David Crosby is a force of nature, a man who has in many ways led a charmed life. He has literally been “there and back” and thankfully he is still with us. He is in remarkably fine voice, playing beautifully and making fine new recordings. And at present, he seems very happy and content.
This was very much in evidence at the end of April when I had the good fortune to see Mr. Crosby performing in concert at a relatively small venue here in San Francisco, The Great American Music Hall (one of my favorite halls anywhere). The show was fairly jaw dropping.
First off, lets talk for a moment about his voice. David Crosby is a proof positive case in point that some artists can improve with age, like fine wine (if you’ll pardon the cliche). His voice sounds remarkable and he’s still that same guy who sang the now-classic CSN / CSNY tunes “Long Time Gone” and “Deja Vu” and “Almost Cut My Hair.” That pixelated rebel spirit is very much alive and well. The guy can wail on a ballsy blues and then shift gears to croon sophisticated jazz modes. This is the same guy who sang back up with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on his lush album On An Island (and tour). This is the guy who co-wrote “Eight Miles High” in his first band, The Byrds.
In concert these days, Crosby is flanked by longtime collaborators from his fine fine band CPR including his son James Raymond and guitar superhero Jeff Pevar. The rhythm section is rooted in the young Estonian bassist Mai Agan, — who was actively summoning the ghosts of Jaco Pastorious — and the super fine and sensitive drummer extraordinaire Steve Distanislao. The lovely sounding keyboardist Michelle Willis rounded out the sextet. All band members sing back ups.
This band can play anything, so you should go see them on this tour. Jeff Pevar’s playing is particularly jaw dropping.
Anyhow, getting to the review/preview at hand, while I was at the concert I went to buy a t-shirt at the merch table. There, the man selling Crosby & Co’s goods pointed out that the new album, Sky Trails — his third album in as many years — is presently being sold only at the shows, at this point on CD, and won’t be out until the Summer (I think he said June). So I figured this was a good opportunity to give you good folks reading Audiophilereview a little sneak preview of the recording.
Sky Trails, sounds really nice as CDs go, a modern (probably digital) recording made in a number of studios and mastered by the great Bernie Grundman. Rich guitar tones and lots of fat keyboard tones, from synthesizers to hammond organs, abound. Sky Trails is very much a collaboration between Crosby and his son James Raymond (whom some of you may not know discovered that Crosby was his biological father years after they’d been working together, a relationship that began in the ’90s!).
Musically, Sky Trails mines some of the territory explored by Crosby’s longtime friend Joni Mitchell back in the mid 1970s, incorporating a distinctive jazz feel flow. They even pay homage to Joni with a lovely cover of her “Amelia” (from 1975’s Hejira). Compositionally, I am guessing that the more keyboard-centric songs were driven by keyboardist Raymond while the guitar-oriented pieces by Crosby. Some of the tunes bear an almost Steely Dan-like vibe, particularly the sparkling opening track “She’s Got To Be Somewhere” which the band did at the concert I saw. They also tackled the politically charged “Capitol” from the new album. Two tunes that close the album, “Curved Air” and the poignant “Home Free,” also jumped out at me.
Good stuff, folks. David Crosby is on a creative roll, for sure. I reviewed the 24-bit, 192 kHz HDTracks download of his first comeback album (if you will) back in 2014 — called Croz — here on Audiophilereview. This new release reminded me that I need to get Crosby’s last album which came out in late 2016 called Lighthouse.
And there you have it: a new album from one of America’s great musical treasures. We should relish every note Mr. Crosby makes, especially as he’s sounding so good and creatively invigorated.
Its been particularly nice for this long time fan to see him back in the limelight, enjoying making new music again…
Indeed, it’s been a long time comin’ …