Tag Archives: Neil Young

Acclaimed Albums – Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 226/250Title: Rust Never Sleeps
Artist: Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Year: 1979
Position: #158

As of the time of writing this, I know that the update to the acclaimed music list is imminent. By the time this post goes up, that update will have likely happened 2-3 months ago and I will probably be further away from my target. Thanks again summer from hell for putting a stop gap on my ability to do much with my challenges.

I’ve been so scared of albums falling out of the list that now I really have very few that are not significant dropping risks. So here I am with Rust Never Sleeps… because I started mt first play of this at gone midnight and that really is not the time for Beastie Boys or the Pixies.

As an album that was mostly recorded live (as can be heard by the crowds at the beginning) with corrections and overdubs made later in the studio, Rust Never Sleeps is an interesting hybrid within this list. The setlist features a mix of acoustic, rock and then some distorted guitar music that some have extrapolated to be a precursor of what would be the grunge movement some 10-12 years later.

This music is quite a bit of a shift from Tonight’s The Night and After the Gold Rush where it was far more focussed on blues and alternative country. I guess that this is where you can really hear Crazy Horse exerting their own influence over Neil Young. Sure, his voice is still there but this is now a very different tone from what I’ve heard him do before. It feels like I’ve missed a stage of development in between the albums I’ve listened to – maybe that’ll be found when I eventually expand this list outwards.

Acclaimed Albums – Tonight’s The Night by Neil Young

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 220/250Title: Tonight’s The Night
Artist: Neil Young
Year: 1975
Position: #198

18 months later and I am still playing Red Dead Redemption 2. I’m in the final stretch of it Now and hoping that I’ll be able to finally move on from it and into the arms of another game very soon. Since I’ve heard the soundtrack many times by now, I was in the market for some copuntry style music – enter a playlist composed of Purple Mountains and Neil Young.

As music to enjoy outlaw cowboy games to, it’s hard to find something that suits better than Neil Young. Especially as, and I guess this would be minor video game spoilers, I’m heading towards endgame and things are getting more maudlin by the second. After all, this is an album born off the back of death, I’m not sure of a better setting for it as background to than a storming telling the death of the old west.

I’m getting more and more into blues and country rock, but I think that it is going to take me longer before this enjoyment gets more retroactive. It’s fine as it is, but this is too much blues and not enough country for me. I do appreciate the darkness though and that means it will still be on my Red Dead playlist until I finish off the epilogue so. Not sure it will find a place outside of that though.

1001 Songs – 1977: Part Two

List Item:  Listen to the 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die

Black Betty – Ram Jam

Okay, I started listening to a later remix of this before the beat was a bit too modern and dancey for a blues rock song from 1977. Then when I found the correct version… it still felt incredibly modern and one of those songs that really was crying out for a dance remix.

‘Black Betty’ is this brilliant mixture of boogie-woogie and hard rock that is a cover of an old African-American work song. Needless to say, that due to the origins and content of the song (and that this band were white) this song managed to conjure up a bit of controversy at the time. It’s still a great execution, even if the content is a bit wanting.

Born for a Purpose – Dr. Alimantado & The Rebels

The further we get into reggae’s evolution, the more it is progressing into something that I am no longer dreading. The production is cleaner, which means that the lyrics are taking centre stage. There is also a whole lot more variation in the song, which is really necessary when you are making something nearly 6 minutes long.

It’s just a pity that these developments never became universal within reggae, but horses for courses I suppose.

Zombie – Fela Kuti & Africa 70

Time for the list to make a rare veering off of Western music and highlight a genre that I have yet to hear before: Afrobeat.

This is a word I’ve heard a number of times to generically refer to music from Africa, but I’m not surprised that such a cool name has also been applied to a genre; in this instance a genre fusing West African musical styles with jazz and funk from America.

At twelve and a half minutes long, and lyrics only starting just before the halfway mark, it’s definitely hard to ignore the jazz influence. Like Fela Kuti himself, ‘Zombie’ is a very political song aimed at the military in his native Nigeria for following orders without thoughts.

Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush

Time for debut song of one of my favourite artists of all time. The first time where a woman got to number one in the UK charts with a song she wrote herself. And she was 18. And she was raised in a neighbouring major town.

I’m biased because I love Kate Bush, but ‘Wuthering Heights’ is one of those watershed moments in music. This song is 458th in this list and there hasn’t been much like this before.

It’s the birth of art pop and a host of other genres It’s the song that influenced a huge section of female singers afterwards. And she was 18 with massive acclaim still to come in her life.

Not bad for a song written from the perspective of a ghost in Emily Brontë’s classic gothic novel (specifically from the BBC adaptation… not the book) because Kate Bush just happened to like the idea.

Uptown Top Ranking – Althea & Donna

I believe that this is the first reggae song I have heard on this list with female vocals. That alone makes this a really interesting entry. Then you figure in that it was the first song by a female duo to top the UK starts and it was all down to radio DJ John Peel playing it by accident… welll it just makes for a really interesting story.

The song itself is more of a step back to earlier reggae, especially when compared to ‘Born For A Purpose’ in terms of the repetition and the overall style. However it still has the progression because of the cleaner production. Not entirely sure how this became a hit, but it’s great to finally hear some female reggae artists.

I Feel Love – Donna Summer 

Third female vocalist in a row, that must be some sort of record for this list so far. Like ‘Wuthering Heights’ earlier, ‘I Feel Love’ is another of those landmark records. Not only is this the moment where disco went electronic and started to bleed into other neighbouring genres and inspire new ones, this was the moment that electronic music gained sung lyrics and a kick drum.

Giorgio Morordor’s production is sublime as he takes you on this hypnotic journey. Together with Donna Summer’s breathy and other-worldly vocals, ‘I Feel Love’ is one of those songs that can still make you take time and zone out completely. It was an instant classic in a year of genre-defining moments that still has plenty of songs to go.

Peg – Steely Dan

Time for something a bit more conventional as we get to ‘Peg’ by Steely Dan (a song I first heard as a cover by Nerina Pallot). After some pretty major songs, it’s actually quite nice to have this as a mental break after so many heavy hitters.

This isn’t a revolutionary song, but it’s a nice song that helps exemplify the jazz-infused soft rock genre. It’s a nice signpost of the other types of rock that were out there at the time. Nice to hear the softer side sometimes.

Marquee Moon – Television

Well, I did say at the beginning of the month that I would be hearing ‘Marquee Moon’ again. Thanks to my initial listen to the album, I now associate this album (and song) with the ill-informed act of putting up a flatpack bookshelf in 33 degree heat.

Listening to this in a historical context as a song, rather than in the running order of the album, really does change how I perceive this song. In the album, ‘Marquee Moon’ is this epic moment, but on it’s own it overstays its welcome as a nearly 11-minute song.

It is worth repeating though that ‘Marquee Moon’ and its album really were what punk had to morph into after the initial explosion went alight like touch-paper. This post-punk genre persisted much longer than punk every could have, and I am thankful for that.

Like a Hurricane – Neil Young

It’s probably because it’s been a long time since I last did a Neil Young album for the blog (which it definitely is and I still have his 1975 album Tonight’s The Night to listen to), but I have never heard him embracing his electric side.

I know that this is one of Neil Young’s big songs and that it is a classic within the genre, but surrounded by the other songs of the year I just don’t see it doing anything particularly big or new. It’s a song that overstays it’s welcome, unlike the longer ‘Zombie’, and… yea it just left me really cold.

The Passenger – Iggy Pop

What a great song to finsh the post on. Such a change from his earlier 1977 song ‘Dum Dum Boys‘ where he was casting off the identity of the past as part of his solo debut album.

‘The Passenger’ comes from Iggy Pop’s second album of 1977 (because why not release your first two solo albums in the same year) and is far less experimental and more focused on bringing an older rock and roll style and applying some more punk musical elements to it.

Like most people my age, I know ‘The Passenger’ from a car commercial and it’s one of those songs that has managed to make me smile whenever I hear it being played. After his previous song from 1977 it’s great to hear Iggy Pop back in his element and with a lot more confidence.

Progress: 464/1021

1001 Songs – 1970: Part Three

This is it, the final batch of songs from 1970. This year has taken a weirdly long time to make my way through, but at least we’re here now.

