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If I Could Only Remember My Name
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Audio CD, Import, 9 August 1988
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- Is Discontinued By Manufacturer : No
- Product Dimensions : 12.29 x 14.3 x 0.99 cm; 98.09 Grams
- Manufacturer : ATLANTIC 0191
- Manufacturer reference : unknown
- Original Release Date : 1988
- Run time : 37 minutes
- SPARS Code : AAD
- Label : ATLANTIC 0191
- ASIN : B000002I6T
- Number of discs : 1
- Best Sellers Rank: 33,059 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
- Customer Reviews:
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Only available on vinyl in the US. For his highly anticipated 1971 solo debut, David Crosby recorded a unique, eclectic, and willfully expansive album. The cream of early-70s California rock is assembled here, withthe various celebrities joining together in an organic, collective approach that's embodied in the opener, the free-spirited jam of "Music Is Love". Throughout the record, Crosby moves from the sauntering Western shuffle of "Cowboy Movie" to the wondrously spiritual harmonies of "Tamalpais High (AtAbout 3)" and, eventually, the hallowed chants of "I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here". Musically the album has an exploratory, almost jazzy feel, with its bright production cloaking the listener in acoustic strains and lush, layered harmonies. These qualities perfectly evoke the relaxed, hazy California lifestyle of the time. For all its dreaminess though, IF I COULD ONLY REMEMBER MY NAME rarely missteps, and thehaunting melancholy of songs like "Laughing" and "Orleans" give the record a depth and durability that surpasses other recordings of the time. The result is an excellent, highly underrated album.
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The songs are weak sometimes being little more than a few chords repeated time and time and time and time again over which the participants noodle phrases which go nowhere.
Unfortunately typical of a lot of the 'music' of the time.
The musician's who worked on the album included Kaukonen, Slick, Casady and Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Garcia, Leisha, Kreutzmann and Hart of Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash and many others.
The creative influence of these brilliant musician's is tangible, but the sound created is nevertheless 'neutral' and not comparable to any other kind in the bay area during the period when it was recorded.
The album is a sad and dreamy lament that is overlayed by a philosophical resignation and existentialism. It is as if Crosby is in some kind of mystical psychedelic trance communicating with mirages and ghosts. The album opens with the slow progression 'Music Is Love', consisting of a mantra of a single verse ('everyone says that music is love') which is endlessly repeated by Crosby and choir in a trance like way.
'Laughing' is one long note as if suspended between earth and heaven before returning to a resonating echo before it gradually fades into the silence of 'What Are Their Names'. The whispered tinkling guitar and harp strings of 'Traction In The Rain', evoke crystalline waterfalls, whilst 'Song With No Words' is like an intense extraordinary opera which is evocative of a subdued and poignant prayer in which the singing soars in a sublime flight.
With the closing hallucinatory 'I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here', a cry of joy and despair is exuded which is a kind of corrective to the ambiguous dream and mystical states that preceded it. The album is a tonal, harmonic almost baroque masterpiece; a rhetoric that exudes a unique ecstasy and aestheticism that is reminiscent of impressionist paintings.
'If I Could Only Remember My Name' is an absorbing experience that remains one of the Most touching documents of the post-hippie era.
Tragically underrated on release, despite the forbearance offered by his tracks ‘Déjà Vu’ and ‘Almost Cut My Hair’ on the previous year’s CSN&Y album, these nine tracks are strongly reminiscent of an era when musical experimentation was strong aided often by drug use, religious and spiritual freedom was acknowledged and folk music mixed easily with mainstream pop or rock. I’m not sure you’d ever find such a culture mix in today’s anodyne anti-climactic, stage-managed music scene. This album both reflects the sixties counter culture and fulfills the seventies anti-establishment gig. It is a much underrated masterpiece and deserves re-appraisal.
The opener ‘Music is Love’ harks to John and Yoko’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ a repetitive chant that ingratiates itself into the listener’s brain. Oddly, after repeated listening, this song fades in the memory. It’s like an appetizer of the great things to follow. I’ve read a few reviews on the site here and others that give a host of background details to the album’s songs and they make very interesting reading. Mind, I’m not over interested in the back story, more the finished result. ‘Music is Love’ is a subtle entrance to a strong body of work; it presents a message and a flavor which persist through the album.
