Classic Rock Corner

Crosby, Stills & Nash's Skeletal, Primitive Demos

Crosby, Stills and Nash

Demos (Atlantic/Rhino)

These are resurging times for this harmonic trio. They're in the midst of a 40th anniversary tour (which stops in Houston at the Woodlands tonight), were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June, and are headed into studio with Rick Rubin for a new album of covers.

Demos is a collection of just a dozen tracks featuring early, working versions of songs that would end up becoming CSN (and sometimes Y) warhorses, as well as appear on various members' solo projects.

Make no mistake - not a single song is superior to what was eventually laid down on record. But there is a gentle charm to hearing these mostly one voice/one guitar works-in-progress versions.

After a budding "Marrakesh Express" - featuring one of CSN's first recorded vocal blendings - Stills initiates a nice "My Love is a Gentle Thing," a less successful "Singing Call," and an early version of "Love the One You're With." Nash proffers an even gentler take on "Sleep Song," along with a shining "Be Yourself" and the early take on the strident "Chicago."

Surprisingly, it's Crosby's contributions that differ so much from the final versions, whether a more plaintive than angry "Almost Cut My Hair," or a slower, scatting "Déjà Vu." On again/off again companion Neil Young does make one appearance on the throwaway "Music is Love."

Demos is not meant for the listener who asks "Which one was in jail and fucked Melissa Etheridge?" [sic], but it's a nice way to get back to the garden for awhile.

7 p.m. tonight at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands, 281-363-3300 or

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero