Graham Nash, 81, Releases New Album, "Now"
With old friends joining in, the former Hollies/CSNY Rock Hall-of-Famer asserts his 21st-century relevance. Hear the album, and enjoy some '70s Nash rememberies!
It’s hard to think of a “classic rock” star still with us who’s still as “together,” smart, active, and relevant as Graham Nash, who turned 81 in February 2023. His newly-released Now album (on May 19, 2023, BMG Records, U.S., Canada and Europe) sounds like it could’ve been recorded in the ‘70s, the ‘80s, or the ‘90s, and that’s meant as nothing but the highest compliment.
I’m listening to it for my first time, and if this is your first time, we’d love to hear your comments, reflections of Graham, and your reactions to the new album and its new songs!
Graham is nothing short of confident, if not downright defiant, right outta the gate on “Right Now”:
I used to think that I would never love again
I used to think that I’d be all on my own
I really thought that it was coming to an end
And just the thought of it chilled me to the bone
But not now
I always thought I really knew what I was doing
And in my mind I never thought that I would fail
But all that time was I fooling myself?
With the cans I took on the past that were on my trail
Here I am
Still living my life
Track List: 1. Right Now 2. A Better Life 3. Golden Idols 4. Stars & Stripes 5. Love Of Mine 6. Theme From Pastoral 7. In A Dream 8. Stand Up 9. It Feels Like Home 10. Buddy’s Back 11. Follow Your Heart 12. I Watched It All Come Down 13. When It Comes To You
Written By – Graham Nash (tracks: 1 to 5, 7 to 13)
For the Now studio musicians, click here for Discogs.com’s dutiful efforts in listing them! One notable name jumps out: Nash’s former Hollies mate, Allan Clarke, singing on Nash’s “Buddy’s Back” (Track 10), with the “Buddy” referencing you-know-who…the rock’n’roll legend from whom their ‘60s band got their name!
It seemed only natural to drop in another ‘60s/’70s Southern California harmony-laden mainstay, The Beach Boys, and their Wilson-tribute, “Brian’s Back,” back-to-back with “Buddy’s Back”:
The Bedroom Tapes
Raised on ‘60s-era Beatles, Hollies, and Beach Boys (I was 10 in 1965…anything with harmonies caught my ear!), by the time Crosby, Stills & Nash and their self-titled debut came around in May 1969, I was far more familiar with Nash from The Hollies than I was with Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield or David Crosby from The Byrds, thanks mainly to AM radio.
At 14, and far more “into” harmonies than many of my junior high and high school contemporaries, I was all over that album’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” and “Wooden Ships.” Those two were the immediately prominent “epics” of the album, so they stuck out, but the rest of the album’s songs became bedroom phonograph favorites in short order. CSN won the 1970 Grammy for Best New Artist.
The band had landed on Atlantic Records, in ways that smack of the front office wrangling, trades, and negotiating we expect of baseball team GMs (per Robert Greenfield and his 2011 The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun):
“Stills was already signed to Atlantic Records through his Buffalo Springfield contract. Crosby had been released from his Byrds deal with Columbia, as he was considered to be unimportant and too difficult to work with[!] Nash, however, was still signed to Epic Records [CBS Records affiliate] through the Hollies.
“Atlantic prez, Ahmet Ertegun, worked out a deal with CBS boss, Clive Davis, to essentially trade Nash to Atlantic in exchange for Richie Furay (who was also signed to Atlantic by virtue of his membership in Buffalo Springfield) and Poco, his new band”……and, a drummer to be named later?
Sure enough, Poco began their 5 1/2-year, 7-album career with Epic on May 19, 1969 (54 years before…to the day…Nash would release Now) with their Pickin’ Up the Pieces album.
Before we leave Poco, FR&B recently uncovered the unreleased Steely Dan song, “Dallas” (left off that band’s 1972 Can’t Buy a Thrill debut, but nonetheless was issued as a single…even that has a story of scarcity), covered by and released on Poco’s first post-Epic album for ABC (Steely Dan’s label of the day). All of that can be read here:
Déjà Vu All Over Again
When CSN’s second, Déjà Vu, was released in 1970 (now with Neil Young and known, acronymically, as CSNY, much harder to pronounce than, say, ABBA), I gravitated immediately to “Carry On,” and its incredibly intricate multi-part harmonies, with Nash’s voice seemingly towering above them all, at the top.
This must’ve been when I discovered and practiced my falsetto! Oddly enough, while I thought they were pretty, and enjoyed listening to them, Nash’s own compositions (“Teach Your Children” and “Our House”) sort of fell to the back of what I’d listen to on each of these albums. But, his vocal work….mercy. I started to enjoy David Crosby’s mastery of harmonies at this point, too, if not before.
“I Am Still Angry!”
The April 1972 release of the Crosby/Nash album (shown above, with more recent photo of Nash, left) was another favorite, but no track more so than Nash’s song to close the album, “Immigration Man,” which, as the album’s lead single, peaked at #36 on Billboard’s Top 100.
Marking the 50th anniversary of the album, Nash recalled the genesis of the song, about his encounter with a U.S. Immigration and Customs official, to UltimateClassicRock.com, in 2022:
“The guy was really hassling me,” remembers Nash, who refers to the officer as ‘irritation man’ at one point in the song. “I don't know if he didn’t like my hair or my accent or that I was a musician. He was just making it as hard as he could...until some people recognized me and started coming up and asking for my autograph. Then, he passed me through. But I was still angry - I am still angry!”
Dave Mason played the guitar solo on the track, which featured CSNY’s Greg Reeves on bass and Johnny Barbata on drums. I think it’s Crosby’s guitar playing throughout the entire song that I found so riveting (and, of course, the harmonies!)…the subdued picking throughout the song to propel it from start to finish seemed to help intensify Nash’s frustration!
Trade publication, Record World, said at the time that, “there’s a message in this lyric, but the overall sound will be more important,” and that Crosby’s and Nash’s “harmonies stand out.” True and true!
Music = Honesty
Earlier this year, Nash was interviewed by AARP The Magazine, in their April/May 2023 issue. A few excerpts:
“When you’re writing songs, you have to tell the truth, to reflect the times. Most of the choices I’ve made started with my mother and father telling me, ‘Follow your heart and you won’t go wrong.’”
Leaps of Faith
“The first time I sang with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, there was no doubt what I had to do. I was already in a famous band, and we had been famous for seven years. People thought I was [fricken] crazy to leave The Hollies. ‘Give up all the women, the money and the fame?’ They had not heard me, David, and Stephen sing…but, I had.”
Collab is Good
“I played ‘Teach Your Children’ for Stephen when I’d just finished it. He said, ‘Pretty good song, Graham, but don’t ever play it like that again. You sound like Henry VIII doing ‘Greensleeves.’ This is how it should go.’ And, he played a beautiful guitar part that turned it into a hit.”
Now that I realize just who I am
When all is said and done what a life I’ve lived;
Try my best to be the man I know I am
I’ll try to take it easy moving right ahead
Here I am
Still living my life
Still living my life
Still living my life
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