Rhino Hi-Five: Crosby, Stills, & Nash
Crosby, Stills, & Nash were an early and well-regarded folk-rock supergroup that are responsible for a great deal of excellent songs in a career that extended for many years. Rhino has tried their usual task of summarizing a lengthy and productive career into five retrospective tracks that serve to introduce those who are unaware of an act’s catalog to some of the songs the Rhino label finds to be notable. Here is a track-by-track review:
Pre-Road Downs: This song is a short one, with a somewhat basic set of lyrics, that features the usual CSN harmonies and also includes apparent references to the need to hide the roaches–which I am going to guess have to do with the group’s marijuana smoking here.
Daylight Again: This song, the title track of the early 1980’s album that featured hits like Southern Cross and Wasted On The Way, is a haunting track about the threat of doomsday, with suitably minor-key instrumentation and the usual lovely harmonies that one expects from this group.
Song With No Words: This song literally has no words and features the members of the group harmonizing nonsense syllables over acoustic instrumentation. Since it serves as more or less an instrumental, it is not a song that one needs to analyze as much as enjoy, since it contains a great deal of what makes the group enjoyable anyway.
Song For Susan: This song is a somewhat obscure ballad but it’s certainly a lovely one, even if it not nearly as well known as some of the band’s other songs in this vein.
Live It Up: This song has some driving 80’s production, including the drums, and the thematic call to live it up that sounds like pretty bog-standard rock for the time. If this song isn’t exactly the most representative song of the CSN catalog, it is certainly an enjoyable song that demonstrates how the group was able to survive the changes of pop-rock music into the 1980’s.
Even as someone who has listened to several of these collections now and who is used to the fact that the collections often select only a very small and not very representative part of an act’s catalog, this song’s choice of five songs is deeply baffling. There are many recognized and excellent hit songs that CSN, or CSNY, or perhaps even CN had that could have been placed here as a way of reminding listeners that they were already familiar with the group but did not know. Songs like Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, Ohio, Our House, and many others (including a couple already mentioned above), could have been put on this collection, but while the songs here are obscure and few casual listeners of the group are likely to know them, they are good songs and that is enough to make this an enjoyable collection, if a somewhat puzzling one in not including any hits whatsoever.