Most people would already know if they are a CSN (Crosby, Stills & Nash) fan, but for those of you who are not aware of the 70s rock band, specialising in folk while dabbling in country, then the album CSN is the perfect introduction to a band that demands respect from music fans the world over.
From a sonic perspective, think America, Genesis, and Neil Young. Yes, Young would join CSN throughout their career and those performances would be under the moniker, CSNY (Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young). Other sonic similarities include, but are certainly not limited to the Eagles and Bread. It is my opinion that if you enjoy these artists, you will love CSN.
The album cover really appeals to me for some reason. Perhaps it is the happiness expressed by the band members and the feeling that they are ordinary guys like you and I. Whatever it is, I class this cover as one of the most iconic for the era and I dare say it is the best cover art from their career.
While they may appear, on face value, to be three ordinary guys, the incredible soundstage and overall sonic presentation is anything but ordinary. Sit back, relax, and join me as we experience the sonic wonderland that is CSN.
Shadow Captain really highlights the musical style of CSN. I absolutely adore the rhythm and depth of the soundstage. The drum beat is exceptional and full of energy. The continuous hi-hat element is recorded beautifully as the sound tapers off gently into the next note. While it adds a little treble to the mix, it doesn’t detract from an otherwise smooth sound.
See The Changes has an exceptional vocal harmony. The acoustic musicality is a basic composition but is performed remarkably well. Sometimes less really is more and I couldn't imagine this song with more complex sonic elements. See The Changes is nothing short of pure perfection.
Carried Away is beautiful!
Fair Game has a Caribbean feel. It’s a good song but it isn't a favourite of mine.
Anything At All is a lovely song that will captivate you from the very first note.
Cathedral immediately reminds me of Genesis. I don't know about you, but I love it when a song reminds me of another artist. It is like my mind has a built-in discovery algorithm. Anyway, getting back to the song, I absolutely adore Cathedral! From the slow beginning to the increased tempo mid song, it is absolutely perfect and one of the best songs CSN ever recorded.
Dark Star is a really enjoyable song, yet I find that I don't connect with it on an emotional level.
Just A Song Before I Go is another song that has a perfect match of vocal harmony and instrumentation. It is a gorgeous song that has been recorded, mixed, and mastered impeccably well.
Run From Tears has a killer guitar riff that, along with Stephen Stills' lead vocal, really takes a B-side and turns it into an A-side.
Cold Rain has a delightful piano introduction as it builds to yet another gorgeous vocal harmony. Cold Rain is sonically beautiful and an absolute pleasure to listen to. Your ears will thank you for listening to this track.
In My Dreams is textbook Easy Listening.
I Give You Give Blind has an introduction that I'm not fond of, but once the song begins I tend to enjoy it. As the final track, it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the CSN and CSNY catalogues. That said, there is part of me that would have liked to have seen Just A Song Before I Go as the final track. Yes, I know it would have been corny, but I also think it would have been perfect.
Overall, CSN is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. Even the couple of songs that I don’t connect with are worthy when listening to the entire album as a single body of work.
For this review, I listened to the TIDAL Master/MQA edition at 24/96 kHz. It is important to note that this was only the first software unfold, carried out by Audirvana Plus 3, as I’ve yet to invest in an MQA compatible DAC. Unfortunately, Oppo has yet to announce their intentions regarding support for MQA. If you have a DAC that is MQA compatible, you will be able to listen to CSN at the full 24/192 kHz resolution. That said, the 24/96 has a full-bodied sound with perfect mastering. Yes, I am aware that Steve Hoffman worked his mastering magic on CSN in 2013, however, I have not heard that edition and subsequently can not comment on the sonic qualities of that release. The MQA edition lists mastering, remastering, and digital mastering as being undertaken by Joe Gastwirt. Regardless, I can honestly say that if I were only able to listen to the MQA edition, I would consider it an absolute privilege to enjoy such a high-quality production. When compared to the 16/44.1 kHz CD-quality edition on TIDAL Hi-Fi, there is a noticeable difference and I find the CD-quality edition to be rather fatiguing as the dynamics and overall soundstage is simply not as smooth as that presented by MQA, despite being the work of the same mastering engineer. I know many of you have yet to test MQA, but I have consistently been blown away by the quality since TIDAL began streaming it in January 2017. More information about TIDAL Masters/MQA can be found here.
CSN is available on CD, 24 Karat Gold CD from Audio Fidelity, the TIDAL Store (16/44.1 kHz FLAC), and iTunes (Mastered for iTunes). If you prefer streaming, it is also available on Spotify and Apple Music.