Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
CSNY 1974 (Atlantic)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Aug. 1, 2014
Woodstock be damned. Peace, love, and understanding sprouted in January 1967 during San Francisco's Human Be-In, peaked three summers later at Max Yasgur's 600 acres in upstate New York, and died that December (1969) at the hands of the Hells Angels securing Altamont Speedway for the Rolling Stones. Nixon, Vietnam, and Watergate won out. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed at both Woodstock and Altamont, a beacon of folk idealism at the former, and harbinger of ego and excess by the latter. Not having toured since 1970, the harmony constant quartet reunited for the stadiums cash-grab now exhumed on the 3-CD/1-DVD CSNY 1974, pieced together from 10 shows out of 31. "It was the Never Ending Tour that went on and on and on," according to tour manager Chris O'Dell in the documentary-worthy mini-book of liner notes. "The most dysfunctional gathering of egos in the history of rock & roll." In 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young says of the final show at Wembley, "We were either too high or just no good. I am saying too high. I know we were really good at our best." Set producer Graham Nash excavates the latter brilliantly, stitching together a three-plus-hour tour de force of ragged but right Seventies rage, rife with ample warhorses ("Love the One You're With," Wooden Ships"), corrosive protests ("Almost Cut My Hair," "Ohio"), irascible grit (the producer's "Grave Concern," Stills' "Johnny's Garden"), and Young's heartbreaking spine of songs ("Helpless," "On the Beach"), including five previously unreleased. The craggy acoustic set sandwiched between electric workouts (metallic "Black Queen") counts off the hits ("Only Love Can Break Your Heart," "Guinevere," "Teach Your Children"), never better than Nash's breathtaking piano rendition of "Our House" at Wembley. Glimpse it on the rather short-shift, bootleg quality 40-minute DVD, where the foursome's harmonies cut through the cynicism of the times like a dove finally vanquishing the hawk.