3/11/70: CSNY – Déjà Vu
Continuing with my makeup homework, this album has been a fan favorite since the day of its release 50 years ago. There was a great deal of anticipation for the group’s followup album after the Crosby, Stills & Nash release the year before earned the group a Grammy for Best New Artist. Neil Young’s addition to the group only increased expectations. Certified gold 14 days after its release, Déjà Vu eventually attained septuple platinum status.
All four produced it, but Neil is only on half the tracks. His addition to the group might be looked at as a blessing and a curse. There’s no doubt he was, and still is, a prolific songwriter. But things were, and perhaps always have been with this quartet, a little off. Nash has stated Young recorded his songs alone in L.A., then brought them to the band in San Francisco for their contributions. Additionally, there was a dark undercurrent at the time: Nash and Joni Mitchell had split, as had Stills and Judy Collins. Much worse, Crosby was mourning the loss of his girlfriend Christine Hinton, who had recently been killed in a car accident. The stress of their personal lives spilled over into the studio, and as a result of all of these factors it took six months to record the album.
Though I think it’s a great album, I can feel that separation between Neil and the others when listening to it. Helpless and the Country Girl suite sound like they should be on solo Neil records despite the harmonies from the other three, much like Neil’s contributions to the third Buffalo Springfield album were basically solo efforts. Déjà Vu spawned three Top 40 singles: Woodstock, Teach Your Children, and Our House. While I don’t dislike these tracks, they are probably my least favorites. I’m partial to Stills’ 4+20 and Carry On, Neil’s Helpless and Country Girl, and Crosby’s title track. All four would take advantage of this album’s commercial success by following it with fantastic solo albums very soon after.
Last fall I visited a friend in L.A., and we took a drive up into Laurel Canyon so I could play shameless tourist. Laurel Canyon Blvd. has to be one of the more dangerous and busy roads I’ve been on, and by the time we pulled into what was at one time Joni Mitchell’s driveway I felt so conspicuous that I jumped out of the car and quickly had my friend snap a picture before we split in a bit of a rush. The result was a photo of me standing in front of the gate, but without the house, a.k.a. Our House, in the frame. A palm to forehead moment.
March 1970: Delaney & Bonnie and Friends – On Tour with Eric Clapton
This live album encapsulates so much of what is, to me, good about music from 1970. It just sounds like everybody on stage is enjoying themselves to the hilt, which is why even George Harrison joined the tour for a few gigs. (His performances, credited under the pseudonym “L’Angelo Misterioso,” are available on the super-deluxe-crazy-expanded-four disc release from 2010 which contains multiple shows.) The album and tour may have received a boost from Clapton’s association with it, but the rock ‘n boogie ‘n Southern gospel blues on this recording stands on its own merits. It’s also quite amazing to think that this coming together of various musicians spawned much of Harrison’s All Things Must Pass as well as Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos lineup on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Not to mention the cross-pollination with Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and Dave Mason’s solo debut, Alone Together.
Fun trivia: The photo used for the album cover is a Barry Feinstein pic from Dylan’s ’66 U.K. tour. Those are Bob’s feet sticking out the window of the Rolls-Royce.
Random fact that has nothing to do with this post: I’ve got music on YouTube playing as I write, letting it go to whatever is “Up next.” I had no idea the full-length version of Rare Earth’s Get Ready is over 21 minutes long. Or that there even was a full-length version other than what I’ve heard on the radio all my life.