Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Live at the Fillmore East, Vol. 1

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This double-CD recording, made at the Fillmore East on June 4, 1970, from the rescheduled first week of the quartet's 1970 tour, nearly became an official release -- it was one of six Fillmore East dates that were recorded and filmed as part of an effort to salvage success out of a disastrous spring for CSNY; plagued by injuries (principally to Stephen Stills) and disagreements (original bassist Greg Reeves quit, and Neil Young ended up in a dispute with drummer Dallas Taylor, who never made it to this tour), the quartet almost didn't make it to the Fillmore. As it turned out, recordings made along the rest of the tour ended up included on the resulting official live album, Four Way Street, but they're in exceptionally good voice and good form here, doing some songs ("Tell Me Why," "Guinnevere," "Man in the Mirror," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," "Helplessly Hoping," "As I Come of Age") that never made it onto the official album. There's also a lot of good-humored talk about the fact that the quartet had nearly broken up three weeks earlier -- David Crosby jokes about the Byrds seemingly breaking up dozens of times, which gets Graham Nash joking (in mock regret) about the fact that the Hollies never broke up. There's a nasty and very funny vamp aimed as a barb at the former band of one member, by all of them, and the overall result is one of the most charmingly intimate live documents left behind by CSNY. As for the music, it's all played impeccably and sung even better, and the interpretations are fascinating -- "Helplessly Hoping" gets a forceful, electric guitar-heavy treatment that's a long way from its familiar studio rendition, and "Pre-Road Downs" is rough and ragged, but fun. And listeners get a complete "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," which elicits roars of approval from the crowd for Stephen Stills' playing. The sound is in stereo and a match for any legitimate live album of its era. Now if someone could come up with the film of this show....oh, and these are real CDs, not CD-Rs, and come complete with historical annotation (and if Crosby, Stills, Nash, or Young objects to this release, then they can pull a Grateful Dead and get it out legitimately -- and the film, too!).