Into the Mystic – Van Morrison

It’s been two and a half years since I listened to Moondance for the first time, and it’s a downright shame that I haven’t played it anytime since. With ‘Into the Mystic’ I felt myself being immediately being transported back to that sunny day when I listened to this album on my commute.

It’s a great example of folk done right. It tells of a mystical journey and uses the guitar and the horns to unfurl the feeling. It’s weirdly soothing and helps remind me why I liked the parent album so mucn.

Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine – James Brown

“You just don’t like him, do you?” That’s what my husband said to me as I was losing patience with this song as we reached the three minute mark. He’s right.

Whilst I can appreciate that in person James Brown had charisma, on a recording I find a 5 minute song that is just so repetitive to be pretty much unforgiveable. If this song was released now I would wager it would be seen as not even worthy of radioplay.

I know, I know, historical context. James Brown was a big influence and a pusher of his genre. However, when I think back to the work done by Sly and the Family Stone done back in 1969 on their album Stand!… well there’s no comparison.

Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

“Four dead in Ohio” is the refrain at the end of this powerful song about the Kent State shootings; where four students were gunned down by police during a protest against the Vietnam War.

This song was on the radio within a few weeks of the shooting, the lyrics really demonstrating the sense of anger and loss over what happened. At the end you can hear David Crosby breaking.

There are a number of protest and counter-culture songs on the 1001 list, but none so far have felt as raw as this one.

The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon & Garfunkel

It’s interesting that of all the songs on the iconic Bridge over Troubled Water album it is ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ that appears on the 1001 songs list. I mean, there’s the obvious choice from that album… maybe even two. Then again, this is one of the great classic albums so you are spoilt for choice.

One thing that this list does well is find the songs that act as bridges between eras. You have ‘The Boxer’ and ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ which are very much Simon & Garfunkel songs; then there’s ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ which is where Simon & Garfunkel becomes Paul Simon.

It’s a beautiful song to end such an iconic duo on. Looking back is nice to see this bridge, but at the time the idea of going solo must have been terrifying for both of them. At least it worked out for both of them.

In a Broken Dream – Python Lee Jackson

Why is this on the list? Well, it’s an example of an early song with the vocals of Rod Stewart in a song that is a soft metal. Interesting to note that despite being first released in 1970, ‘In a Broken Dream’ didn’t chart until a re-release in 1972 due to the success of Rod Stewart’s later singles like ‘Maggie May’.

Rock at this time was in an awkward phase. It was still trying to cling on to the organs of the 1960s whilst bring in the guitar solos that would become a staple in the years to come. Makes for an interesting listen when doing this chronologically.

Oh Lonesome Me – Neil Young

After the Gold Rush is such a well received album that it perplexes me that they pick the only cover to appear in this list. The book itself says that this is the standout track from the album. They’re wrong. That song is ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ and that’s all there is to it.

54-46 Was My Number – Toots & The Maytals

The moment I heard the ska beat starting I was ready to pack in any attempt to write about this song. But something weird happened, I actually started to like this song.

It’s about the wrongful imprisonment of the lead singer, who was framed by a promoter who didn’t want the tour to go ahead. The song tells this in a traditional call-and-response with the ska beats playing underneath. I don’t know why, but this song actually did this for me.

Working Class Hero – John Lennon

When I first heard ‘Working Class Hero’ last year, it struck me that he’s not a man who I could imagine swearing. Now I listen to this again… it’s fairly dull.

The emotions don’t work because he’s so far removed from who he is trying to connect with. He’s a man of priveledge who, whilst growing up in a working class family, has not been part of that demographic for most of his life. It’s like a Christian writing a song about the Holocaust – it all just rings false.

Box of Rain – The Grateful Dead

Here I am at the end of 1970. It’s a song that I would not have expected from a band whose name feels like it would make for an amazing metal band. Book, cover and all that jazz.

For such a well known band it is interesting to note that this album track is their only entry on the list. A song that is sung by their regular bassist Phil Lesh rather than lead singer Jerry Garcia.

