Whether David Crosby realized it or not, keeping up with the times just wasn’t meant to be. Because listening now to “Oh Yes I Can” is a bit like watching an episode of Jake and the Fatman, in that one might have fond memories of seeing it at the time, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t dated. And while Crosby might have been clean and sober after a spell in the penitentiary system, didn’t mean his song writing had improved, far from it in fact. Take opener “Drive My Car” as exhibit A, for instance, with its booming drums and electronic ambience, not to mention all those guitars that sound as though they’re competing for the soundtrack of Top Gun. Things hardly improve on the next track, “Melody”, which is a synth-dominated number typical of the times, and as such, fails the old hippie test. “Monkey and the Underdog” is a sort of “Almost Cut My Hair” for the ‘80s, in other words boring and forgettable.
“In the Wide Ruin” is one of those songs that would have worked better in the ‘70s, but with all that horrible ‘80s production behind it, I’m starting to wonder if this is the same David Crosby who once sang with The Byrds and CSNY, or maybe some imposter who just happens to look and sound like him. But just when I’m about to give up, “Tracks in the Dust” comes along, a reflective piece concerned with the passing of time and mortality. Crosby sings up a storm on the bluesy “Drop Down Mama”, followed by the soft and soothing “Lady of the Harbor”, a temperate ode to the Statue of Liberty.
Crosby is in fine vocal form on the gentle “Distances”, a song that resembles some of his early work, however it’s probably “Flying Man” that would have garnered the most attention from long time fans, with its wordless jazz-like melodies, and David scatting his way throughout, like a late ‘80s “Tamalpais High”. The introspective title track, “Oh Yes I Can” has Crosby in philosophical mode, reflecting on what’s important after all that he’s been through. The final track, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” is pleasant enough, if a little on the dull side. No sleeping pills required in other words.
Oh Yes I Can is clearly nothing like his first solo album, 1971’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. Although they both have at least one thing in common: an incredibly long list of guest musicians. And what a list it is: Graham Nash (vocals), Jackson Browne (vocals), David Lindley (slide guitar), Bonnie Raitt (vocals), Jim Keltner (drums), Steve Lukather (guitar), Mike Finnigan (organ), James Taylor (vocals), plus a few hundred more. Not that it seems to have made all that much of a difference to the final outcome. Very ‘80s and very tedious is all I can say, and I’m one of Crosby’s most steadfast of followers, which obviously goes some way to demonstrate just how dreary this album really is. Or maybe it’s just me. Because I guess I was hoping for another stoned-out classic such as Remember My Name, but clearly that was too much to ask.