Crosby & Nash / David Crosby / Graham Nash

Crosby & Nash

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Arriving nearly 30 years after their last studio release (1976's Whistling Down the Wire), this double disc is a long-awaited return from Crosby & Nash, whose time has been spent in various permutations of CSN both with and without Neil Young. For better and worse, little has changed in the duo's approach. Their spare piano and acoustic guitar-driven melodic folk-rock propelled by those terrific harmonies remains consistent. On the downside, their songwriting problems -- which made their previous outings both as a pair and even with Stephen Stills such hit-and-miss affairs -- haven't improved. The mellow, adult contemporary sound doesn't help matters either, as it coats even the best songs with an amiable yet edge-free sheen that gets monotonous over the 20-song, 75-minute playing time. It's difficult to fault the positive messages, but the simple, occasionally simplistic lyrics range from charming to cloying. The opening "Lay Me Down" successfully reintroduces those patented sumptuous harmonies -- still intact after all these years -- over softly strummed guitars and just the hint of percussion. What both Crosby and Nash have lost, though, is their sense of a hook. Most of these tunes meander around searching for memorable choruses to strengthen clunky, sometimes obvious and forced lyrics. "They Want It All"'s vague recriminations about the greedy lack all sense of the mystery and imagination that typify their best work. The most potent tune is "Puppeteer," one of the few where the throbbing melody is strong enough to support the words. Like most double albums, this would have made a stronger single disc, especially since the combined time barely breaks 75 minutes. Nothing is unlistenable, and Crosby and Nash, along with some talented veteran (but ultimately faceless) backing musicians like bassist Lee Sklar and drummer Russ Kunkel, apply plenty of effort and craft into polishing every track. Both singers haven't lost a step vocally either, as their unaccompanied a cappella turn on the haunting "Samurai" plainly shows. Yet for all of Crosby and Nash's obvious work and dedication to this project, these songs seldom rise above the pedestrian. Undeniably pleasant but little more, this falls into the "good try" category. These two agreeable journeyman songwriters can't write enough quality material for a single disc, let alone a double, even after an extended hiatus.

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