Saturday, 3 September 2011

David Crosby & Joni Mitchell

So, I can't seem to get my head out of California, if my posts on here are anything to go by ...

I can't claim to have ever been a big fan of David Crosby. Aside from his part in The Byrds (coonskin caps and mystery-man capes noted) and the Buffalo Springfield, I'm not that familar with his work. And while he is recognised as a pivotal figure in the Los Angeles music scene of the 1960s, he seems often to be fairly modest about his own musical contributions.

He appeared in the fine BBC documentary, Hotel California: L. A. from the Byrds to the Eagles (skip to the 7:00 mark in the above clip for Crosby and Mitchell), but preferred to point to the artistic merits of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell rather than mention his own songwriting. That may be because he is more often thought of as a kind of sideman, rather than the singer out in front - who knows.

He may not be as singular a voice as those two, but all the same, I have been knocked sideways by the brilliance of his atmospheric 1971 solo album If Only I Could Remember My Name. It's a laid back, trippy album that seems to come - as it does, in fact  - from a different world, and a different kind of headspace; one where immersion, rather than distraction, was the aim. I'd guess that partly for those reasons it stands up today - because we seem to be awash in a popular musical culture that has given in to the shuffle, the randomisation, and the idea of the album as a collection of 'tracks', as opposed to a kind of 35-40 minute experience.

So, listen to the whole album in one sitting. This being a blog, though, I have to give you a chunk to sample. The following tune, 'Traction in the Rain' reminds a bit of Joni Mitchell - in the guitar work, and in some of the vocal phrasing - particularly a song that appeared in the late 70s, 'The Wolf that Lives in Lindsay'.

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