Crosby, Stills, & Nash were a “supergroup” the moment they first came together. Stills and Young clashed with their group Buffalo Springfield. David Crosby and Graham Nash experienced the same dynamics with The Byrds and The Hollies respectively. Incredibly, these four solo-driven performers decided to play together. In 1968, Crosby Stills & Nash was a rousing debut for the original trio. The mixture of introspective lyrics and brilliant three-part harmony rewrote musical history. Immediately they went on tour adding Neil Young. Their second appearance was at Woodstock. In a few weeks the goodwill and chemistry had imploded. Even in the throes of dysfunction, the four came together to record Déjà vu. This was another huge success. Despite mass adulation and critical acclaim, the group was virtually disbanded in 1971. They would reunite over the years, but never recaptured the CSN & Y magic. But their early solo recordings (Stephen Stills and Young’s After The Gold Rush) were more cohesive and established the two stars as bona fide solo artists. All four members of the “supergroup” have been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame twice (although Young is the only one to be inducted as an individual).
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Fifty By Four is an extensive look at the trials and tribulations of this rock phenomenon. The first hour of this 165-minute documentary is very interesting. The Sunset Strip and Laurel Canyon music scene is examined in great detail. In particular, The Byrds (Crosby) and Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young) are profiled for their electric folk rock. There is some great footage of “Eight Miles High” and “Mr. Soul”. Also included is a vintage clip of Joni Mitchell singing “Cactus Tree”. In this singer/songwriter community, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Graham Nash formed a group. The style of music and recording (aptly described by Jimi Hendrix as “Western Sky Music”) set a new industry standard. Engineer Bill Halverson provides copious, incisive detail on the sessions. Young signs on for Woodstock. (There is a great live three-part harmony on “Blackbird”) and optimistic plans for CSN & Y were underway.
But there was a lot of tension brewing. Stills is portrayed as a temperamental, control-driven artist who balks at large-scale collaboration with others. Young is withdrawn and more interested in recording his Déjà vu material with the others singing backup. The significant promise of this album was short- circuited by ego and drugs. Numerous anecdotes by different band musicians (especially Dallas Taylor and Greg Reeves) describe the intense disharmony plaguing the superband. Stills was able to exercise control on his solo albums and Manassas projects. An aborted Stills-Young tour (what a shock!) took place in 1976 and a 1987 album (American Dream) failed to recapture the magic. David Crosby’s harrowing crack addiction is discussed. Although this is unauthorized by the group, there are a few interview clips with the four stars. The narrarator is dull and tedious, but the footage and photography is nostalgic.[Here is our review of two C, S & N CD compilations.]