Thursday, August 25, 2016

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Interesting thing, aural proof. It's taken as a truism that Stephen Stills is not only the dominant personality of Crosby, Stills and Nash but the most accomplished musician by a comfortable margin, as well it should be. And that while he may not quite the artist Neil Young is—which, hey, how many artists are, really? A small handful?—he's probably a better singer in a traditional sense and a seriously underrated (if, again, more traditional) guitarist.

What's more, the famously aborted tour Stills and Young attempted together in 1976 ended in typical Young fashion, with ol' Neil simply disappearing and letting his long-time some-time collaborator know their latest collaboration was at an end via telegram:
"Dear Stephen, funny how some things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil."
which is both awesome and such a dick move.

And other than the wonderful song "Long May You Run," and the fact that they erased David Crosby's and Graham Nash's vocals from the album shortly before release, that's pretty much all you know about The Stills-Young Band.

But then oh so many years later, thanks to Al Gore inventing the internet, you get a chance to actually hear one of the handful of concerts they actually managed to play before it all fell apart. And at first you're struck by just how kickass their electric version of "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" sounds. Secondly, you're so curious to hear how Neil is going to possibly replace Crosby's and Nash's vocals and delighted to find he does so remarkably well, with his high keening voice taking their places more than admirably. And then as the song goes on and the initial excitement wears off you start to realize that Stills sounds...not good. In places, he sounds fine, even better than just fine, perhaps. And in places, especially towards the end, he sounds, well, like shit.

And you start to wonder if maybe Neil left not because he's difficult—he is—but because he knew the shows simply weren't up to his lofty if at times confusing standards and you wonder how much other stuff you've gotten wrong over the years.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Look, I am an unironic, unabashed fan of 70s pop. Is it cheesy, trite, sometimes cringe-worthy? Of course. But then again, so are DT and I.

Which is to say I absolutely love this damn song. Even as I fully recognize that it's terrible.

I mean...terrible. 

And I love you best
You're not like the rest
You're there when I need you
You're there when I need
I'm gonna need you

A long time ago
I had a lady to love
She made me think of things
I never thought of
Now she's gone and I'm on my own
A love song has come into my mind
A love song
It was there all the time

So lady
Let me take a look at you now
You're there on the dance floor
Making me want you somehow
Oh lady
I think it's only fair
I should say to you
Don't be thinkin' that I don't want you

'Cause maybe I do

See what I mean? Do I lie? That's... listen, I don't need my pop songs to have lyrics worthy of Dylan. Sure, it's nice when they do, but you know what else works just as damn well? "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom." "Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-tee-da.""De-do-do-do-de-da-da-da." Certainly "Mmmbop, ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop, ba du bop, ba duba dop, ba du, yeah yeah." Actually, come to think of it, those are all Dylan-worthy.

So he loves her best, she's there when he needs her, but she's gone and he's alone, and he's clumsily macking on a dancer he's been ogling and what? When's this taking place? Do we have three separate timelines going on at the same time in some sort of time is an infinite loop and all times are now?

Of course now. What we have is an embarrassing mishmash and none of it really matters much 'cuz melody and tasty harmonies, not to mention some truly sweet bass work and an almost contrapuntal guitar solo. Oh my goodness all so good. (Seriously.)

Now. Having said that, in 2016, it's a bit hard to listen to songs like this and not feel at least a bit SJW and wonder if maybe the guy should take a step or two back, play it several degrees cooler and, most of all, be quite confident she should be keeping a close eye on her drink.

Finally, this line?

You're there on the dance floor making me want you somehow

"Somehow"? I think Erin Brockovich said it best.

Not rocket science, friend. So don't be a creep and act like she doesn't know exactly what it is that's making you want her. (And, I mean..."somehow"? Dude, come on.)

On the other hand: melody and tasty harmonies.