In 1971, David Crosby released his first solo album 'If I Could Only Remember My Name'. It was an album that would artistically break new ground for it's author, with its lush acoustics, layered harmonies and organically sharp production, however it was a record born from extremes in Crosby's life and there is an enduring sense of melancholy pervading the whole piece.
A founding member of Byrds, David Crosby had contributed writing or co-writing credits on a number of the bands best songs including "Everybody's Been Burned", "Eight Miles High", "Renaissance Fair", "Draft Morning" & "Tribal Gathering" and after the formation of Crosby, Still & Nash (/& Young), he found room to grow and such Crosby originals as "Long Time Gone", "Guinnevere", Wooden Ships" & "Deja Vu" became part of the bedrock of the soundtrack for a generation.
Shortly after the release of Déjà Vu, in mid 1970 CSN&Y took time out and Crosby began working on his first solo album with Stephen Barncard, who had just finished work on recording 'American Beauty' with the Grateful Dead. The sessions that followed were the musical embodiment of some incredible extremes in Crosby's life at the time. On the positive side he was experiencing great creative freedom and joy at the artistic, critical and commercial success of CSN&Y, on the negative side he was trying to come to terms with his girlfriend Christine Hilton's sudden death in a car crash only month earlier as well as the death of the sixties embodied by the war in Vietnam, the Manson killings, Altamont and the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
With the help of a great cast of players including Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, members of both the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, Crosby produced one of the great (but criminally under-appreciated) masterpieces of the era. "If I Could Only Remember My Name" is a free floating record that perfectly encapsulates the late sixties/early seventies California country/folk rock movement, but also transcends the movement completely to almost stand alone, as all great art has the ability to do. Graham Nash summed up the album most succinctly when he described it as "the perfect organic listening experience".
Although the complete magic of "If I Could Only Remember My Name" is fully appreciated when listening to the album as a whole, key tracks include the mantra like album opener of "Music Is Love", the epic shuffle of "Cowboy Movie", the melancholy harmony of "Orleans" and the magical groove of "Tamalpais High (At About 3)".
Link: "If I Could Only Remember My Name" - 1970 Session Outtakes (courtesy of Aquariam Drunkard)
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