For some strange reason, I’ve always enjoyed hearing demos and working versions of familiar tracks by fave musicians. Like peering into an artist’s sketchbook, these “bare-bones” run-throughs (warts and all) often give us a sneak peek into the creative process. Dylan’s “Bootleg Series” is a prime example.
Crosby, Stills & Nash “Demos” is a newly released collection of working versions by David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, both individually and collectively (though Neil Young sits in on one track), produced by Graham Nash and long-time friend Joel Bernstein. Though by no means as interesting as say Neil Young’s “Archives” series or the aforementioned Dylan example, “Demos” does offer up a dozen tracks that have never been officially released.
I must admit that I’ve never really been a fan of the production work on the first CSN(Y) studio releases (CSN (1969) and Déjà Vu (1970)). Though vital for their era, several of the tracks (“Marrakesh Express” and “Déjà Vu,” for instance) have always seemed a bit flat and lifeless in their fully produced standard versions. “Demos” now gives us a chance to hear a few of those songs in their original form without added instrumentation and late 60s studio “sweetening” (or “flattening,” as it were).
Pleasant surprises here are the 1968 demo of “My Love Is A Gentle Thing” by Stills and a pre-Nash version of “Long Time Gone” by Crosby and Stills from June 1968. Not drastically different arrangements (as is sometimes the case with such early versions), but intimate and sometimes inspired run-throughs of some of their most significant work in relatively unaltered form. No real revelations here, but some interesting and pleasing listening.
Here’s “Marrakesh Express” from BBC television in 1970...
Crosby, Stills & Nash “Demos"