gonna sing an old song to you right now one that you heard before…

There’s always a sense of anxiety putting a new Neil Young album on the record player. Is it going to be any good? Will it measure up? Am I going to like it?

Barn for some reason didn’t even look like a Neil Young album. It’s too natural a picture. All these old codgers standing in the barn door in a landscape that is bigger than the legendary band it frames

So now to it, I loathed Barn the first time I heard it. It seemed formulaic. Love song, grunge fest, blues pastiche, folky song, falsetto repeat.

Then I gave it another go and instead of loathing it I found myself singing along. Tapping my foot playing air guitar and accordion rocking a little.

Then I sat down at home late at night with a cup of mint tea and my feet up on the table. It was dark and quiet in the house and I found myself really getting it.

Yes I wish he’d edit his lyrics a bit, but did he ever?

It’s not the greatest Neil Young and Crazy Horse album, it is however up there with the good ones. The guitars chug along, the drums are basic and insistent and the bass holds it all together. The lyrics are immediate and relevant to the moment.

I remember at the start of the pandemic listening to I Contain Multitudes by Dylan and realizing that shit was getting real. This evening I listened to Welcome Back and realized shit was still real and maybe we just may figure out how to get back. So Dylan ushered in the pandemic and Young helped us figure out we were mostly still here.

As Neil once said “it’s all one song”

they’re all your friends you’ll come to love them…

In the chronology of the ditch. Tuscaloosa comes before the sessions for Tonight’s the Night. It’s the start of the road to Miami Beach. Recorded at the beginning of the tour that yielded Time Fades Away eventually and the descent to the ditch.

New Mama and Lookout Joe are here the raggedy ass pedal steel and shuffling drums are all in place. It’s loose and uptight all at the same time. Young’s vocals are strained and at times barked in a strident manner especially on the almost hoedown version of Time Fades Away.

It’s the winding of the spring almost. Edgy and wild and dangerous. It’s the scary brother to the Roxy album which feels like the point everything just slumped into a groove.

I played both albums. One because 1537 told me to and the other because it made sense after the day.

I started the night off with Tuscaloosa which got me on edge especially as the insistent rhythm of Don’t Be Denied faded to the “Welcome To Miami Beach…” intro of the Roxy album.

After Tuscaloosa the Roxy show is cathartic a release. It’s almost the victory stumble at the end of the marathon.

end it with a cry…

I’ve been wondering. Can you legitimately call it s bootleg if it’s officially released. It all started with Dylan, now Neil Young is on the bandwagon with the official bootleg series.

Don’t get me wrong I love archival releases and apparently having disposable income I tend to buy them when they come out and on vinyl at that. It’s intoxicating to step back in time and hear an artist at their prime wowing an audience. It’s time for travel man.

Neil Young’s latest release of his concert at Carnegie Hall in 1970 is as to probably be expected really unsurprisingly excellent. The song selection is perfect for the time. I’m not sure he had managed to write a clunker by 1970. He was remarkably consistent and even the lighter songs like Wonderin’ and Dance Dance Dance stand up despite the quality of the surrounding songs.

Neil Young for my mind is the only songwriter who can successfully switch between electric and acoustic and not have the listener feeling like something is missing.

So all the hits and none of the clunkers but is it really a bootleg man.

a man feels afraid…

I’ve been listening to Neil Young for most of my life. I can pretty much find something worthwhile in all his twists and turns, we have been in the ditch together, had our classic moments, rusted and gone all folky and even dabbled with country together and tied on our blue suede shoes in a big fuck you to David Geffen as we tipped our pork pie hat.

There is however a period that is classic, those first four albums and the CSNY album Neil was pretty damn incapable of messing up an album. Following this he still managed to create the ditch and all it’s glory but he has been consistently dragging us through his psychedelic miasma, making rash decisions, abandoning albums, releasing the wrong album at the right time and in general being all ‘neil’ about things.

So this month we have been in the rust bucket and now we are all acoustic, the two polarities of Neil Young in one month. Young Shakespeare is similar to the Massey Hall release, the show was recorded three days later. It is exactly what you think it should be a flawless live album in the brief period of time between the release of After the Goldrush and before Harvest, all on acoustic guitar and piano. Neil is in a fine mood laughing with the audience and doing his best Bert Jansch impression at times on guitar.

