Monday, March 8, 2021

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Human Highway (UPGRADE)

 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Human Highway
(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

10/12/21 FIX

Disc 1 – Human Highway (1974 configuration)

Side A:
1. See The Changes
2. Prison Song
3. Homeward Through The Haze
5. New Mama
5.  Through My Sails
6. Myth of Sisyphus

Side B:
7. First Things First
8. Human Highway
9. And So It Goes
10. Pushed It Over The End
11. As I Come Of Age

Disc 2 – Human Highway (1976 configuration)

Side A:

1. Carry Me
2. Black Coral
3. Ocean Girl
4. Time After Time
5. Human Highway
6. To The Last Whale…

Side B:

7. Traces
8. Fieldworker
9. Midnight On The Bay
10. Taken At All
11. Long May You Run
12. Guardian Angel

Is this pandemic done yet?? To lead us down that highway, here is a long-overdue upgrade to one of my earliest reconstructions: the three-times aborted Human Highway album by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Abandoned after originally attempted in 1973, again in 1974 and finally in 1976 during the Stills-Young sessions for Long May You Run, this two-disc reconstruction presents what Human Highway could have sounded after the earlier 1973 and 1974 sessions (on disc one) and the later 1976 session (on disc two). Additionally, this reconstruction features isolated CSNY vocals synced up to the solo album versions, thus creating a full CSNY version of a given song. As always, the best sources were used and volume-adjusted for continuity.

1970 spelled the end of supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who had been unofficially dubbed the American Beatles. 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. But the amazing four-part harmonies—and the legacy itself—of CSNY begged for a reunion, and that is exactly what was intended in 1973. Regrouping at Neil Young’s Broken Arrow ranch/studio in June, the quartet optimistically worked on new material. A handful of songs were recorded, including Neil Young’s “Human Highway”, Stephen Stills’ “See The Changes” and Graham Nash’s “Prison Song” & “And So It Goes.” The album was to be titled Human Highway after Young’s flagship contribution and Nash even organized a band photo-op as the intended album cover. Progress halted as the four members once again splintered apart, leaving Neil free to record an album’s worth of material in August and September with The Santa Monica Flyers—a eulogy to his fallen comrades Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry which was eventually released as Tonight’s The Night in 1975.

All hope was not lost, as CSNY reconvened in early October 1973 for a pair of shows at the Winterland Arena, where a number of Human Highway songs were debuted for a hungry audience: as well as “Human Highway”, “Prison Song” and “And So It Goes”, Stills’ added his “As I Come of Age” (an older song Stills was saving for CSNY) and Neil offered a pair of songs from his recent recording sessions, “New Mama” and “Roll Another Number (For The Road).” Regardless, a full-blown reunion failed to materialize and Nash recorded “Prison Song” and “And So It Goes” for his own solo album, Wild Tales. Although the songs ironically featured David Crosby on vocals and Young on piano, Wild Tales was released with unimpressive success in January 1974.

The end of 1973 saw Neil back in the studio again with The Santa Monica Flyers, recording even more new material (which would eventually surface on On The Beach), with further sessions in April. But the music industry's cries for a reunion must have drifted into their ears, as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young planned a summer/fall tour that showed the band in a harmonious and energetic shape. Again rehearsing at Young’s Broken Arrow ranch—almost a year after the project began—a handful of new songs were recorded, including Neil’s “Through My Sails.” The Human Highway was once again traveled, as the “Doom Tour” began in March 1974. The three-to-four hour concerts allowed the quartet to showcase a vast number of new songs that were theoretically in consideration for the in-progress Human Highway album: Crosby’s “Time After Time” and “Carry Me”; Stills’ “First Things First”, “Myth of Sisyphus”, “My Angel”, “As I Come Of Age” and “My Favorite Changes”; Nash’s “Fieldworker”, as well as “Prison Song” and “Another Sleep Song” (although they had already been released two months earlier, making it doubtful that they would still be in consideration for Human Highway); This being Neil Young’s most prolific period, Neil Young offered a long list of material: “Traces”, “Pushed It Over The End”, “Long May You Run”, “Hawaiian Sunrise”, “Love/Art Blues”, “Human Highway”, “Homefires”, “Star of Bethlehem”, “The Old Homestead” and “Pardon My Heart.” Additionally, they performed a number of the songs he had recently tracked with The Santa Monica Flyers, some destined to be released on On The Beach that July: “Revolution Blues”, “Ambulance Blues”, “Walk On”, “On The Beach”, “For The Turnstiles”, “Mellow My Mind” and “Roll Another Number (For The Road)”.

