My original intent in creating this post was to briefly review all of singer-songwriter, David Crosby’s solo albums, but the 81YO died on January 18th while I was still working on some of the details. We’ll get to the reviews, but first a short intro and some important opening thoughts.
In spite of his highly-publicized, self-destructive behaviors, David Crosby had been a fixture in the American music scene for 57 years, first as a founding member of the legendary Byrds, then as a member of the Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young) super-group, and finally in a remarkable late-life musical surge.
I’ve enjoyed Crosby’s music since I was 13YO, with his distinctive, velvety baritone and impeccable vocal harmonies (one of the very best harmonists in rock ‘n’ roll history), his funky open guitar tunings, and his unconventional songs. In many of his tunes, Crosby asked serious questions about life, society, and the Universe. He didn’t have any answers, but his ponderings were one of the things the Lord used to get me thinking about my own mortality and spiritual circumstances. Ex-Byrd, Roger McGuinn, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone in 1977 and witnessed to his former bandmate several times, like in his 2019 tweet below.
Wow. That was quite a tweet. But Croz would have none of it. Several months following McGuinn’s tweet, Crosby blocked his old bandmate from his Twitter account. On the very last day of his life, January 18th, Crosby was on Twitter scoffing about Heaven (see graphic at far bottom).
Reviews: David Crosby’s Solo Albums
Crosby had a well-publicized falling-out with his CSN&Y bandmates (particularly Neil Young and Graham Nash) in 2016 and had been concentrating on his solo work in recent years. In fact, one could say Croz had something of a career renaissance in his old age, recording five very good solo studio albums in a span of only seven years.
It’s understandable that only serious Crosby fans would willingly endure detailed individual reviews of his 8 studio and 2 live solo albums, so I’ve put together very short summaries for all ten of the albums below. Fasten your seatbelts, friends! We’re going to do 52 years in 7 minutes!
If I Could Only Remember My Name
Crosby’s 1971 debut solo album reached the #12 spot on the Billboard Top LPs chart based solely upon the enormous popularity of CSN&Y at the time, but when fans gave the LP a spin on the turntable they were perplexed. What was this? Crosby had holed-up in the studio with his pals from San Francisco’s premier hippie bands – Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana – and created this weird collection of spacey tunes. Critics panned it at the time, but it’s garnered increasing respect over the decades. Atlantic-Rhino’s 50th Anniversary Edition released in 2021 has an hour of outtakes. Most noteworthy song: Laughing (with Jerry Garcia adding the stunning pedal steel guitar licks).
Oh Yes I Can
Eighteen years after his solo debut and four years after his incarceration, Croz released this mediocre solo LP, which is overwhelmed by co-producer, Craig Doerge’s 80s-style keyboards (including overdone 80s synthesizers). Strictly for the obsessive completist. Only noteworthy song: Tracks in the Dust
The best I can say about this album is it’s “mildly pleasant” to listen to. The songs are mostly covers with Croz claiming songwriting credit on just three of the ten tracks. The first five tunes outshine the remainder. Notable songs: First track, Hero (the Crosby and Phil Collins-penned song was actually a modest hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard US Adult Contemporary chart, listen here), and Through Your Hands.
It’s All Coming Back to Me Now…
Croz and his excellent back-up band give a fantastic live performance. The first five tunes are “newer” songs while the last five are from the CS&N and CSN&Y 1969-1970 glory days. Jeff Pevar plays some stirring electric lead guitar throughout. I played this album a lot back in the day. Notable songs: Rusty and Blue (listen here).
Blue Castle, 2014
Wow! Crosby recorded this mellow, jazz-rock fusion album twenty-one years after his last solo studio project and it’s a solid five-star gem. Crosby’s talented son, James Raymond, had a significant role in writing, arranging, and recording the tunes. Raymond’s keyboards tastefully complement the songs rather than taking center stage. Croz was released two years before the permanent breakup of CS&N and with this album Crosby was putting his old bandmates on notice that he was ready, willing, and able to go it alone. There’s an air of melancholy throughout as an aging Crosby wrestles with mortality and some of the other big questions of life. Crosby needed to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Notable song: It’s difficult to pick out one track because they’re all good, but I’ll go with Radio (listen here).
GroundUP Music, 2016
75YO David Crosby made the acquaintance of 32YO multi-instrumentalist and jazz-rock band leader, Michael League, and the two closely collaborated to create this wonderful album. No drums, just soothing melodies. Once again, Crosby inquires about “life’s big questions” and even gets close to the answer in “What Makes It So.” You should have picked up a Bible, David! Notable song: The album’s finale, By The Light of Common Day (listen here), was written and performed by Crosby and multi-talented Becca Stevens, who travels in League’s jazz-rock circles. Michelle Willis, another of League’s friends, adds back-up vocals. Both women will be heard from again as we continue this multi-review. Crosby no doubt wrote Things We Do For Love (listen here) for his wife, Jan, but also as a reprimand to his once-very close friend and colleague of 48 years, Graham Nash, for leaving his wife of 38-years for a young woman half his age. Croz and Nash never reconciled.
After his delightful excursion with what will later be referred to as the Lighthouse Band (League, Stevens, Willis), Crosby shifted back to collaborating with his son, James Raymond, on this fusion of jazz and rock. Once again we get lots of Raymond’s melodic arrangements and Croz pondering life’s mysteries. Excellent. Notable song: Becca Stevens guests on the beautiful Sky Trails (listen here).
Here If You Listen
Michael League returns along with Becca Stevens and Michele Willis to complement Croz on this exceptional album. Once again, no drums, just delightful, jazzy melodies and soaring vocal harmonies. Yup, you guessed it: as with previous albums, there’s lots of surmising about life’s big questions. Notable song: They’re all good, but check out Vagrants of Venice (listen here). Touring in support of “Here If You Listen” in 2018, the “Lighthouse Band” performed Becca Stevens’ Lean On, which isn’t included on this album, but is very enjoyable (here) if you listen.
Like back-and-forth tennis volleys, Croz rejoins his son, James Raymond, again for a good, but not outstanding album. Notable song: Lots of good tracks within, but nothing that really stands out for me.
David Crosby & The Lighthouse Band Live at the Capitol Theatre
This CD/DVD combo captures Croz and the Lighthouse Band (Michael League, Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis) at the historic Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY on December 8, 2018. The performance was the last tour date in support of the band’s “Here If You Listen” album reviewed above. Good stuff. Great to see 77YO (at the time) Crosby having a wonderful time with three young, talented musicians and singer-songwriters. As with the other Lighthouse Band projects, there are lots of guitars and keyboards, but no drums.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5:24