Neil Young is the rare rocker who has seemed to aged gracefully; not only is he as hip (if not hipper) as he's ever been, but he's popular with the grunge set for good reason: his passions for bringing the noise and exploring the boundaries haven't diminished one iota. Throughout his notoriously erratic career, he's dabbled in a lot of styles and taken quite a few questionable detours, but he's remained truest (and best at) two basic styles. The first consists of simple acoustic folk tunes, delivered in Young's trademark nasal tenor, a highly uncommercial instrument that gets on a lot of average pop listeners' nerves (not mine). His second primary mode is locking into a sloppy garage groove and overlaying his unconventional atonal and self-consciously primitive guitar solos on top of the feedbacking noise. Overall, his work is highly inconsistent in terms of quality and style; in the '80s he went particularly over the edge, releasing a string of unlistenable genre exercises (excerpted on the compilation Lucky Thirteen, if you're curious as to just how bad Young can get), but promptly came to his senses and enjoyed an unexpected '90s renaissance. Young once sang that it's better to burn out than fade away, but his career has epitomized the opposite of that principle.
P.S. There's one review of Crazy Horse sans Young as an appendix at the bottom of this page. Young's best-ever back-up band!____________________________________________________________________________________
His first solo album, cut shortly after the breakup of Buffalo Springfield (a band that also included Stephen Stills, who he would collaborate off and on with in Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young).___________________________________________________________________________________
Despite containing the concise and classic single "Cinnamon Girl," which makes it under three minutes, most of this album is given over to half-baked folk songs and lengthy guitar epics. The softer numbers are so nondescript you won't remember a single one after the disc has finished spinning. The guitar solo numbers, however, are a different story: depending on your taste, the likes of "Cowgirl In The Sand" and "Down By The River", the album's dominant centerpieces, make this album either thrilling or tedious. Hovering at around 10 minutes each, they showcase Young's untutored guitar squawks and the ragged, sloppy fervor of his untrained pickup band, the legendary Crazy Horse. The approach can be wearying, and newcomers should definitely not pick this one up first; hardcore fans, though, will be thrilled. Me, I'm sitting on the fence.____________________________________________________________________________________
This might be Young's best album; certainly it's his most consistent, split nicely between melodic folk-pop and loud rockers, with nary a weak number in sight (partial exception: the sappy "Birds", but even that's strong melodically). Perhaps the only weakness is the Young's penchant for obscure lyricism, but even when the songs don't make literal sense they work as tone poems ("Don't Let It Bring You Down", "Tell Me Why") - and, as I said, the melodies are overpowering (the impossibly lovely "I Believe In You"). The softer material is balanced by a hard rocker each on sides one and two: "Southern Man", an attack on racism that suffers from a few misguided stereotypes of its own (of course there's a lot of truth there, and if Young were from Georgia there'd be no problem); and the uptempo "When You Dance You Can Really Love". The sweeping title track is one of Young's greatest anthems and defining statements, and he even throws in a nice Don Gibson cover, "Oh Lonesome Me". He ends each side with brilliant song fragments, "Till the Morning Comes" and "Cripple Creek Ferry" that leave you hungering for an extra minute or two. This is the best place to start with Neil Young, and highly recommended.
P.S. Now that I think about it, the South of 1970 was a very different place (almost another planet) than the South of 1999 - no other region of the USofA has had such massive social changes occur in it. I've always had a problem with that particular Young song, but given how things were back in 1970, I can see his point, and so I forgive him. Just a white Southerner being overly sensitive -- of course folks still hold these ridiculous stereotypes about us, without realizing how much times have changed. As for Skynyrd -- a few great songs, unfortunately way overplayed, but I despise everything that band and its followers represent. Trotting out the Confederate flag at their concerts -- if I was onstage, I'd have burned ol' Dixie, as such a symbol of racist old men deserves.___________________________________________________________________________________
The followup to After the Goldrush steers with the same folk-pop/hard rock formula, but with less stellar material. Nevertheless, it enjoyed greater commercial success, becoming Young's biggest selling album. The hits "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man" are as good as any of Young's work, and the harrowing "The Needle and the Damage Done" (about Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten's death from heroin) has also become one of his standards. However, those are clearly the three strongest songs on the album (on After the Goldrush it was hard to pick favorites). Some of the rest is just fine (the title track, "Out On The Weekend"), some of it's not (the overblown torture of "A Man Needs A Maid", complete with the London Symphony Orchestra [!?]). "Alabama" is "Southern Man, Pt. II", only not nearly as good; it inspired the genuinely rousing "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd (a song mistakenly taken as racist by Yankee critics who confuse Southern pride with racism - in fact, Skynyrd sneer at segregationist Gov. George Wallace in a verse). All the essential tracks are on Decade, which is a more sound investment if you're not a completist.
harvest is the greatest recording by neil young...it paints pictures i've never seen.....
