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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu

The masterpiece album "Déjà Vu", was released on March 11, 1970. It features a unique collaboration of four marvelous writers and performers.

The story of this album begins where the story of the trio's amazing debut album "Crosby, Stills & Nash" ended.

CSN's debut album was a huge success and received rave reviews. It was sold in large quantities and released several hits that create high expectations and demand for new material from the trio.

Since on the debut album most of the instruments were played by Stephen Stills, the members decided to increase the circle of musicians for their next album. The first choice was Steve Winwood, however, he was unavailable and the band continued their search for musicians, who would complete the lineup and allow them to transfer the materials recorded in the studio to the stage, as well.

At the recommendation of "Atlantic records" founder Ahmet Ertegün, Neil Young joins the band and the new quartet goes on tour in the summer of 1969. About three months after the release of their debut album, the trio is already performing at the legendary Woodstock Festival, with Neil Young on stage. Their amazing show in Woodstock and the electrifying connection between the four members only increases the anticipation for an album of the four members and thus was born "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young".

(Photo: Last.FM)

The quartet enters a studio reinforced by Dallas Taylor drummer and bassist Greg Reeves, both received credit on the album cover title. In the studio, however, the atmosphere was not as happy and joyful as it was during the initial connection between the four members. Sadness hovered over the album recordings, when most members experienced loss upon entering the studios. Graham Nash just broke up with his beloved girlfriend, singer, and songwriter Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills broke up with his girlfriend, singer Judy Collins, and David Crosby lost his partner Christine Hinton in a tragic car accident, caused when one of their two cats jumped on her while she was driving to the vet.

There is a controversy as to the number of studio hours invested in the recording of this album, ranging from 500 to 800 hours according to Stephen Stills', but it is clear that it's an exceptional figure for these times, which probably stemmed from the mental state of most members.

The album features ten songs. Each of the four members contributed one song to each side of the album, with most of the songs usually recorded solo by the artist who wrote it, while the rest of the members later added their parts, mainly vocal harmonies. This of course contributed to the diversity and versatility of the songs on the album. The other two songs that completed the album were "Woodstock", which closes the first side of the vinyl, and "Everybody I Love You" which seals the album and was written by Stills and Young.

Surprisingly, despite the difficult atmosphere in the studio and even though most of the recordings were made independently and in the absence of the entire quartet in the studio, this album is still complete, uniform and so cohesive that the background stories surrounding it and the lack of full collaboration between members can not be discerned. The result is an album with honed and precise playing, rich harmonies, and strong rhythms, from which three successful singles were released and whose other songs continue to resonate even five decades later.

"Carry On" is a rhythmic folk song with amazing harmonies, that Stephen Stills wrote at the request of Nash, who said they lacked a rhythmic song to open the album with. In addition to guitar, Stephen Stills also plays bass, percussion, and Hammond organ. This song actually consists of two songs, with the second part being a variation of the song "Questions" that appears on the album "Last Time Around" from "Buffalo Springfield".

"Teach Your Children" is a lovable country song written by Graham Nash and deals with his complex relationship with his father, who spent time in prison. Jerry Garcia from "The Grateful Dead" plays amazing pedal steel guitar here. In return for his playing, the members gave him lessons in vocal harmonies, which he successfully applied on subsequent albums of "The Grateful Dead" - "Workingman's Dead" and "American Beauty".

"Almost Cut My Hair" is a hippie blues anthem by David Crosby. It features an amazing guitar "attack" by Crosby, Stills, and especially Young, who plays solo. This is the most spontaneous piece on the album. It was recorded in the last few hours left for the band in the studio and so it almost does not include overdubbing and vocal harmonies, except the broken voice of David Crosby, who was affected by the death of his girlfriend Christine at the time.

The album changed direction with Neil Young's melancholy and amazing "Helpless", which was influenced by Young's childhood memories, especially the polio disease he had when he was six years old. Neil Young originally recorded the song with the "Crazy Horse", but in this album version, he plays almost all the instruments.

The first side of the vinyl is sealed with "Woodstock", which Joni Mitchell wrote after hearing about Nash, Crosby, and other musicians' experiences Woodstock festival. Mitchell did not attend the mythical Woodstock festival, as she was scheduled to appear on a television show at the time. The song was originally written a folk song, but the four members gave it an electric interpretation that did it a favor and sent it straight to the top of the charts, as the band's first single released from the album. Mitchell later recorded her own version of the song, appeared on the album "Ladies of the Canyon".

The other side of the vinyl opens up with the theme song "Déjà Vu" which combines Folk with Blues. The song was written by David Crosby about a Déjà Vu experience he had, when he was invited to join a friend's boat ride. Crosby, then influenced by Buddhism, believed that life was like a cycle wheel.

"Our House" is one of the most magical tracks on the album. Graham Nash wrote the song about one day in his relationship life with Joni Mitchell, in their shared cottage in Los Angeles.

"4 + 20" was written by Stephen Stills. An acoustic folk piece that tells a sad story about a child who was born into a poor family and finds himself destitute at the end of his life, already wishing that death would come. The only instrument used in this song is the Stephen Stills acoustic guitar.

"Country Girl" is a short work by Neil Young, in an almost waltz rhythm, with a deep organ and vocal harmonies, consisting of three parts. The first part "Whiskey Boot Hill" is based on a piece Young wrote back in 1967 for his first solo album. The second part "Down Down Down" is based on a section he wrote for "Buffalo Springfield", but did not see the light of day, and the last section is called "Country Girl (I Think You're Pretty)".

The album is sealed with a positive and "hippie" tone befitting the period, with "Everybody I Love You", which is the only song that was not written solo by one of the members. Stills and Young collaborate in writing it, with each of the band's six members contributing to singing or playing.

In the year following the release of the album, each of the Fantastic Four will release his own solo album.

Graham Nash releases the album "Songs for Beginners".

Stephen Stills releases his debut album "Stephen Stills".

The fact that the albums are released very soon after the release of "Déjà Vu", allows us to say that in this case, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts, and that as amazing as the quartet's solo albums, each in its own right, there is still added value in the creation of all four together, making this album a classic beyond space and time.

For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music.

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