Blue Castle Records
Cocaine is a helluva drug.
And speaking of punchlines that’s really all David Crosby’s been for the last 20-30 years; that and a punching bag, his own personal punching bag mostly. A headline getter for fathering children for famous lesbians, for going back to jail, for anything other than music – why, you had to figure his next real piece of work was gonna be getting the green light to play Ron Jeremy’s dad in some made-for-late-night-TV biopic.
But here he is: new album, brand new solo album, not just some backing vocals on a Phil Collins album, not the meat in a CSN/Y sandwich, funny how his name comes first but he’s the last guy you think of from that list. He was in The Byrds, crucial to their hybrid/hyphen-rock variations through folk-, country- and psychedelic-.
And then that downfall was just spectacular.
But man, Croz, is decent. It’ll be filed in the so-much-better-than-I-ever-could-have-expected pile.
This is heart-on-sleeve stuff (Dangerous Night is better than his printed-word attempts at autobiography) and though it could easily be written off as MOR stuff, it’s a great joy to listen to – in much the same way that recent/ish albums by Nash and particularly Jackson Browne and James Taylor have been. You don’t like this area of music/never did? Then you have no real business here – better off just with your Crosby punchlines I think.
But anyone who really cares about this guy’s contribution will dig this; will be (pleasantly) surprised by how deep this (occasionally) goes.
As he says on Dangerous Night, which is hiding near the end of the album, after, it must be said, a bit of a flat spot, “I’m a troubled soul, searching for peace in the night”. Man, you’d hope he’d found some with this album. It feels like it, right from the rather lovely opener, What’s Broken, Mark Knopfler’s fluid guitar style so subtle as the slow-burning torch to guide Crosby home.
Time I Have is the first of a few cuts here that even show a glimpse – a tiny glimmer – of that wonderful first Crosby album, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Sure, sure you say. But fuck man, that voice is still – somehow – there. And the way the guitar lines lick and curl beneath the words, that type of mercurial post-folk/searching-for-other nearly-psychedelic soul music. He’s no more likely to remake If I Could Only Remember than James Taylor is to do another Mud Slide Slim but you know it’s the same guy when you hear it.
Holding On To Nothing – which begins, with the fully aware, “After holding onto nothing for quite a while” – takes the shape of a special kind of Neil Young album track; those low-key gems buried beneath the hits and nearly-hits on albums like Freedom and Silver and Gold and even back to Comes A Time. Crosby was always the best at listening of the CSN/Y gang – the one who picked up on what the others were doing, referenced it, built on it, added to it as well as taking from it. The others were always so sure of themselves, so ready to plough on ahead and push their agendas and angles, Crosby was the great musical magpie within that crew, taking snatches of this and that and making, at his best, a nest to call his own, despite being cobbled together from the leftovers and discarded bits he found, the pieces he liked the sound of.
Croz isn’t spectacular – but it’s a warm reminder of a talent. And it sure is hell isn’t shit. It’s gonna be a grower, and really nice surprise for many of you. A great return after 20 years and better, so much better, than the lukewarm things he last tried to bake in a studio, naff covers and such.
This Croz album feels lovely, so thoughtful, crisp. The playing, the production, his voice – all of it just a really nice surprise, no shame in digging this – it may not be a huge comeback but it’s charming and well-intentioned and decent. It’s good. And graceful. And it shows you can have it all, lose most of it, forget almost all of the rest, but if you were really, really good once (or even twice) as Crosby most certainly was, there’ll always – somehow – be something left in the tank.