I think I am in Neil Young overload a bit with five live L.P.’s to digest in one month, it may take some time and then I went and signed up for the Rust level on the archives that gives me access to all those movies he has made as well as being able to listen to the archives. I have it feels like been listening to nothing but Neil, maybe time for a change of diet.

There is something special about the A Man Need A Maid/Heart of Gold medley that elevates both songs.

you own it…

Sandwiched between American Stars and Bars and Rust Never Sleeps, Comes a Time often gets swallowed up by the major songs recorded on those two albums. It’s an album of affecting and effective (see what I did there?) love songs some bitter sweet and then there’s always Motorcycle Mama to stir stuff up.

It took three producers, ten engineers and twelve guitar players and a seventeen piece string section and Nicolette Larson to create what is often described by critics as the simplest and most direct of Neil Young’s albums.

It truly is the middle of the road album, way more than Harvest, there is not a song on here that your mom or dad would make you turn off half way through because they find it uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad album at all it just means it is an incredibly consistent and pleasant album. It’s the album that you can curl up with at the end of the day, the dog at your feet and get cozy with the love of your life. This really is the predecessor to Harvest Moon and its romantic vibe, although there may be as many songs on Comes a Time about the decline of a relationship as the success, but that’s life maybe.

Neil looks pretty happy with himself on the sleeve as well.

Let’s face it in the field of opportunity it’s ploughing time again.

see the lonely boy out on the weekend…

Time to slip into some comfy jeans and relax man. It’s been a long strange ride and maybe time for something warm comforting and familiar. Time to head for the middle of the road.

Is Harvest really middle of the road though or was it just thrust there by the record buying public

It’s an album like most Neil Young albums that addresses issues from drug addiction, to racism and somewhere in the middle of this relationships, good and bad. Now it does not always address those issues in a coherent manner. Like most Neil Young albums sometimes the lyrics are clunky and when he gets his hands on an orchestra the production is overblown. Of course that is at times the charm of the song.

It’s always struck me as a slightly quirky if amiable ramble of an album, a bit out of focus and stoned as Neil dealt with his back pain. Rather like the picture in the doorknob in the inside gatefold.

Of course all the classics rock crowd really remember are Harvest, Heart of Gold and Old Man, Alabama, Needle and the Damage Done and Words (between the lines of age) are usually consigned to the go get the popcorn or beer time. These are the same people who walk out of the gig when Neil starts his slightly cynical and ironic politicizing.

So tonight me and the dog rolled up our jeans and relaxed to Harvest and it was good.

After a fairly solid diet from the Rust Bucket this was something of a welcome change although I now want a Crazy Horse version of Words.

it’s only someone else’s potatoes if your pickin’ someone else’s patch…

It is a stone cold fact that Ragged Glory is the greatest Neil Young and Crazy Horse studio album ever made.

You can disagree with this statement and you would be wrong on many levels, none of which I will expound on in any way, shape or form.

It was also previously true that Live Rust was the greatest live Neil Young and Crazy Horse album.

Tonight Live Rust was replaced in my affections as the greatest Neil Young and Crazy Horse Live album by Way Down In The Rust Bucket. On this album Crazy Horse confirm the often suspected truth that they are without a doubt the most meandering, distorted, stoned, grungy, rusty, greatest live rock and roll band in the entire freaking world. Move over all the rest and bow down to the glory of four men noodling and plodding their way to glory.

What we have here is Neil and the boys rocking out at a home town gig before the overdriven feedback fest that the Ragged Glory tour become, don’t get me wrong I love Weld and all it’s noisefest moments and will rebuy the record if it ever gets re-released as I gave my copy away when I moved. This however is a less anxious and more relaxed looser band than the post Operation Desert Storm band.

I’m not going to ruin it by reviewing it, go buy it, stream it, steal it, however you can take the time to hear it. Play it in the bath, the car, on earbuds, headphones, the home stereo or those fancy blue tooth speaker things. Just play it loud. Play it in surround, stereo or mono I don’t care.

When I’ve digested it I may have more to say.