‘Box of Rain’ is a touching folk song that feels like where Neil Young meets Simon & Garfunkel. It’s about Lesh’s father who was dying of terminal cancer and contains lyrics intrpreted from Lesh’s scat singing.

I wish I could say that this song had some profound effect on me… but it didn’t. Nice enough and it does make the connection, but that’s pretty much where this ends.

Progress: 319/1021

Acclaimed Albums – Harvest by Neil Young

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 121/250Title: Harvest
Artist: Neil Young
Year: 1972
Position: #93

It’s been about 6 months since I started whittling down the 5 Neil Young albums. Harvest is, according to the combined polls at Acclaimed Albums, the second best Neil Young album after After The Gold Rush. Well, I already disagreed with that order last time and I plan to do so again.

When looking at views of Harvest I keep seeing the same pattern of comments. How this is basically After The Gold Rush but with a different guitar and lesser songs. Personally, I enjoyed Harvest more than the other two albums of his that I have heard so far.

Something that I found is that with this album I started to hear shades of other artists that were to follow. Some of these inspirtations are more well known and stated by artists, like how ‘Alabama’ actually went on to inspire Lynyrd Skynyrd’s immortal track ‘Sweet Home Alabama’. However, there were many times where I kept thinking of people like Devendra Banhart who play with a mix of folk and psychedelia.

In the opening track ‘Out On The Weekend’ I could not stop thinking of the Beck song ‘Cold Brains’. They are actually quite different songs now that I have decided to listen to them back to back,  but there is something implicit that I am feeling that I cannot quite get sonically.

Other highlights on this album include:

  • ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ – a haunting swell of a song that feels like it belongs on another album.
  • ‘Heart of Gold’, in contrast to the track above, feels incredibly mainstream – like if someone sought to commercialise Bob Dylan.
  • ‘There’s A World’ sounds incredibly dramatic. Like REALLY dramatic

There is a variety and depth to Harvest that I couldn’t see in After The Gold Rush. This album is what lead to mainstream success, which he didn’t like, and I wonder if that is why I warmed to this more. This is definitely the best sounding of the Neil Young albums that I have heard so far – and I’m a sucker for production – so that could explain why I enjoyed Harvest. 

When you consider that three out of his first four solo albums (at time of writing this) are considered in the Top 250 albums of all time, well it boggles the mind really. Not many other artists can claim the same (Bjork can… so I feel somewhat vindicated).

Acclaimed Albums – Neil Young Has A Lot Of Albums: Part One

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 105/250

EverybodyKnowsThisIsNowhere After_the_Gold_Rush
Title: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Artist: Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Year: 1969
Position:
#238
Title: After The Gold Rush
Artist: Neil Young
Year: 1970
Position: #53

Of all the artists I have left in the Acclaimed Albums list there are five Neil Young albums left and one by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It’s an impressive haul for any one musician to have so many albums that have been so well thought of. In terms of solo albums it puts him joint first with Bob Dylan. No mean feat.

The initial temptation was, therefore to try and just listen to all five of them in one fell swoop. Realising that this would mean five hours of an singer I had no idea about put an end to that plan immediately. I therefore decided to just go for the chronologically first two, which means I will end up comparing his highest positioned with his lowest positioned. Weird how these things work out.

One thing I am immediately going to knock on the head is the assigning of hard rock to Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by WikipediaAside from a guitar solo or two on the final track this is very much a folk/blues rock album. If I had to find an album of my own listening that I could link this to it would probably the Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan albums.

Not that he sings in the lower Mark Lanegan register on both albums. On After The Gold Rush he starts to singer in a far higher pitch. The delivery feels more confident and, on a personal level, makes for a more enjoyable listen.

Now, I am going to be breaking with the tradition of disagreeing with list placement here. I completely see how After The God Rush is placed higher than Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. This isn’t just because of it having the original version of ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’, even though that was a pretty pleasant surprise after only knowing of the Saint Etienne cover.

Where Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere makes sense as a debut album since it tries to expand in a number of different directions; After The Gold Rush has a far more focused sound. Sometimes a scattershot interweaving of sounds works better than focus, don’t get me wrong, but with these albums it is After The Gold Rush really wins the day.