This is one of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s (CSN) signature tunes and rightfully commences their landmark self-titled debut album. It was also chosen as the band’s second single b/w “Long Time Gone”, grazing the Top 20 and peaking at #21. This Stephen Stills composition is divided into several notable movements -- which are stunningly augmented by the additional vocal harmonies of David Crosby and Graham Nash. Although initially coy about the origin and inspiration behind the track, it was later revealed that Stills muse was none other than folk singer/songwriter Judy Collins. In the liner notes booklet of the Crosby, Stills & Nash [Box Set] (1991), Stills recalls that the various segments “poured out over several months and filled several notebooks. … I was left with all these pieces of songs and I said ‘Let’s sing them together and call it a suite,’ because they were all about the same thing and they led up to the same point.” The author also indicates that the “little kicker at the end about Cuba was [added] just to liven it up because it had gone on forever and I didn’t want it to just fall apart.” The complete change in tempo, rhythm and style was likewise intentional as he adds that the trio “had sung all these lyrics about one thing” and so Stills mused “let’s change the subject entirely. [We] even did it in a different language just to make sure that nobody could understand it.”
The emphasis of the track is rooted acoustically, with a decidedly organic and otherwise unencumbered melody. This is juxtaposed against a multi-layered and highly complex vocal arrangement. Beneath that is further musical strata featuring Stills on electric guitar, electric bass and percussion as well as former Clear Light member Dallas Taylor on drums. Interestingly, Taylor’s contributions were to initially compliment the entire track. They were ultimately mixed out until the song’s final section [read: featuring Stills singing in Spanish]. The original mix can be found on the previously mentioned four-disc Crosby, Stills & Nash [Box Set] -- with Taylor’s contributions intact throughout.
There are a few note worthy live versions of the tune as well. Among them are the heavily overdubbed reading which turned up on the soundtrack for the film Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music [25th Anniversary]. In a highly controversial move, the cut is listed as the opener on CSN&Y’s two-disc concert LP Four Way Street (1971) . However, what is included amounts to less than 40 seconds, fading in during the tail-end of the song.
A passable rendition from the recently reunited trio is included in the No Nukes (1980) video -- but not on the multi-disc soundtrack. Additionally, the performance videos Daylight Again (1983) and the Acoustic Concert (1992) include excellent respective renditions.