Crosby, Stills & Nash: Long Time Comin' Review

David Crosby was a Byrd, Stephen Stills was in Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young and Graham Nash, on the other side of the Atlantic, was one of the Hollies. Together, though, they clicked. Their combination of soft folk-based rock (mostly accompanied by themselves on acoustic guitars, with the occasional electric and/or twelve-string), three-part harmonies and socially-aware lyrics found a large audience in the late 1960s and despite Crosby’s drugs conviction (and an alarming weight gain) they still have a following today.

Long Time Comin’ is a documentary, just under an hour long, combining interviews, live and archive footage and some behind the scenes material. It’s perhaps rather scrappily assembled, so will probably be best for fans. The modern live footage is well filmed and recorded, and some of the archive material is worth seeing, including a priceless clip of Nash with a rabbit-in-headlights expression performing “Carrie-Anne” with the Hollies on a 1967 Smothers Bros Show. This DVD is less informative for newcomers. In particular the role of Neil Young is virtually overlooked, as if he’s been airbrushed out of the band’s history. Yet he recorded four albums with them. Crosby especially comes over as smug in his interviews, but it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that other people in the Crosby, Stills & Nash orbit far outpace them in talent. Not just Young, but also Joni Mitchell, with whom Nash had a long live-in relationship. Mitchell is interviewed, but Young isn’t. In particular there’s no mention of “Ohio”, Young’s song inspired by the Kent State Massacre, which became a hit single. That’s a major omission. It’s telling that the only time we see Young perform with the other three is on “Down by the River”, which is a song that originated from one of his solo albums. Another song we see performed is “Wooden Ships”, a Crosby-Stills song best known in Jefferson Airplane’s version. None of this is to suggest that Crosby, Stills & Nash are untalented – far from it, and they certainly have a place in 60s music history – but longevity doesn’t necessarily correspond with importance. A lot of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s work seems bland and platitudinous nowadays.

The tracklisting is as follows, by Crosby Stills & Nash unless indicated:

“Long Time Gone”
“Marrakesh Express”
“4 + 20”
“Mr. Tambourine Man” [The Byrds]
“Carrie Anne” [The Hollies]
“For What It’s Worth” [Buffalo Springfield]
“Hopelessly Hoping”
“Teach Your Children”
“You Don’t Have to Cry”
“Down by the River” [Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young]
“Wooden Ships”
“Black Queen”
“Find the Cost of Freedom”
“To the Last Whale: a) Critical Mass b) Wind on the Water”
“Just a Song Before I Go”
“Dark Star”
“Wasted on the Way”
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”
“Carry On”

Long Time Comin’ was a video documentary from 1990, so unsurprisingly it’s transferred to DVD in 4:3, which is the original aspect ratio of almost all the archive footage. The “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” clip from Woodstock is letterboxed to 2.35:1. The modern live footage unsurprisingly looks much better than the archive material, which comes from a variety of sources, including black and white and colour television, not to mention 16mm blown up to 35mm as with Woodstock.

There are two soundtrack options: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround. I listened to the former, but for most of the disc there’s little difference between the two. It’s only really on the newly-recorded concert footage that the 5.1 track wins out for clarity. The surrounds are used mainly for the audience. As the trio’s sound is dominated by acoustic guitars and tenor vocals, there’s not a lot of work for the subwoofer to do.

The DVD is NTSC format and encoded for Regions 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. There are twenty-one chapters, each corresponding to a song, and subtitles in various languages. There are no extras.

Fans will no doubt want this for the performance footage, but otherwise this is an infuriatingly sketchy and selective documentary that will be of much less appeal to the unconverted.

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