David Crosby…For Free (Album Review)

Is this the ‘70’s?  David Crosby and Jackson Browne released new albums on the same day (July 23rd, 2021).

David Crosby has had trouble keeping friends in recent years, especially his band mates Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young.  So, he recruited other friends to help with his new album, For Free.

The impressive cover painting is by Joan Baez.  The first song, “River Rise” is a solid start for the album, and features great harmony work by Michael McDonald.  Of course McDonald is known for his solo hits, as well as his work with The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.  Crosby also got Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan to co-write one of the other tracks, “Rodriguez For A Night”, which definitely sounds like it would have been at home on a Steely Dan album.

(Photo by Anna Webber)

The title track, “For Free”, is the well-known song by Joni Mitchell, and is done here as a duet with Sarah Jarosz.  The song is about a popular singer spotting a street musician who is…”playing real good for free”.  The recording has a beautiful sound, and they sing it in perfect harmony, but that’s the problem.   If Sara Jarosz had only joined-in with harmony for portions of the song, it would have been effective.  Unfortunately, with the two singing nearly every word in harmony, you can hear how hard they’re striving to stay in perfect synchronization.  The song loses its story-telling flow.  Crosby did a better version with The Byrds nearly 50 years ago.  By the way, David Crosby turned 80 on August 14h, 2021, and his voice is still strong.

Despite the slight miss on the title track, this is a high quality album. The playing, singing, and arranging are all first rate.  There are no clunkers to be found.  Some of these songs would have worked great as Crosby Stills & Nash recordings, but the tracks on this album that have more of a pop/jazz feel (like “Secret Dancer”) are cool too.  Of the flurry of albums David Crosby has released in recent years, this is the best one.

For Free concludes with a touching song, “I Won’t Stay For Long”, by David Crosby’s son, James Raymond.  It includes the lyrics… “I don’t know if I’m dying or about to be born, but I’d like to be with you today, and I won’t stay for long.”

(Photo by Scott Dudelson)

It’s been a long stay in the music business for David Crosby.  Since The Byrds hit with “Mr. Tamborine Man” in 1965, we’ve had the privilege of enjoying his talent.  Whether he’s singing harmony or lead, whether he’s in a group or solo, he’s always given us his very original style.  With all of David Crosby’s personal and health problems over the years, it’s amazing he’s made it to 80, and is still writing and singing at this high level.

Update:  David Crosby’s next release is the 50th Anniversary edition of his first solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name.  It’s being remastered, and there will be a second disc with outtakes and demos.  The release date is October 15th, 2021.  It includes demos of some good songs that would appear on the album Graham Nash-David Crosby… “ The Wall Song”, “Games”, and “Where Will I Be”.

Extra:  During an interview this week with Jackson Browne in the Los Angeles Times, they asked him if any musicians served as mentors to him when he was young.  Here’s his answer:  “David Crosby agreed to sing on my first record.  He absolutely showed me how to record, how to multitrack vocals.  He praised me to others and to myself, and that was really important.  I feel a great debt of gratitude to David.”

Here’s the link to the review of Jackson Browne’s new album:  https://ontherecords.net/2021/07/jackson-brownedownhill-from-everywhere-review/

Jackson Browne…Downhill From Everywhere (Review)

These days, Jackson Browne says the songwriting process is slower for him.  It’s been seven years since the about-to-turn-73 (October 9th) singer/songwriter released a new album, and now we have Downhill From Everywhere.

The album is a collection of ten Jackson Browne originals (with some co-writing).  Right away, Jackson lets us know he’s “Still Looking For Something”, which is a really good song, and a strong start for the the album.  It would have been a good title for it.  He says…“If all I find is freedom, it’s alright.”

The featured single and video is “My Cleveland Heart”.  It’s a lap steel guitar rocker about avoiding heartbreak by getting an artificial heart at the famous Cleveland Clinic.  The video adds some humor to the idea.

The third track on the album, “Minutes To Downtown”, is another song about heartbreak, and it has that classic Jackson Browne sound.  “I See that smile, and even while it breaks my heart, I laugh.  That’s because this heart was already torn in half.”

The quality continues with the duet “A Human Touch”.  The vocal is started by co-writer Leslie Mendelson.  Jackson Browne adds harmony on the chorus, and then takes the lead on the next verse.  The lap steel guitar gives it a country feel, and the lyrics hit home after the distancing of the pandemic… “Sometimes all anybody needs is a human touch.”  It reminded me of another duet, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”, by Patty Smyth and Don Henley.

The title track, “Downhill From Everywhere”, is based on the thought that everything we do eventually goes downhill into the ocean, polluting it.  The song is a rocker that sounds like the guitarist had the riff from The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” stuck in his head.  It’s not one of the better songs on the album…just too many listings of  “Downhill from…” on it.

