Out There

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Looking Forward
(Reprise Records

Aside from the commercial conceit -- this sure ought to get your parents back into record stores, even if they'll no doubt spend most of the trip wondering where the vinyl went -- it's hard to figure why Neil Young would hitch his speedboat to this cruise-ship band. Maybe the dude just took a little pity on the three stooges, figuring it was time to do some charity work for the old-folks home with whom he made half a decent record two-plus decades ago. After all, the landfills are full of CS&N records, but having good ol' Y there lends instant and lucrative cred to the one-star proceedings. That is, if you're willing to forget 1988's nightmarish American Dream...and most of 4-Way Street...and, come to think of it, a good chunk of Deja Vu. CSN&Why, God, why?

Didn't know there was an outcry for this product, at least until the music press started bemoaning Looking Forward's long delay and the start-stop-start tour plans. Seems the aging scions who run the rock media can't stand the idea of a world without its grizzled vets standing on a stage somewhere, singing hippie anthems to an ex-hippie crowd who paid for their tickets with a gold card. Too bad looking backward only reveals how mundane yesterday really seemed, when the self-hating David Crosby was bitching about how hippies might just be a bad thing ("Almost Cut My Hair") and all them fellers were singing such obvious, mind-numbing, kiddie-sing-along bromides as "Teach Your Children" and "Our House." You don't build a revolution on platitudes, dude.

Here they are 11 years after their last cutout-bin sensation, singing them same-ol'-same-ol's about how it's time to "Stand Up and Be Counted" and how "in the heartland people everywhere try to share their hopes and dreams" and how it is possible to "find your way back home" and how, golly, Stephen Stills "lost [his] innocence over intolerance / All the indignities heaped on the black man." It'd seem silly if it weren't all a little sad and a lot boring; someone needs to tell Stills not to use "Woodstock nation" and "cold warriors" and "dissed" in the same song, especially one that rhymes "powerbook potentates" with "pointedly obviate." Like the ramblings of the insane.

Again, leave it to the Y to render the record listenable; it has become his custom to rescue these malingerers from obscurity. Great guitar, wise words ("When I was faster, I was always behind"), with bruised vocals to spare. His three contributions would be decent-to-good on his own product, but here they sound like fucking masterpieces -- which is what happens when you pair three Art Garfunkels with one Paul Simon.

Robert Wilonsky


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