David Crosby- ‘Laughing In the Sun’-The 1971 LP ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’

by | Feb 8, 2015 | 6 comments


 David Crosby’s 1971 solo LP If I Could Only Remember My Name was developed in a time of great
emotional upheaval and intense creativity for Crosby and the contributing
musicians. Many if not most of the finest San Francisco musician’s fingerprints
can be found on the glass of the record. Often referred to as the ‘Planet Earth
Rock and Roll Orchestra’ the combination of talents can also be discovered
adding their unique abilities to other albums of the era. Jefferson Starship’s Blows
against the Empire,
Graham Nash’s Songs
for Beginners
, Mickey Hart’s Rolling
Thunder
as well as Paul Kantner/Grace Slick’s solo excursions feature many
of the same artists. David Freiberg, Neil Young, Michael Shrieve, Graham Nash,
Joni Mitchell as well as the members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson
Airplane all make appearances in various combinations equaling some mind
expanding and amazing music created in the early 1970’s. This beautiful time in
rock history will never be witnessed again, a time where wonderful
collaborations and a shared love of musical discovery took precedent over
record contracts, royalties and tour receipts. Spinning at 33 1/3 in the rock
room today is David Crosby’s 1971 masterpiece If I could Only Remember My Name.
 
Emotionally recovering from the loss of his lover Christine
Hinton from a devistating car crash, If I Could Only
Remember My Name
is the result of Crosby’s escape from depression and his
eventual refuge found through music and his friends. The collaborations
featured on the recordings did not occur in a vacuum, the relationships were
developed early on in the respective musicians careers. Paul Kantner, Crosby
and Stills collaborated on the songwriting of the CSN track ‘Wooden Ships’,
Jerry Garcia was a ‘spiritual advisor’/producer for the Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow album and David
Freiberg, Kantner and Crosby often cross pollinated each others work in the
early stages of their careers.
The LP opens fittingly opens with the aptly titled ‘Music Is
Love’. The song features three of the four principals of Crosby, Stills, Nash
and Young, with Stills the only member not appearing. The song encapsulates the
pervading attitude of the record with the ‘Music Is Love’ mantra harmonized by
Nash and Young while Crosby spreads a soaring free form vocal frosting over the
top. Young, Crosby and Nash interweave crystalline acoustic guitars with Young
offering his personal rhythm section of bass and congas and a ghostly
vibraphone. The campfire vibe song rises weightless like smoke, soaking into the glorious
melodic sunshine.
 The cinematic and epic ‘Cowboy Movie’ follows, spotlighting
the rhythm section of the Grateful Dead with Hart, Kreutzman and Lesh in
addition to featuring a Jerry Garcia and Neil Young in a dusty ten paces and turn guitar
duel. The story line of the tail fictionalizes the CSNY break up through the
premise of a spaghetti western and comments on some of the personal issues that
haunted the band, like certain principals relationship with the ‘Raven’ (Rita
Coolage).  Garcia and Young go toe to toe
through deft uses of moaning feedback and the perfect finishing of each other’s
guitar phrases. The heavy footed groove slowly gains in intensity, Crosby
shreds his vocals thrillingly eventually climaxing in an instrumental orgasm
that fades out much too soon. (There is a thrilling and extended version of
this track available on the David Crosby box set Voyage)
 

