Friday, 7 June 2019

Neil Young

Neil Young (1969)

The Emperor Of Wyoming/The Loner/If I Could Have Her Tonight/I've Been Waiting For You/The Old Laughing Lady/String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill/Here We Are In The Years/What Did You Do To My Life?/I've Loved Her So Long/The Last Trip To Tulsa       

Neil Young's debut album was released at the height of "folk rock" and "country rock", so its quiet tones fitted the era perfectly, as psychedelia gave way to wistful, airy, acoustic and poetic songs. There was some rock on the album too, though, in places, paving the way for some of his later work. The sound on this remaster, which came from the "four first albums" box set, is excellent, very warm and bassy.
The Emperor Of Wyoming is a gentle, folky instrumental, while The Loner has some excellent buzzsaw lead guitar and shows the first signs of the sort of crashing electric guitar work that would so characterise his material with Crazy Horse. This is a great rock track. 

If I Could Have Her Tonight is the sort of laid-back country rock, complete with Byrds-style jangly guitar, that so exemplified that late sixties, early seventies genre. 

I've Been Waiting For You was covered most effectively by David Bowie on 2002's Heathen album. Here, it is certainly not as powerful as Bowie's far more contemporary version, but as far as late sixties rock went, it pretty much rocked, featuring some searing guitar. Young's voice is what it is, you just have to get used to its whining quality. It certainly isn't the best rock voice around, that's for sure, but the material was good and you just sort of get used to it.

The Old Laughing Lady is very slow-paced, with a beautiful bass line, stark drum sound and, actually, a rather fetching, peaceful, hippy-ish vocal from Young. There are some nice jazzy instrumental parts in places, with some wild backing vocals  throughout the song then it reverts back to the chilled out ambience of most of the rest of the song. It is certainly an interesting one. Its backing vocals are very reminiscent of Elton John's Where To Now, St. Peter. Then comes a brief classical string interlude - Why? Who knows. It fits in ok, though. 

Here We Are In The Years is a folky, reflective number, while What Did You Do To My Life also has a light feel to it, albeit with some excellent guitar underpinning it. It actually sounds very David Bowie-ish in places.

I've Loved Her So Long is more the typical Neil Young that people would come to know in the early seventies. 

The album finishes with the lengthy, nine-minute The Last Trip To Tulsa, whose length is completely incongruous with the rest of the album. It is an "on the road" narrative sung by Young with an acoustic guitar backing only. It is very much a Bob Dylan-influenced song, although one instantly knows it is Neil Young. It is also hippily indulgent and, surely, hallucinogenic in its genesis, man.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

Cinnamon Girl/Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere/Round And Round (It Won't Be Long)/Down By The River/The Losing End (When You're On)/Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)/Cowgirl In The Sand    

This was Neil Young's second album, and the first to feature his excellent backing band, Crazy Horse. Their presence ensures that it was an essentially rock album in flavour, despite a couple of folk/rock tracks that served as echoes of his debut album from only four months earlier. Young was casting himself as a proper rock artist on this album. He succeeded in this aim too, it is an excellent album. I is still one of my favourites of his. There is something essentially pure about it.
Cinnamon Girl is a short, riffy rocker that gets the album off to a fine start. It is clear from the outset that Young's voice is deeper on this album than on his debut offering. I much prefer it when his voice is like this. Crazy Horse are on top form on here too - great bass and drums.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is a mid-pace rocker with hints of The Byrds and The Band in there. The guitar is big, jangly and caustic. Once more, Young's voice is stronger than it sometimes had been. Both these tracks were played live by Young many times over the years.

Round And Round (It Won't Be Long) is more typical Neil Young - a mournful, slow pace acoustic-driven number with a plaintive, reflective vocal. It is a throwback to Young's first album in its gentle folk/rock feel.


Down By The River was the first of the album's two extended tracks in which Young  wound his oblique, almost hippy-like lyrics around his loose, improvised playing with Crazy Horse. This was re-inventing Young as a credible rock artist. The rumbling, deep bass and the tremendous guitar interplay is extremely impressive, particularly for 1969. It is good solid, powerful but dignified rock. His vocals always sounded uniquely mysterious and ominous, though, and the backing vocals are so very 1969 "country rock". Some of the guitar also briefly reminds me of Creedence Clearwater Revival in places. Many years later, Paul Weller, in his Wild Wood era, would be very influenced by stuff like this.

The Losing End (When You're On) is a melodic, mid-pace country rock chugger with a nice, swinging bass line. 

Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets) is a sombre folk number with echoes of Pentangle, as well as Bob Dylan. It is enhanced by some superb electric violin. Incidentally, "The Rockets" was the original name of Crazy Horse. It is an atmospheric track that really gets into your system after a while.

Cowgirl In The Sand is the album's other lengthy number. Like the first two tracks, this and Down By The River became Young live staples. It is packed full of swirling, muscular electric guitar backing an archetypally late sixties vocal. Once again, Paul Weller will have learned to love this after probably initially hating it. That guitar is a blueprint for much of his work in the mid-nineties, and Ocean Colour Scene, for that matter. There is some simply superb, instinctive guitar work on this track.

This was certainly a most convincing album - four great rock tracks and three folky ones. Young's relationship with Crazy Horse, of course, would go on to produce so much great music over many more years.

After The Gold Rush (1970)

Tell Me Why/After The Goldrush/Only Love Can Break Your Heart/Southern Man/Till The Morning Comes/Oh, Lonesome Me/Don't Let It Bring You Down/Birds/When You Dance You Can Really Love/I Believe In You/Cripple Creek Ferry   

Fifteen months went by between Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and this, Neil Young's third album. In the meantime he had been involved with CSNY's Deja Vu album, contributing two songs (Helpless and Country Girl) as well as the non-album single, Ohio. This album is not quite as "rock" as its predecessor, with no extended guitar "jamming" passages to any of the songs, and Young re-visits his more folky roots once more. There is quite a bit of a country rock vibe to it as well.

A newcomer to Young's backing band, Crazy Horse, was seventeen year-old Nils Lofgren (of latter day E St. Band fame) who contributed on piano as well as guitar.
The album begins in gentle, acoustic fashion on Tell Me Why, which is folky Americana in the CSNY style, as if Young was still recording with them. It is full of breezy harmonious vocals, reminiscent of folk rock band America.

After The Gold Rush is one of Young's best-known songs - a haunting song that nobody really knows the meaning to, but there's something very Woodstock, very late sixties/early seventies hippy about it. The flugelhorn perfectly merges with Young's bleak but melodic piano. I can never hear this too many times.


Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a very late sixties, breezy, harmonious love song. It showed that the often cynical, caustic Young had a tenderness deep within him. Despite its airy feel, it also has a deep bass line.

Southern Man has achieved notoriety in that it was the song that provoked Lynyrd Skynyrd to write Sweet Home Alabama as a response to Young's daring to call into question the often racist ways of many in the south of the USA. Young was dead right if you ask me, particularly in 1969. Lynyrd Skynyrd should have taken a look out of their own window, much as I love their music. Anyway, it is a great song, with a solid, pertinent message and some excellent guitar. It is the album's most obviously rock song.

Till The Morning Comes operates as a short lively interlude backed by bass, drums and flugelhorn that, unfortunately ends just as it is getting started. Oh Lonesome Me is a slow, wistful, harmonica-backed ballad, a sort of country blues, that finds Young's already high-pitched voice going a bit vibrato at times, while Don't Let It Bring You Down ups it a bit, being a bassy, muscular slow-paced rock number. That big, rumbling bass on it is just delicious. I love that deep sound.

Birds is a plaintive piano and vocal number that was covered by Paul Weller on his Studio 150 album of covers in 2004. Although the track is gentle and low-key, there are parts of the "it's over" bit that are almost anthemic. 

Then the album gets more punchy again with When You Dance You Can Really Love which is a medium-paced rock song with some impressive guitar riffs. The riff reminds me a bit of Argent's Hold Your Head Up. The track gets quite heavy near the end. Its vocal is very CSNY.

I Believe In You is another CSNY-influenced, sombre-sounding, reflective song with some nice clear percussion. Its positive message is slightly nullified by its deadpan delivery. 

Cripple Creek Ferry ends the album with a brief bit of country fun. Although this is comparatively short album (nothing wrong with that) it is good one, an appealing mix of rock and country, folky material. It was very typical of Young's early seventies output.

Harvest (1972)

Out On The Weekend/Harvest/A Man Needs A Maid/Heart Of Gold/Are You Ready For The Country?/Old Man/There's A World/Alabama/The Needle And The Damage Done/Words (Between The Lines Of Age)  

After the demise of Crosby, Stills, Nash and YoungNeil Young continued the contemporary trend for country rock with this, his most popular album. Considered a classic by so many, I am not sure it quite deserves that accolade. That said, of its genre, it is pretty good, let's be honest. However, Deja Vu by CSNY is more than its equal, as are albums by The Band or even America from the same period. There is something adventurous in a lot of its material, though, that makes it a bit more special.
The album begins with the resonant, Dylanesque Out On The Weekend, with its huge drum sound and Young's confident vocal. 