For some bizarre reason, still unavailable on CD.___________________________________________________________________________________
This one hasn't been reissued on CD either?!? Corporate morons!
It is really remarkable that one of Neil's most seminal albums is still being held under wraps. In my opinion it is one of his top three albums. This is NY's "Blood on the Tracks," or "Plastic Ono Band." A striking personal work in which he cleanses his soul, releases his frustrations, and asserts himself as only a major talent could. All the tracks on this amazing record are fantastic, but it's masterpiece is the cathartic and mesmerizing "Ambulance Blues." Unfortunately, it is the powers that be who are holding this magnificent acheivement hostage, who are "just pissin' in the wind."
Critics swear by this as Young's masterpiece, but that's because English major critics in the '70s cared too much about the words and not enough about the music. Recorded in 1973, inspired by the deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry (who's eulogized in the title track), both from heroin. As such, the record is a morbid downer, and not a whole lot of fun; the closest to an exciting, crunchy rock number is Whitten's "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown", but the sloppy performance and the uncomfortable irony of hearing Whitten's voice celebrating scoring drugs don't make it very danceable or anthemic. Young and his band (which include Nils Lofgren) sound fatigued and defeated by life, barely trying to keep in tune with performances that sound unrehearsed and perfunctory. Some claim that those factors are what make this a unique masterpiece, and Young gets credit for crafting one of the all-time depressant 3 A.M. albums. However, I'm not fully won over, despite the fact that the lyrics are unusually sharp and direct by Young's standards. There are a handful of great moments, such as when he lazily stretches out the syllables of "Albuquerque," but then there's "Borrowed Tune," in which he admits he's stealing the melody of the Rolling Stones' "Lady Jane" because "I'm too lazy to come up with one of my own."___________________________________________________________________________________
If you're looking for The Generic Neil Young Album, then look no further: Zuma sums up in one place the loose strands he explored on albums as diverse as Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Harvest and the preceding Tonight's The Night. No true Neil Young fan will be disappointed; no fan will be surprised, either. Tellingly, the two weakest cuts are mirror images: a failed guitar epic a la Everybody..., "Danger Bird", and the sickly sweet, CSN&Y harmonized ballad, "Through My Sails" that closes the album. Otherwise, Young is in solid form, delivering crunching rockers ("Barstool Blues") and engaging country ballads ("Looking For A Love") with equal aplomb. The standout track is the sweeping, 7-1/2 minute epic "Cortez the Killer," (banned in Spain, as Young noted with pride in Decade); the oddball cut is "Stupid Girl," a bizarre exercise in misogyny ("You're such a pretty fish/Flopping on the summer sand")._____________________________________________________________________________________
This two-disc anthology of Young's work is erratic and inconsistent, which makes it as nearly (im)perfect a summation of his career as you'll find. Beginning with his mid-'60s tenure in Buffalo Springfield and ending with American Stars and Bars, this covers all the bases of Young's career up to that point. Disc One is nearly ruined by excessively covering some of Young's weaker early material, the bombastic "Broken Arrow" the nadir (as an experimental studio producer, Young makes for a great sloppy primitive). Disc Two is much stronger, leading with one of Young's great protest songs, CSN&Y's "Ohio" (about the Kent State student deaths at the hands of the National Guard), though it also contains one of Young's goofier protest songs, "Campaigner" ("where even Richard Nixon has soul"), probably inspired by the Robert Redford movie The Candidate. This compilation also includes several unreleased songs, at least two of which, "Deep Forbidden Lake" and "Winterlong" are among Young's best. I believe this was the first example of what later became known as the box set when it was released, and as such is the best place for newcomers to start with Young. In fact, the inconsistency is a plus in that regard, as it clues the newcomer in as to how Young's regular issue albums are in terms of song to song quality.__________________________________________________________________________________
Pleasant, but forgettable, and ocassionally oversaccharine (those strings don't help). Young revisits Harvest territory and delivers an entire album of lightweight country-rock ditties - you'd no doubt rather hear this than anything currently cropping up in Nashville. The title track is the strongest song and a Young classic (though the definitive version was performed, in much better company to boot, on the Live Rust album); "Lotta Love," later a hit for Nicolette Larson (c'mon, let me jog your memory: "It's gonna take a lotta lo-ove...") is also a highlight (Larson sings backup on several songs). In this company, "Lookout For Love" contains a refreshingly dark-hued tone; "Motorcycle Mama," though, is just another dumb chauvinist song with a car in it - the '70s had enough of those. In short, not a bad listen, but nothing to get worked up about.
