When he’s not busy picking fights with next-gen rockers, David Crosby continues to make singular, beautiful music. The folk rock legend has had a prolific run of five solo album releases since 2014, many of them in collaboration with a cadre of younger, progressive, genre-roving musicians — among them, members of Snarky Puppy, Becca Stevens, Cory Henry and his own son, producer James Raymond. Crosby pushes forth with an open mind and spirit (and another cross-generational collaboration) on his latest release: a stirring cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” featuring singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz on duet vocals.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Crosby, Stills and Nash had already staked their claim as a bona fide supergroup courtesy their first release, cemented by their appearance in the Woodstock documentary. Of course, Neil Young had already joined the band by the time they got there, if mysteriously missing from the film in its initial iteration. His second gig, he appeared for the electric second part of the set. To me he always seemed their secret weapon. Old compadre and sparring partner of Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield, there was always the fear he could engineer the gig to being as big a draw in his own right as the trio he joined. Maybe he did; however much I loved the trio, they were always in a different league with Young’s fiery presence on board.
Deja Vu came out in 1970, after being put together in different studios and at different times, with only selections of the four featuring at any one time. All the vocals save “Woodstock” were recorded separately and then spliced together, amid much argument and revision. Young did everything on the half of the album he appears on all by himself, then took away the contributions of the others to mix as he saw fit. Completion took hours, days and weeks.
But it was all worth it. Somehow Deja Vu holds together cohesively, in no small part down to the rhythm section, the excellent Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves. Certified gold within a fortnight, partly on the back of $2 million presales, it spent nearly two years in the Billboard chart, despite largely grudging and lackluster reviews. It still seems the pinnacle of their collective career, the only real instance wherein the deceitful artifice of any group collective manages fully to convince, melding individual directions with a combined corporacy.
Like most of our Full Cover posts, we have near-endless options for some songs and had to go scrounging for others – no trouble finding covers of “Teach Your Children,” but how many versions of “Everybody I Love You” have you heard? See what you think of the ten songs we pulled together here…
They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
Steve Winwood turns 72 today, so we have quite a few candles to light. The multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter has had so many different incarnations that surveying his career makes you dizzy. It’s not just that Winwood tried his hand at different genres, it’s that he helped define those genres. These things can happen when a gifted artist jumps in on the action early —Winwood was famous for his music by the age of 16—and then keeps evolving in ways that matter. Add to that some serious staying power, and you have an impressive career–one that is still going strong six decades in.
In fact, last year may have been Winwood’s best ever, in a funny way. DJ-producer Kygo remixed Whitney Houston’s cover of Winwood’s “Higher Love,” and released it digitally; the song now has about 350,000,000 hits on Spotify alone. More about that song later, but for now just imagine that a small number of Kygo’s followers are asking themselves, “Who wrote this?” What will they find, and like, once they go down the Winwood rabbit hole?
Before Woodstock made them legends. Before the drugs took control. Before the rivalries, the breakups and the reunions. Before the memoirs, the biographies, the documentaries, and yet another breakup. Heck, before Neil Young joined the party. Before all that, there was simply Crosby, Stills & Nash.
Fifty years ago, in May 1969, the supergroup comprised of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash released their self-titled debut album. It catapulted the three singers, all of whom had enjoyed success in other bands, into superstardom. As band biographer Peter Doggett put it, “They cut a debut album that caught the mood of the times.” In retrospect, the record could have been called Greatest Hits: Volume 1. The album contains numerous classics, including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Helplessly Hoping,” “Marrakesh Express,” “Wooden Ships” and “Long Time Gone.”
Surprisingly, given this record and CSN’s place in rock history, the songs haven’t been covered that much. Secondhandsongs.com lists only 77 known covers of all the tracks on the album. By comparison, there are 208 covers of the tracks from Déjà Vu (that includes 86 versions of “Woodstock,” which was written by Joni Mitchell). Stills’ solo track “Love the One You’re With” has inspired 69 covers. These numbers do not provide a complete picture, as the site usually does not include music on YouTube or SoundCloud. But they give you an idea of just how few artists have decided to tackle these songs.
Still, we found some great covers by such luminaries as Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Richie Havens, and Trey Anastasio. There are also countless home recordings by guys and gals with acoustic guitars and one of best harmonizing bar bands you’ve never heard of. Let’s “set a course and go”…
‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
Joni Mitchell is 75 and won’t be with us forever. She suffered an aneurysm in 2015, and she’s coping with the little-understood Morgellons disease. She has difficulty walking, and has not spoken publicly in years. But if her place on earth is tenuous, her place in the heavens is secure; millions of people already look up to her every day.
Joni Mitchell’s songs are famous for being intensely personal, a deep expression of her self that people nevertheless relate to. Those who aspire to her voice become near-slavish devotees. There’s a great New Yorker piece about a small show of Joni’s that a drunken Chrissie Hynde gets overly caught up in (“That’s a REAL singer up there!”), and Hynde’s not alone. Mitchell isn’t just a real singer, though. She’s a real songwriter, a real painter, a real guitarist, a real follower of her muse – a real artist, one of the realest of the past hundred years. That authenticity is what continues to bring people into her circle on a daily basis.
In an excellent essay for NPR, Ann Powers wrote: “Like her prime compatriots Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and her favorite protégé Prince, no one can adequately echo her; even great singers, taking on her songbook, admit they can only hope to achieve proximity.” Indeed, a Joni Mitchell cover is never just a tribute – it’s an assertion, an artist coming forth to pick up a gauntlet she lay down decades ago.
We found 30 covers that show the artists doing an especially good job at matching their talents to Joni’s, creating new works of art that, no matter how novel or innovative they may be, never set out to eradicate the original artist’s signature. May her art continue to open eyes, whether through her own performances or those of others, for centuries to come.
–Patrick Robbins, Feature Editor
In 1969, on the advice of her manager, the folk singer Joni Mitchell opted out of playing an event dubbed “An Aquarian Exposition” in the tiny farm community of Bethel, N.Y. Had she performed, it’s possible she would have played a rain-drenched set filled with technical difficulties and tried to forget the whole thing. Instead, while watching the events unfold on TV, she was inspired to write a song that would bear the festival’s more popular name: “Woodstock.”