Sings Alabama (Mainstream MAST-127/128)
Berkeley Community Theater, Berkeley, CA – October 14th, 1971
Disc 1 (46:39): Déjà Vu, Wooden Ships, Man In The Mirror, Orleans, I Used To Be A King, The Lee Shore, Southbound Train, Traction In The Rain, Laughing
Disc 2 (46:54): Games, Triad, Stranger’s Room, Immigration Man, Helpless, Alabama, Teach Your Children, Ohio, Military Madness, Chicago
The various permutations of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young can be considered to be a guiding school of music which attempts to form the greatest relevance for folk-rock. It is this guiding idea that binds together the various line ups, reunions, and side projects from the four artists. Over the forty years of their existence, it is plain that the core is the harmonious collaboration between David Crosby and Graham Nash. Theirs are the most consistent artistic contribution.
From late 1970 through 1971 CSNY released a successful live album with Four Way Street, and each of the four releases solo albums, Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name, Stills’ Stephen Stills, Nash’s Songs for Beginners, and Young’s After the Gold Rush which placed in the top 15 on the album charts.
Late in the year Crosby And Nash booked a tour accompanied only by their acoustic guitars and pianos with no backing group. Again these shows were highly successful and from these dates one of the most famous unofficial vinyl releases emerged with A Very Stony Evening.
A Very Stony Evening was claimed to be the October 10th show at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, but turned out to be the second of the two Berkeley shows later in the week. In 1998 Crosby & Nash released the real Los Angeles show on Another Stoney Evening, a sly reference to the bootleg.
Sings Alabama is a very good audience tape of the first Berkeley show on October 14th making its silver pressed debut. It was taped by the same guy who recorded the second Led Zeppelin show in Berkeley on September 14th and issued on the famous Going To California bootleg.
The sound quality is very good but slightly muffled. There are several non-destructive cuts between songs and one when Neil Young enters the stage after “Immigration Man,” cutting out his introduction (if there was any). Since the entire show is played on acoustic guitar and grand piano, there are no excessively loud sounds to distort the tape and the music, and Crosby and Nash’s running jokes, are all perfectly audible on the tape.
And the similarity to the other more well known shows is apparent in terms of set selection and in the drug and political humor in the between song patter. The dreamy opening of the show with “Déjà Vu” is picked up well on the tape. Neil Young joins them onstage and sings “Helpless,” which he recorded with CSNY.
Young had just wrapped up sessions for Harvest and plays the newly recorded “Alabama.” The set ends with them all together singing several CSNY classics which still held resonance back then.
It was only a year after the events that inspired “Ohio” and three years after “Chicago,” and “Military Madness” still holds relevance today.
Sings Alabama was one of the final Mainstream releases before they switched to producing CDR titles in an attempt to actually turn a profit, but this is a fantastic and adventurous release by the label. It comes packaged in a double slimline jewel case with photos from the tour.