I think we all now know what David Crosby was up to in the time he wasn’t spending cutting his hair. The ex-CSN (Y) and Byrds man has delivered five solo albums in the past seven years starting in 2021 For free be his newest. What is it like for an 80-year-old man who many thought was long gone?
With some heavyweight musicians and the collaboration with his son James Raymond and members of his Sky Trails Band who supported him on his last solo tours, Crosby 10 songs gives his considerable presence and his still resonant vocals. In fact, he just keeps singing For free because his tendinitis makes playing the guitar difficult.
“River Rise”, a piano piece of a sweet melody with Michael McDonald’s harmony in the chorus, opens the collection. Perfectly plucked acoustics drive the multi-layered vocals of the mid-tempo mover “The Other Side Of Midnight”, and “Rodriguez For A Night”, a melody for which Donald Fagen wrote the lyrics, digs deep into his pocket. The horns rise in perfect Steely-Dan fashion around Crosby and his players on this one. Crosby attacks his ex-lover and the woman whose first album he produced, Joni Mitchell on the title track. He duets with the Texas singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz on this delicate piano-based cover, staying true to Mitchell’s original.
“I Will’t Stay For Long,” written by Raymond, is an absolute thrill that ends For free. There’s nowhere else to go after the listener is brought to the edge of the lyrical cliff of this song, which was inspired by Marcel Camus’ 1959 film Black Orpheus. Crosby manages a masterpiece of a vocal performance, his best on For free, while he turns his whole being around the poetry of longing and regret. Who knows how many more albums we could get from David Crosby, but we should all be damn grateful that we’ve been blessed with For free.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.