Didn’t we just have a 3 disc Graham Nash retrospective? Well, no – sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but the ‘Reflections‘ Box Set was nine years ago. True, this release adds only one new finished track to what’s available on ‘Reflections‘ – ‘Myself at Last‘ from the recent solo album ‘This Path Tonight‘, although completists will no doubt want the new mixes of ‘I used to be a King‘ and ‘Better Days‘. The fifteen studio finished tracks range from the earliest Crosby Stills & Nash days, through Nash solo albums and a couple of essential Crosby/Nash recordings. Like any compilation most listeners will quibble over the track selection – the absence of ‘Southbound Train‘ and ‘On the Line‘ are perhaps the most glaring. And ‘Oh, Camille‘. Going off down this path of enquiry is a reminder of what a great songwriter Graham Nash is – so much more than the oft repeated lazy assessment as the “lightweight pop song hit writer of CSN“. Take a listen to the impassioned autobiographical ‘Military Madness‘, cock an ear to the snarling anger of ‘Immigration Man‘ or vicariously take a wild trip to Winchester on ‘Cathedral‘. Lightweight pop? As the man himself might well say: “what the fuck are you talking about?“.
So, as an introduction to Graham Nash’s post-Hollies music ‘Over the Years‘ is as good a snapshot as any. The other question for many reading this is likely to be “don’t I have all this already?” – and the answer is also likely to be “yes, and multiple times“. So, in that situation, just why would one want this set? And there is a good answer to that hanging question – the content of disc two is nearly all previously unreleased and consists of early demo versions of well known songs. The first version of ‘Marrakesh Express‘ that the Hollies turned down, forcing Nash to look for a new set of musicians to play with. There’s a superb take on ‘Chicago‘, just Nash at the piano. These are very immediate, very live, very engaging recordings. Anyone who considers themselves to be even partially a Crosby/Stills/Nash “family” obsessive will want to hear these, and not just once, as they reveal the passion of Nash the musician, songwriter and performer in a very naked way – the unadorned recordings cutting right to the heart of each song.
There is another reason to pick up this collection – it has been released at a bargain price: a two CD set with an interesting background essay in the accompanying booklet for less than the price of a single disc. It’s worth it just for the demo’s – consider the “best of” as a nice bonus.
Graham Nash smartly offers a good reason to buy again what you already have. You really do need the disc of demos.