Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Human Highway
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Human Highway
1. Carry Me
2. See The Changes
3. Through My Sails
4. Prison Song
5. Homeward Through The Haze
6. Black Coral
7. First Things First
8. Human Highway
9. And So It Goes
10. Taken At All
11. Long May You Run
12. As I Come Of Age
This was requested a while back, and I erroneously thought it couldn’t be done; turns out this was totally doable and a fun Thanksgiving project! This is a reconstruction of the three-times aborted third album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Human Highway was initially begun in 1973 and scrapped; then a second attempt was made in 1974 after their triumphant tour, but scrapped again; a final attempt to turn the 1976 Stills-Young Band album Long May You Run into a full-blown reunion of the quartet was again unsuccessful. This reconstruction attempts to piece the most complete recordings from these three sessions into a cohesive and finished album that would have been the follow-up to Déjà Vu. All the best source material was used, volume adjustments made and crossfading used to make two continuous sides of an LP.
1970 spelled the end of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Succumbing to the egos of four prominent singer-songwriters in their own right, the quartet disbanded to allow all four members time with their own (ultimately successful) projects; namely the illusive-anyways Neil Young, how had success with his solo albums and with Crazy Horse. But the legacy and the amazing four-part harmonies of CSNY begged for a reunion, and that is exactly what was intended in 1973. Regrouping at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow Studios in Hawaii, the quartet worked on new material and about half of an album was rumored to be recorded. The album was allegedly titled Human Highway, and Graham Nash even organized a band photo-op as a possible album cover. But the same old egos and preoccupations prevented the album from being finished and the material was left on the wayside. Nash's contributions from the 1973 Human Highway sessions (“Prison Song”, “And So It Goes” and “Another Sleep Song”) were rerecorded and released on his solo album Wild Tales at the end of the year.
The following year, the music industry's cries for a reunion must have drifted into their ears, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunited for a summer and fall 1974 tour that showed the band in a harmonious and energetic shape. Touring to promote the newly-released greatest hits compilation So Far, the three-to-four hour concerts allowed the quartet to showcase a number of new songs that would theoretically constitute the Human Highway album, ready for another studio attempt. At the conclusion of the tour, the group again assembled into the studio record Human Highway. But clashing personalities again got in the way of the music, particularly Graham Nash’s refusal to sing a minor note inside a major chord. Neil Young infamously walked away from the project unannounced after only less than half of an album was recorded. All of the Human Highway originals were later rerecorded for the various members’ solo albums: Nash’s “Wind On The Water” and David Crosby’s “Carry Me” and “Homeward Through The Haze” were rerecorded and used on the duo’s 1975 album Wind On The Water; Stephen Stills’ “My Angel’, “First Things First”, “As I Come Of Age” and “Myth of Sisyphus” were rerecorded for his album Stills; the band’s version of Neil Young’s “Though My Sails”, dating back to the 1973 Human Highway sessions, was released on his album Zuma.
By 1976 Human Highway was closed with no plans for construction, not surviving two recording attempts. By this time, CSNY had coalesced into two halves: David Crosby and Graham Nash continued their eternal musical and personal friendship by recording their album Whistling Down The Wire, while Stephen Stills and Neil Young continued their partnership stemming back from Buffalo Springfield by recording the album Long May You Run. Legend has it that it was Neil Young who invited Crosby and Nash to fly to Miami and add their vocals to the album that Stills and Young essentially had in the can at that point, effectively transforming it into an official CSNY reunion and attempt at a third album. It is noteworthy that both halves were working on originals that had originally been written for the Human Highway project, such as Crosby’s “Time After Time” and Young’s “Long May You Run”. Crosby & Nash added their backing vocals to a handful of Stills & Young tracks, and the quartet recorded new versions of “Human Highway” and “Taken At All”. To this day it is unclear why, but those two tracks were left on the cutting-room floor and all of Crosby & Nash’s vocals were wiped from the mastertapes. Long May You Run was released as simply The Stills-Young Band, destroying any chance at a CSNY 1976 reunion album and the Human Highway was demolished forever.
My attempt to repave Human Highway is actually quite a difficult one that unfortunately involves very fuzzy logic: what songs to include? Graham Nash has been quoted that there would have only been ten songs on the actual album, but in adding up all contenders for the album, we have anywhere between 20-30 songs! Also one must examine the continuity of the three session: as each recording session was abandoned, those possible tracks were shifted elsewhere and thus Human Highway received a complete facelift each time CSNY attempted to record it; by 1976, it probably wouldn’t have even been called Human Highway! For this reconstruction to be successful, we must ignore this continuity and hobble together tracks from the 1973, 1974 and 1976 sessions as contenders for one excellent Human Highway album, rather than making two—or even three—separate average to ‘pretty good’ Human Highway albums.
