Produced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Label – Atlantic
When Neil Young joined the already successful Crosby, Stills And Nash, anticipation heightened beyond mere critical hyperbole with substantial justification. The debut “Crosby, Stills And Nash” had been well received by the press and musical peers, and Young’s album from the previous year (“Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”), is to this day, still revered as one of his outstanding releases. “Déjà Vu” took an exhausting six months and almost 800 hours to record, hindered by a combination of tragedy, squabbling ego’s and copious drug and booze intake. In September 1969, Crosby’s girlfriend Christine Hinton died in a car crash which led the singer to seek solace in a mix of heroin and cocaine which would be a recurring theme for years to follow. The tense recording process led to numerous battles of which Graham Nash found himself as much peace maker as musician. And yet despite the various negative distractions the four piece still managed to create a mostly gentle reflection of the West Coast, Laurel Canyon sound that epitomised the carefree landscape that surrounded them. Bass player and drummer Greg Reeves and Dallas Taylor were brought in to flesh out the songs, but generally it’s the ever pervasive vocal harmonies that dominate, allied by soothing acoustic backing that brings a warm and relaxed consistency to the collection.
Although considered a group effort, the individual song writer’s imprint is indelibly woven into each performance, particularly Neil Young’s input. His contributions are excellent, with the ambitiously produced “Country Girl” which transfers from simple piano balladry to close out with a vocal and harmonica filled crescendo that focus on his growing arrangement and compositional skills. Leading off with Stills’ optimistic hippy mantra “Carry On”, one feels that maybe the fading 60s promise of the peace, love and freedom revolution may yet appear, and this is its anthem. The harmonies are spine tingling, Stills’ guitar work exemplary and the laid back and yet uniquely uplifting beauty of the song makes selecting an outstanding highlight from this album an obvious choice. Graham Nash’s simple pop melodies work relatively well for “Teach Your Children” and the ode to his relationship with Joni Mitchell (“Our House”). In addition the original take on Mitchell’s “Woodstock” adds a new rock dimension and is undoubtedly a valid cover of a classic song. The closer, “Everybody I Love You”, written by Stills and Young is the punchiest rock workout of this collection, and one wonders if CSN&Y had continued as regular performers then this may have been an interesting prelude to the direction of further recordings. However, the continually tenuous nature of the group would lead to the decision to break up following their 1970 concert tour.
“Déjà Vu” contains the range and eclecticism that’s built by four diverse characters all stimulated by the thought that they can musically outdo each other, and the obvious competition provides us with some startling results.
1 – Carry On 9
2 – Teach Your Children 7
3 – Almost Cut My Hair 6
4 – Helpless 7
5 – Woodstock 8
6 – Deja Vu 8
7 – Our House 7
8 – 4 + 20 7
9 – Country Girl: A – Whiskey Boot Hill, B – Down, Down, Down, C – Country Girl (I Think You’re Pretty) 8
10 – Everybody I Love You 8