Suite: Judy Blue Eyes/Marrakech Express/Guinevere/You Don't Have To Cry/Pre-Road Downs/Wooden Ships/Lady Of The Island/Helplessly Hoping/Long Time Gone/49 Bye-Byes
When I hear this, I always think what a contradiction it was that such beautiful laid-back music appeared at the height of the Vietnam War. This piece of work was a perfect antidote to the horrors of war. Just hole up in the backwoods somewhere and listen to Crosby, Stills and Nash or get on your big two wheeler and ride off to join a hippy commune.
The vocal harmonies on here, married to the subtle, melodic bass, razor sharp acoustic guitar, backed by a gentle drum sound is a simple joy from beginning to end.
Put on the opening tour de force, the ever-changing Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, open the windows and summer’s here again - then let it flow into Marrakesh Express and you are in laid-back hippy heaven, man. Not only is the material extremely well played but the sound quality is top notch. Listen to the bass on Guinevere, then the beautiful harmonies on You Don’t Have To Cry, which are sublime. Follow that with the guitar and drums on Pre-Road Downs and then the entrancing lead guitar and bass intro to Wooden Ships, finally the pleasingly solid blues rock and protest motivations of Long Time Gone. It is all a pure delight. The latter is possibly the best track on the album. Incidentally, Wooden Ships was covered by Jefferson Airplane, before this album came out.
Lady Of The Island is a gentle acoustic number, with hints of Paul McCartney's similar material for The Beatles to it. It is all very chilled-out, relaxing stuff. Helplessly Hoping is very typical of CSN and their genre from this era - all immaculate male vocal, airy harmonies over a gently strummed acoustic guitar. 49 Bye Byes is a melodious piece of subtly bassy folk rock, underpinned by some nice organ. My favourites on the album are, though, the ones where they rock out a bit - Long Time Gone in particular, Pre-Road Downs and Wooden Ships. I have to say, however, that just sometimes when either Nash or Stills go high-voiced it can grate a bit, such as on the "catch a sparrow" bit on Judy Blue Eyes, sung, I think, by Nash.
Anyway, “Folk Rock”, “Country Rock”, call it what you will, along with The Byrds from the same era, it began here. So many future artists were influenced by this - Fairport Convention, Matthews Southern Comfort, Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, America, The Eagles and Neil Young, of course, to name a few.
This lovely album just washes over you and instantly puts you in a relaxed frame of mind. Try getting angry while this is on. This apparently does not apply to the group's members, though. In 2020 neither Nash, Stills (nor Neil Young) were speaking to Crosby.
** The non-album tracks include the gentle balladry of Do For The Others and Song With No Words, neither of which would have changed the ambience of the album. The same applies to the relaxing cover of Everybody's Talkin'.