The Musical Evolution of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Copyright 2016, 2018-2019 by Richard J. Ballard -- All Rights Reserved.

I was a college freshman in 1969. Bob Dylan was / is our best lyricist, but the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield brought melody to the counterculture's lyrics. I heard these groups soar and plummet. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rose from the ashes, tunefully expressing an optimistic generation's frustration.

College students and rock musicians mature and age -- college graduates often seek their answers in other places. Neil Young took the high road, David Crosby took the low road, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills stayed on the level, and in 2016 the quartet cannot agree to a reunion. CSN&Y in all their musical personae remind the 1970s generation of earlier, simpler times when we all knew the answer to Why? And although former President Jimmy Carter later deactivated Selective Service conscription, history still teaches the games people play to our increasingly militarized (and budget deficit governed) United States society.

Prequel: David Crosby and The Byrds

Mr. Tambourine Man [1965]
Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Mike Clark's first album interprets Bob Dylan and other folk composers, makes #1 on the charts, and defines the genre folk rock.

Turn! Turn! Turn! [1965]
The Byrd's second album is an eclectic mix of Bob Dylan, other folk composers, and Chris Hillman (The Flying Burrito Brothers) selections.

The Byrds - Greatest Hits [1967]
Provides the best of the Byrds' first four albums. A great introduction to the origins of folk rock.

Sweetheart of the Rodeo [1968]
Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and newcomer Gram Parsons (The Flying Burrito Brothers) form the country Byrds core. CD adds selections to original LP.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers [1968]
An awkward mix of Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Jim McGuinn selections. Notable selection: I Wasn't Born To Follow.

Ballad of Easy Rider [1969]
A mix of traditional selections capped with Ballad of Easy Rider, the theme from the late 1960s counterculture's freedom film. CD adds selections to original LP.

Untitled [1970]
Concert / studio album featuring Gene Parsons, Clarence White, Roger McGuinn and Skip Battin. CD adds selections to original 2 LP album. Notable selections: Chestnut Mare and Truck Stop Girl.

Prequel: Graham Nash and The Hollies

Blows Against the Empire [1970]
David Crosby and Graham Nash perform with Paul Kantner's Jefferson Starship in this landmark radical rock album. The wooden ships lyrical reference IMO is remarkable. Grace Slick impressive vocals.

The Hollies' Greatest Hits [1973]
Graham Nash led The Hollies, a British rock group. This is a modified reissue, not the original 1967 Imperial Records LP version. Notable selections: Look Through Any Window and On A Carousel.

Prequel: Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield [1966]
Buffalo Springfield defines the genre country rock. Notable selections: For What It's Worth (Stephen Stills) and Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing (Neil Young).

Buffalo Springfield Again [1967]
A satisfying sequel. Notable selections: Bluebird (Stephen Stills); Broken Arrow and Mr. Soul (Neil Young).

Super Session [1968] featuring Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills
Al Kooper was the driving force behind Super Session. Having left Blood, Sweat and Tears after their debut album, Al called Mike Bloomfield (who was leaving the band Electric Flag) about the possibility of a jam recording session. Mike agreed, and Al booked two days of recording studio time plus some (never identified) session brass players. Mike showed up for the first day's session (side one on the 1968 original vinyl LP) but never appeared on day two. Stuck with a second day's studio time plus session brass musicians, Al called Stephen Stills (who'd recently left Buffalo Springfield) and asked if Stephen wanted to jam. Stephen showed up and the second day's jam appeared as side two on the 1968 original vinyl LP; the trio never performed together.

Stephen Stills is known primarily as a great lyricist and band player. This million-selling blues album displays Stephen Stills' musical performance artistry. The music CD version adds four bonus tracks including 2002 remixes of Albert's Shuffle (with Mike Bloomfield) and Season Of The Witch (with Stephen Stills). The brass horns were edited out of these 2002 remixes; the remixes IMO are superior to the vinyl LP's original selections.