The second song that has a Stone’s guitar feel is “Until Justice Is Real”.  It took a few listens for me to warm up to it, but it sounds like it would have fit on Jackson’s “Lives In The balance” album.

 One of the best songs is the welcome new ballad “A Little Soon To Say”.  It features beautiful guitar and organ accompaniment, with effective vocal harmonies, especially on the title line about whether things will be alright….“It’s just a little soon to say.”

The album ends upbeat with “A Song For Barcelona”.  The rhythm and instrumental arrangement match the title perfectly.  The band is energetic and in a groove.  Jackson Browne sings that Barcelona “gave me refuge in my escape from Rock & Roll.”

Something Jackson Browne could work on is making his album covers more appealing.  Here are his last two covers next to each other.

It looks like a place you’d want to avoid.  It would be a shame if anyone missed the music because they were turned away by the cover.  One of the new publicity photos would have made a much more inviting cover, and would have still been in line with his often serious lyrics.

Jackson Browne fans will definitely be adding some of the songs from Downhill From Everywhere to their permanent playlists.  This album has the most Jackson Browne songs I’ve added from any of his albums in the last 30 years.  Jackson will be performing tracks from the new album, as he’s touring this fall with James Taylor, and on his own.  These days, we’re lucky Jackson Browne is still providing fans with new music.

Extra:  For a look at Jackson’s best albums, and some original concert photos, here’s the link.  https://ontherecords.net/2017/06/jackson-browne-best-albums-2021-updates/

Update (August, 2021):  Jackson Browne & James Taylor returned to the stage in Sarasota, Florida August 23rd.  Here are photos from the Daily Gazette.

According to the article, the two singer-songwriters performed together on three of Jackson’s songs “The Pretender”, “Running On Empty” and “Take It Easy”.  Trivia:  Both J.B. & J.T. were born in 1948.

Paul McCartney…McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Review)

Famous producer Rick Rubin gets a Beatles fan’s dream…a conversation with the man who is probably the world’s most famous musician, Paul McCartney.  Rubin asks him about the music McCartney created with The Beatles, Wings, and as a solo artist.

McCartney 3, 2, 1  is a new six-part documentary on Hulu (each part is about half-an-hour).  The interview portion is in black & white, but some featured photos and film segments are in color.  Hulu subscribers (Hulu also offers free trials) can binge all episodes of the series, which started on Friday July 16th, 2021.

Actually, here on the West Coast, it became available Thursday at 9 PM.  My wife and I watched the six episodes straight through to Midnight.  If you’re into Beatles music, you’ll find the series to be absolutely fascinating.  Rick Rubin selected song sections to play for Paul McCartney, and Paul describes how the recordings came to be.  There are some familiar stories, but also a lot of new insights about songs we love.

Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin cover a lot of ground, and it’s never boring.  Both men at times controlled the mixing board, and various instruments or vocals were isolated like we’ve never heard before.  You get completely pulled into how the recordings were created.  As expected, the majority of the time is spent on Beatles songs, but some of Paul’s Wings and solo recordings are included.  The questions and discussions go beyond specific songs, and reveal so much about how The Beatles worked together.

McCartney even provides some live musical demonstrations on piano, guitar, drums, and his Hofner bass.  Instead of trying to be a definitive documentary of all things Beatles & McCartney, it’s a wonderfully casual and candid conversation. 

Beatles fans and musicians…a splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Here’s the trailer for the documentary:  https://youtu.be/eTSe5hgB04s

The Beatles: Get Back…6-Hour Documentary!

Huge changes have been made in the release of the Let It Be/Get Back movie.  The bad news is we’ll have to wait longer to see it.  The good news is there’ll be nearly three-times the film footage!  Instead of a movie to be shown in August, it’s now a three-part (nearly six-hour) documentary to be released over three nights on Disney+ streaming.  The Beatles: Get Back will be shown November 25th, 26th & 27th, 2021.

October 13th, 2021…Here’s the link to a new trailer for the documentary:


(All photos from Apple Corps LTD)

Director Peter Jackson (famous for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy) has been working with the 56-hours of original Let It Be film footage for nearly three years, and in June, 2021 he released this statement:

In many respects, Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s remarkable footage captured multiple storylines.  The story of friends and individuals.  It is the story of human frailties and of a divine partnership.  It is a detailed account of the creative process, with the crafting of iconic songs under pressure, set amid the social climate of early 1969.  But it’s not nostalgia, it’s raw, honest and human.  Over six hours, you’ll get to know The Beatles with an intimacy that you never thought was possible. 

