Monday, January 14, 2008

David Crosby, and the dream of a better world

Sometime today David Crosby’s “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” came into my mind, and hung around with me for hours. A haunting, wordless track from his wonderfully spacey 1971 album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, the tune gently rolls with multi-tracked vocals by Crosby, along with guitars by Jorma Kaukonen and Jerry Garcia. This LP has been a favorite since the early 70’s, one of those albums I wore the tracks out on, and never replaced on CD until just recently. There's so much to love -- the long, electric saga "Cowboy Movie," the graceful cry for peace "What Are Their Names, " and the breathtakingly beautiful "Traction in the Rain" and "Orleans." The record cover unfolded to reveal a photo album of San Francisco's finest, including members of the Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and CSNY. The album was reissued last year, and I finally got reacquainted with this old friend after several decades away -- and discovered that I still knew nearly every lyric and melody by heart.

If I Could Only... came at the right time in my musical progression, when I was about 14 or 15, and the album had been out a year or so. Crosby wasn't afraid to shuck any pretense of commercialism, and he recorded a record awash with rich harmonies and all the promises and hopes of a better world. As a young kid listening to every record he could get his hands on, Crosby's message resonated: music is love, a small cabal of men run this country and they don't care about peace, art and politics belong together, and there is beauty amidst the clamor. It was a time when the nightly news was filled with Vietnam, the cities were rumbling, race relations in my home North Carolina were shaky, and I was catching hell because I tried to grow my hair out. This recording embodies the whole hippy dream, of course, and the message was beautiful and the music and singing gently soared above it all. There wasn't a hit on the entire record, and that was just fine. Art transcended money any day, he seemed to be saying, and it's a message that's resonated ever since. So I'm thankful on a day when one of these melodies comes to romp in my conciousness for a while, making me smile and hum to myself as I do my quotidian tasks. Thanks, David. It's still a great record.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love rock - basically country rock Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Commander Cody, Hot Tuna, Little Feat, The Allman Brothers, Flying Burritos - basically a lot of what I like is the old Marin COunty late 60's - the late 70's sound.

A group that is always played on AOR radio up here in NY is CSN/CSNY.

But I never got into them. I picked up a Manassass CD and started to listen and Crosby's first solo LP is amazing. I no longer partake in smoking illegal contraband but I could see this would be an album to really enjoy then - Maybe evn more than I enjoy now.