Friday, 13 September 2019

Crazy Horse - Crazy Horse (1971)

I don't want to talk about it....

  

Released in 1971

Running time 38.59

After backing Neil Young so impressively on 1969's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and 1970's "After The Goldrush", it was not surprising that Crazy Horse decided there was a market for their own material. Free from the unique, reedy trilling voice of Young and from his often perplexing lyrics, they produced an album of straight ahead bluesy Americana rock. Guitarist Nils Lofgren, producer/keyboardist Jack Nitzsche and guest Ry Cooder add quality to the proceedings too. There is a Little Feat sort of feel to the album with rock, country, blues and folk styles explored.

TRACK LISTING

1. Gone Dead Train
2. Dance Dance Dance
3. Look At All The Things
4. Beggars Day
5. I Don't Want To Talk About It
6. Downtown
7. Carolay
8. Dirty, Dirty
9. Nobody
10. I'll Get By
11. Crow Jane Lady                                              

"Gone Dead Train" is a powerful piece of chugging bluesy rock to open with, featuring some great guitar, both soloing and driving riffs. Danny Whitten's lead vocal is gruffly suited to this sort of rock. It is the biggest, riffiest rocker on the album. "Dance Dance Dance" is the only Neil Young song they cover (although "Downtown" is a Young/Whitten co-write) and is a stomping country hoedown with drummer Ralph Molina on lead vocal duties. It is propelled along by an infectious Cajun fiddle. "Look At All The Things" has Whitten sounding very like Young, funnily enough. Musically it is Young-esque too in its powerful yet country rock sound. Its refrain reminds me of The Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile", which was also from 1971. This whole album sounds very 1971.

"Beggars Day" is a heavy-ish rock number written and sung by Lofgren. It mixes a hard rock backing with some swirling, almost psychedelic sounds at times. It was later covered by Scottish rockers Nazareth on their 1975 "Hair Of The Dog" album. It is a robust piece of rock and one of my favourites from the album. Rod Stewart fans, and indeed everyone, are surely familiar with Whitten's beautiful  ballad "I Don't Want To Talk About It". It is simply a lovely song. Stewart really did it justice and made it his own. Danny Whitten tragically died a year after this album was released and never got to see his song become globally popular.

The catchy, upbeat folky pounder "Downtown" has a bluesy singalong refrain and as soon as you hear it you sort of feel you've heard it before. It reminds me a lot of The Band. "Carolay" is also a very appealing song, full of uplifting harmonies and a very "Americana" ambience, like The Byrds, America, The Band, Little Feat and Bread all mixed into one. It sounds as if Whitten is singing Carol Ann" at several points. "Dirty, Dirty" is very, very similar to a David Bowie rarity from the same year called "Lightning Frightening". Bowie was going through a Neil Young phase at the time, so it is probably no coincidence that he found himself listening to this and was influenced by it. Musically, it is a thumping, regular-paced bluesy rocker, actually not very "Bowie" at all.

"Nobody" is a most attractive, melodic and upbeat rock number (with an intro that sounds like Cream's "I Feel Free") as indeed is the very Byrds-esque and harmonious "I'll Get By". There are Searchers and Beatles hints in there too. The final cut is the lively New Orleans blues-ish "Crow Jane Lady" which features Nitzsche on lead vocals. This was a very proficient, appealing and listenable album which established Crazy Horse as a credible band in their own right. It is such a shame that Whitten died so soon after this.

Incidentally, the best sound remastering to be found of this album is on "Scratchy - The Complete Reprise Recordings".

B-

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