Wednesday, April 7, 2010

 

Album of the Day: CSN&Y (4/7/71) 39 Years!

Live albums generally sell well, but very few make it into the Top 10 on the Billboard album charts. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s 4 Way Street, released on April 7, 1971, broke that rule and then some by topping out in the #1 album position shortly after its release. Following re-release as an expanded CD in 1992, 4 Way Street became a multi-platinum seller and one of the highest selling live albums of all time.

Assembled from tapes made at a half-dozen shows in Chicago, L.A. and New York in June and July 1970, the double disc contains a nearly even sampling of songs by the four stars on its four sides. Most of the songs were previously released, either on solo works or in various groupings. And the live versions of their most well-known (“Ohio,” “Southern Man,” “Teach Your Children,” “Long Time Gone” and “Love The One You're With”) are all quite good.

What isn’t evident in the music is the internal friction that was tearing the band apart just as the shows were being taped. Within weeks after the tour ended, the band split, and by the spring of 1971 all four had released highly-acclaimed solo albums (with Nash’s Songs For Beginners and Stills’ Stephen Stills 2 coming within weeks of each other right after 4 Way Street). CSN&Y re-formed in mid-1974 for a summer tour (without an album to support), issued the compilation So Far that fall, but didn’t return as a foursome until American Dream came out in November 1988 (though CSN sans Young had three albums between 1977 and 1983).

That 4 Way Street was a big hit isn’t surprising given that every album from CSN&Y (and those without Neil) between 1969 and 1982 reached into the Top 10. They were (and in many was still are) the premier American folk-rock band in the 70s and 80s, and for live versions of their hits and other good tunes, 4 Way Street is required listening. It’s number 14 on my Top 25 Live Albums list and available on Amazon and iTunes.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

 

Album of the Day: Neil Young (2/25/72) 38 Years!

Neil Young released his fourth solo album, Harvest, on February 25, 1972, a long 18 month gap following After The Gold Rush (for Dr. Rock’s Neil Young playlist, click here). The delay didn’t seem to matter to his fans, and likely stoked their collective interest. Harvest met with an enthusiastic reception; the LP quickly went to the top of the Billboard album charts and eventually became the highest selling album of 1972.

Along with the #1 hit “Heart of Gold” and the #31 single “Old Man,” Young delivered a masterful collection of second-tier slow, plodding and mid-tempo country-rock and folk tunes. Background vocals were provided by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor and Young’s former bandmates, David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills. Two tracks (“A Man Needs A Maid” and “There’s A World”) feature the London Symphony Orchestra, a potentially disastrous mix that could have resulted in schmaltzy elevator music, but Neil pulled it off with his plaintive vocals topping just the right level of soaring orchestral background.

Harvest brought Young into the glare of rock stardom as a solo artist. While his later work includes many great albums, he never matched the widespread popularity of Harvest, his biggest seller. It’s available on CD, LP or mp3 at Amazon (click here). Downloads for iPods are on iTunes (click here).

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