In 1968, Crosby, Stills & Nash was formed by singer-songwriters David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash. Each had already enjoyed success in other bands (Crosby with The Byrds, Nash with The Hollies, and Stills with Buffalo Springfield) but it was nothing compared to the fame they’d achieve together… and, on the rare occasion he showed up, with part-time member Neil Young. Although their tumultuous interpersonal relationships ultimately tore them apart, their lasting influence on music and culture marks them as one of the most inspirational and beloved bands to emerge from the late 1960s. Here’s how we rank all the Crosby, Stills & Nash albums from worst to best.
8. Live It Up
Despite American Dream performing fairly well in the charts, the critics didn’t like it and neither did the band. Unfortunately, its follow-up didn’t fare much better. Released in 1990, Live It Up stalled at a disappointing No. 57 on the Billboard 200, becoming the first of their albums not to achieve either gold or platinum certification by the RIAA. Although the band completed a promotional tour to accompany its release (which was more than they did for American Dream), none of the songs became regular fixtures in their live shows. A couple of the tracks are decent enough (Yours and Mine, Arrows, and After the Dolphin are highlights) but as ew.com notes, the overall record is “a strangely bland album that only die-hard fans will love.”
7. American Dream
In 1983, Neil Young made a promise to David Crosby that he’d reunite with the rest of the group if Crosby got clean. Five years and multiple brushes with the law later, Crosby was exactly that. The result was American Dream, CSN’s fifth studio album, and their second with Young. It was a moderate success, reaching number 16 on the Billboard 200 and certifying platinum. But it was a long way short of their best work, as Crosby himself later admitted: “The whole thing, the recording of American Dream, it got stretched out. And we did not have, really, the best group of songs to work with. Then, even though we did not have enough good songs, we ended up putting fourteen of them on the album! I think that was stupid.”
6. After the Storm
The Music Box called the 1994 album After the Storm “the best thing Crosby, Stills, and Nash has released in a long, long time.” It may sound like high praise, but considering the quality of their most recent work, it’s not necessarily indicative of an outstanding album. And After the Storm certainly isn’t that. Nash’s contributions carry the album, with the title cut, Unequal Love and These Empty Days all standing out as highlights. The rest of the album is regrettably forgettable.
5. Looking Forward
Amidst growing dissatisfaction with their record label, CSN terminated their contract with Atlantic in 1997. Determined to push ahead with a new album, they began paying for studio time out of their own pockets. Neil Young got wind of the sessions and decided to not only contribute a few songs of his own, but to bring them to the attention of his record label, Reprise Record, who subsequently released the album on its completion. Commercially it was a moderate success, reaching No. 26 on the Billboard 200. But for a band with four such consummate songwriters, very little on Looking Forward stands out. Young’s contributions sound rushed; Stills’ sound bitter; and Crosby’s sound naive. Nash’s slight but pleasantly mellow contributions are enjoyable, but not enough to save the album.
4. Daylight Again
Daylight Again was originally intended to be a Stills-Nash project, with Art Garfunkel, Timothy B. Schmidt, and several others standing in for Crosby. But the record label had zero interest in anything but a CSN album, and eventually, Stills and Nash relented and invited the increasingly drug-addled Crosby to join them. Among the album’s finest moments, Still’s Southern Cross and Nash’s Wasted on the Way stand out in particular. Crosby is noticeable more for his absence than anything else, but of the contributions he does make, Delta stands out as the loveliest. Compared to what had come before, it’s a much lesser album, but considered on its own merits, it’s still an enjoyable listen.
After 1970’s Deja Vu, the band went their separate ways. Crosby released a solo album, reunited briefly with the Byrds, and recorded three albums with Nash, who also released two solo albums; Stills released four solo albums, one album with Young, and two albums with Manassas; and Young was fast on his way to becoming a living legend. In 1977, the CSN of CSNY came back together for their third studio album (and second as a three-piece), CSN. For the most part, the songs are much more mature and complex than those on their previous albums, despite the lack of obvious hits. A cohesive, ambitious and thoroughly enjoyable album, it’s stood the test of time remarkably well.
2. Crosby, Stills & Nash
In 1969, Crosby, Stills & Nash released their debut album. Immediately, the world sat up and paid attention. It wasn’t the first album to move away from the dominant blues-rock based guitar sounds of the day (both The Byrds and The Band had already got there with Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Music From Big Pink), but its gentle, rootsy amalgamation of folk, blues, and even jazz helped set the tone for the prevailing music trends of the early 1970s. Commercially, it was a success, peaking at No. 6 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and spawning two top 40 singles. To date, it’s sold over 4 million copies. Key tracks to watch out for include Crosby’s Helplessly Hoping and Stills’ Wooden Ships and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.
1. Deja Vu
The group’s second studio album (and their first with Neil Young) was released in March 1970. Strangely, it wasn’t an overwhelming critical success at the time of its release. Rolling Stone described their sound as “still too sweet, too soothing, too perfect, and too good to be true,” while the Village Voice called it “tight. Uptight, even.” Fifty years on, everyone’s singing from a different hymn sheet. From the first track to the last, the album is impeccable, crammed with glittering harmonies, precise playing, and gorgeous melodies. It’s now sold over 8 million copies, achieved 7 x platinum status in the US, and remains the best-selling album both for the band and each of its individual members.