Sunday, March 20, 2016

Re/Again: Deja Vu

Crosby Stills Nash & Young: Deja Vu


David Crosby and Graham Nash: Deja Vu


Our instructions for this theme indicate that they are intentionally vague, so I thought I would make them vaguer. Yes, one can post songs with the word “again” in the title, but here are two more approaches. My hope is that this will encourage everyone to post to this theme. And then do it again. And then do it again. I will try to do the same.

Déjà vu fits our theme, because it is the unsettling sense that you are again somewhere, or in some situation, that you have experienced before. Crosby Stills Nash & Young powerfully evoked the unsettling part of that feeling with their use of time signatures in the song Déjà Vu. The song begins in 12/8, and then switches to 4/4. The 4/4 seems oddly familiar because 12/8 is just 4/4 with triplets, but the transition is just as jarring as it should be. The lyrics are simple enough, serving simply to define the term for those who might not know it. The point of the song is the playing and singing, and that works perfectly.

Another way to work with our theme is to explore what happens when an artist or band revisits, and drastically remakes, one of their own songs. I’m not talking about a cover, because this is an artist reexamining their own work. A cover is when one artists explores the work of another, and that seems to me to be too broad for this theme. The album Déjà Vu, from which the first version of the song comes, is rightly regarded as a folk-rock classic. But David Crosby and Graham Nash brought more to the band than the folk rock label covers. The song shows great potential for a jam band treatment, and that is indeed how CSNY approached it live. But Crosby and Nash on their own took it further. The jam band element is certainly their, but so is a keen ear for the fusion jazz that was just emerging in 1976 when this live version was recorded. Their band included many California folk-rock stalwarts, who must either have relished this opportunity to show another side of their playing, or been stretched to the limits of their musical abilities. Either way, this expansion of the original song really works.

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