Harvest is an appealing slice of country rock, while the Band-esque, plaintive A Man Needs A Maid is Young singing against a piano and strings backing. I have always had a bit of a problem with Young's voice on tracks like this. I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but there you go. Quality songs like this would be considerably enhanced by a better voice. However, Young's voice gives them their plaintive quality, it can be successfully argued. 

Heart Of Gold is the album's best-known track. I like Young's voice on this one, and love the song too. It is packed full of atmosphere.

Are You Ready For The Country? is one of the album's rockiest tracks and, despite its folky verses, Old Man has some powerful passages in the chorus refrains. Again I find it very Band-influenced. It is another most evocative number. 

There's A World, rather surprisingly, sees Young accompanied by The London Symphony Orchestra, and, this time unsurprisingly, the track is over-orchestrated. Personally, I would prefer it without the huge sweeping string sound.

Alabama is another rock number, with some excellent guitar. It was claimed to be the actual song Lynyrd Skynyrd took umbrage over, inspiring them to write Sweet Home Alabama, as opposed to Southern Man

The Needle And The Damage Done is an acoustic lament for music's drug addiction victims. It is very CSNY in its feel. 

The final track, the lengthy Words (Between The Lines Of Age) is excellent. A track that varies in mood and tempo and styles - orchestrated, rock, reflective, powerful. Possibly the best track on the album. Yes, this is a fine album, undoubtedly a leader in its country rock genre and it has something that raises it above just an average album, but I still don't feel it is an absolute classic.

Tonight's The Night (1975)

Tonight's The Night/Speakin' Out/World On A String/Borrowed Tune/Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown/Mellow My Mind/Roll Another Number (For The Road)/Albuquerque/New Mama/Lookout Joe/Tired Eyes/Tonight's The Night - Part II 

This album, although eventually released in mid-1975, was recorded in 1973 by a grief-stricken* and (probably) drugged up Young. He toured the album and audiences, raised on Heart Of Gold and After The Goldrush were not too happy with this often maudlin, bluesy rock material. The album's release was shelved and On The Beach was recorded and released instead. Two years later the album got released and has, retrospectively, received much critical kudos. Personally, I prefer it to the often plaintive Harvest, so there you go.
Tonight's The Night is Young's tribute to his roadie Bruce Berry*, who died of a heroin overdose, six months after Crazy Horse's guitarist Danny Whitten* (Apparently, Young fired Whitten, gave him $50 and a flight ticket to LA. Whitten died of an overdose the next day). Young expressed his guilt, loss and grief, but it is done in a punchy, muscular rock format with Young's voice sounding gruffer and hoarser than on earlier recordings. It is as if Young is trying to sing it all out of his system.


Speakin' Out is a laid-back piece of bluesy rock, driven along by a strong bass and piano. Once more, it is a powerful rock-ish number. Nils Lofgren provides and excellent guitar solo. 

World On A String continues the rock vibe, with another pumping offering. The tempo slows with the harmonica-driven strains of Borrowed Time. It is a moving, sad song that has Young trying to exorcise his feelings at the time. In typically Young fashion he straps his electric guitar on again soon enough, though, and gives us the scratchy, riffy joy of Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown. This is one of the album's rockiest moments.

Mellow My Mind finds Young's voice straining and cracking over its steady beat. It is a mournful lament of a song, but still full of power and featuring a killer harmonica. 

Roll Another Number (For The Road) is a drunken-sounding slice of self-pitying country blues. Steel guitar backs Young's tired-sounding voice. "I'm not goin' back to Woodstock for a while...." he tells us as he finishes his drink and gets all reflective about "that helicopter day...".

Albuquerque is an excellent song, one of Young's best. It is another sombre country rock song, with Young once again mentioning how he is going to "roll another number...". More ghostly harmonica enhances the song's atmosphere. Young wants to find somewhere to enjoy some "fried eggs and country ham...". This is someone who just seems to want to get away from it all for a while, unsurprisingly. 

New Mama is a gentle acoustic and keyboard wistful number. It is the lightest number thus far. It has a very Celtic, folky feel in places. The electric guitar is back on Lookout Joe, which is full of an attractive slow thump.

