David Crosby gets a second (third? fourth?) wind and releases two albums in less than a year. Good ones, too...
The free love generation’s favourite curmudgeon, the redoubtable David Crosby, follows up last years Lighthouse album with Sky Trails. Age doesn’t seem to be slowing him down too much; if two albums in just under a year weren't enough, he’s about to start his umpteenth US tour with a band helmed by his son. But weren’t we all told that he’d be dead by now?
Well, he isn’t. If Sky Trails is to be believed, he’s in absolutely rude health. The voice which curved baroquely around some of the finest music of the '60s and '70s may not be as strident as it once was, but it isn't too shabby, neither. And he’s still got a way with a tune. So how does the 76-year-old, former hippy princeling sound in 2017? A bit jazzy. A bit like Steely Dan. Quite annoyed sometimes. But generally, he sounds like you’d hope David Crosby would sound in 2017.
The warm, electric piano introduction of the opening tune “She’s Got to be Somewhere”, nails his colours to the mast straight away. He may receive a “cease and desist” email from Donald Fagen, but until that happens, we get to enjoy Crosby getting ever-so-slightly funky over a really tasty '70s LA session guy groove. Listeners of a certain persuasion may be inspired to dig out their roach clips. The title track is a beautiful thing, combining a very Michael Hedges-like guitar figure with a delightful soprano sax line and the voice of Becca Stevens, “Sky Trails” sounds both relaxed and purposeful. And this is only the second track…
Elsewhere, we get a whiff of Weather Report (“Before Tomorrow Falls on Love”) a State of the Union address (“Capitol”) and one cover, Joni Mitchell’s “Amelia”. This is the sole fumble on a solid piece of work -- a lovely idea on paper and a tip of that hat to an artist who Crosby supported, championed and even produced back in the haze of the latter part of the last century. On her “Hejira” version of the tune, Mitchell’s voice dips and soars around the melody, her unique voice filling every corner of the song. Crosby wisely choices to skip the vocal gymnastics, but the tune doesn’t quite recover.
Crosby sounds in control on Sky Trails. He’s not in a desperate rush to go techno or collaborate with Eno or any of those shenanigans. He’s surrounded himself with top-flight musicians, he’s got a pocketful of songs, and nothing is going to stop him from sharing them with the people who want to hear them. You can point the finger and say that it’s a comfortable, MOR album and with Crosby’s history as an agitant he should be hurling metaphorical petrol bombs at the establishment, but he’s 76. There’s no agenda. There’s nothing to prove -- other than he’s still alive, that is. This is the kind of record that most aging rockers (and a considerable amount of much younger rockers) would love to have made.
A couple of your old buddies made a record called “Long May You Run”, Mr. Crosby. I’m inclined to agree.