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If I Could Only Remember My Name
David Crosby

Atlantic SD-7203
Released: March 1971
Chart Peak: #12
Weeks Charted: 18
Certified Gold: 4/8/71

David CrosbyMilking a profitable thing is a fine and honorable tradition in pop music, but like most crass things it tends to lose its charm fast. The past couple of years have seen the ubiquitous nebulas of musicians surrounding Cocker-Russell-Delaney & Bonnie milked almost to death. And if some of this year's best sellers are any indication, the immediate future will probably see both the over-taxed nostalgia for Buffalo Springfield and whatever Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young may ever have represented, throttled by greed and ego right into the same faddist bone-yard as the likes of Grand Funk.

Crosby's album, though better than long-obscure Buffalo Springfield bassist Bruce Palmer's new album The Cycle Is Complete, is not likely to go down in history, but it is not a bad album. While it's true that it all sounds pretty much the same, we must also note that nothing really jars. In fact, it would make a perfect aural aid to digestion when you're having guests over for dinner, provided they're brothers and sisters enough to get behind it, of course. The playing is sloppy as hell, very modal-funky and guitar centered, somewhat reminiscent of Alexander Spence's great Oar except without the genius, the outrageously eccentric vocal style (Crosby's singing here is even blander and more monotonously one-dimensional than Stills' on his solo album) or the originality of composition.

And oh, the songs! They may sort of mumble and drone into each other, but they sure got vibes! While never approaching the Cinerama weltanschauung of a Blows Against the Empire, If I Could Only Remember My Name does take a position, perhaps best exemplified by the words, almost childlike in their perfect simplicity, of the tribal chant composed by Crosby, Young and Nash (I think each of them wrote two words) which opens the album: "Everybody's sayin' that music is love/ Take off your clothes and ride the sun/ Everybody's saying that music is fun." And I'll bet they do have fun recording these things. It's long been obvious that they all love each other.

The undisputed masterpiece of the record is Crosby's own eight-minute talk-sung fiction, "Cowboy Movie." Musically it's not much more differentiated than a tape loop, but it's got a great plot which I won't reveal because I know how much fun everybody'll have listening extra-close for the 200th time trying to figure it out. I will way that it ends with Dave saying with bitter disappointment: "You know that Indian girl? She wasn't an Indian -- she was the law." You just can't trust anybody any more.

"Traction in the Rain" and "Laughing" are both fine songs, somewhat more substantial than their surroundings, the former sung with as much uncharacteristically clear and disciplined inflection as the latter is not. Although "Laughing" is probably the best thing here, with deep bass rumblings and a lost, crying steel guitar, all very affectingly reminiscent of the middle Byrds' deep Eastern-tinged grandeur.

And yes, before I forget, this album claims at various indefinable places to employ Nash, Young, four Deads, one Quicksilver, four Airplanes (Grace Slick on guitar), two Santanas, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby's brother, and a host of other beautiful people I should probably recognize and promise I will next time. What a gyp. I suggest not buying it until the boycott has forced 'em to dub in Steve Stills. They'll find room for him somewhere.

- Lester Bangs, Rolling Stone, 4/15/71.

Bonus Reviews!

David Crosby follows Messrs. Stills and Young of CSN&Y into the solo spotlight, and his matchless credentials from the Byrds mark this thrust a natural venture for this fine performer. Warm, breezy rhythms flow from Crosby's musical soul, and in his turn as director of CSN&Y successful acoustic sound, creates his own moods.

- Billboard, 1971.

This disgraceful performance inspires the first Consumer Guide Competition. The test: Rename Dave Crosby (he won't know the difference). The prize: One Byrds LP of your choice (he ought to know the difference). The catch: You have to beat my entries. Which are: Rocky Muzak, Roger Crosby, Vaughan Monroe. D-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

On his first solo album, the velvet-voiced hippie crooner invited half of Northern California to join him. It's vintage Crosby, ranking with the best of CSNY group efforts. * * * *

- Jeff Tamarkin, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Further reading on
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When David Crosby's girlfriend Christine Hinton died in a traffic accident in 1969, the singer was devastated. After barely making it through sessions for Crosby, Still, Nash, and Young's Déjà Vu Crosby sought an outlet in work for his debut solo album.

Recruiting musicians from his expansive circle of friends, including Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell, and Grace Slick, Crosby pieced the album together at a San Francisco studio over three months in 1970. Opener "Music Is Love" (featuring Nash and Young) evolves casually, as if from a jam, its title becoming a mantra. There is grit in Crosby's voice on "Cowboy Movie," another slow-builder that rises to a tussle of scratchy guitars against the drums' laidback slap. "Laughing" is a masterpiece -- glistening acoustic guitars, wistful pedal steel, and luminous harmonies. The delicate "Traction In The Rain," provides another highpoint; Crosby delivers a perfectly controlled, crystal-clear vocal.

But what marks this release out from its West Coast peers is the darkness at its heart. The restless "Song With No Words/Trees With No Leaves" features wordless scatting and shifting minor chords. "Orleans" is ripe with melancholy, ending in a scrabble of 12-string harmonics. And then there is the eerie a capella "I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here" -- its unsettling flurries of harmonies all provided by Crosby.

It made No. 12 on both sides of the Atlantic, and went gold in the United States -- but that's incidental. This is a unique, and uniquely moving set of songs.

- Robert Dimery, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Forgotten by rock history, and probably by most of its participants, this 1971 curio is a one-of-a-kind freak-folk apogee. It's a solo album in name only, since the Croz operates as a cosmic cruise director, bringing in pals like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia and Grace Slick. In hydroponic jams like "What Are Their Names," you can hear each guest wander into the studio, plug in, play a few licks, sing a few harmonies ("Peace is not an awful lot to ask" -- dig it!) and raid the fridge. Garcia steals the show, and the two killer tracks are the ones where he burns on guitar, playing in a dark "Wharf Rat" mood: "Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)," where Garcia cuts Jorma Kaukonen in a guitar duel, and "Laughing," featuring Jerry's profoundly sad pedal steel. * * * *

- Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone, 1/25/07.

 Reader's Comments

Gene OBrien

Crosby's first solo effort is a desert island album, did Bangs really expect to be taken serious with his ramblings! Rolling Stone frequently had it wrong, whether it be Jann Wenner's unnecessary and wrong criticism of Clapton's guitar paying or the magazine's amateurish reviews for Zep 1 and Funkadelic's Maggot Brain, the writing was more about how clever the author was trying to seem then it was about a serious critique!

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