David Crosby - If I Could Only Remember My Name (Vinyl)
If I Could Only Remember My Name is the debut solo album by American singer-songwriter David Crosby, released in February 1971 on Atlantic Records. The guest musicians on the album included Graham Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and members of Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and the Grateful Dead. The ensemble was given the informal moniker of The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra. It was one of four high-profile albums (all charting within the top fifteen) released by each member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in the wake of their chart-topping Déjà Vu album, along with After the Gold Rush (Neil Young, September 1970), Stephen Stills (Stephen Stills, November 1970) and Songs for Beginners (Graham Nash, May 1971).
Crosby's song "Laughing" had been written earlier in his time with CSNY, while a demo version of "Song with No Words" had been tried out during the sessions for Déjà Vu and would appear on the 1991 CSN retrospective package. "Cowboy Movie" recounted the tale of a group of Old West outlaws torn apart by a femme fatale; in actuality a recounting in thinly-veiled form of the encounter by the quartet with Rita Coolidge and her effect on the romantic aspirations of at least two of them, as identified immediately by Nash.
Recording sessions took place at the recently opened Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco. Many prominent musicians of that era appear on the record, including Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, members of the Grateful Dead (most notably Jerry Garcia, who helped to arrange and produce the album), Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Santana. The ensemble was given the informal moniker of The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra by Jefferson Airplane bandleader, longtime Crosby associate and fellow science fiction fan Paul Kantner; many from this agglomeration, including recording engineer Stephen Barncard, also worked on Kantner's Blows Against the Empire, Songs for Beginners by Nash, and the Grateful Dead's American Beauty, all recorded in part concurrently with the Crosby album at Wally Heider Studios. Even with the star-studded guest line-up, the final two songs feature Crosby alone, and only five songs have actual lyrics, "Orléans" being a 15th Century round listing various French cathedrals.
I was driven to listen to David Crosby's debut album when hearing of his death today. Even though he was in a couple of very popular mainstream groups Crosby was often the most unorthodox writer in The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He finally got out on his own with this album and commits completely to great melodies and harmonies that are often led to a repetitive groove.
If I Can Only Remember My Name is an excellent stoner record. Crosby was obviously a figure in the counter culture at the time and a huge hippie. I'd imagine he was still struggling with the death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton who was killed in a car accident in 1969 and amped up his already heavy drug use.
Crosby brings a lot of allstar friends along for the ride for this album. When looking at the list of performers is honestly feels like this must have been a fun album to make. Jerry Garcia contributes to a lot of tracks, most notably Cowboy Movie. Neil Young plays the congas on the opening track Music is Love. Crosby's singing partner Graham Nash is all over this album and the harmonies are beautiful. Crosby experiments with melodies at their most primitive stage with no words and they're still great. That decision surely makes this album a bit hard to approach for some though.
To me the cornerstone of this album is Laughing, a song that dates back to the sessions for Deja Vu, same with the bold Song With No Words. Cowboy Movie is a lengthy track that seems to take some inspiration from Crosby's CSNY bandmate Neil Young. The lyrics seem to be a metaphor for the conflict between the band members featuring an unnamed woman that is supposedly inspired by Rita Coolidge.
This album was bashed by critics when it came out. All of the members of CSNY were releasing solo albums in the wake of Deja Vu's success and this was undoubtedly the most offbeat of the 4. Eventually the opinion has swayed over time. This is still not an album for everyone, but when the mood is right I love it.
A1 Out On The Weekend A2 Harvest A3 A Man Needs A Maid A4 Heart Of Gold A5 Are You Ready For The Country? B1 Old Man B2 There's A World B3 Alabama B4 The Needle And The Damage Done B5 Words (Between The Lines Of Age)
Sticker on sleeve: A Classic Neil Young Album Mastered From The Original Analog Master Tapes Because Sound Matters 1-517934 (K1)
On the back: Neil Young Archives Official Release Series Disc 04
Comes in a textured, gatefold sleeve and with a gatefold lyric sheet.