In some ways, For Free plays like the culmination of David Crosby's late career purple patch. Working once again with James Raymond -- his son who has turned out to be an unusually empathetic and intuitive producer -- Crosby mines similar territory as he has on the records he's released since 2014's Croz, yet For Free contains its own distinctive vibe. It's smoother, for one, lacking the twilight haze of Lighthouse as well as the loose-limbed adventure of Here If You Listen, the 2018 record he made in concert with Snarky Puppy's Michael League, Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis. The slickness is reminiscent of the glory days of pre-MTV soft rock, a connection underscored by two key guests: Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen, who both contribute songs redolent of their signature styles. McDonald lends his signature harmonies to "River Rise" while Fagen offers "Rodriguez for a Night," a song that sounds as if it could've been excavated from the Gaucho sessions. These, along with the Joni Mitchell cover that lends the album its title, anchor For Free, allowing Crosby to ease into reflective jazz-funk grooves that give him plenty of space to harmonize and reflect. The nimble beats and warm surfaces give For Free an appealing buoyancy while also putting the quiet coda of "Shot at Me" and "I Won't Stay for Long" in sharp relief. Here, Crosby hints at his folkier origins without dispensing with the musical elasticity that characterized the rest of For Free, an expansion that serves as a gentle reminder that Crosby is in the midst of the longest sustained burst of creativity in his entire career.
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