Look at Mother Nature on the run in the nineteen seventies....
Released on 19 September 1970
Running time 33.41
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.
1. Tell Me Why
2. After The Goldrush
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Southern Man
5. Till The Morning Comes
6. Oh, Lonesome Me
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down
9. When You Dance You Can Really Love
10. I Believe In You
11. Cripple Creek Ferry
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.