Odd then that Crosby elects to change focus immediately with ‘Cowboy Movie’ a blues epic that rips through your speakers and the air. This is a track best played REALLY LOUD. By God, it’s good. It’s really heavy, much more so that ‘Wooden Ships’ on CS&N. Crosby is struggling to sing on this one, his vocals seem to meld with the guitars, scratching away, yelling, out of tune. I was reminded about the anger of George Harrison’s ‘Wah Wah’. There’s a lot of anger in this track.
‘Tamalpais High’ is apparently about a high school. I had no idea. It’s a beautifully understated track, wordless, beautifully scripted, eliciting suggestions not of school girls but of the gentle hopeful sensation of a drug induced trip. The deep bass hints at something darker in the background, the repetitive nature of the monotony. I enjoyed this track a lot. It reflects drug culture better, and in a more hopeful light, that at one end of the garden life is roses. This is often lost among the overriding obsession with rock and roll’s dark side.
Similarly, ‘Laughing’ seems to suggest life is less complicated than we believe. It is a slow stealthy track, which creeps up on you. It has the same rhythm as the opener and continues the smooth vibe begun with track 3. It’s a very simple track, slow, with obvious chord changes, but this doesn’t dampen the mood. The pauses create tension, the harmonies add a spiritual bent; again some of the best sequences are where there is no dialogue and Crosby and his band interpret the music freely. There is an overriding sadness to the song, despite its title, which hints at underlying regret.
‘What Are Their Names’ is the least successful track on the album. A bit of a dirge, it builds to a climax and tails off swiftly. Having said that this song again inhabits the repetitive nature of the first few tracks, letting the listener wallow in the ongoing non-stop vibe of the album. It’s very hypnotic.
‘Traction in the Rain’ is a beautiful homage to a dead friend (girlfriend?). It conjures the loss and despair of bereavement. It’s a very evocative track, although I wouldn’t call it accessible. The lyrics could do with improvement. The fact Crosby’s vocals occasionally get lost in the music will alienate some; for others it’s a reality check. This man is hurting. He’s on the verge of suicide. No wonder he can’t remember his name.
‘Song with No Words’ is another lyric-less opus that carries a strong vibe, ingratiating itself into your brain. I felt it very similar to ‘Guinevere’ on CS&N. Crosby seems to be exploring a world far beyond his experience. This can have implications beyond what the listener hears. A beautiful tune, but about what? Love? Emotion? War? Politics? The environment? Will we ever know? Do we need to? Not really. Let’s celebrate a beautiful piece of musical harmony.
The final two tracks are very short. ‘Orleans’ is a reworking of France’s oldest folk song (although Crosby neglects the line ‘What remains for our good prince’ – perhaps he couldn’t sing it in French) and it isn’t sung in the round, but I like that he’s discovered something potentially obscure and tried to fashion it for his audience. The final track, ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’ is not much more than a sign off, but it completes a musical cycle which had been building from ‘What are Their Names’ in that each song seems to occupy the same vibe and feeling, tension and desperation, relief almost always just out of reach. That the end is slight suggests that, like everything in life, it ends futilely.
I’d give this album a massive thumb’s up. Someone here wrote about Crosby’s music not challenging Neil Young. I’d disagree. Young’s albums are always listenable and interesting, but they never encapsulate the man and his world, only what he is thinking; they are personal comments made impersonal by their musical representation. Crosby is being very personal. The reflective nature of the music here, even when talking of death, which could give rise to recrimination and regret, is testament to his nature, his understanding of the world. He isn’t hiding anything and that’s demonstrated in the softness of the sounds, the gentle lilt of the guitars and the harmonies. Even when tackling serious subjects he’s conscious that his audience needs to be drawn into his world, not affronted by it. He’s less confrontational. This album (which is essentially about love and regret) is much more accessible than Young’s ‘Tonight’s the Night’ which covers similar ground.
Many thanks to Dave Crosby.