Jackson says he was mostly able to select different camera shots and angles than were used in the Let It Be movie.  He sees it as a documentary about the making of the original film.  The quality of the film footage has been restored to a new clarity for today’s high-definition viewing.  They’ve also talked about making the original movie available in the higher quality form.

I’m guessing Peter Jackson completed a movie-length version of The Beatles: Get Back before the change was made to a three-part streaming version.  The hope is that six-hours isn’t stretching the film too thin.

In an interview with GQ published in July, 2021, Peter Jackson said…  “There’s probably more conversations with The Beatles than there is actual singing.  That will, I think, surprise people, because it’s very intimate.  And the other thing that will surprise people is how funny the films are.”

For the first time, we’ll see a full 43-minutes of the rooftop concert.  The original movie had about half that.   Unlike a real concert, The Beatles played multiple takes that were later edited together to form more-perfect audio recordings for the album.  It was actually a pubic recording session that was captured on Abbey Road’s studio equipment down below.  Here is a list of the songs in the order they were performed.

Although the recording of the Let It Be album was done in just 21 days, The Beatles were also filmed running through songs that would later appear on Abbey Road and some of their solo albums.

The companion 240-page book was released on October 12th, 2021.  The book features transcribed conversations from the film audio recordings, and many unseen photos by Linda McCartney and Ethan A. Russell.  The list price is $60, but it’s online for $42.  There is a review of the book on this site.

The music for the movie has been remixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell .  Box set anyone?  Update (Aug. 25th):  There is a 5-disc plus Blu-ray box set that was released October 15th.  It’s priced at $139.98.  A matching vinyl set is $199.98, and a 2 CD set with the remixed album, plus selected highlights from the box set, is $24.98.  

Here are the playlists for the CD’s and the vinyl records (click to enlarge and make clearer).  You can see the set has the new remix of Let It Be, plus the original unreleased Get Back album, and sessions & rehearsals.

They’re making us wait, but it sounds like it’ll certainly be worth it.  The in-depth six-hour documentary The Beatles: Get Back will be on Disney+ November 25th, 26th & 27th, 2021.

Tom Petty…Angel Dream (Album Review)

The latest Tom Petty vault release is a 25th Anniversary reimagining of the She’s The One soundtrack album from 1996.

It’s now called Angel Dream, and was released June 12th as part of a celebration of Record Store Day, 2021.  It came out in digital form on July 2nd.  Three of the songs from the original soundtrack that were included in the recent Wildflowers box set, have been removed, along with four other tracks.  Instead, there are four previously unreleased tracks… “105 Degrees”, “One Of Life’s Little Mysteries”, the instrumental “French Disconnection”, and a cover of J.J. Cale’s “Thirteen Days”.  

Here are the songs on the original soundtrack (the new lineup of songs is farther below):

  1. Walls (Circus)
  2. Grew Up Fast
  3. Zero From Outer Space
  4. Climb That Hill
  5. Change The Locks
  6. Angel Dream (No. 4)
  7. Hope you Never
  8. A**hole
  9. Supernatural Radio
  10. California
  11. Hope On Board
  12. Walls (No. 3) [acoustic version]
  13. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  14. Hung Up And Overdue
  15. Airport

When I first started listening to the original album in 1996, it was initially disappointing.  “Walls (Circus)” sounded pretty good, but out of the first nine tracks,, the only other songs that appealed to me were “Climb That Hill” & “Hope You Never”.  Then beginning with #10, “California”, there were five good songs in a row.  When “Walls (No. 3)” started playing, my mind went…“Now that’s Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers!”  Then “Angel Dream (No. 2)” was so much better than the earlier version with the distractingly odd percussion.  Plus, “Hung Up And Overdue” sounded like a blend of The Beatles and The Beach Boys (Ringo Starr & Carl Wilson are on it).  So, in the end, there were 8 songs I liked, and that’s more than most albums.

Here are the songs on the new Angel Dream:

Side 1…tracks 1-5,  Side 2…6-12

  1. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  2. Grew Up Fast
  3. Change The Locks
  4. Zero From Outer Space
  5. A**hole
  6. One Of Life’s Little Mysteries*
  7. Walls (No. 3)
  8. Thirteen Days*
  9. 105 Degrees*
  10. Climb That Hill
  11. Supernatural Radio (extended by 41-seconds)
  12. French Disconnection (Instrumental)*

*Previously unreleased

The seven tracks that went away are “Hope You Never”, “California”, “Hung Up And Overdue”, “Walls (Circus)” “Angel Dream (No. 4)”, and the instrumentals “Airport” & “Hope On Board”.  On the original album, “Hope On Board” served as a beautiful intro to “Walls (No. 3)”, and it’s a shame it was left off.  In fact, if you use GarageBand (or other song editor) to overlap the songs so “Walls (No. 3) starts before the last note of “Hope On Board” fades, it sounds amazing.

