By Hal Horowitz
While it’s reassuring to have him back, after seven years he could have crafted better material than what often dominates Now.
1. Right Now
2. A Better Life
3. Golden Idol
4. Stars And Stripes
5. Love Of Mine
6. Theme From Pastorale
7. In A Dream
8. Stand Up
9. Feels Like Home
10. Buddy’s Back
11. Follow Your Heart
12. I Watched It All Come Down
13. When It Comes To You
Some ageing artists furiously release new music, seemingly in a race against time to beef up their catalogs before they are no longer able to effectively do so.
Graham Nash is not one of them.
Unlike Van Morrison, Willie Nelson and even his old bandmates Neil Young and the late David Crosby, Nash is in no hurry to record albums. His previous set of originals appeared seven years ago, the one previously was 14 years before that. That’s not to say Nash hasn’t been busy, writing an autobiography and creating a book of photography while continuing to tour.
Now, at a spry 81, the twice Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has recorded a dozen fresh tunes and is ready to hit the road with them, along with highlights from a musical history spanning six decades.
Always politically progressive, Nash lashes out at both Trump and his followers on the searing mid-tempo rocker ‘Golden Idols’ (“they’re trying to re-write recent history”) with all the sincerity and anger his eternally youthful approach can muster.
The ballad ‘Stars and Stripes’ reveals “I can’t remember when my world was not on fire”. On ‘Stand Up’, a tough blues burner and the album’s hardest rocking moment, he encourages listeners to “Rise up into the future / Rise up and you’ll feel alive”, something he has proudly done during the course of his extensive career.
But between the excess of rather tepid if well-intentioned love songs, some cringe-worthy lyrics (“Loaded up and loaded down, it’s a mess, a mess”) and meandering melodies, Nash is artistically treading water.
A sweet string quartet and Nash’s committed singing can’t obscure ‘I Watched It All Come Down’s desultory songwriting, while his tribute to Buddy Holly, ‘Buddy’s Back’, emerges from a genuine place of sentiment but is sunk by feeble lyrics that someone of his experience should realize aren’t exactly Dylan-esque; “Buddy Holly was who we loved, right from the heart / His music is still around, believe me, Buddy’s back”.
Nash is a consummate professional, so even Now’s weakest tracks are listenable. His commitment to the material never flags, aided by an amiable voice which remains instantly recognizable.
But nothing connects with the easygoing charm of the guy who wrote catchy fare that entranced the world. While it’s reassuring to have him back, after seven years he could have crafted better material than what often dominates Now.
Graham Nash's 2023 album Now is released May 19 via BMG.
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