“I’ve been thinking about dying, and how to do it well.”
At a mere, sprightly 77 years of age, David Crosby does not have the aura of a man contemplating his own mortality. In fact, within the rich tapestry of Here If You Listen, his seventh solo outing, he sounds more alive than ever, perhaps inspired and invigorated as much by recent releases by younger contemporaries as he is respectful to the ghosts of his illustrious history. God Is In The TV shares mutual friends with Crosby, in Cardiff’s Zervas And Pepper, with whom the musician has recently become acquainted, and although they do not feature in person on the record, they are certainly all over it in terms of spirit.
I do not know to what end David Crosby is aware of Ryley Walker, but the quote that begins this review comes midway through the gorgeous ‘Your Own Ride‘ and is highly reminiscent of the pastoral colours that lit up the aforementioned Chicagoan’s excellent 2015 watermark Primrose Green. But it’s not just modern performers to whom Crosby gives virtual fistbumps, as he out-Neils his CSNY sparring partner on the absolutely terrific ‘Buddha On A Hill‘. It’s probably the best post-millennium song the Canadian never wrote, and contains the lyric from whence the album’s title came.
The record opens with the pensive, bleary eyed aftermath of ‘Glory‘, like sitting outside with a loved one to watch the early morning sunrise: “Let me be a glory in the sky / circling your shadow, cradling the light” – it’s a beautiful, winsome number that hugs the soul and sets us up for what surely must be one of the highpoints of Crosby’s career to date.
At the other end of Here If You Listen stands an effortlessly alluring, stripped back version of lifelong friend Joni Mitchell‘s ‘Woodstock‘, her words being toyed with affectionately in their accentuation, creating a kind of magical otherworldliness through its sparse arrangement and mesmerising backing vocals.
Speaking of which, I should mention that the album is a collaboration between Crosby and Becca Stevens, Michelle Willis and Michael League, who together make up The Lighthouse Band, and the harmonies provided here by the trio are truly something to behold. It’s difficult to pick just one standout, as it all comes together so seamlessly, but the one that’s really grown on me over the past few days is ‘Janet‘, which uses the Wurlitzer to great effect, akin to the intro to Three Dog Night‘s version of Randy Newman‘s ‘Mama Told me Not To Come‘, and despite its scanty production, becomes ever more infectious with each listen.
So many other lovely tunes here too, and although David Crosby has, on occasion, been described in certain media quarters as a curmudgeonly old sourpuss, when he sings, on the affectionately tender ‘Balanced On A Pin‘, “What’s that book you’re reading? Is it a love story? I love love stories. I love love“, it’s impossible not to believe him.
A sumptuous return from a man in arguably his finest run of form in years.