Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Deja Vu (1970)

Crosby, Stills & Nash are a folk-rock 'supergroup', made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. They are sometimes joined by occasional fourth member Neil Young.

After the success of Crosby, Stills & Nash, the trio had to think about going on tour. However to perform as a full electric band they needed extra members. In the end they chose to bring in Neil Young, who had played with Stills in Buffalo Springfield, and had recently started out on his own solo career. Now a quartet, they became Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Stills and Young gave them a formidable double lead guitar attack, and between the four of them they could handle all acoustic and electric guitars as well as keyboard duties. And with four practicing singer-songwriters on board, they already had a huge repertoire of material. They kept drummer Dallas Taylor on board, who had played on their debut album, and brought in 19-year-old Motown bassist Greg Reeves to complete the touring outfit. Young's contract allowed him to continue with his solo career whilst he performed with the group. They went on tour in summer 1969 - their second ever gig together was at the Woodstock Festival. The folk-rock supergroup were becoming a huge success, and expectations were high when they came to record their next album.
Deja Vu proved to differ somewhat from the first album. The group broadened their pallette, resulting in a more diverse collection of songs (and perhaps a less consistent record for that reason). More so than the first album it sounded like a coalition of four singer-songwriters rather than a band. Crosby and Nash's signature songwriting styles become even more apparent. Crosby contributed the hippie blues lament "Almost Cut My Hair" and the surreal, dream-like title track, whilst Nash came up with the radio-friendly country-rock of "Teach Your Children" and the whimsical ode to domesticity of "Our House". Stills contributed the opening song "Carry On", which defined the archetypal CSNY sound, and the quiet solo number "4+20". Young wrote two songs, the slow, aching "Helpless" (which became one of his best-loved songs) and the three-part suite "Country Girl". They also recorded a rocking version of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock", and "Everybody I Love You" was a collaboration between Young and Stills. Most of the instruments were played by the four of them with Taylor and Reeves, but there were also guest appearances from Jerry Garcia on pedal steel and John Sebastian on harmonica.
However, was the album actually the perfect coalition that the record sleeve would have you believe? Crosby & Nash added their superb vocal harmonies to all the songs except Stills' solo number, and Stills himself is on every song playing some instrument or another even if he's not singing. But what of Young? Apart from his own two songs he doesn't sing anywhere else, and just adds guitar to three others. He was always the outsider in the foursome (perhaps because he didn't rely on the others - he had by far the most successful solo career), and his presence on Deja Vu is really as a guest guitarist who gets to sing two of his own songs. Various personality clashes and power struggles meant the group eventually imploded after their 1970 tour, and despite numerous sporadic reunions over the years that continue to the present day, they have never come close to the quality of their first two classic albums, upon which their whole reputation as folk-rock's first and foremost supergroup rests.
Because despite the group's hidden flaws, Deja Vu was a commerical success. It reached #1 on the pop album charts, and "Woodstock", "Our House" and "Teach Your Children" all reached the Top 40 on the singles charts.

Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) <|> Four Way Street (1971)
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