Session Selections (Aurora Borealis oms – 017 – 2007)
Suite: Judy “Goddamn” Blue Eyes ( Instumental w/Studio Chat ) / Marrakesh Express ( Vocal – Alternative ) / Marrakesh Express ( Inst. ) / Guinnevere ( Vocal – Electric ) / Guinnevere ( Vocal – Acoustic ) / “David?” ( C’mon In My Kitchen ) ( 3 Times ) / Black Queen ( Vocal – Alternative ) / Pre- Road Downs ( Work Out / Jam ) / Pre-Road Downs ( Vocal – Alternative ) / Wooden Ships ( Vocal – Alternative ) / Lady Of The Island ( Vocal – Alternative ) / Helplessly Hoping ( Inst. ) / Helplessly Hoping ( Vocal / Alternative ) / 49 Bye Byes ( Jam w/Vocals ) / Cinnamon Girl ( Inst. ) / Blackbird ( Vocal / Alternative )
The sessions for Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album recorded at Wally Heiders studio in Hollywood, circa early 1969 should be likened to the Beach Boys “SMiLE” sessions for the fact that so much exists & we know so much but still we’ve never heard the final note & every once in a while something else will creep up & surprise us. Aurora Borealis gave us more than the healthy handful in 2007 with this astounding, soundboard set showcasing a few studio recordings gathering together a few embryonic versions of songs from the first album.
1 – Is an instrumental run through of the lead of track written as a tribute to the bands friend Judy Collins. It’s a couple of takes in to the rehearsal & it’s purpose seem’s to be getting Dallas Taylor, the sessions drummer, in to the feel of the song. After a few loose guitar strums & drum beats the song starts properly. The guitar playing is rather base as to the version that we know but the song has obviously been worked out to it’s main extent as we’ve heard on the official Stephen Stills release “Just Roll Tape”. As the song pulses along Dallas really finds his groove until Stephen mentions that the songs going really well but Dallas complains that that has broken his concentration & he’d like a little peace & quiet. Once the track reaches it’s down tempo stage ( ‘I Have An Answer’ ) then the drums are mixed steadily higher in the mix so they can be heard more clearley until they hit the coda when he really lets loose. The song comes to it’s conclusion when Graham Nash shouts that the track is “Too Short .. Again!”
2 – An alternate vocal to the track on the album but otherwise no real difference to the album proper apart from the spoken work introduction isn’t included ( more on that later ) & the brush drum beat is a lot quieter through out. Short & sweet on the album this pips it by being a full 9 seconds longer.
3 – A true alternate mix this time starting with a brief prelude with a count in by Graham & then continues throughout completely instrumentally meaning that some nuances that are obscured by vocals before are clearer now. it ends with a “phew” & a little studio chat – David Crosby asking if the group would like to hear a playback before they try to record the track again.
4 – ‘Guineverre’ is preceded by the spanish chatter that usually precedes “Marrakesh Express”. Obviously someone liked the fact that a little Spanish was being spoken but it just didn’t fit here so it was snipped & transfered over to the other track. The instrumentation on this electric take is without the acoustic guitar thant under pins the song on the album & actually sounds to have less hiss than it’s official partner but sounds no narrower in the mix. it ends with the sound of someone dropping studio equipment or possibly knocking the microphone.
5 – This is an exclusively acoustic version sounding closer to the production on David Crosby’s debut solo album. Beginning with a cough, a brief false start & a softer but closer to the mic vocal line it’s closer to being noticeably different to the album even if the tune is still the same. Listened to through head phones it’s almost like being sat between David & Graham.
6 – Just over a minute of studio rehearsal & chatter with a certain amount of reverb. David singing a special request from the producer & playing with tones to Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen”. As it was used as an ad-lib on the original issue of the album but removed from later versions although it’s nothing special & it adds nothing to the selection barring being a small curio.
7 – An early version of this Stephen Stills solo song where he’s running through the riff to the song. It’s a little warmer sounding that the album version & it sounds almost like he’s trying the riff out as something he’s working on – again akin to the “Just Roll Tape” release. at the end Stephen mutters “Ain’t Happenin'” to which Graham Nash, obviously not feeling it either, replies from the control room “Not much”
8 – A fragmentary session tape of rehearsals for this track, heavy with riffing, count ins & chord vocalisation. this 8 min + section is an obvious highlight distilling a good few takes of the song in to a manageable run through of the full track.
9 – Missing the backwards guitar over dubs from the album proper this again is an early run through of the album missing many of it’s vocals & Graham has a frog in his throat giving him a persistent cough.
10 – The first half of this track is filled with calls to the control room, false starts, & ruminating guitar jams after these the song starts proper. Noodling guitar lines are accentuated.
11 – This track starts with Graham Nash’s best Liverpudlian impression, a few frog noises from David Crosby & a expletive from Graham as he screws up the song then after a small tape cut the song starts – it’s a very close approximation of the version on the album. A little less wide than the separation on the official release. at the end Graham, very excitedly, asks for a playback.
12 – A short instrumental take of this track with a snippets of studio chat here & there. More of a rehearsal session than a fully formed song.
13 – This take features a little more country slide guitar than the CV. The vocals are buried more in the mix as opposed to the CV.
14 – An unfurnished & more ramshackle warm up at creating this song than a proper run through just like track 8 the band are throwing in ideas for this Stills track including a fair few hand claps
15 – A small instrumental tribute to one of the guests on this album – either Neil Young is in the studio at the time ( although this doesn’t actually sound like his guitar playing ) & it’s being played for his interest or Stephen is leading the band through trying out a song from Neil’s album.
16 – Another tryout of this Beatles classic with Stephen Stills taking lead. More of the harmonies that appear on other passes at this song before the band decide to listen to some playbacks with the accompaniment of some “snort” ..
Intriguingly within the liner notes it mentions the legend “We hope you enjoy this material as much as we have! It’s an honor to be able to bring it to you …. wait until you hear the rest!”. It does give hop that there’s a lot more of this stuff about to be released – every classic album needs it’s own box set. This could be Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Funhouse Sessions”
Needless to say if you like this album then this set sheds a little more light on to it’s work & the sessions that it was borne from. If you love this album then you’ll look forward to the rest ..If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)