As a side note, I get dismayed every time I see my sone wearing my Ragged Glory Tour shirt as it doesn’t fit me any more, who knew that cotton would shrink that way with time. It seems like only yesterday I was wearing it.

Thomas described it as Hank Marvin and the Shadows on acid( I am not sure when he heard Hank and the Shadows, he surprises me most days.) There’s your review.

the wooden ships were just a hippie dream capsized in excess…

Full disclosure here, some days I think Neil Young is a genius, this thought came to me after I watched him play in his chicken coop on Farmaid the other day. Genius.

This took me to dragging out Earth, the live(?) album recorded with Promise of the Real and various ambient recordings of nature.

I have had this for some time and have not felt up to playing it since I streamed the album on Spotify, to be honest I bought it out of some completist need and it was cheap.

The concept is a live album with unashamed overdubs of choir like backing vocals and ambient animal sounds throughout. Terrifying in a way, Neil’s songs interrupted by chirping, cheeping, grunts and groans and thats not just the aging audience creaking away in their seats.

So I am not going to attempt to explain what is going on, other than the usual fair of anti-Monsanto pro-planet Neil Young, can’t really argue with pro-planet unless you are a Republican these days. Neil comes off at times as some sort of hippie Captain Planet at times and I have a fondness for Captain Planet.

If all you do is listen to Side 3. of the album, Hippie Dream into After the Goldrush followed by Human Highway your life will be enriched and made better, even the chirping and wolf howls fit in with the overdubbed original cornet solo and sickly sweet choirs, as I said earlier Genius.

You are welcome!

but sooner or later it all gets real…

The weekend, well Saturday.

A strange day. No TV news today, this was a decision someone else made, I have become addicted to information. I did however read the Guardian online. No good news.

I went outside at 8:30a.m. and came in to eat lunch and to cook dinner. I sat in the yard, IMG_3095.JPGin the rain at times and tended the burn pile. I also moved some cedar bark chips we had delivered and shoveled. Syd played with a stick, every now and then he decided it needed to be thrown for him so I did.

At one point I wanted a new blade for the reciprocating saw, I walked to the car and turned around. These things need to go on a list nowadays, no frivolous trips.

Yesterday as I stood around in the pharmacy, constantly moving to avoid contact with others I picked up some essential items that we were missing, pencil sharpener, puzzles for my mother-in-law, new windshield wipers for my car. These things are mundane but heading out to get them comes with a risk that has never been present before.

New list started:

Wood blade for the reciprocating saw

Yeast

Rice

Jalapeno’s

The list goes on, it gets bigger and bigger, things that were just a car ride away a couple of weeks ago. The other day I drove by a thrift store, the parking lot almost empty and a part of me thought “I bet there are some great record scores there.” I pulled in and then pulled out of the lot, it’s not worth it too many people.

I sat in the rain and FaceTimed with my mum. She is holding up, doing small jobs, baking cakes for herself, talking on the phone to her friends and watching the afternoon movie, reading her books. I have managed to make sure she gets her food and stuff delivered, she sends me lists all the time and I add things to the order. It’s quite sweet really. 6000 miles has never seemed so far though.

IMG_3102.JPGI have been working my way through some of my essential records, a bit of fear that I will maybe not hear them again unless I do it now. This is fatalistic and just another excuse to play the damn albums.

I have also been indulging in comfort foods, hmmm Shredded Wheat, wow what a sensation, it’s been so long since I ate them, I bought large biscuits though none of this mini wheat shit. This stuff is the stuff of culinary legends, essential eating, lots of cold milk and some sugar, what else could you ever need in a breakfast experience? Apart form I just ate the at 9p.m.

So one of tonights gems is Neil Young’s On The Beach. It feels apt. I have no idea if the title has anything to do with Neville Shutes book but it feels a little apocalyptic at times. I have written about this before I believe. If our re interested it’s here:  BEFORE

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After that I dug deep into my listening past, sometime in the early eighties in W.H. Smith in Huyton I bought Orange by Al. Stewart. Yes Al is the least convincing of the hipsters but for some reason I find his confessional slightly uncomfortable songs to be really engaging. His penchant for history is also fun. This is the last of his truly great confessional albums. I always wanted to have such romantic adventures with young women. My long  hair flowing in the wind as I wore my sheepskin coat in picturesque spaces with a body contemplative expression on my face getting ready to quote Rimbault.

