If you haven’t been listening to the music of David Crosby in the last 25 years you may be in for some surprises. He’s been on a grand trajectory since the late 90s crafting some of the best music of his career. And what might be surprising to some of you is that this new music doesn’t necessarily sound like your typical Crosby Stills & Nash record or even a Crosby-Nash album.
Lifting off from influences like Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan (reportedly his favorite band), Crosby’s newer music melds jazz, rock, folk, world-beat and other influences into a beautiful, haunting, tasty blend. To bring this music to public attention he formed a group in the late 1990s called CPR, short for Crosby, Pevar, and Raymond.
Jeff Pevar is a genuine guitar hero who can play anything thrown at him and then some. James Raymond is a brilliant keyboardist and composer (and it turned out that he was a long lost son of Crosby’s!). And if you are reading this review I do hope you know who David Crosby is but just in case, here is a wiki link telling his story (click here). That Crosby & Raymond got along as friends and musical compatriots is even more remarkable on top of the basic father and child reunion.
The music they have been making together ever since — CPR formed the core of his current Skytrails band — has been wonderful. It is worth noting — important even, really — that these father-and-son harmonies are a bit different than what Crosby did with his earlier long time music partner Graham Nash.
The voices blend in a way that is unique to family members. Siblings and family members can create unique harmonic textures because of their similar physical make up — vocal cords, nasal cavities, mouths, etc. They are effectively cut from the same cloth.
So-called “sibling harmony” is a real thing — click here, here and here for a few articles on the topic. Then consider that The Beach Boys and The Osmond Brothers had that special magic as did The Cowsills. The alt-folk trio The Roches certainly had that element which added to their distinctive vocal blend.
Now you may be wondering why am bringing this all up right now after all these years. Well it turns out that the first two albums by CPR — CPR and Just Like Gravity — have been re-issued for the first time in about 20 years so they are long overdue for revisitation.
The new Digipack design on the CDs is arguably nicer than the simple jewel-box originals and each features liner notes by long time Crosby fan (and personal friend of the man as well as Grateful Dead authority) Steve Silberman.
And here’s the bigger rub: you can get these albums for cheap! I ordered mine on Amazon for about $13 apiece which was very fair and they sound really good! If you click on the highlighted album titles anywhere in this article you’ll jump to their respective Amazon pages.
Listening again with fresh ears, some of the songs that have been jumping out at me on the self titled debut CPR include the gorgeous closing track “Time Is The Final Currency.” Its cool to hear the studio version of “Rusty and Blue” (which debuted on Crosby’s 1995 live album Its All Coming Back To Me Now). The opening track “Morrison” discusses the mythology of The Doors’ lead singer. I could hear Joni Mitchell singing the especially gorgeous “At The Edge” — imagine a hybrid of her early ’70s Blue-era and later jazz-infused journeys but backed with lush harmonies as only Crosby can construct.The killer slinky groove on “Somebody Else’s Town” elevates James Raymond’s great lead vocal yet as soon as the harmonies kick in, there is that family harmony sound I was talking about earlier – in a perfect world, this should have been a hit on the radio.
On the second CPR album Just Like Gravity the group avoids the dreaded sophomore slump with a batch of songs arguably even stronger and more focused. Included are more shoulda-been hits like “Jerusalem” and the opening track “Map To Buried Treasure.” I can imagine that a song like “Gone Forever” might have made it on to a Crosby-Nash album if it didn’t have the cool time changes at the bridge jam from 4/4 to 6/8 time (and I mean that in the best possible way).
If you haven’t been up on all the things that David Crosby has been doing in the last 20 years or so please click here to read my recent round up discussing a whole bunch of his recent albums. They’re all really quite wonderful, Made all the more remarkable by the fact that he’s in great voice and his guitar playing still impeccable. In fact I think he’s arguably playing better than in the past if that is possible.
Get these CDs to support these fine artists.