Hash’s Faves (“Orleans” by David Crosby)

28 Jul

If_I_Could_Only_RememberThis week’s fave is “Orleans”, a traditional French song rendered by David Crosby on his 1971 album ”If I Could Only Remember My Name.” Although a veritable who’s who of Bay Area musicians (Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzman, Jack Casady, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Neil Young, Gregg Rolie, Michael Shrieve and David Freiberg) appear on the record, I believe this track is all Crosby, overdubbing multiple (gorgeous) vocals.

I’ve wanted to know what this song is about for years, but thanks to the internet, I think it’s merely a listing of church or parish or maybe neighborhood names in Paris.

I always loved this record, from the day it came out. Critics were not kind at the time, but revisionist rock history now places it high amongst influential albums from the time. One thing that really interested me about the record was the way that the Bay Area musicians formed ad-hoc groups like this and performed on each other’s records, in much the same way that jazz musicians do. Many of the players on Crosby’s album also appear on the record ”Blows Against The Empire,” credited to Jefferson Starship but really a Paul Kantner solo project. There was always a great deal of movement between Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana, as well as singers like Joni Mitchell and Mama Cass Elliott.

I’ve read that some of this record reflects the pain the Crosby was suffering due to his girlfriend Christine Hinton’s tragic death in an auto accident; the song ”Traction In The Rain” is surely about that. Much of the record (and there’s an alternate version on YouTube that I just discovered) is filled with noodling and meandering jams, but the songs are strong, because Crosby always had a gift for melody. And for good or for ill, he always wrote lyrics with his heart on his sleeve; a lot of his lyrics may be, as Neil Young once said, hippie dreams, but he believed fully in them (even though he was a gun-totin’ coke head).

You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mk8PSTtOsKk

This post is reprinted from News From The Trenches, a weekly newsletter of commentary from the viewpoint of a working musician published by Chicago bassist Steve Hashimoto. If you’d like to start receiving it, just let him know by emailing him at steven.hashimoto@sbcglobal.net.

One Response to “Hash’s Faves (“Orleans” by David Crosby)”

  1. Al April 17, 2021 at 5:16 am #

    Do you even want a comment 6 years after the post? Well, no matter 🙂
    Have to agree about the excellence of the album… wasn’t a favorite at my first listen, but now, 10 years later is an often go to for a Saturday Afternoon need some good listening tunes. Such a great mix of talents and that meandering characteristic of the melodies is rather like a warm blanket that makes you feel easy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: