CSNY 1974 is the newly-released, retrospective live album of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s infamous 1974 stadium tour, a tour which many rock historians consider to be the first major stadium rock tour. This live retrospective is being released in several formats, something which is pretty standard these days for nostalgia releases like this one. I managed to get my hands on the cheaper single disc release, although you can upgrade to the more expensive deluxe and super deluxe editions which contain multiple discs of the entire set-list, as well as God, knows what else. What’s the point I say unless you are a collector, or like to look at photocopies of old tickets? For me anyway, a standard one disc version does the trick just nicely.
The tracks on this album were recorded at various concerts across the tour and according to Graham Nash who supervised and helped produce this release, some cutting and pasting of songs took place, although you wouldn’t know from listening as the production and sound quality are pretty good I must say. This comes as a relief as there is nothing worse than a live album with poor sound quality, something which is often the case with live albums, especially from decades gone by where the technology was not as good.
So what is the music like? I for one was quite intrigued when I heard this album was coming out as I have always thought about how CSNY would sound live, given how good they sound on record. Thankfully there is plenty on here to satisfy and interest the listener and there are little moments which do make the listener take notice. For example, one thing I did like was hearing Young’s backing vocals on tracks he did not originally appear on. So obviously I am talking CSN tracks here and some of the solo material from the other three. Likewise, it was great hearing Crosby, Stills & Nash sing in harmony together on Young’s solo stuff, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “Old Man” were two particular standouts. The ending to “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” provided one of the high points of the album when the four of them sang the final verse a cappella in what can only be described as a spine-tingling moment. The version on here of “Teach Your Children” was also another great moment, with the voices molding so well together, something which in itself amazes me considering the noise that would come from playing in front of fifty-plus thousand people. Album closer “Ohio” was the icing on the cake. A stellar version which included some amazing guitar dulling between Stills and Young, two six-string maestros going at full tilt in what really was a moment of 70s rock ecstasy and the perfect way to end on.
All in all, a very interesting retrospective look into CSNY live as they were in 1974, and as they could have continued to be if they actually liked each other. As a live recording it’s not going to blow any of the great live albums out of the water, but there were some nice moments amidst some lesser ones as well, something which maybe comes down to song quality and the difference between Stills and Young, who are frankly better songwriters, and the other two. In the end definitely worthwhile as a historical exercise and worth a release, all be it forty years later.