David Crosby – Here If You Listen (2018)
As brutal as this opening statement may seem, David Crosby shouldn’t even be alive, let alone making records.
The man has peaked on the hedonistic charts, done jail time for drug offences, driven himself to the edge of death and sanity as a bad junkie….all whilst watching his contemporaries drop all around him for nigh-on 60 years. At just six months from the unlikeliest of 80th birthdays, Crosby has serious cardiac issues, diabetes, has battled Hepatitis C, and is also the recipient of a liver transplant. He is literally a walking miracle.
And yet, in the face of extreme (and often self-inflicted) adversity, the man has made four of the finest records of his career, deep into his seventies. At the age of 73 the resurgence began with 2014’s Croz, closely followed by Lighthouse in 2016 and Sky Trails in 2017. At the grand old rock’n’roll age of 77, in a continuing flourish of creativity, Here If You Listen arrived in 2018 – three in three, so to speak – a feat rarely accomplished these days unless you are Van Morrison or Neil Young (without quality control). And David Crosby’s output has been staggeringly good. Remarkable really.
I’m always fascinated by the old guard and what they have left in the tank. By what they have left to say. Crosby’s voice is still strong, his guitar playing still sophisticated, and his extraterrestrial ear for a weird melody still very much alive. He’s an intriguing artist, to say the least. He never takes a song where it really aught to go, which is the key ingredient that preserves his powers on Here If You Listen. And it’s very much a collaborative record. Seven of the eleven tracks on the record were written by the ‘Lighthouse Band’ – producer Michael League, along with Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis, and of course, Croz. Woodstock is a phenomenal cover of the Joni Mitchell classic, Your Own Ride was written by the four plus Snarky Puppy keys player, Bill Laurance, and I Am No Artist is a Jane Tyson Clement & Becca Stevens composition.
The harmonies on this record are lush, the arrangements shimmering, and the lyrics worthy of Crosby’s CSN work. It’s also interesting that Crosby takes side steps on lead vocals too; he’s not renowned for his modesty, but he clearly values these young musicians that have helped breathe new life into his career.
1974 has clearly been revived from Crosby’s early solo career meddling. In fact, it wouldn’t have been out of place on his seminal 1971 solo debut album, If Only I Could Remember My Name. Complete departure is provided by Janet – a song that could easily be found on an Alicia Keys record, and Buddha On A Hill is just sublime. Up there as one of the best records Crosby has been involved in for years.
There’s little else more satisfying than one of the old guard popping up with a classic late career album. Bowie did it before he departed, so did Leonard Cohen (on several occasions), Macca has recently released the brilliant McCartney III aged 78, and Dylan surprised us all with his rousing Rough & Rowdy Ways earlier this year, into his own 79th year. Crosby isn’t just a part of this late-career stampede. The sheer surge in which his recording career has revived would suggest he’s leading it.
Here If You Listen is certainly a profound statement. We listened David. Boy, did we listen. And we still know you’re here.
If it’s his last, it’s a fine way to wrap things up. If it’s not, then it’s a surefire way of saying I ain’t done yet.
Top track trio:
Buddha On A Hill