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Deja Vu - 50Th Anniversary (Deluxe Edition/Lp/4Cd)
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Vinyl, 14 May 2021
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- Product Dimensions : 32.21 x 32.41 x 1.91 cm; 1.02 Kilograms
- Manufacturer : ATLANTIC CATALOG GROUP
- Original Release Date : 2021
- Run time : 3 hours and 47 minutes
- Label : ATLANTIC CATALOG GROUP
- ASIN : B08Z53KYCH
- Country of origin : USA
- Number of discs : 5
- Best Sellers Rank: 717 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s immensely popular second album, Déjà vu, celebrates its milestone 50 year anniversary this year. The groundbreaking album – which went on to be certified 7x platinum in the US, Platinum in France, and Gold in Germany, Switzerland and the UK – features tracks: “Teach Your Children,” “Woodstock,” “Our House,” and “Helpless”.
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So this "Déjà vu" '50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' 5-Disc celebration of 4CDs and 1 VINYL LP on Atlantic/Rhino R2 625238 - Barcode 60349784027 (UK released Friday, 14 May 2021) is technically a whole year and a bit late to the nostalgia party - delayed of course by COVID-19.
But first out of the cardboard container carton and it's an impressive LP-Sized beast indeed. The gold-sticker on the shrink-wrap doesn't have anywhere to go once you open it, nor does the attached details page on the rear which is impractical to say the least – so I put them carefully on the inside and I suggest you do the same.
What's new? Outside of a straightforward remaster of the 10-track album on CD1 - CDs 2, 3 and 4 offer up 38 tracks of alternates and new stuff - 29 of which are PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED with the remaining 9 having been on preceding compilations and reissues. A short breakdown looks like this...
CD1: 36:21 minutes (Remastered Album, 10 Tracks)
CD2: 70:36 minutes (Demos, 18 Tracks) – All Tracks Unreleased except 3, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 16 which were previously made available on compilations issued between 1991 and 2018
CD3: 43:00 minutes (Outtakes, 11 Tracks) – All Tracks Unreleased except 5
CD4: 41:26 minutes (Alternates, 9 Tracks) - All Tracks Unreleased except 4
VINYL LP (Housed Inside The Book Flap, 10 Tracks)
Artwork - those of us that were there (and not square as we used to say) will remember with huge affection that fantastic pimpled hardback book-cover sleeve with its pasted-on photo. Word was that a single album cover cost Atlantic Records something like 79c in 1970 and 89c for a the undiluted luxury of a gatefold. But this elaborate baby put them back just under two dollars - hence there is a note from Atlantic Records reproduced in the 20-page booklet that tells retailers this LP will sell for $5.99 RRP which was way pricey for the time.
But is this 4CD/1LP version worth £65.00? Yes and no. The 20-page booklet is a lovely thing to look at - but at only 20-pages and despite Cameron Crowe's cool new liner notes (with photos from Band Archivist Joel Bernstein) - feels a tad slight after such a long wait for this classic album. Many of the 1969 photos are of a six-piece group - Bassist Dallas Taylor and Drummer Greg Reeves of course making up band-members five and six and quite rightly credited as such on the front cover (albeit in lower case). The ace in the hole lies in the new mastering.
The AUDIO Remaster by CHRIS BELLMAN at Bernie Grundman Mastering is stupendous - so much clearer and warmer for the album proper, but unbelievably, just the same for 'most' of the demos on Disc 2. They are not all clear - the first two have remained unreleased for obvious hissy reasons and the much-vaulted duet on "Our House" with Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell is rubbish sounding - a cute time-capsule moment you will listen to once and quickly forget. But there are loads of others that are simply stunning. If anything - I found Disc 2 just as good a listen (albeit more unplugged acoustic) as the main event. That almost studio-quality demo of the title track "Déjà vu" is hair-raisingly good and so sophisticated too.
So why only four-stars and not a stonking five? Disc 3 offers ten 'Outtakes' - or a possible third album (the one that never appeared). But man does it let the side down. Much of it is wholly uninspired and so disappointing - ending in an abomination called "Right On Rock 'n' Roll". The better tracks like "Ivory Tower" and "Bluebird Revisited" are stuff we already have albeit here in different form. The versions of Crosby's brilliant "Laughing" and "The Lee Shore" with the 1969 Vocal rather than the one re-recorded for the 1991 CSN box are good too. But the six others are iffy to my ears and kind of ruin their mystique (if that makes sense). But then – yet again - and as you are just about to write-off the set of a could-have-been a barnstormer - Disc 4 up and whomps you in the aural gonads with alternatives that are fabulous too – that Harmonica Version of "Helpless" being particularly brill. Guests on the main album including Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead playing Steel Guitar on "Teach The Children", John Sebastian of The Lovin' Spoonful playing Harmonica on "Déjà vu" and Jack Nitzsche giving it some Electric Piano on "Country Girl".
What of the nine that have been issued before? Clearly marked as such, these alternates turned up mostly on Solo Career retrospectives across the years (Stills' "Carry On", Nash's "Reflections", Crosby's "Voyager" and of course Neil Young's Archive Series) - so you're buying them twice effectively if like me you've diligently collected anything CSNY. In fact there is a noticeable withholding of ace material - Neil Young fans will notice only one - a demo of "Birds". But I can tell you, it's bloody gorgeous and again unbelievable that something this good stayed in the can all these decades. And those already-issued nine were used on previous CD sets for a 'reason' - they're damn good and came with ace almost immaculate audio - so anyone coming to this project fresh-faced will be amazed by them too.
To sum up - the 5-Disc '50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition' of "Déjà vu" is overly expensive for what you get. But is it worth the spondulicks? Ab-so-bloody-lutely! The presentation feels and oozes class, the CD audio is gorgeous and the Previously Unreleased stuff contains actual bonuses worthy of the name.
Even on an off day - CSNY's noodling of half a century ago feels like genuine magic in 2021 - and that happened every time they opened their mouths or picked up a guitar. I can't believe that it's taken over 50 years for the many gems on this belated celebration to see the light of day. Bottom-line - never mind the Déjà vu, dig the Déjà now...
PS: 13 August 2021 will see a 5LP VINYL ONLY Box Set issued of the above
Why do record companies insist on mixing formats in single releases.