Reader CommentsSamuel Day Fassbinder, firstname.lastname@example.org
I re-listened to Neil Young's "Comes A Time," because Wilson and Alroy reviewed it this month for their page. It's a great album. If Neil is "oversaccharine," that's because the character he's playing, basically an insecure male who's gone "back to the country" in the late 1970s, is kind of that way. This is a really good album to attach memories to, because all of the songs (except "Motorcycle Mama," which is in character for Neil but nevertheless sucks) are sing-along type songs, with lots of harmonies that go well around campfires. Nah, not forgettable, more than three stars.
Recorded live before a rabid audience of fans, this album of all-new material was wisely split between an acoustic side and a second electric side. Though there are a handful of throwaways, the brilliant material here stands as perhaps Young's best ever, particularly the moodily acoustic opener, "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" and the rampaging electric closer, "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)". The latter is an affirmation of rock'n'roll that champions Johnny Rotten as Young eulogizes Elvis Presley; while most '60s rockers were unsettled and exposed as dinosaurs by punk, Young was energized and produced thrilling, electrically charged punk that was too raw and out of control for the '77 upstarts. Not that that's an entirely good thing: of the four electric songs on side two, "Sedan Delivery" and "Welfare Mothers" are numbing boogie noise. But that's more than made up for by the blistering, epic "Powderfinger", that boasts one of the greatest guitar melodies in history, and the aforementioned "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)". Side One is more consistent, a sort of mini-concept album in which Young indulges his fascination with Native Americans, penning an ode to llamas in one song and passing the pipe with Marlon Brando and Pocahontas in another. One of Young's essential albums.___________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young and Crazy Horse spend over an hour performing some of the best songs of Young's career, reaching as far back as his debut solo album's "The Loner" and touching bases throughout his career (four songs are repeated from Rust Never Sleeps). He starts out with a satisfying acoustic set, then makes a joke about how when he got big he got an electric guitar, which cues Crazy Horse for one of the most thrillingly loud electric rock concerts in history. The real keeper is "Like A Hurricane," infinitely better here than in its over-produced studio version, and the rest never falters. Neil Young in concert isn't that different from Neil Young in the studio, and considering the set list, perhaps even better. I take that back about Decade - since the song list on this live album is much more consistent (and at one disc, a better bargain), this is the best place to begin discovering Neil Young's reportoire.__________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young imitates Devo?!?___________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young imitates the Stray Cats?!?__________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young imitates Waylon Jennings?!?___________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young imitates the Cars?!?____________________________________________________________________________________
I forget what genre he's doing badly this time. The Cars again?____________________________________________________________________________________
Neil Young imitates George Thoroughgood?!?__________________________________________________________________________________
After spending the '80s releasing absymal genre-experiment albums, Young regained his senses and began releasing work that played to his strengths rather than underlined his shortcomings. Bookended by an acoustic and an electric version of "Rockin' In the Free World", the songs are surprisingly solidly written and well-performed. "Crime In the City" drags at an overlong nearly nine minutes, but along with "Rockin' In the Free World" it announces Young's newly found source of righteous indignation: crack, destroying the lives of not only the addicts but the lives of everyone living in the inner cities. It's no accident that one of the other stronger numbers, "No More," deals with drug addiction from the point of view of an addict. A concept album, hmmm? It's not as perfect as some critics wanted to be back in '89, but then, who expects perfection out of Neil Young? For the first time in ages, Young's future looked bright indeed.
Reader CommentsTony Souza, email@example.com
Freedom is his best work in the '80s. It took me a few listens before it sunk in. The acoustic pieces have more musical depth than what he has done before, and the electric pieces have a sparse quality that I like. Not all the songs work for me, but overall, a really strong album.
