A review in yesterday's Style section incorrectly reported the date of the upcoming Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert in Washington. It is scheduled for April 6 next year at MCI Center. (Published 10/28/1999)
Unfortunately, it's not quite deja vu all over again for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who on Tuesday release "Looking Forward" (Reprise). It's CSN&Y's first album in 11 years and sets up their first tour together in 25 years (tickets for a March 21 concert at MCI Center went on sale Saturday).
Pop music history tells us we should be excited about this. After all, in the late '60s and early '70s, CSN&Y crafted an original sound built around their exquisite vocal blend, electric acoustics and socially conscious lyrics. But the very distinctions and creative egos that brought these four together--David Crosby from the Byrds, Stephen Stills and Neil Young from Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash from the Hollies--also kept them bickering to the point where they broke up acrimoniously after touring behind 1970's "Deja Vu"--one of pop's masterpieces. While CS&N have continued touring together, the Y factor has seldom been amenable to either touring or recording.
On the disappointing "Looking Forward," each member contributes material that's fleshed out by the others. The strongest songs belong to Neil Young and, except for "Queen of Them All," they are drawn from his introspective, rural-acoustic songbook. In the album's title track, an amiable Young admits he's "writing a song, won't take very long/ Trying not to use the world 'old,' " before insisting that "I'm going to live like a free-roamin' soul/ On the highway of our love." A similar geniality informs "Slowpoke" and "Out of Control," and Young sounds mighty chipper on the lightly Cajun-flavored "Queen of Them All," admitting, "I really don't know why I feel so good/ But it's happening to me so I knock on wood."
His band mates, however, could use a little lightening up. When it comes to social missives, they're all too predictable. David Crosby and his recently discovered son, James Raymond, ask us to "Stand and Be Counted," a very '60s-sounding call to action. Graham Nash's "Someday Soon" is airy sonic balm, advising us to "keep holding on to the love that brought you here/ And someday soon darkness will disappear."
Stephen Stills's blustery "No Tears Left" counsels, "Go ahead and rage and fight/ Insist on finding your own light/ As wisdom cannot be confused by freedom." The song takes off only when he and Young strap on their electric guitars for some impassioned interplay, but it's no "For What It's Worth."
Stills turns to an outside collaborator--Bob Dylan--on "Seen Enough," but the song's caustic intentions are muted by its sluggish meld of the melody from "Maggie's Farm" and the word flow of "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
That's the problem with "Looking Forward." Too much of it sounds familiar, merely an echo of the past.
(To hear a free Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8154.)
CAPTION: "Looking Forward" is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's first album in 11 years.