Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by stereoptic, Mar 17, 2015.
Not sure if this was posted earlier but still nice to see again.
All right, so I went out and listened to David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name. After a couple listens, here is my review...
As I noted earlier in the thread, my experience with non-Byrds Crosby is limited. I love Crosby as a harmony singer, but (based on the Byrds) I've always felt like a little of him goes a long way as a lead singer/songwriter. I think most of his stuff with the Byrds is great, but a lot of what I love about it is the instrumental contributions of the other Byrds on his songs. And there are a few Byrds tracks that don't entirely do it for me. Not a fan of "Mind Gardens." "Triad" is overwrought and self-indulgent. "Lady Friend" is too busy and cacaphonous. And as much as I LOVE its backing track, it's hard to defend Crosby's lead vocal on "Hey Joe."
I will say that IICORMN is not at all what I expected. It's definitely not sterile and perfectionistic, as I might have expected before reading everyone's comments here. But in my opinion it's also no masterpiece. I think the best way I could describe it would be "half baked" (and here everyone can make up their own joke about how the musicians were completely baked during the recording sessions). It strikes me as an album with some good songs/performances, but also a lot of incomplete and underdeveloped ideas. There's some interesting playing, but it kind of meanders all over the place, and only a few of the tracks feel like fully realized songs to me. I guess if I think about it more, I'd say that casualness, spontaneity, and even sloppiness can be virtues in recording/performing rock music, but that's only if there's a strong batch of songs written beforehand. Here it sounds like much of it was made up as they went along. To steal a line from Paul Westerberg, several of the songs sound like they were written ten minutes after they were recorded.
I can also see why the critics hated this album. The early-70s critics tended to be lyrics guys, so if you make an album in which several of the songs have no lyrics, or simplistic lyrics where the same phrase is repeated over-and-over, you've got two strikes against you before the needle hits the vinyl. I admit I'm a lyrics guy myself, so the wordless vocalizing on several of these songs doesn't work well for me. I also have to say that even on the tracks which have fully-developed lyrics, Crosby's lyrics just do not speak to me or resonate with me in the manner that say, Gene Clark's best lyrics do.
What do I like? "Laughing" is clearly the best song here. Fully realized musically and lyrically, and very well performed. "Traction in the Rain" is also quite good.
As to the rest: "Tamalpais High" is okay for what it is but sounds unfinished... it seems like a backing track that is waiting for the lead vocal to be overdubbed. The jammy songs like "Music is Love" and "What Are Their Names" are not unpleasant, but they aren't anything exceptional either. Meanwhile, I have mixed feelings about "Cowboy Movie" because I really do like the music/playing. But I'm not wild about the lyrics, especially knowing they are an attempt at self-mythologizing through the lens of a hoary old cliche (the old "friends broken apart by a scheming woman" trope). Even worse though is that the song is of a type that Crosby just cannot sing well (as I noted earlier, he should never try to rock, be heavy, or do anything bluesy, because his voice is just not suited for it). And here he seems to really double down on his vocal incompatibility with the song, turning in an awful performance that is both strident and ragged.
So, it seems I'm not going to be converted into a Crosby acolyte. I am really glad I've heard this album though, because it has corrected my misconception of him as always being a tight-assed perfectionist. And like I said, the album is enjoyable in places and there's a couple songs on here I really do like, so that's something. I will be listening to it some more.
It took me a while to get into If Only I Could Remember...you can absolutely tell that he invited a bunch of pals into the studio to **** around and maybe only had a song or two written ahead of time. For all that, I find it a really enjoyable listen.
I feel exactly the same - Laughing and Traction In The Rain are the only 'songs' here that get regular play from me, would love to have heard The Byrds tackle the latter.
I have a pal who swears by 'What Are Their Names', and he sort of made me appreciate that a bit more, but I'm broadly with czeskleba on the album; it's great as a snapshot of the time, but musically it's hard to rate it above good.
Saying that, it's worth listening to 'I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here' in the context of its creation, which is a eulogy for Christine Hinton, and is supposed to represent her spirit enveloping the room.
I’m a fan of What are their names. It’s fun trying to single out the voices on it like Grace Slick and David Frieberg.
Well, maybe you actually don't hate that San Francisco stuff?
