Life’ tour by Neil with acoustic guitar, pre-dating the album by a year. A version from Costa Mesa, California is on YouTube.
On the surface, it’s about politicians caught up in scandal.
I used to see you on every T.V
Your smiling face looked back at me
Then they caught you with the girl next door
People’s money piled on the floor
Accusations that you try to deny
Revelations and rumors begin to fly
They did a video for this one:
In the video there are glimpses of Jimmy Swaggert, Gary Hart and Oliver North. Each were involved in scandals in 1987-88, two involving sex and one involving political corruption. Neil Young’s lyrics tell about reporters hounding these scandal-ridden household names who may wonder how things got so out of hand. The song is really about the distortion of the American Dream when people in places of power and influence use their own personal freedom to harm the institutions they profess to embrace.
Ray McGinnis, Vancouver Pop Music, 25 May 2018
Or is it about CSNY who, on the surface, had lived the American Dream?
You tried to make a good thing last
How could something so good, go bad, so fast?
Don’t know when things went wrong
Might have been when you were young and strong
American dream, American dream
The video was directed by Julian Temple. It starts with an eagle, suburban houses, the band dressed up as Revolutionary War soldiers with drum and fife (sorry, War of Independence … you may have noted I’m British. But so is Graham Nash), stars and stripes, cheerleaders, laundromats (dirty laundry).
It switches to black and white. Neil Young is the reporter with camera, Nash is a predatory politician, Stills is in the mode of Oliver North, the Iran-contra heavy, and ends up shooting them. Crosby is in a wheelchair as some sort of robber baron. When you get to the thrashy guitar section, Nash and a girl in bed are awoken by Neil Young poking an electric guitar at them looking like a heavy metal band / Kiss escapee. That’s a nightmare image for me.
Got It Made
By Stephen Stills
Stephen Stills- lead vocal, keyboards, Neil Young- guitars, Joe Vitale- drums, Bob Glaub – bass, Joe Lala- percussion
This is the best Fleetwood Mac song and recording that turns out not to be Fleetwood Mac. But wait, surely that springy bouncy bass line is John McVie? Surely those guitar fills are Lindsey Buckingham? Wrong.
I remember hearing it on the radio and being convinced it was Fleetwood Mac. Every comment is that Stills was out of it for the album, and a non-contributor. He has got the most classic “rock voice” in the band (just listen to Southern Cross from Daylight Again in 1982), and to me, this is the best song on the album.
Name of Love
by Neil Young
Neil Young – lead vocal, guitars, percussion; Stephen Stills- guitars, Joe Vitale- drums, Bob Glaub – bass
Do it in the name of love.
Can do it in the name of love?
Generic Neil Young. Quite pleasant is the best I can say about it. While Bob Glaub’s faux John McVie bass parts enlivened the previous track, the bass and drums here become tedious. Mellow Shadows guitar sound for the solo which elevates it to it ‘very pleasant’ from ‘quite pleasant.’
Don’t Say Goodbye
By Graham Nash, Joe Vitale
Graham Nash- lead vocal, piano, synthesizer; Joe Vitale- drums, bass synthesizer; Stephen Stills and Neil Young – electric guitars; Neil Young- additional piano
A lovely haunting Graham Nash melody. A little “wet” perhaps, but nonetheless affecting.
They recorded a live version of this which is on YouTube … official too. (Oakland, December 1988). The simpler live version works better than the album one for me, and reveals a different line up. I don’t miss the synth strings of the original. I certainly don’t miss the ultimate prog rock cliché on the album – you know the one. You get a couple of verses without drums, then they roll in suddenly accompanied by soaring electric guitar. Fortunately, after the solo, they drop out again.
On the live recording, Graham Nash is piano and lead vocal, and the accompaniment is Stephen Stills on acoustic guitar, including an acoustic guitar solo. Neil Young adds a touch of harmonica. Most of the song has just David Crosby harmonizing behind Nash, then Neil Young joins him for high ‘Never say goodbye …’ lines right at the end (in the studio version he does much more of that).
This Old House
By Neil Young
Neil Young – lead vocal, all instruments. Brian Bell- synthesizer programming.
Yes, completely solo. Had it been a track on a Neil Young acoustic album it would have been acclaimed. The bass sound is notably better in tone … Neil Young.
A deceptive twist. It starts out like an Old Ways outtake, complete with country two-step bass, hoakey backing accents, and with an oozingly sentimental tale of memories of a house that brings to mind Graham Nash’s Our House from Déjà Vu.