After a quick winter break, CSNY again assembled into the studio in December to finally complete the long-awaited Human Highway album. But after only recording a handful of tracks (including Crosby’s contribution “Homeward Through The Haze” and overdubbing group vocals onto the live Chicago Stadium "Doom Tour" recording of “Pushed It Over The End”), the quartet again fractured into chaos. Graham Nash refused to sing a note creating a minor over a major chord in Stephen Stills’ “Guardian Angel”; although it seemed a minuscule disagreement, it escalated into a heated argument, resulting in Stills literally destroying the mastertapes to Nash’s “Wind On The Water”! Neil had had enough of the bad vibes and inflated egos and simply stopped showing up. Once again, the Human Highway was closed.

The fate of this first batch of songs was obvious to each of the members: why save our best songs for CSNY, if we can’t even stay together to record and release them? First was Neil Young, who immediately began recording the Homegrown album over the new year—Young’s epitaph for his dying relationship with wife Carrie Snodgress. Instead of releasing it in 1975, he chose the rawer and more exciting Tonight’s The Night, leaving Homegrown in the vault for 45 years. Meanwhile, Stills assembled an album of songs recorded over the last several years, including a number of Human Highway castoffs (some even featuring Crosby & Nash’s vocals!), released as the album Stills in June and garnering commercial success. Not to be denied, Neil recorded his legendary Zuma album with a reformed Crazy Horse that summer and released that November, featuring the CSNY version of “Through My Sails.” But Stills and Young were not the only ones having fun: Crosby & Nash joined forces in the Spring of 1975 to record their second album as a duo, which also contained Human Highway songs sprinkled throughout. The resulting Wind On The Water was released in September to massive commercial success.

After a successful year for the individual members of CSNY, 1976 brought a new hope for the Human Highway project out of sheer fate. Attempting to repeat the success of Wind On The Water, Crosby & Nash returned to the studio in Los Angeles that February to record the follow-up. Simultaneously, Stills and Young had joined forces in Miami to record the Buffalo Springfield album that never was, as The Stills-Young band, intending to top it with a North American tour later in 1976. But that April, Young knocked on Nash’s door to play him mixes of the album he was working on with Stills; although Graham was completely blown away, Neil insisted that something was still missing. On a whim, Young invited Crosby & Nash to join Stills & Young in the studio to add their vocals to the songs recorded thus far. After Crosby & Nash arrived in the studio and swiftly added vocal layers to Stills’ “Black Coral” and Young’s “Ocean Girl”, “Midnight On The Bay” and “Long May You Run”, it became obvious to the quartet that they were inadvertently making a reborn version of Human Highway.

The next day, the rejuvenated band recorded Crosby & Nash’s “Taken At All” and a brand new version of the now-legendary title-track, “Human Highway.” Although it seemed everything was on track to finally completing the album, the group’s famed egos once again returned. After Crosby & Nash notified Stills & Young that they were scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles to finish their album, Stills was dismayed: not only was the album half-finished, but he had assumed the pair would join Stills & Young for their tour in June. Crosby & Nash stood firm and opted to return to Los Angeles to finish their album, instead of beginning rehearsals for the Stills-Young Band tour scheduled to begin in two months. Realizing that without the pair to promote it, this album could never truly be CSNY, and Stills retaliated by erasing the pair’s vocal tracks from the Stills-Young songs!

Both pairs eventually finished their respective albums; Crosby & Nash released Whistling Down The Wire in June and The Stills-Young Band released Long May You Run in September. In a strange turn of events, Neil Young abruptly left the tour after one month, only leaving a note for Stills telling him to “eat a peach.” Stills soldiered on alone for a few dates of the tour, before admitting defeat and canceling the remaining dates. Over numerous miles, the Human Highway was finally closed, with only a handful of original recordings surfacing, aside from solo versions of tracks earmarked for the project. Despite this, are we able to fix the pavement of Human Highway?

Since there is such a wide breadth of material to choose from—spread over four years and three recording sessions—this reconstruction will be presented as a two disc set: the first disc assumes that CSNY did finish Human Highway after their 1974 tour and attempts to present a finished album culled from tracks recorded in 1973 & 1974. Likewise, the second disc assumes CSNY was able to finish Human Highway during the Long May You Run sessions and attempts to present an alternate finished Human Highway album culled from tracks recorded in 1975 & 1976. This is convenient as the 1973-74 recordings have the typical dryer, early 70s sound, while the 1975-76 recordings have the typical slicker, late 70s sound (read: Yacht Rock).  A mix-match of the two groups creates a very jarring listen, but separating them into two distinct versions of Human Highway creates a more cohesive listening experience. Both discs are considered independent of each other, although there is very little overlap.