IMG_3104I used to buy Al Stewart records along with other records in order to hide the shameful record behind something a little cooler. This time I think it was a copy of Marillion’s Real to Reel that hid my shame. Now some would say this is not cooler, but they are wrong. You would have to have cloth ears to think Real to Reel was not cool. So that wold make the shameful purchase of Orange in 1984, when I probably should have known better according to my friends.

Orange is full of songs about Spain, Amsterdam, deceit, love, treachery, washing the sheets and Jimi Hendrix, what more do you need to recommend it. It also has Rick Wakeman pounding the keys and Bruce Thomas from the Attractions, before there was an Attractions, doing bass duties. What more could the love sick teenager need. This was also the first time I ever heard anyone apart from the Byrds or Richie Havens cover Dylan, yes I led a somewhat sheltered life at times. Also Al could play guitar as there is the requisite guitar piece this one also involves a cello which makes it better.

Later on I discovered that those sheep skin coats smelled like Catweazle had peed himself in them, this is a direct quote from the beloved Annie who drank scrumpy and Owd Roger snakebites. She would therefore know this smell intimately. Also mens hair, no matter how long and flowey,  never blows attractively in the breeze unless you are Fabio or Robert Plant, this is actually the standard by which mens flowing hair is judged, are you bodice ripping Fabio or Rock God Planty? Anything in between or less than is not good enough.

So all of this talk of Real To Reel caused me to drag it off the shelf. Remember the Fame label? Damn side two may be all you need to know about Fish era Marillion.

Side two if you are a genesis fan you will notice was recorded at the De Montford Hall Leicester where Genesis Live was recorded. However Forgotten Sons and it’s anti-war theme summed up the Falklands war for many, Garden Party and Market Square heroes was always a party at Marillion shows. Good way to end the night I guess.

 

 

she’s a girl from the good earth and the high tree forest…

IMG_2645.JPGHips swaying to the beat, long hair flowing , curls laying on curls along the small of her back, eyes closed head back and smiling. Opening her eyes bluer than blue, lips slightly parted as her hands make flowing motions in the air. It must be close to 2a.m and the end is near, just one more song, Mariachi bands and ladies in diamonds, bullfighters and danger. Eldorado by Neil Young. Then the discordant guitar hits and she collapses onto the cushions on the floor panting and laughing for a second rolling over to smile and reach out.

I can still see her on that night, baggy Levis rolled up above her ankles, Docs thrown into the corner, white tank top and a blue and red flannel. An American in England mixing and matching what made sense fashion wise between Brighton and Oregon, two worlds colliding 200 plus miles from Liverpool and 3000 from Portland. She arrived a sorority girl cheerleader and went back a little grungier, the laughter the gigs the pubs, standing stones and ancient monuments and mostly history some of it we made together.

Thanksgiving dinner was the full English at the Stage Door cafe. You could never eat it all, leaning against  each other, smiling touching and laughing. The knowledge that in a few days she would be leaving, going back to finish her degree. She said she was coming back, I had bought a ring in a small store, it was beautiful, an antique and it meant something.

I called my Dad before she left and talked of the risk, he told me that sometimes you have to let some people go so they can come back. I remember standing in the dark feeding coins into the phone box on the corner, my Dad sounding so far away and yet so certain as he always was.

The eighties were ending and the 90’s about to start it seemed like anything could happen.

IMG_2646The last album we played together the night before she left was Later That Same Year by Matthews Southern Comfort. A beautiful album full of California sun made by a young man from Barton on Humber, the wrong side of the river as my friends from Hull would say. I had bought it only for the Fairport Convention connection, I kept it because it is such a well crafted album, it also introduced me to so many American musicians in one fell swoop. It is maybe what Fairport Convention may have sounded like if Matthews had not left, the van had not crashed and Hutchings had not discovered Childe Ballads, who knows, there are so many uncertainties.

It’s Thanksgiving next week and sometimes it’s hard to know what to be thankful for, however sometimes the true treasures are staring us in the face.