So many records, so little time. But the Vatican can help. The official newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano, has published what it called a “semi-serious” guide to the Top 10 pop albums of all time. In first place was The Beatles’ Revolver. The next was If I Could Only Remember My Name, David Crosby's first solo album, followed by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The newspaper published its list on Saturday, before the start of the San Remo festival, an over-the-top Italian competition of pop music that is widely watched on television. The rest of the list: Rumors by Fleetwood Mac; The Nightfly by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan; Thriller by Michael Jackson; Paul Simon’s Graceland; Achtung Baby by U2; (What’s the Story) Morning Glory by Oasis; and Carlos Santana's Supernatural.
Okay, questions of papal infallibity aside, the above list is no better or worse than any other example of the genre I could think of, but there is one kind of ringer in there -- to wit, that 1972 Crosby solo album. Which I'm aware has a certain cult following, probably as a result of the woozy cannabis haze that hovers around it like an aromatic psychotropic shroud. But for my money (and I'm a Crosby fan) it's kind of a mess.
Case in point, the song that's usually considered the album's masterpiece -- "Laughing." Recorded with the help of just about every stoned hippie San Francisco musician at the time.
Consider by comparison this remake. I refer of course to the standout track (IMHO) from The Byrds' (with Crosby, obviously) otherwise patchy 1973 reunion LP. (Incidentally, Crosby says he wrote the tune for them in the first place.)
I think you're hearing the difference between a zonked indulgence without dynamics or drama and a totally focused real band firing on all cylinders. But as I said, the solo album has its fans.
That they're in the Vatican, of course, kind of blows my mind.