For my reconstruction, we will try to follow three rules:
1) Although we will be gathering recordings from a plethora of sources (most often solo recordings of the individual members) we will only use the songs that were actually ear-marked for Human Highway by either being recorded by CSNY during the sessions or performed on the 1974 Doom Tour.
2) We will try, whenever possible, to include as many members of CSNY on every song as possible. In some instances, we will used isolated vocals from other sources synced up with the common studio version to create a more complete CSNY recording.
3) We will attempt to follow the pattern established by the other CSN & CSNY albums by distributing equal representation for each songwriter, alternating so no songwriter has two songs in a row. This is mostly successful, except for the obvious lack of Crosby on the 1974 Human Highway and the abundance of Young on the 1976 Human Highway. And so it goes.

My reconstruction begins much like the previous albums CSN and Deja Vu: with an uptempo, acousticy, Stills-led song-- ”See The Changes”, taken from the CSN box set and features all four of the members. Also, like the two previous albums, the second song is a poppy, Nash-led song: “Prison Song”, also taken from the CSN box but with the isolated vocals from the live CSNY 1974 version synced up, thus creating a version with all four of the members singing. “Through My Sails” follows, taken from Zuma and featuring all four members. Next is “Homeward Through The Haze”, again from the CSN boxset, also featuring all four members.
Following is Stills’ recording of “New Mama” taken from Stills, but with the isolated vocals from the Tonight’s The Night version synced up, thus having Stills and Young singing together (as well as Ben Keith, Ralph Molina, George Whitsell, Donnie Darcus and Rick Roberts, all convincingly filling in for Crosby and Nash in my opinion). Side A closes with “Myth of Sisyphus”, which doesn’t feature Crosby, Nash or Young at all, but seems to fit on the album nonetheless; perhaps the backing vocals can be imagined as them?

Side B begins with the uptempo “First Things First”, taken from Stills but with the missing drum intro from Reply restored; although Neil is missed, this at least features CS&N. The 1973 version of “Human Highway” follows, taken from Archives Volume II and featuring all four members. Nash’s “And So It Goes” is what goes next, taken from Wild Tales and featuring Crosby and Young. The legendary “Pushed It Over The End” follows, taken from Archives Volume II and featuring all four members. The album closes with “As I Come of Age” from Stills, featuring CS&N.

As aforementioned, our second disc assumes Human Highway was instead finished in 1976 and includes elements of Long May You Run, Wind On The Water and Whistling Down The Wire. It opens with the majestic “Carry Me” from the CSN box, followed by the CSNY mix of “Black Coral” from Stills’ Carry On box set. Another CSNY mix follows, “Ocean Girl” from Archives Volume II. Next is “Time After Time” from Whistling Down The Wire, but with the isolated vocals from the live CSNY 1974 version synced up, thus creating a full-band version of the song. The serendipitous 1976 version of Human Highway” from Archives Volume II follows, with Side A closing with “To The Last Whale...” from the CSN box set, as the song was at least attempted in the December 1974 sessions.

Side B begins with “Traces” from Archives Volume II but with the isolated vocals from the CSNY 1974 live version synced up, creating a full-band version. Next is the cutting edge of “Fieldworker” from Wind On The Water, then the CSNY mix of “Midnight On The Bay” from Archives Volume II. The CSNY version of “Taken At All” from the CSN box set follows, crossfaded into the CSNY mix of “Long May You Run” from Decade. The album closes with the epic “Guardian Angel” from Long May You Run, as the song was at least attempted in the December 1974 sessions..

Special thanks to Mark Heggen for the artwork remastering!

Sources used:
Crosby & Nash – Whistling Down The Wire (2000 remaster)
Crosby & Nash – Wind On The Water (2000 remaster)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – CSN (1991 box set)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Replay (original CD remaster)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – CSNY 1974 (2014 box set)
Graham Nash – Wild Tales (2005 remaster)
Neil Young – Archives Volume II (2021 box set)
Neil Young – Decade (original CD remaster)
Neil Young – Long May You Run (Original Release Series: Disc 8.5, 2017)
Neil Young – Tonight’s The Night (Original Release Series: Disc 7, 2017)
Neil Young – Zuma (Original Release Series: Disc 8, 2017)
Stephen Stills – Carry On (2013 box set)
Stephen Stills – Stills (2007 remaster)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR Pro and Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
* md5 files, track notes and artwork included