The Class of 1971: David Crosby — ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’

The Class of 1971: David Crosby — ‘If I Could Only Remember My Name’

In the run-up to the release of Paul Kantner’s revolutionary Blows Against the Empire, the loose collective he put together was dubbed The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra (PERRO) after David Crosby’s 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name. Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire featured members of Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

PERRO would also be part of Songs for Beginners by Graham Nash (1971), Sunfighter by Kantner and Slick (1971), Papa John Creach’s eponymous debut (1971), Graham Nash David Crosby (1972), Rolling Thunder by Mickey Hart (1972), Baron von Tollboth & the Chrome Nun by Kantner, Slick, and Freiberg (1973), and in 1983 Kantner’s Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.

David Crosby had been a member of The Byrds from 1964 to 1967 and the band’s first five albums. He joined Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield) and Graham Nash (The Hollies) to form Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose career would explode at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield) joined the collective, and in 1970 the group released the iconic album Déjà Vu and recorded 4-Way Street during the summer (released 04.07.71).

David Crosby & Graham Nash

1970-71 was a fertile period for the quartet. Young issued his third solo album, After the Goldrush. The other three all released their debut solo efforts: Stephen Stills’ eponymous album, Graham Nash’s Songs for Beginners, and David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name.

For Crosby’s debut (and his only solo album for the next 17 years), the PERRO lineup included Joni Mitchell and members of Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Santana: David Crosby, vocals, guitars; Graham Nash, guitar, vocal (on “Music Is Love”); vocals (on “Tamalpais High,” “Laughing,” “What Are Their Names,” “Traction in the Rain” & ”Song with No Words”); Jerry Garcia, electric guitar (on “Cowboy Movie,” “Tamalpais High,” “What Are Their Names” & ”Song with No Words”), pedal steel guitar (on “Laughing”); guitars (on “Kids and Dogs”), vocal (on “What Are Their Names”); Neil Young, guitars, vocals (on “Music Is Love” & “What Are Their Names”), bass, vibraphone, congas (on “Music Is Love”); Jorma Kaukonen, electric guitar (on “Tamalpais High” & “Song with No Words”); Laura Allan, autoharp, vocal (on “Traction in the Rain”); Gregg Rolie, piano (on “Song with No Words”); Phil Lesh, bass (on “Cowboy Movie,” “Tamalpais High,” “Laughing” & “What Are Their Names”), vocal (on “What Are Their Names”); Jack Casady, bass (on “Song with No Words”); Bill Kreutzmann, drums (on “Tamalpais High” & “Laughing”), tambourine (on “Cowboy Movie”); Michael Shrieve, drums (on “What Are Their Names” and “Song with No Words”); Mickey Hart, drums (on “Cowboy Movie”); Joni Mitchell, vocals (on “Laughing” and “What Are Their Names”); and David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, and Grace Slick, vocals (on “What Are Their Names”). All titles are by Crosby except as noted.

The album was recorded at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco and at A&M Studios in Hollywood from 1970 into early 1971 and released on February 22, 1971. Stephen Barncard was the engineer and digital remastering producer, with Ellen Burke as assistant engineer. Gary Burden handled art direction. The excellent cover photography was by Henry Diltz. The cover itself was a textured cardboard with a great feel to it. WEA Records di this with other albums of the time, including Jackson Brown’s debut (“Saturate Before Using”), The Eagles’ On the Border, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu.

 

If I Could Only Remember My Name

SIDE ONE

“Music is Love” (3:16) [Crosby, Nash, Young] is a beautiful tune — just a chorus — with Nash and Young on guitars and vocals.

“Cowboy Movie” (8:02) is a Grateful Dead affair. Crosby’s stinging guitar is joined by Garcia and Lesh, with Hart on drums and Kreutzmann on tambourine. It’s a long story by Crosby. This one dovetails perfectly between “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Down by the River.”

For “Tamalpais High (at About 3)” (3:29), Crosby and Nash soar vocally with those magnificent harmonies (think “Guinnivere”). Garcia, Lesh, and Kreutzmann are back, also joined by Jorma Kaukonen. The gorgeous slow tempo showcases everybody.

Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Phil Lesh & Jorma Kaukonen

“Laughing” (5:20) features Garcia on superb pedal steel guitar with Kreutzmann and Lesh. The tune is slow and pensive, Nash and Crosby again intertwined vocally. Lesh gets some fat licks in.

 

SIDE TWO

“What Are Their Names” (4:09) has a full chorus: Crosby, Nash, Young, Garcia, Joni Mitchell, David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, and Grace Slick. Lesh and Michael Shrieve anchor the tune with guitars from Crosby, Young, and Garcia.

I wonder who they are
The men who really run this land
And I wonder why they run it
With such a thoughtless hand
What are their names and on what streets do they live?
I’d like to ride right over this afternoon and give
Them a piece of my mind about peace for mankind
Peace is not an awful lot to ask

“Traction in the Rain” (3:40) is a beautiful tune centering on Crosby incredible voice. Laura Allen adds autoharp to the guitars and adds vocals with Nash as well.

David Crosby & Neil Young

Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane) play on “Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)” (5:53) with drums (brushes) from Shrieve. The lovely piano is courtesy of Gregg Rolie, Shrieve’s bandmate in Santana. Once again, it’s the Crosby-Nash show, this time flowing vocalese.

“Orleans” (1:56) is more magnificence — just multiple Crosby voices and acoustic guitar accompaniment.

“I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here” (1:19). For a comparison, check out Todd Rundgren’s “There are No Words” on his debut solo album. Many more Crosbys filling your ears to close out the album.

 

 

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