Crosby, Stills & Nash


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This disc was originally to have coincided with the release of the cinematic film War Games -- as the song had been written, recorded, and was even used in early promotional trailers. Likewise, it became both the opening for this album as well as the A-side of a 45 rpm single with the belief that it would be prominently featured in the film. At the 11th hour -- and for mostly political reasons -- the song was removed from the project. So what hit record racks as Allies was a perplexing collection of studio and live tracks -- some dating back over half a decade. Although haphazardly compiled, the lack of cohesion doesn't diminish the value of a majority of the album's performances. In addition to Stephen Stills' up-tempo synth-laden rocker "War Games," Graham Nash co-wrote Allies' other new tune -- the comparatively tame ecologic and politically aware "Raise a Voice." Tellingly, neither tune contained involvement from David Crosby, who was out of commission during most of the '80s. His presence was felt, however, in the concert recordings which were chosen primarily by Nash and derived from two different shows: a 1977 Houston, TX, performance and a more recent 1982 show at the New Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, CA. From CSN's November 22, 1977, Houston show is one of the highlights of this package -- David Crosby's acoustic cover of Joni Mitchell's "(He Played Real Good) For Free." Crosby's interpretation gives a lonesome renegade quality to the composition that is subdued from Mitchell's own readings. During the final lines, Nash joins Crosby for some unmistakably gorgeous harmony vocals -- proving their inherent value as a duo. The band version of "Shadow Captain" that also hails from the 1977 show is indeed passable, if not a bit reserved, as it varies little from its studio counterpart. The entire Houston performance was simulcast throughout North America and truncated segments of the show have been rebroadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour syndicated radio program ever since. The remaining six performances come from a November 19, 1982, show that not only was simulcast live, highlights were compiled for the Daylight Again home video release. Again, the conspicuous absence of David Crosby's normally robust vocals and fretwork indicate the nonentity/liability his on-stage presence had sadly become. Among the highlights in this batch is the cover of Paul McCartney's "Blackbird" -- which easily bests the Beatles' White Album version with some surprisingly agile vocal blends from the trio. A rambunctious electric "For What It's Worth" closes Allies on a definite high note with Stills asserting himself as the preeminent electric guitarist that he was during this era. As the album failed at the cash register and subsequently on the charts, it remained out of print in North America since the mid '80s. In August of 1990, Atlantic Records Japan licensed Allies for compact disc. Few import copies made it to the States before the title became the subject of international legal wrangling at which point it was deleted -- making it highly sought after by fans and collectors alike. While it is certainly not an accurate career retrospective or really even a decent live album, Allies has a few bright moments and is worth at least a listen.

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