Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)


Obligatory background goes something like this: David Crosby, member of The Byrds, CSN, CSNY, and a notorious drug-crazed hippie sets out on an apparent quest to remember his four-syllabled name. His first solo album (mentioned above) charts modestly at #12 in the U.S. but yields no hit singles. The album gets forgotten (I believe there is a theme here) in the seemingly endless parade of solo output by the likes of Stills, Nash, and most importantly, Young.

Obligatory afterward: Mr. Crosby fails to release another LP that even makes the top 100 on the charts, gets arrested multiple times for crack and weapons possession, and somehow finds the time to artificially inseminate Melissa Etheridge and her less famous partner, Julie….something.

Now that we know the completely useless facts, let’s get to the music. Recorded in the 1971, at a time when late 60′s euphoria had given way to bitter pessimism, the album stands as sort of an anomaly in time. Rooted in the hazy California vibe of years passed, it seems the album is either a product of resilient hope or utter drug-fueled delusion. Nonetheless, with song titles such as “Music is Love” and “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” you know your in for a massive dose of hippie hokum. The surprising thing is that his level of belief in his ways actually keeps If I Could Only Remember My Name afloat and never dissolves into pitiful self-parody.

Opening track “Music is Love” sets the album’s tone as a campfire dream floating in and out of your consciousness. Voices start, drop out, join back in, and eventually create their own cadence as the circular acoustic guitar and congas keep time. In keeping with this mellowed out vibe are songs that are evidently too stoned or lazy to have their own lyrics. “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” and (shocker!) “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)” marry intricate guitar work with CSNY’s patented wordless vocalizing stylistics.

What should just be another pile of pointless hippie nonsense turns out the opposite; the results are stunningly beautiful. The gorgeous “Laughing”, subtlety accented by Jerry Garcia’s pedal steel and Joni Mitchell’s heavenly coo, is such an eyes-roll-back-into-your-head reverie that you may lose all motor control while listening. Just a warning.

The only true “rocker” (and I use that term very loosely) is “Cowboy Movie”, which is basically an 8 minute extension of Crosby’s “Almost Cut My Hair” from the previous year. Stinging electric guitar, gruff vocals describing a tale out west, and and overall dusty feel lace this lumbering, lethargically paced slab of song. Sounds awful on paper, right? Except it’s actually pretty great, without a note wasted in it’s excessive length. The album closes out with a duo of short, vocally-highlighted mood pieces.

Hell, the whole album is a mood piece. Traditionally arranged “Orleans” with its complex acoustic picking, and the ghostly harmonizing of ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here” conclude the proceedings pretty much on the same note that they started; a druggy, yet peaceful fog.

It’s easy to understand how this LP got swallowed up in the early 70′s tidal wave of dissent for 60′s nostalgia, but it’s difficult to comprehend why it never got the homecoming and deluxe packaging it so rightly deserves now. If I Could Only Remember My Name is a blissfully sun-baked work of a collective of musicians set in their brilliant ways. Not for those of the attention-deficit variety, this warm, enveloping piece of art deserves to be heard on a turntable.

Don’t you hate it when all the music assholes say things like that? Yeah, I know. But with this forgotten gem, comparing vinyl with any other medium is like comparing Schwag with Northern Lights. Amiright, Dave?

April 4, 2013 - Posted by | David Crosby If I Could Only Remember My Name |

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