The four new tracks are all on side two, which is the best side of the record.  “One Of Life’s Little Mysteries” is really different for Tom Petty.  It’s a slow song that sounds like an old fashioned tune from the 1930’s, or a song Randy Newman would have written for a movie or musical.  “Thirteen Days” is a very good studio version of J.J. Cale’s blues song, with cool slide guitar by Mike Campbell.  “105 Degrees” is an uptempo rocker that would have been fun in concert.  The final track is titled “French Disconnection”, but it’s really an instrumental version of “Angel Dream”.  It’s a pretty ending for the album.

(Recording session for “She’s The One” album.)

Extra:  Here’s a suggestion for making a playlist that combines the best songs from the two versions of the album.

  1. Angel Dream (No. 2)
  2. California
  3. Hope You Never
  4. Hung Up And Overdue
  5. One Of Life’s Little Mysteries
  6. Hope On Board
  7. Walls (No. 3)
  8. Thirteen Days
  9. 105 Degrees
  10. Climb That Hill
  11. Supernatural Radio
  12. French Disconnection (Angel Dream instrumental)

That would have been a worthy follow-up album to Wildflowers.

George Harrison…All Things Must Pass 50th Anniversary

Great news for George Harrison fans.  His masterpiece, All Things Must Pass has been remixed for a 50th Anniversary edition!

(Note:  There is now a review of the new remix on this site.  Below in this article are the song lists and CD & Vinyl versions that are available.)

Review: https://ontherecords.net/2021/08/george-harrison-all-things-must-pass50th-anniversary-remix-review/

The reason it’s a big deal is that the remix has been done by the same mixer/engineer who recently did an amazing job with the John Lennon collection, Gimme Some Truth.  Paul Hicks has been working with George’s son, Dhani to improve All Things Must Pass.

Dhani says his dad thought the original album “had too much reverb.”  The album was recorded by the legendary producer Phil Spector, who was known for his “wall of sound”.  (Unfortunately, he was also known for being convicted of murder.)  Spector’s producing style had a tendency to bury vocals a bit, and could sound dated next to the clarity of today’s recordings.  Dhani Harrison says he wants the audio quality of his dad’s recordings to hold up in the future.  The results were released on August 6th, 2021, and the album sounds great!

Here”s a quote from George Harrison I found in my 2001 remastered set of All Things Must Pass, where he said he was tempted to remix the songs.  “I would like to liberate some of these songs from the big production that seemed appropriate at the time, but now seems a bit over the top with the reverb in the wall of sound.”

There’s a whole array of different versions of the set.  Below are the lists of songs for the five CD’s that are available.  After that you’ll see the various sets and their prices.  I found a bunch of articles about the release, but none of them had all of the sets and prices.  They were hard to find on Amazon too, because they’re not shown together.

(Each song list can be enlarged with a click or zoom.)

The 2-CD version is the remix of the original album, plus all sets have a poster.  The price is $20.

The vinyl version of the remixed album is on three records like the original release.  The price is $65.  (I remember paying $6.50 when the album came out in 1970.)  There’s also an e-commerce version of this set with green & black splattered colored vinyl for $76.

This is my choice.  It’s 3 CD’s, with that third CD being the outtakes as shown on CD 5 of the above lists.  There’s also a 20 page booklet.  The price is $30.  (The demos can be checked out on streaming.)

Here’s the 5 vinyl album version of the 3 CD set.  The price is $90.

The 5 CD version includes two discs of demos that are not in the 3 CD version.  Plus, there’s a Blu-ray with 5.1 sound of the original album’s songs. There’s also an added 56 page “scrapbook”.  The price is $150.

This 8 vinyl record version is the equivalent of the 5 CD set, plus there’s a 60 page “scrapbook”.  The scrapbook “pays homage to George’s love of gardening & nature.”  The price is $200.

This “Uber” collection will set you back $1,000.  If you want to see what you get for that, zoom or click this text:

(Close-up of the 1/6th scale figures in the box.)

Even though I’d purchased All Things Must Pass three times…records, CD’s, and remastered CD’s…I welcomed this remix to improve the sound.  Like the excellent Lennon collection, this is the best George Harrison’s recordings have ever sounded.

Extra…Here’s the link to an article about George’s solo career:


Heart…The Band’s Two Peaks Of Success

The story of the band Heart revolves around sisters Ann & Nancy Wilson, who became pioneers of women in Rock.