Retrospective: The Best Of Buffalo Springfield [1969]
Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay (Poco), Dewey Martin, and Bruce Palmer [later Jim Messina (Loggins and Messina)] perform the best selections ever written by Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [1969]
Neil Young with Crazy Horse reflects life's frustration while seeking musical recognition. Notable selections: Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River and Cowgirl In The Sand.

After The Gold Rush [1970]
Neil Young with Crazy Horse expresses a (temporarily) impoverished musician's frustration. Notable selections: Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Southern Man and Don't Let It Bring You Down.

The Main Event: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Crosby Stills & Nash [1969] by Crosby, Stills and Nash
David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Dallas Taylor produce a happy LP during the Vietnam War protests. Notable selection: Wooden Ships.

Deja Vu [1970]
While Vietnam War protests flare at Kent State University, the rock world awaits Neil Young's joining CS&N. Features Dallas Taylor, Greg Reeves, Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead) and John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful).

4 Way Street [LIVE, 1971]
Live concert recording combines CSN&Y's music with feel of 1970s counterculture. 2 CD set adds Graham Nash and Neil Young selections to the original 2 LP album. Notable selections: Love The One You're With and Ohio.

So Far [1989]
A one CD digitally remastered Best of CSN&Y.

After the Storm [1994] by Crosby, Stills and Nash
Post Operation Desert Storm album is energetic, cautiously optimistic and forward looking.

Looking Forward [1999]
Undistinguished album incorporates numerous musical formulas but lacks spontaneity and emotion.


The Byrds [1973]
David Crosby rejoins Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke in this Byrds reunion album.

Thousand Roads [1993] by David Crosby
Don't argue with the ocean. It ain't listening. -- David Crosby reveals a military unexpected perspective after having traveled several roads alone.

Free Flyte [1996] by The Byrds
A one CD 'Best of the Byrds' compilation -- a big job.

All Time Greatest Hits [1990] by The Hollies
A great sampling of The Hollies' most popular selections.

Archive Alive! [LIVE, 1997] by The Hollies
A live concert recording featuring The Hollies' most popular selections.

Stephen Stills [1970]
Stephen Stills' solo debut album. Notable selections: Love The One You're With (popularized by CSN&Y) and Sit Yourself Down.

Stephen Stills 2 [1971]
Heavy orchestration and a host of imitators dilute this sequel's impact.

Manassas [1972] by Stephen Stills
This excellent (but initially underrated) album introduces Stephen Stills' band Manassas playing four themes: The Raven; The Wilderness; Consider and Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay.

Stills Alone [1991] by Stephen Stills
Country good album! Stills' composing talent, solo guitar skill and distinctive voice (straining at the high notes) remind us why Stills was a Buffalo Springfield cornerstone. Notable selection: Treetop Flyer.

Harvest [1972] by Neil Young
Neil Young recorded this solo album while CSN&Y were regarded as a supergroup. The supergroup members experienced ego problems while Neil Young's health problems delayed this album's release. Harvest was well received, becoming Neil Young's most popular album, and the album's popularity might have contributed to Neil Young's decision to leave CSN&Y. Notable selections include Heart Of Gold and Old Man.

Sleeps With Angels [1994] by Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Undistinguished 1994 album showcases Crazy Horse's southwestern melodies; lackluster frustrated lyrics. Notable selections include Change Your Mind and Safeway Cart.

Silver & Gold [2000] by Neil Young
Neil Young's music and play age well -- his lyrics mellow.

Are You Passionate? [2002] by Neil Young
Not passionate -- Neil Young experiments with Detroit arrangements. Good voice often overpowered by instrumentals. Neil singing against the right sassy female vocalist would have strengthened this effort.

Prairie Wind [2005] by Neil Young
This album marks Neil Young's return to country music, but the album did not achieve Harvest's popularity. Neil Young applies his composing and performance skills to the theme of 21st Century rural survival. The selection He Was The King (an Elvis tribute) is anomalous.

Visit Richard's Home webpage.

Comments? Send Richard a message at