Sometimes musical interests can be tidal, with ebbs and flows. It’s possible to be super into something for a while, maybe even a long while, have that interest recede, and then someday to have it come back again. Sometime it comes back even stronger — maybe the first time around just wasn’t the right time for it.
I was a teen in the ’70s, when Crosby, Stills, Nash & Sometimes Young were considered gods of songwriting and harmonizing. Their music was ubiquitous, and anyone with the slightest of leanings in the folk or singer/songwriter direction would have put them at the top of the pyramid. I was by no means exempt: I love their music, the songs and the sounds. But until recently, I owned only their first greatest hits collection, So Far (which was mandated by law — if you were a teenager in the ’70s, you were required to own So Far). Despite my love for those songs, and CSN being one of the earliest concerts I ever saw (SPAC, summer 1978). In my college years, despite a flirtation with hippie music in various forms, I didn’t get further into them, and after that I kinda put aside those tendencies. I still recognized their greatness, but they were no longer my thing. Nevertheless, the album remained with me and got the occasional nostalgic spin.
Blame age, blame nostalgia, or credit having time to revisit things from my youth, but within the last ten years I’ve come back strong to an appreciation for CSN (and Y), and have gone in hard. As with so many of my rediscoveries, it started with digital versions and led to a need to have and hear it on vinyl. So last year I found a beautiful copy of “Crosby, Stills & Nash,” and in listening to it on vinyl have discovered some gems I hadn’t paid much attention to before. Every song is great, but suddenly I’m taken with “You Don’t Have To Cry” as one of the greatest songs ever, and also feel pretty strongly about “Pre-Road Downs,” “Long Time Gone,” and “49 Bye-Byes.” Those, plus some of their most classic hits — this album is amazing.
It helps, again, that I now have a friend who is always willing to talk CSN with me, and a wife who will never say, “Oh, no, not CSN again!” Last year, I was reading Peter Doggett’s biography of the group (simply titled “Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young,” which led to even more listening. Earlier this year, we found a lengthy documentary on the group, “Fifty by Four,” which put the songs in our heads once again. As a result, in the past four or five years, CSN, CSNY, and Stephen Stills’ Manassas have been in pretty constant rotation. Issued in 1969, this was 50 years old when I finally got it on vinyl, but it’s stunning.