What caused these young girls to want to perform Rock & Roll?  Ann (left) and Nancy were about to turn 14 and 10 when they saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in February of 1964.  Nancy says that TV show, plus seeing The Beatles perform in their hometown of Seattle in 1966, were two major events that made them want to play guitars and become professional musicians.

It was about a decade later that the sisters released their first album with their band Heart.  Dreamboat Annie was recorded in 1975 in Vancouver, Canada, and released in 1976 in the U.S.  Their first single, “Crazy On You” broke into the Top 40 at #35, and “Magic Man” made the Top 10 at #9.  The album itself hit #7 and went platinum (a million sold).

The two singles are considered Hard Rock, while the title track is an acoustic song that leans to Folk.  Ann & Nancy had previously performed songs by Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, but their biggest influence by the mid-seventies was Led Zeppelin.  The Wilson sisters became the first women to front a Hard Rock band.

While other women were integrated into Rock bands…like Grace Slick in Jefferson Airplane, and Stevie Nicks & Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mac…Ann & Nancy were the leaders of their band.  Of course the men in the band made significant contributions, but Ann & Nancy wrote the songs, Ann sang lead, played flute & acoustic guitar, and Nancy switched off on lead & rhythm guitar, and sang harmony & sometimes lead.  You can tell by the cover of their first album (above)…they were the faces of Heart.

In 1977, Heart had another rocking hit with “Barracuda” (#11), plus their second album Little Queen rose to #9 and went triple-platinum.  Their success continued with the album Dog & Butterfly in 1978.  It peaked at #17, and went double-platinum.  Singles included “Straight On” (#15) and “Dog & Butterfly” (#35).  Their 1980 album Bebe le Strange was highly ranked at #5, but sales dropped off dramatically to about half-a-million copies.  Thus ended their first major bubble of success.  During the next four years it looked like their careers might be winding down.  But soon, they would achieve their greatest popularity.

It took a move to Capitol Records, which invested a great deal to help transform Heart into an even bigger hit-making band.  In the 80’s, MTV was an important part of marketing musicians.  Capitol made impressively shot videos of the group that accented Ann & Nancy’s sexuality.  The two have expressed some regret for agreeing to the videos, but really it was just the era, and there were many similar videos by other artists.  The biggest change was actually the songwriting.

While Ann & Nancy wrote their 70’s hits, they were in a dry spell, so Capitol recruited professional songwriters, and it really paid off.  The album Heart topped Billboard’s album chart for three weeks in 1985, and went quadruple-platinum.  There were four big hit singles…”What About Love” #10, “Never” #4, “Nothin’ At All” #10, and “These Dreams”, which was their first #1 hit.  The song features Nancy on the lead vocal, and it was written by Bernie Taupin (of Elton John fame) and Martin Page.

Ann got her first #1 with Heart’s next release.  “Alone” was sent to radio stations as a CD single in May of 1987.  When we previewed it at our Rock station, it was easy to predict the song would top the charts.  “Alone” is one of the best power ballads from a decade of power ballads.  It showcased the strength and clarity of Ann’s amazing voice.

That hit ended up on Heart’s 1987 album, Bad Animals.  It also included the hits “Who Will You Run To” #7 (by famous songwriter Diane Warren), and “There’s The Girl” #12 (written by Nancy Wilson & Holly Knight).  The album hit #2 and was triple-platinum.

There was one album left in this second big bubble of popularity that started in 1985.  It was Brigade in 1990.  The album went to #3, and was double-platinum.  The main single was “All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You” #2, written by producer “Mutt” Lange.  The album also had “Stranded” #13, which turned out to be the last major hit for Heart.

After 1990, Heart had successful tours, but their major album releases were variations of “Greatest Hits” packages.  There were individual projects, such as Nancy working on movie soundtracks (including Almost Famous) with her then-husband, writer/director Cameron Crowe.   Heart did hit #10 on the album chart with Red Velvet Car in 2010.  That meant they had Top-10 albums in four decades.  Their total sales of albums exceeds 35-million.

Heart’s music has been popular for over 45 years.  They had two major peaks of success…1975 to 1980 and 1985 to 1990…either of which would be the envy of most bands.

Heart was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013.  It was an honor they richly deserved.  Their work in the 1970’s paved the way for female bands and female Rock singers of the 1980’s and beyond.

80’s One-Hit Wonders

The 1980’s had an abundance of one-hit wonders, partly because MTV (which started in 1981) had to hunt for enough videos to fill their programming.  That included pulling in artists from other countries.  Typically, the term one-hit wonder is applied to artists who literally only charted one song (still a major accomplishment), or artists who had one big hit that overshadowed the rest of their career (at least in the USA).

