This powerful Stephen Stills rocker opens Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s (CSN&Y) landmark album Déjà Vu (1970). This is a pertinent start, since “Carry On” was one of the few notably band oriented -- rather than primarily solo -- efforts on the disc. The combination of CSN&Y’s robust vocal harmonies when juxtaposed against both an acoustic as well as an electric setting, represent the two equally compelling facets of the “supergroup”. The song became a performance staple for the quartet and likewise synonymous with the burgeoning Album Rock movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Lyrically, this is a tale of love, loss and eventual liberation. As opposed to the gentle harmonic interplay on the self-titled Crosby, Stills & Nash (1968) LP, these vocals are distinctly powerful. Incorporating a unique call-and-response delivery, the trio of CS&N sing the first measure in unison with Stillscompleting the line on his own. At the end of the verses, the intense three-part vocal arrangement is revived to strengthen the a cappella bridge. Likewise, the track drives just as hard instrumentally. The combination of Stills blistering lead guitar, Dallas Taylor’s intuitive drumming as well as some inventive bass work from Greg Reeves defines this incipient incarnation of CSN&Y. Purists have argued that the band never sounded as strong or inspired as they most certainly do here.
There are two very distinct conclusions to “Carry On”. The original Déjà Vu version is coupled with two verses and choruses of “Questions” -- one of Stills lesser-known compositions from his tenure in Buffalo Springfield. This extension worked well by all accounts with a funky jamming quality that again highlights the vocal and instrumental supremacy of this combo. However, Stills re-recorded the instrumental backing track and included a “remixed” version of the song -- sans “Questions” -- on the half-baked and thankfully out of print CS&N compilation Replay (1980).
Both CS&N and CSN&Y have included “Carry On” in their respective concert performance repertoires and it likewise remains both an enthusiast favourite as well as a reliable musical vehicle. An extended and heavily jammed out version can be found on the live set Four Way Street (1971).