Saturday, December 28, 2013

Harvest (1972)

For better and for worse, one album looms large in Neil Young’s back catalogue. Harvest is not only Young’s best-known album (and contains his only true hit single) but also one that Young has a seeming love/hate relationship with. There is always an expectation from audiences for Young to play songs from it but there is no guarantee he will acquiesce. Recorded in short bursts of activity in Nashville, London and at Broken Arrow Ranch, the stop/start approach to recording leading to a mixed bag in terms of style and quality. Despite its flaws, it seems to be cemented into the canon of rock’n’roll classics because, let’s face it, when it’s good, it’s unbelievably good.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Neil Young and Crazy Horse live at the RDS, Dublin, Ireland

As an interruption to the usual posts about Neil Young's albums (though a post about Harvest has not been forgotten, it is on its way I promise), I bring you this short medium report on last night's concert with Crazy Horse at the RDS in Dublin (15th June 2013 for those of you reading this in the future). It was a strange mix of a terrific performance, changeable weather, poor sound and what seemed to be a largely indifferent audience. It was certainly in my top five Neil Young gigs (though it was only the fifth time I have seen him) but I cannot help but think how much better this would have been at another venue and with a more forgiving crowd.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

After the Gold Rush (1970)

After the scorching heat of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, it is perhaps surprising that Neil Young did not stick with the winning formula of jamming with Crazy Horse on his next album. However, with the benefit of hindsight, this was just another of Young’s shifts in gear as he forever chases his creative fancies as they come to him (Google “muse” if you are in any doubt about this!). Bearing in mind his recent stint in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had borne fruit in the form of Déja Vu, it becomes even less of a shock that Young would tone down his songs and become more introspective and delicate.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

“That whole album is so pure. I love that music. I love that old feeling of just the music. Nothing else mattered to us then… There was no success, nothing to live up to, just love and music and life and youth. That was a happy time. That is Crazy Horse.” – Neil Young in 2012

While his first solo album was a bit of a muddle with Young working with two producers and musicians such as Ry Cooder who were not wholly sympathetic to the music being recorded, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere succeeds in all places where Neil Young stumbled or failed. For the first time, Young’s music erupts from the speakers with all the power that they required. The album was a perfect alignment of inspired songwriting, simple but effective production care of David Briggs and the introduction of one of the best bands ever committed to tape: Crazy Horse.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Neil Young (1968)

Plagued by technical problems and performance issues, it is a wonder that this self-titled debut sounds as good as it does. However, in the grand scheme of things, this marks the end of Neil Young’s early, more derivative work before his more distinctive and unique sound erupts on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere which would be released some months later. Neil Young follows the same style of writing and performance that Young had been employing both as a solo artist in local clubs and coffee houses and with the band Buffalo Springfield (more on them in later posts). There is a debt to the production standards set by The Beatles but, underneath it all, there is something awkward about many of these particular songs which suggests that despite Young’s love of the Fab Four, this was not a method of working that he was overly comfortable with. Considering The Beatles released the epic and exhilarating “white” album at the same time as Young released this album, it was obvious that they were still upping the ante when it came to studio albums and everyone was still playing catch up.