The singer-songwriter picks records by Neil Young, Laura Nyro, Rod Stewart and more

Originally published in Uncut’s August 2019 issue

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CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
CROSBY, STILLS & NASH
ATLANTIC, 1969

When I first entered high school, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Neil Young were what mattered to me – that three-part harmony thing just blasted through California. I was a runaway when I heard this, and every house that I went to, they had Crosby, Stills & Nash playing. These acoustic, quiet songs of strange origin, like “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”, wandering all over the place and never getting to the point, with these really beautiful harmonies! So enchanting. They had three good writers writing their very best at that time, and whenever you have three writers you have a chance of really hitting the mark, like with The Beatles.

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CAT STEVENS
TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN
ISLAND/A&M, 1970

I was about 16, living on a lake with my parents in the middle of the woods, when I heard this. It really spoke to me. There was something about his music – I hadn’t read The Hobbit [then], but I’d say there was something about it that was Hobbit-ish, with his funny little voice and beautiful, strange poetry: “I built my house from barley rice/Green pepper walls and water ice…” I was really enchanted. There was only one little picture of him on the back of the record and I wondered what he was.

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NEIL YOUNG
YOUNG MAN’S FANCY
CONTRA BAND [BOOTLEG], 1971

This might be the most influential record on me. I just played this over and over again. For a couple of years in high school I was even imitating Neil Young’s voice! This had a few songs that ended up on later records – it had “The Needle And The Damage Done”, and “See The Sky About To Rain”. He wrote perfect songs for teenage loneliness and angst – for lonely little outsider girls, he was the great siren, I think. But when I hear Joni Mitchell playing piano, I have to think that all these guys like Neil were listening and were greatly inspired by her.

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LAURA NYRO
NEW YORK TENDABERRY
COLUMBIA, 1969

I heard this in the summer of 1971. I had come down to California just to hang out for a month, staying in people’s houses, and I ended up in the house of some sailors. One of them had this waterbed and aquarium and a huge record collection. When he had to go off on his submarine, he’d let me sleep in his waterbed. Thus I explored very carefully, under threat of death if I scratched any of them, his record collection, and discovered this thing called Laura Nyro. I’d never heard anything like it – the inversions and chords were so sophisticated compared to blues stuff that was permeating the waves.

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