Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kat's Korner: Graham Nash Breaks Your Heart Again

Kat: When you're young you're fearless.  Life seems as though it will last forever.  That's why young deaths tend to shock.

Around thirty or so, many of us begin to acknowledge some concept that life is not limitless.  Or, for those who believe in reincarnation and/or the afterlife, that this life is not limitless.

"The question haunting me: Is my future just my past?"

That's something you ask as you get closer to the end.

Graham Nash is asking that on his new album THIS PATH TONIGHT.


The 74-year-old singer-songwriter was a member of The Hollies and of Crosby, Stills and Nash and a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

To offer some context, I'll quote the great photographer Henry Diltz from Matthew Greenwald's GO WHERE YOU WANNA GO: THE ORAL HISTORY OF THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS:

Earlier, in '67, I was staying in Greenwich Village staying with The Lovin' Spoonful, and taking pictures of the group, because their producer was my old roomate, Eric Jacobson.  During that summer, Cass [Elliot] came over with The Hollies, about three or four of 'em, and came over to Zal Yanovosky's apartmeant.  She said, "Hey, I want to bring some friends over." And that's the way she was, and she arrived with all these English guys that didn't know anybody, and we had a great little impromptu party in the afternoon, hanging out and telling sotries and laughin,' you know.  A lot of 'instant friends' and Cass, once again, was the catalyst to that.  I met Graham that next day, and I shot an album cover for The Hollies.  And then Cass introduced Graham to David later in L.A., and that was the beginning of the whole CSN thing.  Cass was very instrumental in making those things happen.  Cass was an exceptional person, and a great lady.

Graham was all over the sixties.

Paul Kantner and Jefferson Starship's classic album BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE?

From Patricia Kennealy Morrison's 1971 interview with the late Kantner (this interview and other of her rock and roll reporting and reviews are gathered in ROCK CHICK: A GIRL AND HER MUSIC The Jazz &  Pop Writings 1968 - 1971):

Paul Kantner: I even got Graham Nash to mix it down for me.  I had spent two and a half weeks trying to get it all together, had two-track tapes going up to the ceiling, and Graham came in and did it all in two days.  He did it all with headphones on.  I hated him for it.  But that made the mixed album fantastic for headphone listening, all these little weird things you can't pick up otherwise.  What we want to do next is to have Grace [Slick] and me and Crosby and Jerry [Garcia] and Phil Lesh and Graham and Neil Young and some more people all get in the studio and make a sequel album.

With Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, he wrote songs like "Marrakesh Express," "Teach Your Children" and "Wasted on the Way."

And, most especially, the classic "Our House" ("is a very, very, very fine house. . .").

That was about the home he shared with Joni Mitchell.

From "Our House" to, on the new album, "Back Home."

It's got a cryptic yet knowing feel to it, aided by an echo dropped on the music track and some great backing vocals.  The song, like others on the album, was co-written by Shane Fontayne.  It's one of ten tracks proper that make up the album (you can also get an edition with three bonus tracks -- the album's released Friday, April 15th, I'm reviewing via C.I.'s advanced copy which just has ten tracks).

And it's a strong song cycle, his strongest, in fact, since SONGS FOR BEGINNERS, his 1971 solo debut which remains a favorite of many.  In 2010, Elaine wrote about the album, noting:

Graham Nash was always my favorite of the three in Crosby, Stills and Nash. I like David Crosby and Stephen Stills (and love Neil Young) but Graham Nash's vocals and lyrics always spoke to me in a way that few ever manage to. I consider it one of the great losses of this period that Graham released so few solo albums. I think he easily outpaced other solo male singer-songwriters (including Jackson Browne and James Taylor) and that he could have been among the finest.

And he certainly proves that on THIS PATH TONIGHT.

Light is slowly fading
And the night comes on so fast
I'm drowning in my dreams
It's so hard to fight the past
When all is said and done
It's so hard to count the cost
And I'm going down
This lonesome road
To lose myself at last

"Myself At Last" is a standout track.  It's far from the only one.

"Beneath The Waves" is probably filled with deep lyrics and thoughts but I get lost in the music every time.  It's gorgeous.

"Another Broken Heart" is both moving and confident.

He's in top form here.

If this is to be Graham Nash's final album -- it may or may not be -- it would certainly be a strong bookend to his classic debut.

"Encore" closes the album asking what it means to face the end.  It's a song every rocker in his peer group probably wishes they could have written but it's pure Graham.  He's reminded us yet again that he is so much more than just a member of a 70s super group.

He's a true artist.

"My dreams are only memories but they've all gone by so fast."

And when a true artist explores what it all actually means, sometimes they can really get at something so real and so pure, it can break your heart.