One of the most popular songs and videos was by a Norwegian group, A-ha, who performed “Take On Me”.  The song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video was ground-breaking in it’s use of film and graphics.  The animation, which was done in the United States, took nine months to complete.  They had only one other minor U.S. hit, “The Sun Always Shines On T.V.”, but charted over 20 hits in Norway.

Germany gave us “99 Luftballons” by Nena.  It went to #2 in 1984.  The German version was the most popular, but some radio stations played the flip side, which was the English version, “99 Red Balloons”.  The guy on the left seems to be seriously crushing on Nena.

Another German-born artist was Peter Schilling.  His 1983 #14 hit was “Major Tom (Coming Home)”, which was a follow-up to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from a decade earlier.  The chorus started with a countdown:  ”4-3-2-1  Earth below us, drifting, falling…”  Hopefully that helps you remember it.

The song that leads off my 80’s playlists is “I Melt With You” by U.K. group Modern English.  It was featured prominently in the movie Valley Girl, and was performed just last week on TV’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.  The main line is…”I’ll stop the world and melt with you”.  I grabbed my Top 40 reference book to look up the 1983 song, and it’s not there!  The song only made it to #76 on the Hot 100.  It did make it to #7 on the less significant Mainstream Rock chart.

The second song on my first 80’s playlist is “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell, an English duo (Marc Almond & David Ball).  The song peaked at #8 in 1982, and still holds up today.  “Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes was another #8 hit, but in 1983.  They actually had a second significant hit with “Promises Promises”, #11 that same year.

A true one-hit wonder group was Devo.  Those are not flower pots on their heads, but “Energy Domes” they designed to give them an odd sci-fi look, or as one member said “kind of like a Lego”.  Their #14 hit is “Whip It”, which had a bizarre video.  This one didn’t make any of my 80’s playlists.  They get credit for finding a way to get noticed, but the novelty wears off quickly, and despite the lyric “Whip it good”, it’s not.

Another one-hit group was proud they didn’t have anything weird on their heads…Men Without Hats.  The Canadian group (with an American lead singer) had an even bigger novelty hit by taking “The Safety Dance” to #3 in 1983.  By the way, the similarly named group, Men At Work, had five major hits in the 1980’s, including “Down Under” & “Who Can It Be Now?”…both #1’s.  The bands missed a chance to combine for a big…Men At Work Without Hats…tour.

A band from San Francisco, Tommy Tutone, created the most famous phone number in history with “867-5309/Jenny”.  It was a #4 hit in 1982.  Above are the single and “Jenny” from the video.  In real life, people who had that phone number in various area codes had to change numbers, because of all the calls they received from people asking for Jenny.

The band Madness had a #7 hit in 1983 with “Our House”.  It wasn’t a very very fine house like the one in the Crosby Stills Nash & Young song, but that might have been because it was located “in the middle of our street”.  Maybe they really meant it was in the middle of their block.  Madness was very popular in their home country of England, where they had 15 Top 10 hits.

There are always bands with strange names, and A Flock Of Seagulls fits the bill.  The song they’re known for is “I Ran (So Far Away)”, #9 in 1982.  That was when bands like this were called “New Wave”.  They did chart a couple more minor hits after that.

“I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep.” is the main line of “Talking In Your Sleep” by The Romantics.  It reached #3 in 1983.  You may also remember their song “What I Like About You” which only made it to #49.

Among the quirky novelty songs from the 80’s is “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby.  It reached #5 in 1983.  The song’s video featured Dolby as a mad scientist dramatically saying the title, followed by almost random sounding notes on a synthesizer.  Synthesizers were prominent in 80’s music, and the terms synth-pop and synth-rock were used to categorize the music.

Harold Faltermeyer is a Grammy-winning film composer, with synthesizer being his main instrument.  He had an instrumental hit with “Axel F” which went to #3 in 1985.  It was the theme for the movie Beverly Hills Cop starring Eddie Murphy as Axel Foley.  If you can ask Siri or Alexa to play the song, you’ll probably instantly recognize the melody.

One of the one-hit 45’s I bought in the 80’s was “Captain Of Her Heart” by the band Double.  I always liked the cool piano part, as well as the laid-back vocal.  It reached #16 in 1986.  In researching for this article, I discovered Double was a Swiss band, and their name is actually pronounced doo-Blay.

Sometimes I took a chance and bought the whole album by a new group.  In this case, it was a German band, Freiheit.  Their 1988 song, “Keeping The Dream Alive”,  didn’t make the Top 40, but did get airplay on some radio stations, and was a hit in other countries.  It was also included in the 1989 movie Say Anything.  When American Idol was still a juggernaut in 2009, “Keeping The Dream Alive” was featured several times.  The sound of the song is very Beatles-like, and it was even recorded at Abbey Road Studios.  The album has more good songs, but no other hits.

