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Reflections on Graham Nash's Reflections Box Set

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In about one month (February 3rd, 2009), Rhino Entertainment will release an essential three CD box set titled Reflections that celebrates over four decades of Graham Nash's most memorable recordings. Stretching from Nash's early hits as a co-founding member of Britain's The Hollies (with close friend Allan Clarke) to his solo material and collaborations with, initially, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, (supposedly, thanks to their meeting in 1969 at a party in The Mamas & The Papas' Cass Elliot's house) then Neil Young, Reflections follows the same path that Crosby's equivalent triple disc set Voyage explored in 2006. Graham Nash's trademark high harmony vocals and impressive writing talents fluidly traverse the box set's newly-mastered, 64 tracks with career highlights, a Carole King duet, alternate versions, and remixes galore.

The sequence breezily flows from song to song, evidenced by how comfortably "Kind Midas in Reverse" sits next to "Marrakesh Express." Reflections also is loaded with CSN, CSNY and Crosby/Nash recordings that may be perceived cynically as a marketing angle. Sure, less people are familiar with the moniker "Graham Nash" than his powerhouse musical configurations, and Crosby, Stills & Nash's and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's counter-culture popularity and reputation for being the best harmonizers since The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers overshadowed the greatness of his solo efforts. But Nash's studio recordings excelled right from his first album, 1971's Songs for Beginners (recently reissued as a CD/DVD combo), and he navigated the usually treacherous singer-songwriter waters with ease. Beginner's guests included The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, delta lady Rita Coolidge, and Traffic's Dave Mason, and was one of the most cherished singer-songwriter albums of the early seventies.

Nash's loving relationship with Joni Mitchell may have gone public in his Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young composition "Our House," but Beginners was the confessional story of their breakup. Its key tracks became familiar FM staples, with high-caliber fare such as "Simple Man" (featuring the gorgeous chorus, "I just want to hold you, I don't want to hold you down"), "I Used to be a King," "Better Days," "Man in the Mirror," and "Sleep Song" being as good as anyone's songwriting gets. These real time, sweet observations of life appear without contradiction or incident beside politically-charged recordings such as "Chicago" with its "We can change the world, rearrange the world" mantra, and "Military Madness," whose lines "Military madness is killing the country, solitary sadness creeps over me," sadly, still apply.

Following the self-titled Graham Nash/David Crosby album (with the politically-charged "Southbound Train" and "Immigration Man"), Beginners' comparably moodier followup, Wild Tales, was released in '73, and it included the title track, "Prison Song," "Oh! Camil (The Winter Soldier)," "On the Line," "You'll Never be the Same," and "Another Sleep Song" that sported hypnotic, additional vocals by Joni Mitchell, her personal contribution beyond her back cover painting. David Crosby and David Lindley also guested. After two classic Crosby & Nash albums on ABC Records (that included Nash's environmentally-conscious "Wind on the Water" with guest background vocalist, James Taylor) and CSN's self-titled reunion album (that featured his gothic "Cathedral" mediation on reincarnation) came Earth and Sky, an aborted Crosby & Nash project that was just fine as a Graham Nash outing. The album traded Nash's folk-rock and own brand of pedal-steel country for an eighties, era-centric sound, though his heart and politics remained intact on the anti-nuke rocker "Barrel of Pain (Half-Life)" and the low-tech familial "Magical Child."

Reflections mines all of the above tracks and additional CSN material by including Nash originals like the group's comeback hits, "Just a Song Before I Go" and "Wasted on the Way." It also gathers tracks from Nash's last two albums, Innocent Eyes and Songs for Survivors, and it concludes with "In Your Name," whose lyrics, "Lord, are you listening to a prayer from a simple man? Can you stop all the sadness, can you stop all of this madness? Can you stop all of this killing in your name?" are as lyrically biting (though musically gentler) as earlier anthems such as "Military Madness" or "Immigration Man."

Sure, "Graham Nash" is not a household name, but fans recognize the man's pitch-perfect harmony in music and with higher ideals. The moniker never has stirred imagination like, for instance, the utterance of the words "Bono" or "Springsteen" -- both rock icons that share Nash's passion for social causes. But over the years, Nash's warm personality and low key image has worked to his advantage as he obviously served as the practical anchor to his sometimes drifting creative collaborators. In that capacity, he has been the perfect team player, seamlessly blending into whatever musical landscape he has traveled as he used his accumulated but limited celebrity of forty or so years to raise awareness. In a recent interview with Rachel Maddow on her Air America program, Nash reminisced about 1979's No Nukes series of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) concerts in New York's Madison Square Garden. He reflected on the musicians that came together, namely Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, John Hall (a recently elected New York congressman), James Taylor, and Carly Simon, graciously deferring to their dedication over his own. Of course, this was commendable considering most of those artists still were honing their skills at a time when Nash regularly performed protest songs such as his original "Teach Your Children" on tours with CSN or CSNY. And he briskly responded to Maddow's complements with appreciation and anecdotes about his fellow MUSE artists and their skills or contributions. (For the record, that week of five concerts included performances by Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Doobie Brothers, Poco, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Chaka Khan, Raydio, Ry Cooder, the late Nicolette Larson, Gil Scott-Heron, Jessie Colin Young, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and naturally, David Crosby and Stephen Stills, as they joined forces with Nash and the rest of MUSE's organizers to educate about clean alternative energy use while warning about the dangers of nuclear power.)