Tired Eyes sees Young back in that country bar, singing "please take my advice..." over a tinkling piano and a sad harmonica. Tonight's The Night is reprised at the end, slightly more in slightly more bluesy fashion, but still containing a real rock power.

Although this is an album expressing devastation and personal loss, its upbeat sound means when listened to it comes over as quite a lively, positive offering and is certainly a lot better than it was initially thought to be. Thankfully time has viewed it kindly.

Zuma (1975)

Don't Cry No Tears/Danger Bird/Pardon My Heart/Lookin' For A Love/Barstool Blues/Stupid Girl/Drive Back/Cortez The Killer/Through My Sails    

Neil Young reunited again with Crazy Horse on this album and it revisits the hard rocking edge he had employed at intervals throughout the seventies. The music is played with a loose, buzzy guitar-driven energy by Crazy Horse (who didn't seem to be able to play in any other way, anyway) and is considered one of Young's best seventies rock offerings. It is another in what was now becoming a long line of highly credible and listenable albums from this enigmatic artist.

Don't Cry No Tears is a solid, mid-pace rocker to start the album off, with a nice deep bass sound to it and some by now trademark Crazy Horse riffing. A low-key bass and slow guitar riff introduces the sombre Danger Bird. It ends with a couple of minutes of outstanding guitar work. As will be said on any review of their work in this period - Crazy Horse could really play.

Pardon My Heart was a gentle, tuneful acoustic number that wouldn't have been out of place on 1972's Harvest album. 

Lookin' For A Love is a poppy piece of country-ish rock. Cynical old Neil could periodically come up with fetching, romantic, wistful songs like this. Its vocal harmonies are very redolent of CSNY.

Barstool Blues is a typical Young/Crazy Horse slice of solid riffy rock with Young's "marmite" high-pitched reedy voice straining a bit to cope with the song, but the backings are always so good that I always tolerate Young's voice (of which I have always had my problems with). The lyrics are aways great and the attitude too. That is why I always return to his music with enthusiasm. 

Stupid Girl is not The Rolling Stones song, but another chugging Young deep rocker. Once more the guitar is top notch.

Drive Back continues along the same riff-paved road. Nothing new here, just trustworthy, reliable rock. Neil Young was like Tom Petty in that respect - album after album that you knew would not let you down. 

Cortez The Killer sees Young going all historical as he sings of the Spanish conqueror of the Aztecs  over some sublime, extended guitar backing on one of his most lengthy, improvisational numbers since the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere album. It is a minor classic. 

The laid-back and folky Through My Sails was apparently a remant from the CSNY sessions back in the early seventies. It provides a peaceful, reflective end to an otherwise upbeat, rock-oriented album.

Rust Never Sleeps (1978)

My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)/Thrasher/Ride My Llama/Pocahontas/Sail Away/Powderfinger/Welfare Mothers/Sedan Delivery/Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)  

This is a collection of live recordings by Neil Young that were later enhanced by studio overdubs. The first three tracks are largely acoustic and recorded in early 1978 at The Boarding House in San Francisco. The rest were recorded on the Young/Crazy Horse tour in late 1978. Two exceptions were not recorded live - Sail Away from the Comes A Time sessions and Pocahontas which dates from 1976.
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of the Blue) is the acoustic version of Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). It has a haunting, mesmeric appeal, enhanced by some excellent harmonica.

Thrasher is a Springsteen-esque (later era) piece of folky country. It has shades of early Dylan with hints of Love Minus Zero/No Limits's rhyme scheme. 

Ride My Llama is a deep but acoustic number, with some really sonorous, heavy rhythmic bits thumping behind its plaintive country-ish melody. Again, but in a different way, there is something Dylanesque about this. Another similarity with Dylan is that the first five tracks are acoustic (the old "side one"), while the second side is electric, like Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home.

Pocahontas is another one that you could imagine post 2010 Springsteen doing. It is acoustic as well, but strongly acoustic if you know what I mean.  In the lyrics, Young imagines that he was a trapper who got to sleep with Pocahontas. He then imagines "Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me...".   Hmmm, ok Neil. The afore-mentioned Sail Away is a fetching, laid-back folky number with a comforting country air to it.

Right, now it's time for Neil to strap on that electric guitar, get Crazy Horse to join him and give us some of that buzzy electric rock as only he and "The Horse" can. Powderfinger is a Young classic as well. Driven on by a superb riff, enhanced by a big, scratchy guitar solo and some great lyrics, it is up there as one of his best songs. 