To build my Human Highway, we will have two guideposts: the first being that the bulk of the album is to consist of the songs debuted during the 1974, which were: “As I Come Of Age”, “Human Highway”, “And So It Goes”, “Prison Song”, “Another Sleep Song”, “Carry Me”, “Long May You Run”, “My Angel”, “Pushed It Over The End”, “Traces”, “First Things First”, “Love Art Blues”, “Myth of Sisyphus”, “Time After Time” and “Hawaiian Sunrise” (note we are including Nash’s Wind Tales tracks since they were originally destined to be a part of Human Highway in 1973, even though by the time of the1974 tour they had been released as a solo project). The second guidepost is that we must exclude the songs that only featured one member of CSNY and focus on the tracks that had a studio recording which featured at least three of the four members of CSNY. That whittles our list down to only “Long May You Run”, “Human Highway” and “Pushed It Over The End” featuring all four members of CSNY and “As I Come Of Age”, “First Things First” and “And So It Goes” featuring three of the four members. I have also dropped “Pushed It Over The End” from the running order, since it was essentially an average-quality Neil Young live recording with CSN’s vocals overdubbed, and didn’t seem to fit onto my reconstruction.
We only have five Human Highway songs thus far that feature three or four members of CSNY. Next we look at the songs recorded at the three Human Highway sessions that were not played during the 1974 Tour: from the 1973 sessions, we can use the original CSNY recording of “Through My Sails”, found on Zuma; the full CSNY version of “See The Changes” from a 1974 rehearsal session; “Homeward Through The Haze” is allegedly the only completed full CSNY recording from the 1974 sessions; and we can also use the full CSNY version of “Taken At All” from the aborted 1976 CSNY sessions, as well as an early mix of the Stills-Young Band track featuring Crosby & Nash’s vocals, “Black Coral”. That leaves us with our required ten songs, but I included two additional tracks that featured two of the band members—“Carry Me” and “Prison Song”—to round off the album to two approximately 20-minute sides.
The album opens with “Carry Me” from C&N’s Wind On The Water. Although this track lacks Young and Stills, I felt that without the song, Human Highway has no real strong album-opener. Next is Crosby’s “See The Changes” a full CSNY version found on the CSN box set. After Young’s “Through My Sails” from Zuma, we have the Wild Tales version of “Prison Song”, again only featuring C&N. While there exists a CSNY rehearsal recording from 1974, the tape is too degraded to be used here. I chose the Wild Tales version because, honestly, “Prison Song” is the highlight of the album and an absolute necessity. “Homeward Through The Haze” from the CSN box set follows, with the side concluding with the early mix of “Black Coral “ featuring all four members, found on the Carry On box set. Although the sonic characteristics of “Black Coral” seem more “70s” than the rest of the album, it creates a solid ending to Side A and can be excused because of the anachronistic nature of this project in the first place.
Side B opens with “First Things First” from Stills, a solo recording that luckily for us, also featured C&N. My own personal remix of the unreleased CSNY-version of “Human Highway” follows, with “And So It Goes” from Wild Tales continuing, which also features C&Y. The prerequisite CSNY song suite is created here with the CSNY recording of “Taken At All” from the CSN box set is crossfaded into the early mix of “Long May You Run” from the first pressing of the Decades box set. Concluding the album is the “As I Come of Age”, a second track from Stills to feature C&N. This Human Highway becomes a very solid and spectacular album, more idiosyncratic and adventurous than either CS&N or Déjà Vu. Although it is a CSNY album that has 100% Crosby, 100% Nash, 83% Stills and 66% Young, Human Highway is a road that now can be taken at all.
Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN (1991 CD box set)
Crosby, Stills & Nash - Rarities Volume 2: 1970-1974 (bootleg, The Chief's Tapes)
David Crosby & Graham Nash – Wind On The Water (2000 CD remaster)
Graham Nash – Wild Tales (original 1990 CD master)
Neil Young – Zuma (1993 CD remaster)
Neil Young – Decade (original CD pressing)
Stephen Stills – Carry On (2013 CD box set)
Stephen Stills – Stills (2007 CD remaster)
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included