Just some points before we go, to whom it may concern. In case you didn't know, Graham Nash still is active politically both with and without his CSN fraternity. His trademark vocal sound -- often paired with David Crosby's -- was featured on hits by artists like James Taylor ("Mexico"), Joni Mitchell ("Free Man in Paris"), and the late Dan Fogelberg ("Part of the Plan"). Nash's early Hollies success taught him a thing or two about big fat pop hooks that, combined with his infallible musical intuition, helped him deliver some of CSN's and CSNY's most melodic and memorable recordings. And when it came to those groups, historically, Neil Young will be remembered as the superstar, David Crosby the genius, and Stephen Stills the smoothest. But Graham Nash was the most naturally talented one, and, really, the one to remember. Reflections helps us do that, clearly documenting all the reasons why we will.

Disc One

1. On A Carousel - The Hollies
2. Carrie Anne - The Hollies
3. King Midas In Reverse - The Hollies
4. Marrakesh Express - Crosby, Stills & Nash
5. Pre-Road Downs - Crosby, Stills & Nash
6. Lady Of The Island - Crosby, Stills & Nash
7. Our House - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
8. Teach Your Children - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
9. Right Between The Eyes - Graham Nash
10. I Used To Be A King - Graham Nash
11. Simple Man - Graham Nash
12. Man In The Mirror - Graham Nash
13. Better Days - Graham Nash
14. Military Madness - Graham Nash
15. Sleep Song - Graham Nash
16. Chicago/We Can Change The World - Graham Nash
17. Southbound Train - Crosby/Nash
18. Immigration Man - Crosby/Nash
19. Wild Tales - Graham Nash
20. Prison Song - Graham Nash
21. Oh! Camil (The Winter Soldier) - Graham Nash
22. On The Line - Graham Nash
23. You'll Never Be The Same - Graham Nash
24. Another Sleep Song - Graham Nash

Disc Two

1. To The Last Whale - Crosby/Nash
A. Critical Mass
B. Wind On The Water
2. Fieldworker - Crosby/Nash
3. Cowboy Of Dreams - Crosby/Nash
4. Love Work Out - Crosby/Nash
5. Marguerita - Crosby/Nash
6. Taken At All - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
7. Mutiny - Crosby & Nash
8. Just A Song Before I Go - Crosby, Stills & Nash
9. Cold Rain - Graham Nash
10. Cathedral - Crosby, Stills & Nash
11. Barrel Of Pain (Half-Life) - Graham Nash
12. Magical Child - Graham Nash
13. Song For Susan - Crosby, Stills & Nash
14. Wasted On The Way - Crosby, Stills & Nash
15. Love Is The Reason - Graham Nash
16. Raise A Voice - Crosby, Stills & Nash
17. Clear Blue Skies - Crosby, Stills & Nash
18. Lonely Man - Crosby, Stills & Nash
19. Sad Eyes - Graham Nash
20. Water From The Moon - Graham Nash
21. Soldiers Of Peace - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Disc Three

1. If Anybody Had A Heart - Crosby, Stills & Nash
2. Chippin' Away - Graham Nash
3. After The Dolphin - Crosby, Stills & Nash
4. House Of Broken Dreams - Crosby, Stills & Nash
5. Unequal Love - Graham Nash
6. Liar's Nightmare - Graham Nash
7. Heartland - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
8. These Empty Days - Crosby, Stills & Nash
9. Try To Find Me - Graham Nash
10. Two Hearts - Carole King & Graham Nash
11. Behind The Shades - Graham Nash
12. Michael (Hedges Here) - Graham Nash
13. I Surrender - Crosby/Nash
14. Live On (The Wall) - Crosby/Nash
15. Dirty Little Secret - Graham Nash
16. We Breathe The Same Air - Graham Nash
17. Grace - Crosby/Nash
18. Jesus Of Rio - Crosby/Nash
19. In Your Name - Graham Nash