Another corker is the similarly rifftastic and wryly amusing Welfare Mothers"Welfare mothers make better lovers..." he tells us. You can find them "down at every Laundromat in town...". Really? I never did on any of my weekly visits to the Launderette back in the day.

Sedan Delivery is almost punky in its initial guitar attack and grungy drum thump. In between its frantic thrashing there are some slow, almost sixties psychedelic moments. For a member of rock's old school by 1978, this was incredibly punky stuff. 

Finally, we get the iconic Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) with more top class mega-chunky riffs and the mention of Johnny Rotten, "gone but not forgotten", in 1978. Old Neil had his finger on the pulse. He always was "old Neil" as Lynyrd Skynyrd described him, wasn't he? Even when he wasn't that old.

This was certainly an interesting album, but it never really comes across as a "live" album. That sort of feeling is better found on Live Rust, released soon after this.

Live Rust (1978)

Sugar Mountain/I Am A Child/Comes A Time/After The Gold Rush/My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)/When You Dance I Can Really Love/The Loner/The Needle And The Damage Done/Lotta Love/Sedan Delivery/Powderfinger/Cortez The Killer/Cinnamon Girl/Like A Hurricane/Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)/Tonight's The Night   

This was the properly live companion to Rust Never Sleeps, which was "sort of live". The music is taken from Young's tour with Crazy Horse in 1978 and features Young backed with bass, guitar and drums and occasional keyboards. It is a back to basics performance, begun with acoustic/harmonica material before we get the solid, riffy, crashing, no-nonsense rock that Young and Crazy Horse would be known for over subsequent years. It has attracted criticism for including four of the tracks from Rust Never Sleeps but that is a bit churlish, really. You can never get enough of those songs anyway and there are still twelve others. This is still a very good live album, one that would set the standard for many more from Young and Crazy Horse over the years.
Kicking off things is Sugar Mountain, a sort of singalong acoustic number that finds the crowd getting into it and clapping along. The acoustic vibe continues on the plaintive I Am A Child and the harmonica-enhanced, enjoyable Comes A Time, from Young's latest studio album. Then it is time for an earlier classic, the wonderful After The Gold Rush. The studio version's flugelhorn is replaced by a Springsteen-esque harmonica.

My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) sees an electric guitar used, but it is gently utilised on the laid-back version of the grungy Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black). Once again the harmonica is excellent, very Dylanesque here. The electric guitar is fully introduced now on the riffy strains of When You Dance I Can Really Love. This is a full-on, copper-bottomed Young/Crazy Horse rocker, packed with outstanding guitar, throbbing bass and pounding drums. The riff-driven attack continues on The Loner from Young's debut album. Proper rock once more. Again the guitar power is truly pulsating.

For some reason, between this track and the next one, the acoustic, anti-drug The Needle and the Damage Done contains a thunderclap and stage announcements about taking precautions during the thunderstorm that were take from Woodstock, in 1969, when Young played there with CSNY. A most odd inclusion. 

Lotta Love is a peaceful, chilled-out piece of breezy soft rock that sits a bit incongruously with some of the more caustic material.

Back to rock next with the punky, energetic romp of Sedan Delivery, followed by the superb, powerful but melodic Powderfinger

The solidly dignified Cortez The Killer continues the high quality. It has an appropriately killer guitar solo. Young returns to his second album for the short, sharp, hard-hitting rock of Cinnamon Girl. You simply can't argue with the power of the chunky guitar attack on tracks like this. You can never hear Like A Hurricane too many times either. This begins with lots of feedback before launching into the familiar intro.

Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) is as chunkily industrial as you would expect. The album ends with the slow but powerful Tonight's The Night. As with so many tracks it is full to the brim of great guitar. This album has been an air guitarist's dream. Uncompromising, full volume stuff.

Freedom (1989)

Rockin' In The Free World (live acoustic version)/Crime In The City (Sixty To Zero Part 1)/Don't Cry/Hangin' On A Limb/El Dorado/The Ways Of Love/Someday/On Broadway/Wrecking Ball/No More/Too Far Gone/Rockin' In The Free World      

This is, for me, one of Neil Young's finest albums. The tracks were sourced from a variety of aborted previous projects and are out together to make a long album (for 1989) of over an hour's music. It is simply a great rock album, full of all sorts of influences - rock, folk, Americana, Tex-Mex, soul -  and delivered by a confident, wordly-wise and prophetic-sounding Young, backed by a great collection of musicians.
The album kicks off with a live acoustic version of the rack that ends it - Rockin' In The Free World. It contains a superb Dylanesque harmonica solo from Young. The song fades out with the audience singing away.

