After spending nearly nine months as a guest of the Texas penal system, veteran rocker David Crosby emerged from his incarceration sober and brimming with ideas that had previously been stunted due to decades of substance abuse. In many ways Oh Yes I Can (1989) -- Crosby's second solo effort during his two-decade-plus career -- is a musical rebuttal to his equally vital debut effort, If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971). Even the album's title appears to indicate his newly achieved success and freedom from the haze that so indelibly influenced the earlier compositions. Along with a cast that rivals the all-star crew featured on his first platter, Crosby is joined by the likes of James Taylor (vocals), Jackson Browne (vocals), Bonnie Raitt (guitar), Larry Carlton (guitar), David Lindley (guitar), and Michael Hedges (guitar). While pop and rock styles have changed dramatically during the 18-year disparity separating the two LPs, perhaps not surprisingly, true sonic craftsmanship hasn't. Although Crosby is known for rebellious rockers, including "Almost Cut My Hair" and "Long Time Gone," the real growth in his songwriting and arranging occurred on intricate melodies such as the wordless, jazzy, scat vocal splendor of "Flying Man" or the stunning "Distances." In fact, the latter tune instantly recalls the minor-chord changes that he and Jerry Garcia once worked up on an informal jam titled "Kids and Dogs." The reflective and introspective "Tracks in the Dust" and title composition "Oh Yes I Can" exude a catharsis-like healing that has become a leitmotif throughout Crosby's body of work. The evidence ranges from "Guinnevere" and "Traction in the Rain" to even later pieces such as "1,000 Roads." The bluesy "Drop Down Mama" as well as the pulsating struggle of "good vs. evil" on "Monkey and the Underdog" are certainly not without considerable merit, but pale when juxtaposed beside the more emotive material.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer