Unbiased reviews of new vinyl releases, audiophile reissues, and more

Friday, November 6, 2009

Short Spin: Crosby, Stills & Nash -- CSN Demos 180 gram vinyl


On the heels of the outstanding archival release by Stephen Stills, Just Roll Tape, Crosby, Stills & Nash have again gone back to the vaults with Demos, a collection of unreleased demo tracks recorded between 1968-1971. And like Just Roll Tape, the songs have an unvarnished quality to them that allows you to experience something new and different from songs that you've become intimately familiar with over the past three decades.

(Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, and David Crosby on the
couch featured on the cover of their self-titled debut)

While each member has four songs featured on this offering--and I mostly found Stills' solo vocals to be the most compelling, the one standout track has to be Crosby's haunting, Deja Vu. In this nearly seven minute demo verion, Crosby takes his time working his way to the climax, then scats his way through an extended coda to the end of the song.

Other standout tracks are Love the One You're With, where Stills' inspired vocals and bright, shimmering guitar really shine without the excess production of the hit version, and a short, but very sweet rendition of Stills' You Don't Have to Cry.

(David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash)

The 180 gram vinyl package is housed in a gatefold cover made of regular weight cardstock. The inner gatefold features a large photo of the trio and the back cover contains perfunctory songwriting and production credits. The inclusion of some liner notes would have been a welcome addition.

Warner/Rhino has begun to shift some of their vinyl pressing over to the Pallas facility in Germany, and this release was clearly pressed there as evidenced by the vinyl profile, deadwax numbering, and frosted poly-lined inner sleeve. The 180 gram vinyl arrived clean and flat, and while Pallas has a well-deserved reputation for producing ultra-quiet pressings, this one contained a few more ticks and pops than is usual for their vinyl.

(From left: Graham Nash, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, David Crosby)

Like Just Roll Tape, this vinyl release was mastered by veteran engineer Bernie Grundman. Fortunately, on this release, he had the advantage of working with better tapes and none of the distortion and clipping that was present on the Stills (Just Roll) tapes. What results is simply fantastic sound--and although the Stills tracks on Demos have the the most presence, every one of them (except, perhaps the mono demo of Music is Love) has outstanding fidelity, bringing the vocalist and guitar right into your living room. I dare you to try to listen to Deja Vu without turning it way up!

(From left: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills)

As nice as a great sounding vinyl reissue is, a great sounding release of new or unreleased material is even better. And with their last few archival releases, Warner appears to be on a roll--and has hinted that there is more to come. Stay tuned for info on the upcoming Stephen Stills Manassas reissues.

As I warned with Just Roll Tape, this is the kind of release that can go out of print on vinyl at any time. And while any music lover should be able to enjoy the simple, stripped down performances of these great songs, this fantastic sounding release is mandatory for any longtime fan of the group.


Related Review: Stephen Stills -- Just Roll Tape 180 gram vinyl


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