- 23 Jul 21
Croz Pulls Another Good One Out Of The Bag
Whatever about his reputation - ‘difficult’ to work with, his near-legendary enthusiasm for the hard stuff, his run-ins with the law, more drugs - David Crosby has more importantly been involved with some brilliant records in his time, most particularly Crosby, Stills & Nash’s 1969 debut and his 1971 masterpiece, If I Could Only Remember my Name.
All that extracurricular activity couldn’t help but get in the way though, and Crosby was in his seventies before getting around to solo album number four – after a twenty year gap – 2014's Croz. The perhaps surprising thing was that it was pretty good. He kept the streak going through Lighthouse in 2016, the following year’s Sky Trails – try the great ‘Sell Me A Diamond’ – and 2018’s Here If You Listen. He’s done it again with For Free. The gentle ‘I Think I’ finds Crosby celebrating, “I think I found my way” and it certainly does sound like it.
Credit too to Crosby’s son James Raymond, who not only plays and writes but produces as well. There’s a warm, sunshiney California feel off the opening track, ‘River Rise’, with another old voice in good nick, Michael McDonald, helping out with the harmonies, and there’s also a rather fine contribution from Steely Dan man Donald Fagen. You wouldn’t even have to know it was him to know it was him behind ‘Rodriguez For A Night’, which could have come off any of his fine solo albums and wouldn’t have shamed any of his old band’s records either, records Crosby has long adored, tweeting recently how Aja floored him the first time he heard it.
There’s some beautiful music here, not least ‘Secret Dancer’, which would seem to reflect on the time he spent as a guest of the authorities, and ‘Shot At Me’ where Croz takes inspiration from a chat over coffee that he had with a “haunted man with a haunted face” who’s just back from the middle east. ‘I Won’t Stay For Long’ is as a good again, with the singer facing his own mortality, finding peace in what he has, “there’s a sliver of air between the water and the ice”, over a lovely piano and muted trumpet. Despite the fact that his son wrote the song, Crosby inhabits every line, his voice alive with hard won authority.
Crosby has called Joni Mitchell “the greatest living singer/songwriter” and it’s hard to argue with him, especially when you hear the version of ‘For Free’ he offers on this record – a song he’s been singing for decades. Helped out by Raymond’s piano and Sarah Jarosz’s voice, Mitchell’s lyric about a busker’s playing reminding her that music means more than money sounds like it means more to Crosby now, with all his years behind him, than it ever did before. After all he’s been through, he sounds like he’s in a good place, a place where the music is the most important thing.