SOURCED FROM THE ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES AND PACKAGED IN A MINI-LP GATEFOLD SLEEVE
The enduring charm, contemporary relevance, and harmonic convergence of Crosby, Stills & Nash's fabled self-titled debut owe not only to impeccably played songs and resonant lyrics, but to career-defining performances by music's first genuine supergroup. Crosby, Stills & Nash lingers as an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Factor in phenomenal studio production and acoustic-based architecture that served as guideposts for myriad albums that followed, and popular music would never be the same.
Sourced from the original analog master tapes and packaged in a mini-LP gatefold sleeve, Mobile Fidelity's numbered-edition hybrid SACD provides a transparent look into a record that birthed the Laurel Canyon movement and established a precedent for close harmony singing that has never been eclipsed. The organic presentation of the textures; expanse and depth of the soundstages; fullness of tones; natural extension of the acoustic guitar strings; realistic rise and decay of individual notes; seamless blending of the vocals – those important sonic facets (and more) reach demonstration-grade levels on this audiophile-quality reissue.
The backstory of how the quadruple-platinum Crosby, Stills & Nash came to be nearly matches the import of its content. Already a renowned multi-instrumental virtuoso, Stephen Stills sought a fresh beginning after Buffalo Springfield splintered. Similarly, vocal powerhouse David Crosby arrived after leaving the Byrds. Graham Nash drifted over after a frustrating stint in the Hollies. He met his new mates at a party. When the three sang together informally for the first time, their fate was sealed. To further tie their fortunes together, the singers used each of their surnames to identify the group to ensure the collective could not exist or continue on without all three members.
From the opening of the lead track, the multi-part "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," written for Judy Collins, it's apparent the trio's dynamic cannot be replicated or substituted. Originally released in May 1969 on Atlantic, the eponymous debut cracked the Billboard Top 10 and spent almost two years on the charts. Such longevity can be credited to the distinctive traits each member lends to a record Rolling Stone cites as the 252nd Greatest Album of All Time. Stills trades in folk, country, and rock accents while handing a majority of the instrumental duties (organ, bass, and lead guitar included). Crosby paints with mood and atmosphere, as well as direct political commentary. Nash ties everything together with accessible pop melodies.
More than five decades later, the ensemble's mellifluous singing and homespun arrangements continue to soar. The evidence pervades Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose magnetism reflects in standards such as the breezy "Marrakesh Express," protesting "Long Time Gone," poignant "Helplessly Hoping," and poetic "Wooden Ships." No wonder the trio's chemistry – as well as the distinctive traits of each member's singing, interwoven guitar parts, and contrasting personalities – became a permanent part of an American culture dealing with conflicting themes of peace and war, love and violence, and change and status quo.
Founded by core members Walter Becker (bass) and Donald Fagen (vocals, keyboards), Steely Dan's popularity rose throughout the late 1970s on, and their seven albums throughout that period of time blended elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop. Steely Dan created a sophisticated, distinctive sound with accessible melodic hooks, complex harmonies and time signatures, and a devotion to the recording studio. Becker and Fagen, with producer Gary Katz, gradually changed Steely Dan from a performing band to a studio project, hiring session musicians to record their compositions. The duo didn't perform live between 1974 and 1993. But their popularity nevertheless grew throughout the '70s as their albums became critical favorites and their singles became staples of Adult Oriented Radio and pop radio stations.
Like Steely Dan's 1972 debut album Can't Buy A Thrill, Countdown to Ecstasy has a rock sound that exhibits a strong influence from jazz. It comprises uptempo, four-to-five-minute rock songs, which, apart from the bluesy vamps of "Bodhisattva" and "Show Biz Kids," are subtly textured and feature jazz-inspired interludes. Countdown to Ecstasy was the only album written by Steely Dan for a live band. "My Old School" features reverent horns and aggressive piano riffs and guitar solos. "The Boston Rag" develops from a jazzy song to unrefined playing by the band, including a distorted guitar solo by Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Jim Hodder's drumming eschews rock music for pop and jazz grooves. Bop-style jazz soloing is set in the context of a pop song on "Bodhisattva". Commenting on the album's style and production, Tom Hull says it is "clean, almost slick", with "no dissonance, no clutter," reminiscent of 1940s bop and "the overproduced early 60s pop rock."
Countdown to Ecstasy has lyrical themes similar to Can't Buy A Thrill. It explores topics such as drug abuse, class envy, and West Coast excess. "My Old School" is inspired by a drug bust involving Walter Becker and Donald Fagen at Bard College, "King of the World" explores a post-Nuclear holocaust United States, and "Show Biz Kids" satirizes contemporary Los Angeles lifestyles.
Rolling Stone described Countdown To Ecstasy as "another dose of mainstream rock and roll, restating the basic themes of Can't Buy A Thrill, but this time concentrating a bit more on the rocking side of their style."
The original cover painting was by Fagen's then-girlfriend Dorothy White. At the insistence of ABC Records president Jay Lasker, however, several figures had to be added when he found the discrepancy between five band members and three figures on the cover unacceptable. The proofs for the album cover were later stolen during a dispute over the final layout. The back cover features an orchid surrounded by the band and their recording equipment.
After a brief battle with esophageal cancer, Walter Becker died on September 3, 2017 at the age of 67. Steely Dan has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2001. VH1 ranked Steely Dan at No. 82 on their list of the 100 Greatest Musical Artists of All Time. Rolling Stone ranked them No. 15 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time.