Graham Nash Reflections Review

Compilation. Released 2009.  

BBC Review

He always shoots from the heart.

Sid Smith 2009

Perhaps the most underrated member of CSN&Y quartet, this 3-CD retrospective spanning 40 years reminds us that Graham Nash's importance and value to that alchemical blending was never so much his writing but his unrivaled ear for harmony.

Nash was able to sense out the silver-tinged vocal line that would transform a simple tune into a great song. In The Hollies it was his high-flying vocals which often added a turbo-charged lift to lead vocalist Alan Clarke's straighter pop delivery.

Always a little too hip for The Hollies (publicly citing his admiration for Zappa's Freak Out back in 1966), he was keen to break free of the pop merry-go-round that had nevertheless found many him admirers in the States including The Byrds' David Crosby.

Having joined forces with Crosby and the phenomenally gifted Stephen Stills, Nash's ability to sift through the almost embarrassing wealth of melodic options generated when these guys opened their mouths often made the hairs stand on end.

As with, Voyage, the 2006 David Crosby anthology, there are alternative mixes, a few previously unreleased tunes, and Nash's own song by song guide in the 150 page booklet. And just like Voyage, there are both highs and regrettable lows.

The earnest balladeer featured on Nash's first solo album, Songs For Beginners (recently remastered and reissued) has many admirable qualities. Soaring guitar from The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and band-mate Phil Lesh's supple bass work add distinctive and enduring points of interest.

However, when Nash's stirring vocals are set next to David Crosby's wild talents, it's then that the fireworks begin. Musical soul-mates, their fluid approach to accompaniment is often jaw-dropping and one can't help but be impressed by such technique, or forgive them their 'stoney evening' indulgences.

Though some of the duo's later work, and that of the various reformations of CSNY, tend to be corseted in flabby 80s production, tracks such the tribute to guitarist Michael Hedges and those fallen in the Vietnam War resonate with pure feeling.

Sometimes criticised for the preachy aspects of his writing, at least Nash dares to speak his mind. Though some of it has dated badly, occasionally coming over as corny, he always shoots from the heart. It might be unfashionable these days but isn't this the kind of honesty we want from artists?

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