A real highlight in Young's career is up next - eight minutes of cinematic glory in Crime In The City (Sixty To Zero Part 1). It is very, very Bob Dylan-influence, even down to the "they can't get no relief" All Along The Watchtower lyric. It's not just that, though, it is the whole structure, the delivery, the sound, the lyrics, the ambience. "Send me a cheeseburger and a new "Rolling Stone"..." is a great line too. There is some wonderful Mark Knopfler-style guitar throughout the track and some excellent saxophone too. The song is truly wonderful, I have to say and Young out-Dylans Dylan. Check out that great bass/percussion bit around six minutes in as well.

Don't Cry is a slow-burning plaintive number more in keeping with Young's recognisable style over the years, the same can be said of the gentle, acoustic, airy strains of Hangin' On A Limb, which has some America-style harmonies and backing vocals from Linda Ronstadt. It is a beautiful song and has a quiet, lilting melody that stays in your head. 

El Dorado is an attractive, Mexican-influenced piece of slow bluesy rock, complete with castanets and lyrics about "mission bells", "seƱoritas" , "Tijuana" and "Mariachi bands". It contains more of that Knopfler-esque guitar and a deep, infectious bass line. Listening to it is six minutes well spent.

The Ways Of Love is a return to an acoustic sound, on a song that has a sort of waltz beat to it and a bit of country twang to its guitar sound. There is a nice harmonica near the end. 

Someday has a piano intro that reminds me somewhat of a slowed-down version of The BanglesManic Monday intro. It breaks out into a stately, mid-pace rock beat backed up by some insistent "chain gang"-style male backing vocals. It is another of my favourites on the album. The saxophone solo part is positively E St. Band, particularly when you hear the accompanying piano and drum sound too.

You may imagine The Drifters' On Broadway would not be an automatic choice for Young to cover, but he does it really well, giving it a big chugging rock beat and some searing guitar throughout. It's great. Young's vocal is surprisingly impressive too. He sounds like he's really loving it when he sings "I can play this here guitar" and launches into a huge grungy solo. Who would have thought The Drifters could go grunge?

Wrecking Ball was written a long time before the Bruce Springsteen track of the same name. Young's song is a fetching, tender rock ballad, with a nice, deep bass and drum rhythm and a wistful vocal from Young. Talking of nice bass, No More has a delicious line, together with some upbeat drums and bluesy rock guitar. It is an appealing slice of catchy mid-pace, melodious rock.

Too Far Gone is a delightful country rock ballad featuring an impressive guitar solo. The studio version of Rockin' In The Free World is robust and rocks big, as you would expect. It is one of Young's best rockers, overflowing with riffs and pounding drums. Listen to that solo near the end - quality, just a pity it suddenly fades out.

This is a varied, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable album from beginning to end. There is not a bad track on it.

Weld (1991)

Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)/Crime In The City/Blowin' In The Wind/Welfare Mothers/Love To Burn/Cinnamon Girl/Mansion On The Hill/Fuckin' Up/Cortez The Killer/Powderfinger/Love And Only Love/Rockin' In The Free World/Like A Hurricane/Farmer John/Tonight's The Night/Roll Another Number 
Neil Young’s Weld live album was one dating from 1991 and it was, for all its sixteen tracks, a hard rock, electric guitars turned up to the max one. There is no room on the album for acoustic numbers, just a hard guitar-based rock sound all the way, with a fair amount of distortion here and there too. It all works well, though, the sound is certainly hard-hitting, but it is certainly not unlistenable. Indeed, it packs one hell of a punch. Young’s version of Bob Dylan’s Blowin' In The Wind, recorded at the time of the Gulf War and including all sorts of machine gun and exploding bomb noises is stunning. One of the fines and most inventive covers of the song around. Young is in his “Godfather of Grunge” mode for the album. Personally, I much prefer material like this, recorded with Crazy Horse, to much of his lighter, acoustic-based stuff.

Other highlights are the acerbic, cutting but amusing Welfare Mothers, ("welfare mothers - make better lovers..."), the magnificent Mansion On The Hill , the iconic Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)Powderfinger, with its stunning guitar riffs, and Cortez The Killer. From the first pounding notes of Hey Hey the tone is set for the album. This is not going to be peaceful ride. It is just so powerful. Not one ounce of subtlety. Crime In The City just blows any cobwebs away between your ears. Jackhammer rock of the highest order. Just listen to Love To Burn - pure, essential, visceral, primal rock.

