I could be cliche and begin here by calling these newly acquired studio tapes for the first Crosby, Stills And Nash LP a revelation. And you would be hard-pressed to argue the point. Indeed, this fortunate turn of fate for Aurora Borealis will skyrocket the Label to the forefront of many discussions surrounding recordings of illegitimate origin, as it provides collectors a very rare and intimate glimpse of how an early "super group" collaborated in the studio, and the alchemy of their collective musical genius.
What this initial collection presents is a cross-section of session outtakes and alternates - and jams, extracted from what I've been told is about 4 hours* of total prime and pristine studio outtakes from Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood sometime in early 1969. What that means is that this is just a taster, some would be more crass and call it a teaser, of a larger multi-disc box set called "Sessions" intended to be released by Aurora Borealis sometime in late Spring of 2007 that will bring the complete tapes to our CD players. And that's unbelievably exciting after sitting through these candid and immaculate initial recordings.
The sound is astonishing, presenting incredibly sharp and warm stereo soundboard takes of familiar tunes, along with playful ("David?...do that kitchen vocal"... where Stephen Stills prompts David Crosby to launch into a soulful mock of the blues tune "C'mon In My Kitchen") and starkly revealing banter (Stephen Stills after attempting the "Blackbird" take..."I'm exhausted, let's listen and have a snort..."). As well as the warts and all coughing, sniffling and vocal miscues. Simply put, this is a really cool disc though it does lack a certain flow. If there is any potential compromise on this one it's with the flow. Outtake projects are a tough animal to hone with all the jamming, disjointedness and miscues. Distilling that much tape down to a single disc is an ambitious task in a relatively short turnaround. But this one is well worth seeking out.
The CD art utilizes photo session outtakes taken by Henry Diltz for that first LP as well, solidifying the release as a Top 10 pick for 2006. The disc quality is too good and the material too important as a representation of a group of this stature in their early stages and the whole piece is too cohesive. Along with David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash in the studio were Dallas Taylor on Drums, Jim "If I Had A Hammer" Gordon on Drums & Percussion on "Marrakesh Express" and more...Bruce Palmer plays Bass on "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and the Recording Engineer "Supremo" at the helm is Bill Halvorson.
So, I will end this praise with how the Liner Notes on the inner panel begin..."Set the controls on the "Wayback" to Los Angeles, CA, 1969 - corner of Selma and Cahuenga - as we step into Studio III at Wally Heiders Recording and we hear...
(* Note: I had mistakenly posted that there were over 10 hours of studio outtakes but that was a misinterpretation of some preliminary info and have been corrected. It is approximately 4 hours of outtakes and wanted to make sure we are forthright with the documentation here at HotWacks. Thanks.)