Maybe it's bitchy of me to say, but I think the best song written about Christine Hinton (from a musical standpoint) is the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Christine's Tune" (aka "Devil in Disguise").
I wouldn't even lump it together. I myself love the Airplane (at least up until Balin left) but dislike the Dead.
Oh, the Dead and the Airplane are different animals for sure - I love them both.
No, I really do.
I think they were two different Christines. Correct me if I'm wrong.
You are wrong, although it's an understandable error since lots of online sources (and even some published ones like Bob Proehl's 33 1/3 series book on The Gilded Palace of Sin) mistakenly claim the song is about GTO Christine Frka. However, Hillman confirms in the book he did with John Einarson (Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers) that the song was written about Christine Hinton.
Beyond Hillman's confirmation, the timing doesn't work for it to be about Frka. The story goes that the song was simply titled "Christine's Tune" on the Gilded Palace of Sin album, but when the redid it live for Last of The Red Hot Burritos they retitled it "Devil in Disguise" out of sensitivity to the fact that the titular Christine had died. Yet Frka was still alive when Red Hot Burritos was released... she didn't die until six months later.
Heh. It's funny, I agree with your general rating of the album, but for different reasons .
I bought the album back when it was originally released and promptly dismissed it and filed it away .
In the last few years though I kept reading articles talking about this "lost classic."
So, I popped for the fairly recent CD reissue to give it a fresh listen .
Although I find it better than my original assessment of it I still give it a 6/10 or so.
I'd play it again before reaching for the Byrds reunion album I guess , but never before a Gene Clark album .
Well, you learn something new everyday. But I have even read a quote from Hillman, I think it was in a CD booklet, stating that "Christine's Tune" was about the GTO Christine. He even said he and Gram felt bad about it after the crash, and he commented on how awful it was how she died several months later. He wasn't talking about Hinton.
Wish I still had that CD booklet - I imagine it was for one of those Burritos comps that came out in the 90s.
But I defer to your account!
The GTOs' Christine is referred to in the booklet of the FBBs' "Out Of The Blue" double CD compilation but it's not credited to Chris Hillman.
I'm racking my brains - it might have been in an old issue of Full Cyrcle.
It's a common error, though hardly an excusable one. In Barney Hoskyns’ Hotel Calfornia, he also mistakenly thinks it’s Fryka. Oddly, the girl’s identity is not actually mentioned in David Meyer’s Gram biography. The first time I read about the subject matter was in Dark Star 10 way back in 1977 where Hillman specifically told Johnny Rogan: “The reason we [later] changed the title to ‘Devil In Disguise’ [on Last Of The Red Hot Burritos] was because the poor girl was killed six months later.” Based on this, I’ve just checked Requiem For The Timeless, Volume 2 (page 719), where Rogan confirms: “Some commentators wrongly assumed that the girl in question was former GTO ‘Miss’ Christine Fryka (cover ‘star’ of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats), even though she was not killed, but died of a drugs overdose over three years later on 5 November 1972 (coincidentally, Gram’s 26th birthday). The true Christine was actually David Crosby’s great love, Christine Gail Hinton, who was tragically killed in an automobile accident on 30 September 1969, several months after the release of The Gilded Palace Of Sin.” That, of course, fits with what Hillman told Rogan back in 1977.
Apparently Al Kooper was there too, playing keys. But thanks!
If he referenced a crash, he must have been talking about Hinton, since as noted above Frka was killed by a drug overdose.
It's a really common misconception... in doing some online searching this morning, I found a good half-dozen places where Frka is claimed to be the titular Christine of the song (including a post by myself on this forum ten years ago, ha). I wonder what the origin of the misconception is, and where it first appeared in print?
Thanks for putting me straight on this. Really!
I thought IICORMN was one of the worst albums I had heard when I bought it. I now consider it among my top 50.
I love If I Could Only Remember My Name.
Together with No Other the best/outstanding solo Byrds releases!
Over the weekend I put together a Best of Gene Clark collection. Starting with the Byrds and ending with Fair and Tender Ladies. It spans 4 80 minute CDs. Some of his albums are so good it’s hard to whittle the list down. I’m going to create an mp3 one disc version as well.
So is/was Christine Hinton famous then? Why were the Burritos singing a song about her?! And did Crosby know about this song when he did backing vocals on Do Right Woman if she was the love of his life?
Separate names with a comma.