In February 1971 came David Crosby’s solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name. Crosby’s dreamy, impressionistic, darkly beautiful, and decidedly unconventional masterwork is now receiving a deluxe edition from Rhino due on October 15. This release follows the 2006 expanded edition which added the bonus track “Kids and Dogs” along with a mind-blowing surround mix in the now-largely defunct DVD-Audio format.
If I Could Only Remember My Name, produced by Crosby and engineered by Stephen Barncard, welcomed a host of guest musicians to bring the singer-songwriter’s cosmic soundscapes to life. Among the guests in this Los Angeles-to-San Francisco musical collective dubbed The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra were CSNY’s Graham Nash and Neil Young; Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart; Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, David Freiberg, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady; Santana’s Michael Shrieve and Gregg Rolie; and Joni Mitchell. In fact, Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, Nash’s Songs for Beginners, and Kantner’s Blows Against the Empire were all, in part, recorded concurrently with If I Could Only Remember My Name at Wally Heider’s studio in San Francisco.
The album’s “Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)” and “Laughing” were both tried out during the Déjà Vu sessions; demos of both songs can be heard on Rhino’s recent 50th anniversary box of that album. While the album’s songs weren’t as accessible as those on Déjà Vu, the same hallmarks of musicianship, poetry, and lush harmonies were all present. Critics weren’t initially impressed, but the LP made it to No. 12 on the Billboard 200 and the top ten of both the Cash Box and Record World surveys. The single “Music Is Love,” featuring Nash and Young, reached No. 95 on the Hot 100. In the years since its release, the experimental, intense, and singular If I Could Only Remember My Name has become a cult classic and a recognized stepping stone to indie rock styles such as freak folk and New Weird America.
Now, listeners will have the opportunity to discover it anew. Rhino’s deluxe edition boasts a new remaster of the album from the original analog tapes overseen by original engineer Barncard using the Plangent Process, and a generous 14 bonus demos and session outtakes/alternates (a full 12 of which are previously unreleased). These include “Kids and Dogs,” “Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves) (Demo)” and “Riff 1” (now streaming and downloadable) as well as “Coast Road,” “Dancer,” and a version of “Cowboy Movie” with Neil Young taking the solo instead of Jerry Garcia. Some of the demos date as far back as 1968 when Crosby briefly worked with Doors producer Paul A. Rothchild at Hollywood Recorders. In addition, journalist and Crosby pal Steve Silberman has penned new liner notes for the package.