Midnight, that old clock keeps ticking
The kids are all asleep and I’m walking the floor
Darlin’, I can see that you’re dreaming
And I don’t wanna wake you up
When I close the door
But then …
And tomorrow morning a man from the bank’s
Gonna come and take it all away
So we’re plunged into a different mood. Was it inspired by Farm Aid which Neil co-pounded in 1985 with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp? Or is Neil going further back. Are we in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath depression era of Okies and Arkies with their dust bowl homes foreclosed?
Remember how we first came here together?
Standing on an empty lot, holding hands
Later, we came back in the moonlight
And made love right where the kitchen is
Then we made our plans
Surely it goes further back. I think of Powderfinger where people spend pages trying to decide when and where it’s all taking place. So here, it was an empty lot. So are we right back to Pioneer times? Or not?
It’s a brilliant narrative, and you’re pulled in so softly with the romantic start.
They performed it live in Indianapolis at Farm Aid in April 1990. An appropriate setting. That has Neil Young and Stephen Stills on acoustic guitars, with Crosby and Nash just singing in the choruses. This is a really good performance. It is on YouTube.
Nighttime For The Generals
By David Crosby and Craig Doerge
David Crosby- lead vocal, Joe Vitale- drums, Bob Glaub – bass, Stephen Stills , Neil Young & Graham Nash – electric guitars; Mick Finnigan – Hammond B3 organ
Stephen Stills guitar solo “inspired by James Marshall Hendrix” (that’s what it says).
And it’s nighttime for the generals
And the boys at the C.I.A.
Power gone mad in the darkness
Thinking they’re God on a good day
Dull. Clichéd. There are bad people out there. Bad people are power mad. They’re generals. They’re in the CIA, and do you know what the bastards did?
And they shot blind Lady Liberty
In the back of her head.
By Rick Ryan, Graham Nash and Joe Vitale
Graham Nash- lead vocal,. Entire track played by Joe Vitale with … Neil Young- electric guitar, Joe Lala – percussion. Sound effects by Graham Nash, Joe Vitale, Bill Boydstun, Dan Gooch, Bill Lazarus. Additional vocal at the end by Joe Vitale.
It sounds as if it’s a mainly Joe Vitale excursion. Very synthetic backing.
Behind a nation’s blind salute
Behind “my country ’tis of thee”
Behind the pain that won’t compute
Erase the memory of Shadowland
by Stephen Stills & Neil Young
Stephen Stills- vocals, guitar, Neil Young – guitars, Joe Vitale- drums, Bob Glaub – bass
David Crosby: Neil and Stephen abused the privilege. They stuck songs on there that absolutely should not have been on the record. Drivin’ Thunder? No fucking way. It was a game of politics. Neil and Stephen decided they were running things, and they jammed those on there to get the publishing, which is dumb.
Quoted in David Browne Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga of Rock’s Greatest Supergroup.
Graham Nash (REPEATED): To me it’s a piece of shit.
It is too. If you want songs about drivin’ fast cars, I’d suggest Jan and Dean (and Keith Moon would have agreed with me). Or The Eagles Life In The Fast Lane. Confusingly, Stephen Stills went on to write a different set of lyrics with the same title on Man Alive. As neither have anything much of a melody, that’s about it.
Clear Blue Skies
By Graham Nash
Graham Nash – lead vocal, keyboards, Joe Vitale- drums, keyboards, Bob Glaub – bass, David Crosby- acoustic guitar, Neil Young and Stephen Stills- electric guitars, Joe Lala – percussion
E is for Ecology. A whimsical ditty. One day mankind will disappear, stop polluting the planet and shit, and we’ll have clear blue skies. Fair enough. The philosophy is Miss World competition ‘My greatest hope … level.
by Stephen Stills, Joe Vitale, Bob Glaub
Stephen Stills- vocals, guitar, Neil Young- guitar, Joe Vitale- keyboards, Bob Glaub – bass, Joe Lala- percussion, Chad Cromwell- drums
The Bluenotes (Tommy Bray, Claude Gaillet, Larry Cragg, John Fumo, Steve Lawrence) – horns
Funky start with a burbling bass part. For some one alleged to have spent much of the sessions in the bathroom, Stills is omnipresent. Quite a different sound to the rest of the album. Have they been listening to Hall & Oates? Almost an exaggerated 80s AoR sound.
by David Crosby
David Crosby – lead vocal, acoustic guitar, Joe Vitale- keyboards, Neil Young – harmonica
So virtually a solo recording. He almost talks it through and it has a Crosby meandering melody and style.
“Compass,” is just a meandering tone poem. It features literally no rhythm or discernible melody. Van Morrison could possibly pull off the trick if he were singing about silence or the mystic or an inner growl. Crosby, however, is singing quite literally about his pain and the woes of being lost in middle age. There is a sad moan to it all, from a man who was literally ill at the time. Alas, “Compass” points to why Crosby never released much solo music. It was not because he was high or in jail or busy playing a supporting role. It was because he was not good at writing songs.
