The only time Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young actually sound like a real rock and roll band is on the track Almost Cut My Hair. According to Stephen Barncard, one of the engineers on Deja Vu, the track was actually recorded live in the studio. Boy, it sure sounds like it. The amount of energy the band generates on this one song exceeds the energy of the entire first album put together.
The reason this song presents such a tough test is that it has to be mastered properly in order to make you want to turn it up, not just louder, but as loud as your stereo will play. This song is not to be used as background music whilst sipping wine and smoking cigars. It positively cries out to be played at serious volume levels on monstrously large speakers. Nothing else will do justice to the power of the band’s one and only live performance.
Listen to Neil in the left channel wailing away like a man possessed. Imagine what his grunged-out guitar would sound like blasting out of a stack of Marshall amps the size of a house. Now hold that sound in your head as you turn up the volume on your preamp.
When your system starts to distort, back it off a notch and take your seat.
Originals Versus Reissues
This may be key. Most originals do not have the extreme highs and deep punchy bass of the best reissues, and without extension on the top the voices get painfully harsh and edgy. Without the deepest bass, the bass that’s left is hollow and tubby, and frequently smeared. Add distortion in the midrange from less-than-optimal cutting equipment and you have the sound of the typical domestic copy in a nutshell. (The imports are uniformly hopeless as well.)