Top positive review
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The mp3 version is outstanding value at £4.99 (October 2014)
on 18 October 2014
There are four different versions of this available to buy:
1) 3 CD (with 40 songs) + DVD (best price around £30)
2) blu-ray audio and blu-ray dvd (best price around £30)
3) a 16 song highlights CD
4) a 40 song mp3 download currently offered at a remarkable £4.99
All the reviews for these different products have been lumped together which makes them rather confusing to read and contradictory.
The audio recordings have been compiled from different concerts in August, September and December 1974. As such, Graham Nash has had the opportunity to pick the best performances.
The video comes from two concerts a) Landover, Maryland and b) Wembley Stadium, London. Unlike some of the other reviewers I wasn't at the Wembley gig and indeed have never seen CSNY play live.
Some people have a problem with many live recordings and if you're one of those, unless you're a huge CSNY fan, I recommend you avoid this product. The legendary smooth vocals (critics may say bland) are ragged and Stephen Stills voice sounds particularly rough. Some of the songs have been extended with guitar duels between Neil Young and Stills. Personally I love live albums because the songs lose the studio gloss, length restrictions and over-production and vocals that aren't perfect have more personality.
For casual fans, the 40 song version may be overwhelming. The 16 song CD version has wisely pulled together the best known CSNY and individual songs but the 40 song mp3 version is currently cheaper and that gives you the option of selecting your own favourites.
Song selection on the longer version is interesting. It includes the Crosby, Stills, Nash (individually and together) and CSNY songs that you'd expect. The Neil Young songs are more idiosyncratic including some which have never been released before. Only Old Man and Only Love Can Break Your Heart come from the early Neil Young classic albums. If you want CSNY versions of his electric guitar rockers Cowgirl In The Sand, Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River, and Southern Man, you need their earlier live album, Four Way Street.
The backing band is good. Tim Drummond on bass had previously played with Young and Nash, drummer Russ Kunkel played on the first Crosby & Nash album and percussionist Joe Lala played with Stills.
The set follows the pattern of electric - acoustic - electric. The first transition at the start of CD2 with Stephen Stills song Change Partners is a bit of a shock when it happens but I quickly adapted to the change in mood. We're back to electric at the start of CD3 with Deja Vu. That's excellent (and thoughtful) organisation for the CD version.
I've enjoyed listening to this album but I do have a concern about how often I'll play it. I have the same issue with Four Way Street because I come to CSNY as a fan of Young and a modest follower of Stills. When I'm in the mood for live Neil Young, I'm more likely to reach for Live Rust, Weld or Massey Hall depending on my mood.
That said, while Amazon are selling the 40 song mp3 version for less than a fiver, I think it represents an irresistible bargain even for casual fans of the group or any of the individual singer-songwriters. The versions of the CSNY 1974 package with the DVD look expensive to me and are much harder to justify.