Past Prime, Online
Unfortunately, American Dream’s most cringe-inducing moment occurs at its point of greatest ambition.. Compass, Crosby’s five-minute acoustic ballad of his struggle with addiction – is so strained in its effort to achieve poetry that it’s more likely to generate laughter than sympathy. Gnarled lines like “I have seized death’s door handle / Like a fish out of water / Waiting for the mercy of the cat” argue the lingering effects of the drugs Crosby had so bravely kicked.
Anthony De Curtis, Rolling Stone 12 January 1989
The record’s most touching number was Crosby’s Compass, an apologia for his years of substance abuse. On that graceful note of redemption, this edgy brotherhood temporarily retired.
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, 2004
Very different Rolling Stone views. De Curtis though, is about the only reviewer ever to find merit in Drivin’ Thunder. If you like Crosby at his thoughtful, waving melodic style, you will agree with the later reviewer.
Soldiers of Peace
by Graham Nash
Graham Nash- lead vocal, Joe Lala- drums, Bob Glaub – bass, Stephen Stills-acoustic guitar, Neil Young – electric guitar, Michael Finnigan – keyboards, Joe Vitale- keyboards, Rhett Lawrence- synth programmig
With The Volume Dealers Chorus (22 of them, including CSN&Y)
A song abut military madness? No, this is the opposite. The Peace Corps? Well, that sort of idea
Feel Your Love
By Neil Young
Neil Young- lead vocal, acoustic guitar, percussion, Joe Vitale- percussion, vibes
Slight. Innocuous. Nice acoustic guitar. Simplicity aids it.
By Stephen Stills & Neil Young
Stephen Stills – lead vocal, electric guitar synth, bass, handclaps, Neil Young – lead vocal, electric guitar, synth, Joe Vitale- drums
Bombastic with whiplash sounds. An effort at high drama stadium rock with typical guitar solo. It fails dismally.
To promote the LP, Atlantic Records released, In Sync, an interview LP that was sent to radio stations. On this LP, the four individual members of the group answer questions about the then-new album and their career.
On side one, each of the four members is interviewed in sequence – Young – Nash – Stills- Crosby, and this side includes both the questions and the band members’ answers. Side 2 has answers only. This would be to enable radio stations to play it as an interview with the DJ asking the questions themself (and pretending they were speaking to the members of the group). Crosby, Nash and Young do seven and a half minutes each. Stephen Stills just does 3m 47 s.
It has an insert with the complex CSNY Family Tree moving from corners (Buffalo Springfield, Byrds, Hollies) to CSNY in the centre via the many combinations.
It’s CD era for sure at 58 minutes long. The LP version is pressed on a single album, which means the LP will be compressed to buggery at K-Tel TV advertised budget levels … it will lose volume and quality particularly towards the middle on each side. The volume on Night Song, right up close to the centre label will be very badly affected. An old engineer would tell you to put quiet material on the last tracks of an LP, not noisy stuff.
It’s far too long for pressing onto a single vinyl album. I’m glad I went for the CD … in 1988 it was a matter of choice. But CSNY had already abandoned vinyl. So it has the issue of most CDs of the era – fourteen songs when (given the four minute plus length of most tracks), ten songs would have sufficed and made it a better album, coming within that optimum quality maximum of 22 minutes a side. However, it could lose more than four tracks if we’re refining for quality.
The Rolling Stone Album Guide gave it three stars, preferring it to the subsequent Looking Forward. I agree. I bought it on CD when it came out. It was a month when I was doing an almost daily two and a half hour drive and I played it enough to get into it … it’s all too easy to give up on an album after a couple of plays, which I might have done at home.
In the car nowadays I have a CSN / CSNY playlist on an iPod, and it’s standard … all the first two albums, all of Daylight Again and a handful of other tracks. Three from American Dream, selected years ago … American Dream, Got it Made, This Old House. Listening to the whole album now, I made the right choice of three.
THE REVILED ALBUMS ARE (so far) …
Beatles For Sale – The Beatles
Their Satanic Majesties Request … The Rolling Stones
Electric Mud– Muddy Waters
Self Portrait – Bob Dylan
Cahoots – The Band
Wild Life – Wings
Recall The Beginning: A Journey From Eden … The Steve Miller Band
Hard Nose The Highway … Van Morrison
Chicago III … Chicago
Berlin– Lou Reed
Pinups – David Bowie
Born Again – Randy Newman
Mingus – Joni Mitchell
Everybody’s Rockin’ – Neil Young
American Dream – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
And here’s a rule-breaker. I’d decided one album each, but Van Morrison got so much vituperation from critics (unjustly) in 2021, that I had to add it:
Latest Record Project Volume1… Van Morrison