Another Beatles-sounding 80’s song is “I Don’t Mind At All”.  It barely edged into the Top 40 (#38) in 1987, but also made the Top 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  The group was Bourgeois Tagg (which are the last names of the two guys who formed it).  They were from Sacramento, California.  The song was produced by recent Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Todd Rundgren.

Speaking of Beatles-sounding, Julian Lennon had a short burst of popularity in 1984-85 with three hit singles…”Too Late For Goodbyes” #5, ”Valotte” #9, and “Say You’re Wrong” #21 (those are my record sleeves above).  John’s son, Julian, was just 21 at the time.  Volotte was his only platinum album, but he did have two more moderately successful albums. 

The 80’s had quite a few artists like Julian Lennon who had multiple hits, but not really enough to have their own 20-song playlists, at least at a hit-quality level.   But it’s great having 80’s songs on the list like “I Love Rock & Roll” (#1, 1982) and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” (#8, 1988) by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.  Plus songs by The J. Geils Band, The Go-Go’s, Eurythmics, The Stray Cats, Blondie, The Bangles, Rick Springfield and more.

Rick Springfield is an artist whose popularity surprised me.  I mainly think of him for the 80’s classic “Jessie’s Girl”, a #1 hit from 1981.  I figured he had another three or four hits, but when I looked in my Top 40 book, he had seventeen Top 40 hits.

Of course the 1980’s had huge hit songs and albums by artists like Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, The Police, Billy Joel, AC/DC, Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, U2, Van Halen, Phil Collins, and many more.  But, a lot of the distinctive musical flavor of the decade came from artists who had more modest success.

CSN&Y…Human Highway Sessions box set

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.

(The planned cover photo for Human Highway)

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).

May-June 1973:

  1. Human Highway (Young)
  2. Pardon My Heart (Young)
  3. And So It Goes (Nash)
  4. Prison Song (Nash)
  5. See The Changes (Stills)
  6. Through My Sails (Young)
  7. As I Come Of Age (Stills)

December 1974:

  1. Wind On The Water (Nash)
  2. Homeward Through The Haze (Crosby)

March-May 1976:

  1. Human Highway (Young)
  2. Taken At All (Nash)
  3. Long May You Run (Young)
  4. Midnight On The Bay (Young)
  5. Black Coral (Stills)
  6. Ocean Girl (Young)
  7. Time After Time (Crosby)
  8. Fontainebleau (Young)
  9. Traces (Young)
  10. Separate Ways (Young)
  11. Treetop Flyer (Stills)
  12. No One Seems To Know (Young)
  13. Make Love To You (Stills)
  14. Guardian Angel (Stills)
  15. Will To Love (Young)
  16. Let It Shine (Young)
  17. 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.

(The runner-up title was For Each Other.)

  1. Woodstock (Deja Vu)
  2. Helpless (Deja Vu)
  3. Almost Cut My Hair (Alternates) [Deja Vu box set]
  4. Ohio (So Far/CSN box set)
  5. Find The Cost Of Freedom (So Far/CSN box set)
  6. The Lee Shore (CSN box set)
  7. Through My Sails (Zuma)
  8. See The Changes (CSN box set)
  9. Prison Song (bootleg/YouTube)
  10. Hawaiian Sunrise (CSNY 1974)
  11. Love/Art Blues (CSNY 1974)
  12. Homeward Through The Haze (CSN box set)
  13. Human Highway (NY Archives II, 1976 Version)
  14. Taken At All (CSN box set)
  15. Long May you Run (Decade)
  16. Midnight On The Bay (NY Archives II)
  17. Black Coral (Stills box set)
  18. This Old House (American Dream)
  19. Slowpoke (Looking Forward)
  20. 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 very impressive country/blues piano accents by Stephen Stills.

Crosby Stills Nash & Young made the best music when they were all four together.

Extra:  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/

CSN&Y…Deja Vu Box Set (Review)

We have all been here before.  We’re experiencing Deja Vu again, only a lot more of it.  Fifty-one years after the 1970 release of Deja Vu, comes the 50th Anniversary Deluxe box set.  The recordings are remastered (not remixed), and the list price is $100.  The vinyl record and Disc One have the songs that were on the original album.

The review covers the other 3 CD’s that have 38 mostly *unreleased recordings. (Click or zoom lists to enlarge.)

Box sets like these might seem like “money grabs” by the labels, but serious fans want to hear how the songs developed, and what other songs were being worked on during the album sessions.  Plus, fans can simply listen to these songs on whatever streaming service they use. 

