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Exclusive First Listen: Crosby, Stills And Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Tom Copi/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Crosby, Stills and Nash.

To fully grasp why David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash were so well loved when they made their debut at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair in 1969, it's worth keeping in mind that there was a lot of chaos in the music and in the culture. Those three voices blended so well that they were a breath of fresh air; calming and grounding and wonderfully timed.

A new collection on Rhino Records, titled Demos, puts together a series of demo recordings of mostly solo songs by David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills, plus a track with Neil Young. The album will be released on June 2, but you can listen to the album here, in its entirety, beginning at 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, May 25.

What's so striking, hearing these rough versions so many years later, is their clarity, simplicity and passion. Take a listen to Graham Nash's song "Chicago," for example, a bouncy piano ballad with a plea:

So your brother's bound and gagged

And they've chained him to a chair

Won't you please come to Chicago just to sing

In a land that's known as Freedom

How can such a thing be fair

Won't you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring

The refrain that comes in the chorus, "We can change the world," seemed not only possible but doable. There are many songs on this record, stripped bare of the harmonies that defined the group, that make it clear why the band was so successful. Stated simply, these were great songwriters, and that's the message that comes through soft and clear on Demos.

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In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.
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