Proving that Freedom wasn't a fluke, Young made Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Pt. II - not that I really mind that much. With over an hour's worth of music and only ten songs, most of these tracks go on too long, but they do provide a platform for Young's exhilarating guitar soloing. Reunited with Crazy Horse (again), there ain't much stylistic variety, which makes this platter rather monotonous at times, but there's plenty of garage-punk energy and sloppy excitement. Young and the boys sound like they're having the time of their lives, and in contrast to Freedom's protest rock, the lyrics here are upbeat and party-time meaningless (not an insult). The best track is "Fuckin' Up" - not for the gratuitious title, but for the raw, searing guitar work. The cover of the Premiers' "Farmer John" sounds like an unrehearsed impromptu jam, appropriate for the feel of this album, and he ends with an ecologically-conscious hymn to "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)".
Reader CommentsTony Souza, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ragged Glory is my favorite Young record. He's done work with many fine musicians, but I like him best with Crazy Horse. I love the way the band stretches out the songs. His guitar tone is what I really like and when this came out in 1990, it was a welcome relief from the over-produced sounds of most '80s bands. The band basically plugged in and recorded live, and that allows the music to breath. Despite the length of the songs, they are never boring to me. The songwriting isn't his strongest, but since this is basically a guitar showcase, it doesn't matter.
A pair of live albums, with Weld consisting entirely of feedback - Young's own Metal Machine Music.___________________________________________________________________________________
A "sequel" to 1972's Harvest.____________________________________________________________________________________
Can someone please explain to me why these VH-1 soundtracks are necessary?___________________________________________________________________________________
Dedicated to the memory of Kurt Cobain (a sequel to Tonight's The Night?) which got the album some media attention.__________________________________________________________________________________
A collaboration with alt-rock stars Pearl Jam (who must have wet their pants a few times during the recording), Young banged this out in two weeks - and it shows. Pearl Jam's dense and derivative hard rock works as a suitable substitute for Crazy Horse, but Young rush-jobbed this so much he didn't come up with any real memorable songs. "Downtown" is the only song that really stands, as most of the rest suffer from weak melodies, non-existent arrangements (did they think about the music before they bashed it out?), and throwaway lyrics. It seems that Young's '90s career mirrors his '70s career - he's delivering duds side by side with classics again, but he's so prolific he never seems in a decline.
Reader CommentsTony Souza, email@example.com
Mirror Ball is another raw album that I like very much. You're right in that it was probably a little too rushed but for me that's part of the charm. "Scenery" is a very hypnotic song and "Oceans" is hard-driving. Not for everyone, but I think it's a good album if you're into electric Neil.
A soundtrack to the Jim Jarmusch film. While I don't own this album, I've seen the movie and so presumably have heard all the music from it. If that's the case, then this is an embarrassment: a sloppy primitive like Young should never attempt soundtracks. Distorted guitar fragments don't equal tunes.____________________________________________________________________________________
A live album with Crazy Horse, to go along with the documentary of the same name that covers Young's career._______________________________________________________________________________________
Except for the fact that Young isn't physically present (aside from the hick-stompin' "Dance, Dance, Dance" and one other co-write), any Neil fan would be a fool to pass by what amounts to basically another classic '70s Neil Young album, as his trustily ragged-but-rockin' backup band prove themselves a great band even without their erstwhile ringleader. Guitarist Danny Whitten's voice sounds even more nasally strained and cat-mewling than Young's, but that's part of the charm; a shame that he had to OD several months after his finest moment in the sun. The anthemic "Downtown" about drivin' to the city for drugs and french fries, naturally sounds more exuberant here than on Tonight's the Night (the 1975 album was partially inspired by Whitten's death). With Young producer Jack Nitzsche chipping in three songs and occasional Young/Springsteen sideman Nils Lofgren (also a fine solo artist in his own right) donating an amusing phased rocker "Beggars Day" and an even more amusing slice of R & B suspicioury, "Nobody", it's actually more consistent than any Young album this side of After the Goldrush. Whitten delivers most of the highlights, though: aside from "Downtown," the harmony-laden pop of "Look At All the Things" and "I'll Get By" are both pretty, catchy winners, while the wrenchingly soulful "I Don't Want To Talk About It" has wound up as the album's most covered song. Speaking of which, a couple of months ago I was watching some Taiwanese variety show and I saw some dickhead pop singer in a stereotypical pretty-blonde-boy mold moan "I Don't Want To Talk About It" with this obviously feigned puppy-dog-"soulfully sensitive"-faux-sincere catch in his voice and moist eyes -- I felt a sharp pain in my stomach, and no it wasn't from the fried dofu and eel. Asian pop sucks! But, as evidenced here, Canadians rock! Except when they're named Bryan Adams. Or Celine Dion. Or Alanis Morrissette. Or Loverboy. Or Rush. Or Robbie Robertson.
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