(Graham Nash, Dallas Taylor, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Greg Reeves, and Neil Young)

Before the album was released on May 14th, 2021, an engaging duet of Neil Young’s “Birds” was previewed.  It’s just Neil on guitar and lead vocal, with Graham Nash adding his usual excellent harmonies.  The shame is…that’s the only Neil Young rarity (other than a previously released version of “Helpless”).  Reportedly, Neil had submitted other rarities, but withdrew them (no reason has been revealed).  Young’s Archive series has already covered this era, so what else is he going to do with the unreleased tracks?

Besides “Birds”, the best demo is “So Begins The Task” by Stephen Stills with his beautiful acoustic guitar and young expressive voice.  This song should definitely have made the cut for Deja Vu.  It’s almost unbelievable that Stills held it until his third album, Manassas.  The song is unnecessarily paired with “Hold On Tight”, which he also tries with “Change Partners” later.

David Crosby’s “Deja Vu” is a skeletal demo, but you can hear the potential, and understand why they spent a lot of time developing such a unique song.  There’s also an early alternate mix that sounds good.

John Sebastian was considered as a possible 4th member of CSN before Neil Young was chosen.  Here, Crosby Stills & Nash perform their version of Sebastian’s “How Have You Been”.  Lot’s of harmony and Still’s lead vocal carry it.

An early version of Graham Nash’s “Our House” shows the beauty of the song, even though they hadn’t quite come up with the final harmonies and other aspects of the arrangement.

“Our House” is about when Graham Nash was living with Joni Mitchell in a very very fine house in Laurel Canyon.  Included is a casual version of the two of them singing it.  When Graham messes up a piano part and swears, Joni laughs, but they finish the song.  The part with the “La-La’s” has Joni singing in kind of a Baroque style.  If these two talented young people had ever recorded “Our House” seriously, it would probably have been the definitive version.

Stephen Still’s “Ivory Tower” outtake is mostly an early version of “Sugar Babe”, which appeared on Still’s second solo album.  It’s a fully produced track, close to being album ready.  It’s surprising they didn’t delete the “right on” Stills threw in as they were going into an instrumental break.  It’s like putting a random “groovy” in a ‘60’s song.

Of the other outtakes, “Change Partners” is pretty good, but it’s really a demo with none of the harmony added yet.  Crosby’s “The Lee Shore” is good, and deserved to be on the album; however, the needed harmony/vocal overdubs were not added until the 1991 CSN box set.  The only other strong outtake is a version of Crosby’s “Laughing”.  It’s done in a style different from the demo, or even the version on Crosby’s first solo album.  Like “The Lee Shore”, this outtake could have made the Deja Vu album if they had added harmony vocals.

On the Alternates disc, the aforementioned “Deja Vu” and “Our House” are good.  “Teach your Children” is good too, but severely misses the pedal steel guitar that was played by Jerry Garcia.  It was a wonderful coincidence that The Grateful Dead were recording in the next studio.  The only other significant outtake is a surprisingly interesting 10-minute version of “Almost Cut My Hair”.  The dual guitars of Stills & Young almost make CSN&Y a jam band.  If you thought David Crosby’s vocal on the original version was a little overwrought, you’ll like this version better.

The conclusion…  It’s always fun to take a deep dive into classic albums from great musicians.  I’ll definitely add some tracks to my CSNY Demos & Rarities playlist.  Admittedly, there are a lot of tracks you may never want to hear again, but fans will certainly want to at least give the set a listen.

Here are photos of my box set:

The cover of the set is beautifully done.  It looks just like the original cover, with a leather-like feel.  The printing is gold embossed, and the picture appears as if it’s a separate piece that is attached to the cover.  When the gatefold is opened, the vinyl record & booklet go into the top of the left side, and the four CD’s store on the right.

The “book” is really a record-size 20-page booklet, with lots of very good quality black and white photos.  There’s a long essay by Cameron Crowe and Joel Bernstein.

(Just another garage band…at Stephen Stills’ place in Laurel Canyon)

What’s missing is detailed information on each song.  Unlike the recent Tom Petty box set (or their own 1991 CSN box set), there is no list of musicians for each track, and no personal comments from the artists about each of the recordings.  That’s disappointing.

There’s a $250 all-vinyl 5-record set available from Rhino and the official CSN&Y site.  It includes the above Alternates album that came out on Record Store Day (June 12th, 2021).  The list price is $30.

How many times have you purchased Deja Vu?  I bought the original album when it was released in 1970.  After it was stolen when I was in college, I bought a new copy.  Then I bought the album when it came out on CD in the ‘80’s.  All the major songs were also included in the 1991 CSN box set I bought.  And now, it’s Deja Vu all over again.

Extra:  For a complete article on the original Deja Vu album, you can click this link:    https://ontherecords.net/2018/08/csny-deja-vu/