There is also a nearly ten minute, scintillating version of the catchy, well-known Rockin' In The Free World (check out the guitar - wow!) and fourteen rocking minutes of Like A Hurricane. The early track Cinnamon Girl, dating from the late sixties, is played on here as well, with due power.

There is no folky material on here - it rocks, big time, even in spite of Young’s somewhat acquired taste of a voice, it is simply one of the most powerful blasts of live pure electric rock music there is. It can be a bit of an exhaustive listen, but it is also an exhilarating one too. The cover just sort of sums it up - Young is shown looking almost aflame in a blazing light of electric power, screaming out whatever song he is singing. A classic cover.

Colorado (2019)

Think Of Me/She Showed Me Love/Olden Days/Help Me Lose My Mind/Green Is Blue/Shut It Down/Milky Way/Eternity/Rainbow Of Colours/I Do  

Whenever artists like Neil Young, Van Morrison, Santana or indeed anyone over fifty releases a new piece of work they are met with the usual comparisons with work they produced thirty, forty, fifty years ago and they face numerous calls for them to give it up and retire. Why should they? Neil Young is certainly an artist who has something to say, and this is one of his most overtly political albums, so more power to him. That power is reiterated by the beautiful crash of Crazy Horse's backing. They haven't lost anything over the years, that's for sure.
"When you see those geese in the sky think of me..." sings Young on this appealing, harmonica-driven, beautifully bassy mid-pace rocker, Think Of Me, that opens the album. Quite why songs like this are considered by some to be sub-standard is beyond me. I find it quite disarming, thoughtful and evocative. Yes, Young is older and his voice is older, but, let's be honest his voice delivery was always a bleat as opposed to a growl, wasn't it?


She Showed Me Love is a diatribe against "old white guys trying to kill Mother Nature...", Young realises that he is an "old white guy" too and rails belligerently against many of his own generation as he sees "young folks fighting to save Mother Nature...". This is one of the first Extinction Rebellion anthems. Fair play to old Neil, telling it like it is at 73 and spitting out the invective over a typical Crazy Horse grungy, scratchy guitar backing. May his song always be heard. The song lasts thirteen minutes, however, as the Horse get into a groove like it is the Weld era again. Initially, I thought, God, this is going on a bit, but after a few listens it gets into your bloodstream and you get hooked. Well I did anyway. The sheer power of Nils Lofgren and Young cranking up their industrial-sounding guitars is stunning, the same goes for Ralph Molina's sledgehammer drumming and Billy Talbot's deep, throbbing bass. There aren't too many more visceral basic rock outfits around. They crackle like a faulty plug socket. Incidentally, the guitar riff has slight strains of Argent's Hold Your Head Up in it.

A trademark Crazy Horse buzzy riff introduces the catchy Olden Days. Young's voice falters a bit on this but does it matter? Actually, no. There is an attractiveness in his vulnerable delivery and the backing is solidly reassuring too. 

Help Me Lose My Mind is a big, chunky piece of walking pace grungy thump. Young's ranting vocal sounds at one point like David Byrne when he sings "I gotta get a new television...". For me, this is as strong as anything Young and Crazy Horse did back in the day, there is no discernible diminishing of power here.

Green Is Blue is a plaintive vocal and piano reflection on contemporary political corruption, divisiveness and ecological decay. People need to be singing stuff like this, now more than ever, and thankfully Young is doing just that.

Shut It Down has an absolute killer of a riff that would cause the national grid serious problems if it was played simultaneously up and down the country. "Shut the whole system down..." rails Young as Crazy Horse power away, like an out of control piece of factory machinery. 

Milky Way is a slow, infectious number with a fetching staccato drum rhythm and a gently emotive vocal. There is some great guitar half way through as well.

Eternity is a a pleasantly laid-back, sad-sounding number that sort of washes over you as many of Young's quite numbers do. 

Rainbow Of Colours is a magnificently buzzy, guitar-driven condemnation of current American governmental policy. It is refreshing to hear true protest songs like this making an appearance again. Good God, we need them. There is something of Dylan's With God On Our Side about the melody. 

I Do is a gently-delivered, moving song that questions whether much of the natural world we know will actually always be there. Maybe it truly won't.

All this album is thought-provoking and there are many times these days when I feel isolated and feel that nobody else really gives a damn about many issues (I know, of course, that this isn't true) but when I listen to this I know that Neil Young does.

