June 25, 2018 Graham Nash – Over The Years (Album Review)
Not all musicians manage to fill their listeners’ soul for over 50 years, but Graham Nash has done just that. A chronological work, his latest album, Over The Years, is a testament to a musical journey that is far from over. The collection – which arrives June 29, 2018, on Rhino/Atlantic Records – presents two albums filled with music from days with The Hollies to life with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (CSNY) along with solo works; this is the best of the past blended with fresh sounds from the two time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
With more than a dozen unreleased cuts included in the 30 songs making up either digital, double CD, or two LP sets, this is an anthology blending fifty years of Rock history. Curated painstakingly by Nash and longtime friend and associate Joel Bernstein, the artist is said to be grateful to present his songs in this way.
Here, Nash has given fans a backdoor listen to demo recordings of Rock history’s greatest music; for clarity, when referencing those never-before-released mixes, the gems are notated with an asterisk. In fact, how this music came to be also dictated where and with whom Nash sang and wrote with along the way. Starting with “Marrakesh Express,” there is also a window into the never-before-released demo version recorded in London which was rejected by The Hollies, prompting the musician’s move to the United States.
What happens here is Rock-n-Roll history, time travel at its finest. Furthermore, art and music tell a story painting a vivid picture of reality; “Military Madness” drops listeners back in the middle of the Vietnam War protests. “Immigration Man,” with David Crosby, feels real for an Englishman assimilating into the music scene. These are classics, sequenced to tell a new story.
Listeners may feel an embrace of the familiar with the opening notes of “Just a Song Before I Go,” like a backward hello. Apparent is the fact that Graham Nash and his music are a central thread in the tapestry of Rock music. “I Used To Be King*” is one of the previously unreleased mixes of this; it is a reflection of what has been lying in the vault, treasures for the ear now let loose on the world. Following it up with “Better Days*” with its simple instrumentation, pure vocals, and straightforward delivery is a masterclass in composition.
“Simple Man” rolls in a pure and uncluttered evolution of an artist. One of the tracks from his debut solo record, Songs For Beginners, this collection also includes a demo version recorded in 1970 as a reference point. Doing the same with the iconic “Teach Your Children,” having the ability to hear a song at birth and development into a finished gem is a superfan’s dream. Subtle and softly embracing, “Lady Of The Island” is a flashback of harmonies bringing to mind the Stephen Stills classic “Judy Blue Eyes.” There is a point in the choice of this track by curators; this is a reflection of a greater body of work, this lifetime of music for listeners to enjoy.
Rock historians will appreciate the way this collection of classics was put together. “Wind On The Water” is another duet, a partnership with David Crosby that shines; both artists still creative over the years. The exceptionally unique opportunity listeners have here with Over The Years is the fact that the version of “Our House,” from the CSNY album Déjà Vu, is coupled with its 1969 San Francisco demo. Further on in the journey, “Cathedral” is one of the songs that elicit that flashback; not one of the hits per se, though what is apparent is the fact that Graham Nash’s music creates an aura for sure.
Listening to the lyrics of classics like “Wasted On The Way” seems prophetic now that it is being included in this release, a song whose demo from 1980 is included here nearly thirty years after it was first laid down. What is apparent on this record, and the inclusion of cuts like “Chicago/We Can Change The World,” is that the years tick by, but do times and problems ever change? Closing out the first fifteen songs is “Myself At Last,” softly taking a breath before taking a trip forward. Does Graham Nash have a future, or is his future just his past as the lyrics of this song reflect?
By embracing and honoring the past with the release of an equal number of demos – along with “Horses Through A Rainstorm” from 1968 London, originally destined for Déjà Vu, “Pre-Road Downs” from Hollywood, 1969, and “I Miss You” along with “You’ll Never Be The Same” from recordings made in 1972 San Francisco, both having graced Wild Tales from 1974 – the past is brought present, while looking into the future. Having had the opportunity to experience classic recordings and the demos and mixes that made the hits, fans have a window into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two-time inductee and social and political activist. Now the creativity of Graham Nash going forward will always include a reflection of his past, but listeners are free to explore new songs as well on Over The Years.
Now, Nash has cleared out the best of the past to share with the world in this curated collection. By doing so, the songwriter is now free to create more magic, a future filled with music to share with listeners. This a taste of the first fifty years, and Over The Years foreshadows of the brilliance of Graham Nash. That is why CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.