Now that Crosby Stills Nash & Young fans have explored the Deja Vu 50th Anniversary box set, there’s another box set that would be an even greater treasure. There are only two rarities by Neil Young in the Deja Vu set, mainly because he had a relatively lesser role in making the album.
Neil wasn’t fully integrated into his new group. He’s on only five of Deja Vu’s tracks. The best ones are his song “Helpless” and Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”. Young would take the tapes of the group’s recordings (of his two songs on the album) to another studio, mix them and overdub them himself. He was also recording his solo album After The Gold Rush during this same time. Many of the songs on that excellent album are better than the two songs he made available to the group. Songs like “Tell Me Why”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, and “Southern Man” became CSNY songs only during their live shows.
The most studio recordings and highest quality songs Crosby Stills Nash & Young ever recorded together were for their unfinished 1970’s album, Human Highway. The quality of those recordings surpassed the solo versions that were eventually released. Many, but not all of those group versions have surfaced, scattered over multiple albums and decades. Those recordings (along with “Ohio”) represent the best work Neil Young did with the group.
So, a box set that would be more important and more valuable than Deja Vu would be the Human Highway Sessions.
It would contain the recordings from CSNY’s sessions from 1973, 1974, and 1976. That’s where the real group recordings of Crosby Stills Nash & Young are hiding. Neil Young’s songs and work with the group are much more significant, and CSN’s contributions to his songs far surpass singing “helpless” in the background.
Although logs of the sessions are somewhat sketchy, here are the best possibilities of the songs worked on during the Human Highway recording sessions (with all four members present).
- Human Highway (Young)
- Pardon My Heart (Young)
- And So It Goes (Nash)
- Prison Song (Nash)
- See The Changes (Stills)
- Through My Sails (Young)
- As I Come Of Age (Stills)
- Wind On The Water (Nash)
- Homeward Through The Haze (Crosby)
- Human Highway (Young)
- Taken At All (Nash)
- Long May You Run (Young)
- Midnight On The Bay (Young)
- Black Coral (Stills)
- Ocean Girl (Young)
- Time After Time (Crosby)
- Fontainebleau (Young)
- Traces (Young)
- Separate Ways (Young)
- Treetop Flyer (Stills)
- No One Seems To Know (Young)
- Make Love To You (Stills)
- Guardian Angel (Stills)
- Will To Love (Young)
- Let It Shine (Young)
- Little Blind Fish (Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young)
It’s almost certain that more songs were worked on, but this seems to be a reasonable list of the main titles that are known. In addition, there would be various takes and versions of the songs.
Rather than trying to recreate a single Human Highway album, it would be much more important and historic to have all of these studio recordings from the band’s prime years. Maybe there’s someone at the Warner/Rhino company who’s strong enough to get Crosby Stills Nash & Young to cooperate on the project. Or maybe we’re just…helplessly hoping.
Bonus: Since the Human Highway Sessions box set may never happen, here’s a playlist of the existing significant studio recordings that include all four members of Crosby Stills Nash & Young. It also shows the sources for the recordings. The title is 4 Together.
- Woodstock (Deja Vu)
- Helpless (Deja Vu)
- Almost Cut My Hair (Alternates) [Deja Vu box set]
- Ohio (So Far/CSN box set)
- Find The Cost Of Freedom (So Far/CSN box set)
- The Lee Shore (CSN box set)
- Through My Sails (Zuma)
- See The Changes (CSN box set)
- Prison Song (bootleg/YouTube)
- Hawaiian Sunrise (CSNY 1974)
- Love/Art Blues (CSNY 1974)
- Homeward Through The Haze (CSN box set)
- Human Highway (NY Archives II, 1976 Version)
- Taken At All (CSN box set)
- Long May you Run (Decade)
- Midnight On The Bay (NY Archives II)
- Black Coral (Stills box set)
- This Old House (American Dream)
- Slowpoke (Looking Forward)
- Looking Forward (Looking Forward)
Tracks: 1-6 ’69-‘70 7-17 ’73-’76 18-20 ’88-’99
These are in chronological order (the only cheat was waiting to add “The Lee Shore” so it would be next to “Through My Sails”). Two live versions were snuck in, “Hawaiian Sunrise” and “Love/Art Blues”. CSNY apparently didn’t do studio versions of those two songs, but these recordings come close, and are too good to leave out.
“Love/Art Blues” is a perfect example of why recordings with all four group members are so good. Neil Young thinks so much of the song that he put three versions of it in his Archives II set…a solo version, trio version, and one with the Stray Gators backing group. They’re good, but the CSNY version takes the song to a higher level. It’s because of excellent harmonies by Crosby & Nash, and impressive country/blues piano accents by Stephen Stills. Here it is:
Crosby Stills Nash & Young made the best music when they were all four together.
Extra: If you’d like to hear more songs by CSNY, here’s the link to the article about piecing together the lost Human Highway album: https://ontherecords.net/2018/06/csny-human-highway-the-lost-album/