Crosby, Stills and Nash / CSN – You Do the Best You Can with What You’ve Got to Work With

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CSN chose the Albert brothers to engineer this album. Their most famous album is Layla. Ever heard a great sounding Layla? Me neither. Can you hear the sound of Layla in your head? That’s more or less what this album sounds like. There are better and worse Layla’s — we’ve done the shootout many times — just as there are better and worse CSNs.

The problem with the sound cannot be “fixed” in the mastering, and here’s how we know: on either side some songs have the breath of life and some don’t. That’s a recording problem.

It sounds like too many generations of tape were used on songs like Shadow Captain and Dark Star, among others.

But Just a Song Before I Go on side two can sound wonderful: rich, sweet, present and surrounded by lovely studio ambience.

So we listen for the qualities of a specific song that help us pinpoint what the best copies do well and the rest do poorly and grade them accordingly, on a curve.

Animals will never sound like The Wall. You do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with.

What to Listen for

  1. Most copies have a tendency to sound dry, so look for one that’s rich and full-bodied.
  2. Most copies are opaque and flat, so look for those with transparency and depth.
  3. Most copies are lean down low and dull up top, so try to find one with bass and real top end extension.
  4. And of course you need to find a copy that gets the voices right.

CSN’s albums live or die by the quality of their vocals, a subject we have discussed on the site at length.


Side One

Shadow Captain 
See the Changes 
Carried Away 
Fair Game 
Anything at All 

Side Two

Dark Star 
Just a Song Before I Go 
Run from Tears 
Cold Rain 
In My Dreams

AMG Review

CSN was the trio’s last fully realized album, and also the last recording on which the three principals handled all the vocal parts without the sweetening of additional voices. It has held up remarkably well, both as a memento of its time, and as a thoroughly enjoyable musical work.

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