sun 01/08/2021

Album: David Crosby - For Free | reviews, news & interviews

Album: David Crosby - For Free

Album: David Crosby - For Free

Age has not withered him

Déjà vu, all over again: a portrait of the artist by Joan Baez

David Crosby hit the headlines a few months back, another artist selling his song catalogue in order to secure his house. These days musicians must stay on the road to earn a living and sell records. It’s a punishing life, even for the young and fit. When you’re pushing 80, especially when you’ve spent years punishing your body, it becomes a real challenge, but it’s the only way to survive.

Croz has no plans yet to hit the road again – the tour bus is just too uncomfortable, tendonitis makes playing guitar difficult – and he spent a chunk of lockdown sequestered in his son’s LA garage working on the album now released as For Free. For a guy who often seems so pessimistic, it’s an upbeat album, and very beguiling. The voice is in great shape still and the perfectly placed harmonies sure take you back to the good old days. Everything is beautifully played and sung, and from the first notes of “River Rise” to the closing chords of the powerful “I Won’t Stay Long”, you’re borne aloft. Woodstock all over again.

It’s an album full of light and air and wonderful textures, the close and soaring harmonies very reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the first real supergroup. Close your eyes and listen to “The Other Side of Midnight”, written by his son, James Raymond. The voice is remarkable: not the sound of a grizzled octogenarian. Croz turns in a series of wonderful performances. “Rodriguez for a Night” was written specially for Crosby, a long-time Steely Dan fan, by Don Fagen. A sort-of rock-jazz fusion full of vivid imagery and the heaviest cut on the album, it still features those trademark harmonies. “Secret Dancer” is another beauty, horns and brushed cymbals adding a smoky feel, harmonies this time married to something altogether different. The song ends in mid-flight.

As on his last album, Here If You Listen (2018), Crosby dips into Joni Michell’s catalogue, “For Free”, culled from Ladies of the Canyon, her hymn to the Laurel Canyon scene and her complicated relationships with the local musicians. It’s one of his favourite songs from the woman whom he believes is “the greatest living singer-songwriter”, which is a remarkably generous assessment since she gave him his marching orders in “That Song About the Midway”, delivered at a party. He’s joined by Sarah Jarosz, their voices closely entwined above a jazz-inflected piano arrangement.

The remarkable cover artwork is by another sometime lover: Joan Baez, whose 1976 song “Stephanie’s Room” elliptically recalls time spent with Crosby at the Wheatleigh Mansion near Tanglewood.

Liz Thomson's website

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