With the appearance of Lighthouse, singer/songwriter David Crosby, age 75, continues a late career renaissance that began with 2014's Croz -- his proper studio follow-up to 1971's classic If I Could Only Remember My Name. This set was produced by Snarky Puppy boss Michael League, who co-wrote five of these nine tunes with Crosby. The producer, a lifelong fan of the 1971 album, approached Crosby about recording something quick and dirty over a couple of weeks. He was met with incredulousness. The artist was used to working on albums for months, even years. After three days, they completed three new songs, and Crosby was all in.
Loosely modeled on the 1971 album, this is a more stripped-down affair, immediate, even raw in places. Crosby's acoustic guitar, vocals, and layered harmonies are accompanied by League playing assorted guitars and basses and managing studio atmospherics. Opening track and single "Things We Do for Love" is breezy and attractive with a trademark hook in the refrain, but it offers a subtle proof: That Crosby's golden voice is indeed subject to the march of time. The slight graininess in his delivery is used to wonderful effect on "The Us Below" as its arrangement bridges progressive folk and jazzy pop. Speaking of jazz, "Look in Their Eyes" contains a bluesy guitar and bass vamp that frames the singer's elastic phrasing amid shifting time signatures, punctuated with a dreamy bridge. "What Makes It So" is slippery, folky rock. It's one of two tracks to feature organist Cory Henry on a haunting B-3, as League's slide playing enhances the most hummable melody here. Pianist Bill Laurance also appears twice, most notably on the closer "By the Light of a Common Day" by Crosby and Becca Stevens. She and Michelle Willis add backing vocals to an Anglo-Celtic folk melody extrapolated toward sophisticated adult pop. League's electric guitar rings in the background, underscoring the interplay between the singers.
As a whole, Lighthouse doesn't reach the creative level of its 1971 inspiration. "Paint You a Picture," co-written by the singer with Marc Cohn, suffers from the former's generic melody. It hangs a poignant poetic lyric out to dry -- Laurance's piano fills almost rescue it, but not quite. Throughout, there's a sameness in tempo and production values that results in a pleasant but blurry dream effect. It's too easy to get absorbed in the record's sound and not pay attention to the songs, many of which are quite fine. Lighthouse is lovely, but the lack of attention to detail blunts some of the writing and playing craft on offer. [Lighthouse was also released on LP.] ~ Thom Jurek