Neil Young Greatest Hits

Down By The River/Cowgirl In The Sand/Cinnamon Girl/Helpless (as part of CSNY)/After The Gold Rush/Only Love Can Break Your Heart/Southern Man/Ohio (as part of CSNY)/The Needle And The Damage Done (live)/Old Man/Heart Of Gold/Like A Hurricane/Comes A Time/Hey Hey My My (Into The Black) (live)/Rockin' In The Free World/Harvest Moon     
Trying to compile a "best of" covering Neil Young's vast career is a mighty difficult task. Furthermore, Greatest Hits is a bit of a misnomer of a tile, as Young never was, or is, a chart act. Anyway, as a compilation, this is a pretty good one, chosen by Young himself. anther issue with Young's work is that of remastering - some albums have been remastered, some have not. This album contains remastered material and boy, does it sound good. The original albums from which the tracks are taken still sound ok, but this sounds so much better, I have to say. I have the 2009 remasters of the first four albums, but these sound much better, to me, anyway. What is odd is that they are probably the same remasters, but they definitely sound different to my ears.
The first three cuts are classics from Young's second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, including the two extended tracks that bookended the album. Just check out Down By The River as an example of how good the remastering is - it is rich, deep, warm and bassy. A real pleasure to listen to,as is the great guitar work throughout the song. That exact quality is even more apparent on the superb, rambling (but never boring), Cowgirl In The Sand. Young and Crazy Horse could really ramp it up. For 1969, this was ground-breaking, impressive, improvisational stuff. Man, that guitar sound. Cinnamon Girl is one of that album's two shorter, rocky numbers. It is an infectious merging of late sixties slightly psych-ish vibes with the solid rock sound that would be used in the seventies.

Helpless came from Young's Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album, Deja Vu. It is a suitably atmospheric slice of folk rock. Slow, dignified, melodic and evocative. Young sings plaintively of his "town in North Ontario". The town was said to be Omemee, Young's hometown, which now has a museum dedicated to him. After The Gold Rush is one of Young's best-known songs - a haunting song that nobody really knows the meaning to, but there's something very Woodstock, very late sixties/early seventies hippy about it. The flugelhorn perfectly merges with Young's bleak but melodic piano. Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a very late sixties, breezy, harmonious love song. It showed that the often cynical, caustic Young had a tenderness deep within him. Southern Man has achieved notoriety in that it was the song that provoked Lynyrd Skynyrd to write Sweet Home Alabama as a response to Young's daring to call into question the often racist ways of many in the south of the USA. Young was dead right if you ask me, particularly in 1969. Lynyrd Skynyrd should have taken a look out of their own window, much as I love their music. Anyway, it is a great song, with a solid, pertinent message and some excellent guitar. Ohio continues in the "protest song" vein, detailing the Kent State University killings of four protesting students by the Ohio National Guard. Again, this song leaves you in no doubt as its meaning. Fair play to Young once more for highlighting this shocking incident in song.

The Needle And The Damage Done is a quiet, acoustic but hard-hitting anti-drug song, the recording here of it is a live one. Old Man is an appealing acoustic and bass-driven fly number, enhanced by some gentle drums and piano. It is very typical of the early seventies folk rock period. Heart Of Gold is another well-known song - a mixture of acoustic and more solid rock, taken at a mid-pace with another enigmatic and memorable lyric. Like A Hurricane sees young return to guitar-driven, more conventional rock, full of searing lead guitar. Roxy Music and solo Bryan Ferry have covered the song successfully over the years.

Comes A Time is a country violin-powered folky number. Hey Hey My My (Into The Black) is from Young's live album, Rust Never Sleeps (recorded live then overdubbed in the studio). It was Young's response to the punk genre and what he perceived as his growing irrelevance. It contains some buzzy, grungy guitar that went down well with punks at the time. Young's "difficult" and "irascible" persona also endeared him to many. It was popular in 1979 and remains so. It was notable for its lyrical reference to Johnny Rotten, already "gone but not forgotten". The solid guitar riffage continues on the iconic Rockin' In The Free World, with its easy to sing along with chorus. Young was, by now, seen as a sort of grand old man still protesting away. He was about to become "the Godfather of Grunge". Those titles are very annoying. Harvest Moon, from 1992, is a less abrasive and gently appealing, laid-back song.

Personally, I feel there are periods in Young's career and some songs that have been overlooked - Cortez The KillerWelfare MothersMansion On The Hill and Powderfinger, for example. That is nit-picking, though, as this, particularly with its excellent sound quality, is a great listen.

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