Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners
1971, 2008 Atlantic Records
Coming off the monstrous success of Deja Vu, all four members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released solo albums. Fans will debate forever which was better, but no one will deny that Graham Nash's Songs For Beginners was a near masterpiece. Drawing on his musical connections, Nash enlisted friends such as Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Phil Lesh, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge and David Lindley to contribute to his first solo album. Peaking at #15 on Billboard's Pop Albums Chart, Songs For Beginners includes two Hot-100 Pop Singles: Chicago (#35) which references the 1968 Democratic Convention as well as the trial of the Chicago 8; and Military Madness (#73).
Atlantic Records' 2008 re-release contains the original 11 track album with a new stereo mix and a DVD-Audio version as well. Also included are a new interview with Nash, song lyrics and a photo section. The production values here are great and Songs For Beginners is given new audio life by the new stereo mix. The 5.1 channel audio mix is essentially a remix of the original stereo tracks and while it is interesting doesn't really add anything new to this classic album. Nash's activism, masterful lyricism and penchant for peppy folk/pop (1970's style) make this a must have. Highlights include Chicago, Military Madness, Wounded Bird and Simple Man. Readers might be familiar with Simple Man from the opening shots of the Adam Sandler film Reign On Me.
Also notable is a song that has long been on of my personal favorites: Better Days. It's a sad look back at love lost, and is incredibly well-written. It's gems like this that make it fun and worthwhile to re-visit classic albums like Songs For Beginners. If you aren't familiar with Graham Nash outside of CSNY this is a great opportunity to get to know his musical style. If you already own Songs For Beginners on CD I am not sure there's a lot of incentive to buy the re-release (unless you're a DVD-Audio hound). Of course this album has been out of print for a while and so there are at least a few fans out there who missed the first CD release. Songs For Beginners is a great album and a necessary re-release.