Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Looking Forward (as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

A few reasons why I prefer Looking Forward to American Dream, the previous CSNY album. 1) It's an actual folk-rock album this time, a throwback to their old sound and not a piece of overproduced 80's adult contemporary hackwork. 2) There are only 2 David Crosby songs, and neither contain the lyric "Like a fish out of water/Waiting for the mercy of the cat." 3) It's shorter (less than 45 minutes) and sweeter, with less of a sense of self-importance and more of a nostalgic tone (exactly the kind of tone a pointless reunion album should strike). 4) There are four Neil songs, and they are all worthwhile. 5) Although, frankly, just as corny as American Dream, the nostalgia and gentleness of much of the album make Looking Forward corny in a more charming way.

It's far from perfect. It suffers from the typical CSNY problem: outside of CS&N harmonizing well, it doesn't seem like there is much of a collaboration going on. It sounds like a compilation of B-sides from each member's solo material. CS&N all have their talents, but in my esteem Y towers so far above them that I'd rather just listen to one of his albums. I think the best CSNY compilation album would be called Young, Young, Young & Young and it would just be a collection of songs the group recorded that he wrote. Hell, if that existed, I bet I'd give it an "A."

Still, this is an improvement over their last album, even if it still sorta smells like a cash grab. CS&N each contribute some of their best material ("Stand and Be Counted," "Faith in Me," and "Heartland," respectively). Though the album is called Looking Forward, it's old school in sound and in mindset. I'm not sure they intended it, but occasionally the album is a touching portrait of their growing irrelevance and disconnection from modern times. Mostly it's kind of sweet, but I would not be doing my duty if I didn't single out Stills' "Seen Enough" as embarrassing, get-off-my-lawn rantings of an old fogey. Hearing him sing about "gigabyte meth freaks" who are "removed from reality by silicone diodes" would be funny if it didn't make him sound so much like Andy Rooney.

After a decade of mostly Crazy Horse and Horse-esque projects with only a few stray ventures into folk, this album shows Neil transitioning into his next (and perhaps final?) phase: Old Man Neil. Old Man Neil likes to wax nostalgic about his past, sing about his kids, mull over his regrets, write love songs about his wife, and talk about getting old. His best song here is the title track, a sweet and funny ballad where Neil says he's "not waiting for times to change" and jokes that he's "trying not to use the word 'old'." The song is a potent mix of sadness, humor and hope, what will turn out to be the predominant themes for the next decade (and beyond?)

Rating: B -

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