Sunday, March 16, 2014

“Croz,” by David Crosby

This album has been universally praised among critics. As well it should be. I did stumble, however, upon an amusing outlier from a student newspaper, The Badger Herald, that reviewed, or rather, eviscerated this album shortly after its release, with the cynical, smart-ass (and likely 19-ish year-old) reviewer asserting, “Croz is not disappointing because of the banal lyrics or the unoriginal music, but because there’s little passion left to give the songs the spice they need to surprise, inspire and move us.” The reviewer went on to reveal a painfully shallow grasp of Crosby’s legacy, among other things confusing a CSN&Y hits compilation with a studio album, confusing authorship of songs, and citing their own “baby-boomer parents” collection of “innumerable” CSN albums (they made exactly 5 studio albums together). And beyond these cringe worthy errors, this young reviewer is stunningly wrong about this remarkable album.

I guess it’s inevitable that new albums from established artists (legendary, in this case) will be compared with their past work, and comparing Croz to Crosby’s ensemble work (e.g., The Byrds, CSN, CSN&Y, Crosby-Nash, CPR) is understandable, as even his solo albums are highly collaborative, but if anything, Croz is more akin to the “hung-over spirituality” of Crosby’s 1971 classic solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name. In fact, I suspect the new album’s title and cover photo might be a response to that first solo album from over 40 years ago. Both feature a close up of the artist’s face, the first a dramatic portrait of the artist as a young man, the second portrays a clear and bright headshot of the artist at 72; the first album was meandering, looking for answers to questions, the second is tighter and more focused, offering solutions: an eponymous, bookended artistic statement. The albums work remarkably well together. Speaking about the music on the album, All Music’s, Stephen Thomas Erlewine agrees:

Croz is…the only other solo record of Crosby's that attempts to reckon with similar emotions and sounds. That Croz prefers certainty to the untrammeled melancholy of If I Could Only Remember My Name is a reflection of where he stands in 2014

The music is, with a few modern embellishments from his collaborators, Daniel Garcia, and Crosby’s son, James Raymond, classic, folk-rock: a genre that exists, in no small part, due to Crosby’s own pioneering work. The lyrics on Croz are more instructive than interrogative. The melodies are strong, throughout, but three tracks standout: the lead cut, “What’s Broken,” which features guitar work from Mark Knopfler, “Dangerous Night,” the most contemporary sounding track, and the album closer, “Find A Heart,” a jazz-rock fusion featuring sublime trumpet improvisation by Wynton Marsalis and ethereal vocals by Crosby. It’s 2014, and Crosby still sings like an angel. The album makes me yearn for more from David Crosby, which is probably too much to ask. After all, 11 individual/collaborative solo album’s in 40 years ain’t so bad, plus the CSN/CSN&Y reunions – not too shabby an output for a man who has faced his own fears and lived to tell about it. Time and again.