Release Date: Jul 8, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Singer/Songwriter, Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Soft Rock
Ah, the healing hands of time! When Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young played the last show of their hugely successful 1974 tour, the tapes of the nine concerts that they’d professionally recorded for a potential live album were shelved. The feelings were too raw, the bad memories too fresh for anyone to touch them, no matter what treasures they held. It would be too much like living through a bad break-up, scene by scene, over and over again.
Forty summers ago, North America's greatest dysfunctional supergroup patched things up for a while, filled stadiums and left behind tales of backstage excess and shaky vocal harmonies. The first-ever set of recordings from those shows is fittingly over-the-top – three discs and one DVD with footage of eight songs. The two electric-set discs have a crackling, wired-on-something energy: Check how Stephen Stills and Neil Young trade unhinged solos on Young's "Revolution Blues." The often exquisite acoustic disc fi nds all four lending harmonies to solo songs like Stills' "Change Partners" and reveling in a compatibility that often escaped them offstage.
CSNY’s 1974 reunion has long been synonymous with the start of an age of the worst kind of rock’n’roll excess; 30 shows, masterminded by Bill Graham on an unprecedented scale for rock gigs – this was an awful long way from Laurel Canyon. Four decades on, the enduring tales of ego clashes and drug-fuelled disarray have overshadowed the shows themselves, yet this painstakingly compiled set comes as something of a revelation. Though culled from multiple performances, CSNY 1974 flows like a single set, reminding the listener of the unrelenting, astonishing array of riches the collective had at their disposal.
It was, at the time, one of the highest-grossing rock tours ever, grossing over 11 million dollars in an era when such figures were uncommon. Such success camouflaged the chaos behind the scenes -- the bitter fights and feuds, the excess and indulgence that led to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young pocketing about a half million dollars each, when all was said and done. Big bucks were the reason the CSNY 1974 tour even existed.
When something is known in rock mythology as ‘The Doom Tour’, it's a touch surprising that anyone would want to remember it 40 years on, never mind release a commemorative box set. But then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 1974 tour didn’t earn that epithet for any musical reasons. It has become infamous in the years since due to the scale, excess and extravagance involved.
Though the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had been performing solo or in various groupings since parting in 1970, there was a fervent demand for a regrouping of the "American Beatles" when they announced the 1974 tour represented in this set..
Five words pretty much say it all. Crosby. Stills. Nash. And Young. For the past 45 years, they’ve come to represent the epitome of the traveling troubadour, singer/songwriter ideal, the final remnants of sixties optimism, the last embers of hippie idealism, and a musical legacy that’s left its ….
Woodstock be damned. Peace, love, and understanding sprouted in January 1967 during San Francisco's Human Be-In, peaked three summers later at Max Yasgur's 600 acres in upstate New York, and died that December (1969) at the hands of the Hells Angels securing Altamont Speedway for the Rolling Stones. Nixon, Vietnam, and Watergate won out. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed at both Woodstock and Altamont, a beacon of folk idealism at the former, and harbinger of ego and excess by the latter.
Neil had no strings left on his guitar. None. They all hung, curled and severed, from his Les Paul as “Rockin’ In The Free World” shrieked to an end. Merely 18 years old, my college roommate and I stood agape having just actually seen Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young in the flesh on their first tour since 1974.