Graham Nash - Songs For Survivors
Following a lengthy break, Graham Nash delivers a relaxed and supple album, which feels like a progression from his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young as well as recalling his earlier recordings with The Hollies during the sixties.
Featuring ten tracks, all but one of which were either written or co-written by Graham Nash, Songs For Survivors drifts by in an amenable if large unexciting manner. Musically, the album is occasionally little more than raw acoustic folk based around Nash's simple guitar playing, which actually produces its better moments, but is frequently coloured by pedal steel guitar, banjo and upright bass. None of the arrangements are unpleasant but they do tend to drift into one another in a such a manner that it's difficult to tell where one song ends and another begins. Whilst opening track Dirty Little Secret is a little more adventurous than the rest of the album, Blizzard Of Lies sets the template for each song that follows. Indeed, it is only with Pavanne, which was written by Richard and Linda Thompson, that Songs For Survivors breaks out of the run of songs that hang off either side of it in a fairly identical manner. Otherwise, one is hard pressed to find much that distinguishes, for example, Nothing In The World and Where Love Lies Tonight - miss the short break between these two songs and you may believe that you have been listening to but the one song.
With such a similar wash of music throughout Songs For Survivors, the lyrics become more important than usual as a means of breaking the album into its ten individual songs. Nash favours a strong use of natural imagery - listen for the mentions of old trees, crashing waves, burning fires, etc. - as well as making the connection to his own sense of place in rock's history. Therefore, one is not completely surprised to see one more mention of New York's Chelsea Hotel in the song that bears its name nor the blurred photograph of David Crosby within the booklet (if it's not Crosby, it's someone who bears a startling similarity to him during the period between leaving The Byrds and joining CSNY).
Overall, Songs For Survivors is not a bad album but nor is it one that will have ever have a particularly fanatical following. One can imagine it playing inoffensively behind dinner parties hosted by middle-class thirtysomethings or drifting out of the Bose speakers included as standard in Audi TT's - much heard but rarely listened to. Songs For Survivors is fine, the playing is very accomplished and Nash's husky voice is certainly appealing but, like magnolia paint, there's little to get excited about.
As a final note, however, in reading through the booklet that accompanies the album, one feels the weight of a depression, which is sadly unrelated to Nash's lyrics. What with this being released through DTS Entertainment, one gets a choice of DTS 5.1 Surround, a standard Stereo channel, both of which can be played on a standard DVD player, and an MLP 5.1 channel specifically for DVD-A players, none of which are unexpected but all of which sound as though they have been encoded as gimmicks in much the same way as early stereo recordings were panned between the left and right speakers. Yet worse than this is that instead of liner notes written by Nash or a critical summation of the man's career, one reads instead an extensive listing of the microphones and audio cabling used in the recording, which can be read instrument-by-instrument.
Music can appeal to the listener in many ways but most of all, it should appeal to one's emotions or, as more frequently mentioned, one's heart as opposed to one's head. By listing the microphones used in the recording - not even the instruments or amplifiers, quite unbelievably given the detail elsewhere - one has the impression that this recording has been released to pander to the worst type of recording geeks who choose to buy albums not for the music but for the methods of recordings. Writing as someone who enthuses about music based on its emotional impact, I find myself saddened by the techno-geeks who'll buy this for its liberal use of NPK Neumann U 67 microphones rather than what it makes them feel. One concludes, therefore, that feeling is secondary to technology and with so many albums to choose from that will make one feel alive, there's little that can be said to really recommend Songs For Survivors.