Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young had come out of Woodstock as the hottest new music act on the planet, and followed it up with Deja Vu, recorded across almost six months in the second half of 1969 and released in March of 1970, supported by a tour in the summer of that year. As it happened, despite some phenomenal music-making on-stage that summer, the tour was fraught with personal conflicts, and the quartet split up upon its completion. And as it happened, even Deja Vu was something of an illusion created by the foursome — Neil Young was only on five of the album’s ten tracks — which meant that an actual, tangible legacy for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was as elusive and ephemeral to listeners as Ahab’s Moby Dick.
It was, at the time, one of the highest-grossing rock tours ever, grossing over 11 million dollars in an era when such figures were uncommon. Such success camouflaged the chaos behind the scenes – the bitter fights and feuds, the excess and indulgence that led to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young pocketing about a half million dollars each, when all was said and done. Big bucks were the reason the CSNY 1974 tour even existed. Efforts to record a new album in 1973, their first since 1970's breakthrough Déjà Vu, collapsed but manager Elliot Roberts and promoter Bill Graham convinced the group to stage the first outdoor stadium tour in the summer of 1974, with the idea that CSNY would test-drive new material in concert, then record a new studio album in the fall, or maybe release a live record from the historic tour. Neither happened.
What’s so instantly striking about Crosby, Stills and Nash’s CSN, their second group album in eight years, is that it sounds so much like the debut LP even though its makers are so vastly changed. Since CS&N, and later Y, were always at the vanguard of the conspicuous counterculture (always ready to hoist their tie-dyed freak flag at a moment’s notice), their current reflection and hesitancy are especially interesting. And, because the music is so eerily familiar, the album communicates a kind of time warp (imagine if we knew in 1969 what we know now) that’s compelling and troubling.