Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

  • Deja Vu [Atlantic, 1970] B-
  • 4-Way Street [Atlantic, 1971] B-
  • So Far [Atlantic, 1975] B-
  • American Dream [Atlantic, 1988] C+
  • Looking Forward [Reprise, 1999] C

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Deja Vu [Atlantic, 1970]
Of the five (or seven, I forget) memorable tunes here, N's "Our House" is a charming but cloying evocation of puppy domesticity, while both N's sanctimonious "Teach Your Children" and C's tragicomic "Almost Cut My Hair" document how the hippie movement has corrupted our young people. S half scores twice and in-law M provides the climax. Which leaves Y's "Helpless" as the group's one unequivocal success this time out. It's also Y's guitar--with help from S and hired hands T and R--that make the music work, not those blessed harmonies. And Y wasn't even supposed to be in on this. B-

4-Way Street [Atlantic, 1971]
Was it only two years ago that the formation of Crosby, Stills & Nash brought gladness to the hearts of rock and rollers who remembered that they loved tight songs rather than endless jams and believed that an ex-Hollie's pop sense would temper Byrds/Springfield folk-rock? Who would have figured that none of them would remember that rock and roll is also supposed to be funky--and fast. And that the best stuff on their live album would be the jams, dominated by the new guy, who would also write their tightest songs? And for that matter that a singalong of dig-its and right-ons by the man who wrote "For What It's Worth" and a goody-goody song about Chicago by the ex-Hollie would sound like political high points? B-

So Far [Atlantic, 1975]
This group might benefit from a compilation that concentrated on guitar interactions and uptempo throwaways. Needless to say, that's not the one we get. B-

American Dream [Atlantic, 1988]
Forget the careerist compromise, dazed ennui, and soggy despair, and take this hustle for what it pretends to be and at some level is: four diehard hippies expressing themselves. Poor old guys can't leave politics alone--there's more ecology and militarism here than when they were figureheads of pop revolution, and though the rhetoric is predictable, the impulse has a woozy nobility. Not that that's ever been reason to pay Graham's ditties any mind, or that Stephen's steady-state egotism is redeemed by stray references to judges and changing the world. But while David's cocaine confessional makes "Almost Cut My Hair" seem self-abnegating, his "Nighttime for the Generals" sure beats Sting. And Neil lends musical muscle and gets commercial muscle back. So, not as horrible as you expected--nor good enough to give a third thought. C+

Looking Forward [Reprise, 1999]
Right, you knew already. But though I pray I hear solo Y render the title song hopeful instead of smug, I know that in my head I'll still hear N harmonizing insipidly behind. And when S explains how when he was young old people were wrong and now that he's old young people are wrong and then disses "overfed talking heads" without ever once acknowledging overfed singing exhead C to his immediate left, I imagine some computer nerd with more brains than sense joining the arms race just to get even. Still a menace--and still conceited about it. C