Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Big Sur Folk Festival September '69

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There's a lot of good unissued live and studio material from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 1969-1970 heyday. There's so much, in fact, that it makes this two-CD recording of their performance at the Big Sur Folk Festival in September 1969 relatively inessential, even for CSNY fans devoted enough to seek out stuff beyond their official catalog. That's mostly because the sound, though actually decent by 1969 live bootleg standards and not all problematic to listen to, is certainly by no means up to release standard. There are also few surprises as far as the songs presented at this concert, with the possible exception of an acoustic version (with background harmony) of Neil Young's "Birds." Nonetheless, for the devoted, it does have its value as a record of a notable event in their early performing careers, even if the Big Sur Folk Festival itself isn't nearly as well remembered (despite being documented on film) as the most celebrated such events of the era. Disc one is mostly acoustic, highlighted by Stephen Stills' "4 + 20" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," with the additional surprise of a couple songs by Dave Mason in what sounds like an unscheduled guest spot. Disc two is electric, including versions of "Wooden Ships," "Down by the River," "Long Time Gone," "Pre-Road Downs," and the less expected/famous "Bluebird Revisited" (later done by Stills on his second album) and Young's "Sea of Madness." During the acoustic set, you can also hear some surprisingly testy and acerbic chatter between the band and fans (and among the band), particularly as Stills goes after a heckler -- a scenario not clear solely from listening to this audio, but shown in the Celebration at Big Sur film documentary.