David Crosby’s Masterpiece: If I Could Only Remember My Name – What to Listen For

More David Crosby

More If I Could Only Remember My Name

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate the album.

Note how Crosby’s voice is “chesty” — some copies make him sound like he’s all mouth and no diaphragm. When his voice is full-bodied and solid, that’s when he sounds more like a real person and less like a pop recording of a person. All credit must go to Stephen Barncard.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call if you ask us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

Listening Test

One of our key test tracks for side one is Cowboy Movie, and one thing that separated the best pressings from the lesser ones was the sound of the hand claps. It’s a dense mix and they are not easy to hear, but on the best copies there is audible echo and ambience around them, with a richer “flesh on flesh” quality to their sound. Not many pressings had it, and the ones that did tended to do most other things well also. Which is what makes it a good test!

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing.

Barncard’s Masterpiece

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the superbly talented recording engineer on this project, Stephen Barncard (American Beauty, Deja Vu, Tarkio, etc.). This album is without a doubt his masterpiece. It fully deserves its standing as one of the Ten Best Rock Recordings of All Time.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Music Is Love 
Cowboy Movie 
Tamalpais High (At About 3) 
Laughing

Side Two

What Are Their Names 
Traction in the Rain 
Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves) 
Orleans 
I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here

AMG Review

David Crosby’s debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name is a one-shot wonder of dreamy but ominous California ambience. The songs range from brief snapshots of inspiration (the angelic chorale-vocal showcase on “Orleans” and the a cappella closer, “I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here”) to the full-blown, rambling western epic “Cowboy Movie,” and there are absolutely no false notes struck or missteps taken. No one before or since has gotten as much mileage out of a wordless vocal as Crosby does on “Tamalpais High (At About 3)” and “Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves),” and because the music is so relaxed, each song turns into its own panoramic vista… Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.

More on If Only…

The Classic? You Deserve Better

What do you get with Hot Stampers on this album compared to the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue? Dramatically more warmth, sweetness, delicacy, transparency, space, energy, size, naturalness (no boost on the top end or the bottom, a notable failing of the Classic); in other words, the kind of difference you almost ALWAYS get comparing the best early pressings with their modern remastered counterparts, in our experience anyway. The Classic is a nice record, a Hot Stamper pressing is a MAGICAL one.

We Was Right (After We Was Wrong)

These stampers are different from the ones I used to think were the best about ten or twelve years ago. For a long time I didn’t play this record, and then a while back, when this whole Hot Stamper thing took off, I grabbed my personal hot copy and a bunch of others, cleaned them up and did a big shootout.

As is so often the case, I discovered that my previous conclusions had to be reexamined in the light of contrary evidence. (This is, after all, a science. Or is it an art? I can never keep those two straight.) The stampers I used to like were still wonderful, but these “new” stampers were even more magical. These particular pressings have a transparency and delicacy that my old system, as good as it was, simply wasn’t capable of resolving.

After even more upgrades to the room and the stereo, we couldn’t be sure that these magical stampers would still be the best. After shooting out nearly a score of top contenders, we checked out the dead wax on the champions and saw that our most recent favorite stampers were still the king. (As we noted before, the person listening to the record never knows which actual pressing is playing, which we feel helps to keep everybody honest. In audio you can convince yourself of anything if you want it to be true badly enough.)

Your Reward Awaits You

As you may have read elsewhere on the site, records like this are the reward for owning the right stereo equipment and having it properly tweaked. There is no way in the world I could have played this album 10 years ago remotely as well as I can now. It only makes me appreciate the music even more.

Dark Side Ones

Those of you who’ve played a number of copies of the album over the years surely know that side one has a marked tendency to be much darker and duller than side two. Finding a good side one is five times harder than finding a good side two. If your copy sounds recessed and lacks extension up top, don’t feel bad. Most of them do.

(By the way, the first track has that “home recording” sound and always sounds weak compared to the rest of this album. Don’t expect any wonders, even from a copy like this. As a wannabe hit single, peaking at #95 on the charts, it may even be sourced here from a dub of the real master tape. That shit happens.)