The cool night air of ‘Tamalpais High (At About 3) settles
in, again featuring the Grateful Dead’s Billy K. on drums and Phil Lesh on
bass. Garcia and the Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen hold the six strings while Nash
and Crosby handle the delicate wordless melody. Crosby stated that this song
was not really ‘received’ by ‘CSNY’ so it ended up on his solo record. A
quintessential Crosby melody, circular and umbrageous in its design, lyrical
content is not required due to the aural portrait conjured by the instrumental
and vocal alchemy. The organic blending of Crosby and Nash’s melody lines
slither over the morphing jazz groove driven by Lesh’s thumping Alembic bass
and Kreutzman’s multiple arms. Garcia and Kaukonen trade virginal clean tone
lines over the additively shifty composition.
One of Crosby’s most enduring melodies and enchanted
compositions, ‘Laughing’ follows and closes the first side of the record. Opening
like the birth of a vibrant sunrise, the songs design is again built  around the
Grateful Dead rhythm section featuring Lesh’s well timed and plump detonations.
Crosby’s glistening twelve string strums sparkle like solar rays through rain
drops. On top of all of the swirling magic Garcia lays a sleek and spectral pedal steel
line that is extremely emotive, acting as its own independent star sailing melody
line. The song lyrically is the search for answers and according to Crosby
directed to George Harrison and expressed psychedelically through a collaborative
chorus highlighted by the smooth styling of Joni Mitchell.
Flipping over the LP, the second side of the record begins with ‘What
Are Their Names’ a still relevant song that still features in CSN and CSNY set
lists to this very day, but now performed acapella. This original rendition is a
full band performance constructed around a descending set of changes. Three
crisp guitars wrap themselves around a central pole to open the song, Crosby,
Garcia and Young gently caressing the songs internal melody. As the drums and
bass enter (Shrieve and Casady) the song gains a slightly disturbing and
dramatic edge, Young and Garcia’s guitars bite deep. The finger pointing lyrics
are sung in huge super group choral fashion featuring but not limited to
Crosby, Nash, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, Laura Allen and possibly Crosby’s
brother Ethan. A stunning start to side two and a commentary on the organic creation of the music contained on the record.
‘Traction in the Rain’ follows next and allows time for Crosby
acoustic introspection. The drumless melody hangs weightless on woody strums
and finds Crosby and Nash on shimmering acoustics and Laura Allen contributing
on beautiful and cascading auto harp. Crosby’s vocals are some of the finest on
the record and the song would become a highlight of future Crosby/Nash duo performances.
‘Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)’ is a prismatic
meditation where in a role reversal, the music colors and supports the stunning
wordless Crosby/Nash vocal melody. The supporting players act as one swirling instrument
enveloped into each other through intent listening. The players cannot always
be confirmed on these resulting tracks, but my ear hears, Garcia, Kaukonen,
Shreive, Nash and possibly Young on piano. In the ‘rock room’s humble opinion
one of the finest tracks on the record. 
The final two songs of the LP are also wordless
compositions. In many ways this increases the emotional effectiveness and
melodic strength contained within the numbers. ‘Orleans’ is a traditional
French children’s song that lists the cathedrals of France. Of course Crosby
arranges it into a strange and weaving mood piece based around overdubbed
acoustics and his perfectly stratified vocals.
The album closes with the exhilarating and supernatural ‘I’d
Swear There Was Somebody Here’. A vocal only movement, Crosby is quoted as
saying he was in a good place, high as a kite and experimenting with the echo
chamber in Wally Heider’s studio. Crosby sang six different parts developed on
the spot, vocally improvised and bringing into existence a masterful
representation of his recently departed love. Crosby felt that the creation of
this song was initiated by Christine visiting him and/or making her presence
known to him during the song’s genesis. Something is definitely happening
during the brief apparitional and aural experience. This song epitomizes what this music
is all about, remembering, feeling, expressing and being in the moment. The
track is a fitting conclusion to the record and inspiring statement of Crosby’s
talent and the towering importance of the record in the pantheon of rock
history.
 
If I Could Only Remember
My Name
is not only a career defining statement for David Crosby it is also
a commentary on the collaborative and communal environment surrounding music in
the 1960’s and 1970’s. Friends created music on this record, credits or royalties
did not matter. What mattered was sharing in the making of something bigger and
better than its individual components. The songs contained on this record are
inspired by the joy of giving and creating and the proof lies within the jagged
grooves of its vinyl. The record is arguably David Crosby’s finest achievement and a photographic capture of some
of the contributing musician’s finest moments ever committed to tape. The record is a standard of
the rock room and a must have addition to any rock collection . (There are also a
multitude of outtakes of the sessions available for those willing to search)

6 Comments

  1. Shug

    Nice writing on one of the most beautifully psychedelic albums of all time. I heartily concur with ya, its a masterpiece and easily Crosby's best work, IMO. Where did you find the details of who played what on each track? I've spent some time guessing, but never had any of my guesses confirmed, really.

    Reply
  2. talkfromtherockroom

    Thanks for reading and your comments! I made some educated guesses like yourself on some tracks. Other tracks I gained information from the available PERRO bootlegs as well as various Grateful Dead books where there personal contributions were outlined.

    Reply
  3. Stephen Barncard

    "There are also a multitude of outtakes of the sessions available for those willing to search"

    Really? I'd like to know what you are referring to….

    Reply
  4. talkfromtherockroom

    Hi Stephen,
    Thank you for reading and commenting, I am a great admirer of your work. I picked up a four CD set of outtakes years ago at a record show. I have included a link below to a page I found that has information on that particular set. I was also alluding to the two outtakes available on Crosby's 'Voyage' box set. (Kids and Dogs, Cowboy Movie)

    Anything in the pipeline that you may be working on? I know a writer who would love to do liner notes… 🙂 If you want to reach me not on the post please message me: talkfromtherockroom@gmail.com

    Link: http://silveradoraremusic.blogspot.com/2010/07/david-crosby-perro-sessions-1971-part.html

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Great post & web site (I just found your blog). I also really liked your piece on Tim Buckley's Happy Sad. I saw Tim many times, and loved all his different phases.

    As far as IICORMN goes, Stephen Barncard has listed all the players on each track, no need for guessing:
    http://iicormn.com/wordpress/?page_id=41

    Stephen has done some great work over the years. You can find his discography here:
    http://mixstream.org/includes/discolisting.irev
    I seem to have a great many of the above discography.

    Bob W.

    Reply
  6. talkfromtherockroom

    Thanks for commenting Bob and for the info! I wish I could have seen Buckley live. Now I just wait for the time machine.

    Reply

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