An Introduction to Neil Young

I’ve been a fan of Canadian Neil Young since the age of 19, when I saw a brief excerpt of ‘Down By The River’ on a rock documentary. I rushed out and bought 1977’s excellent retrospective Decade. I’ve reviewed 25 of his albums over the last few weeks (and left space for a couple more).

Neil Young started his recording career with Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Despite his unusual, high-pitched voice, he enjoyed commercial success in his early solo career, with albums like After The Gold Rush, which showcased both his melodic, folk influenced songs and his loose rockers. Harvest, from which ‘Old Man’ is taken, was his commercial high point.

Harvest reached number one on the album charts, but as Young famously said “‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride, but I saw more interesting people there.” While much of Young’s “Ditch Trilogy” consists of ragged performances, 1974’s On The Beach has gorgeous songs like ‘See The Sky About To Rain’, recorded with The Band’s rhythm section:

1979’s Rust Never Sleeps was perhaps Young’s last truly great album, with an acoustic side of beautiful songs, and an electric side that sometimes showed Young taking on board influence from punk. ‘Powderfinger’ is a good example of Young’s grunge sound with his backing band Crazy Horse.

Young spent a lot of the 1980s making bizarre genre experiment albums, but bounced back with 1989’s Freedom and 1990’s Ragged Glory; while both are a little long and bloated to be great albums, they both have a lot of inspired material. ‘Cocaine Eyes’ is an overlooked gem from Eldorado, the 1989 EP which preceded Freedom.

Young’s continued to make music prolifically, recording close to an album a year over a fifty year career. I haven’t kept up with the last ten years, but ‘After The Garden’ from 2006’s Living With War captures his classic sound well.

For more Neil Young analysis and reviews, please visit https://albumreviews.blog/reviews/neil-young/.

Do you have a favourite Neil Young song?

An Introduction to Queen

The second artist to be covered on Aphoristic Album Reviews, Queen were a favourite of mine as a teenager, although I didn’t go beyond the Greatest Hits albums. It wasn’t until my twenties, when my Queen obsessed friend lent me their individual albums, that I gained a deeper appreciation for them.

Queen focused on albums for their first few years, primarily dealing in bombastic hard rock. Starting around 1980’s The Game, they became more of a singles band, and became more diverse, dabbling in styles like disco and pop. So while their early albums are stronger, their best singles are spread quite evenly over their discography, especially for a band that enjoyed a twenty year career.

Queen’s second album, Queen II, is my favourite, an ambitious concept album with a White Side and a Black Side. Here’s a gorgeous song written by guitarist Brian May:

1974’s Sheer Heart Attack was also excellent, but the band’s best known album is 1975’s A Night At The Opera; the album featured ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, as well as plenty of other strong songs like this Freddie Mercury piece:

1977’s News of the World feels like their most overlooked album. It kicks off with the monster singles ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We Are The Champions’, but there are plenty of great album tracks. It’s not often mentioned, but in my estimation ‘Fight From The Inside’ is one of drummer Roger Taylor’s finest moments in Queen, with Taylor contributing everything except the lead guitar:

While Queen maintained popularity in the UK throughout the 1980s, I generally find their work less satisfying. They scored big hits with pop-oriented material like ‘Radio Gaga’ and ‘I Want To Break Free’ from 1984’s The Works, but this Freddie Mercury song revisits their pompous best with its operatic opening:

The band rediscovered their focus with their last albums, battling against Mercury’s ill health to produce more music. This Brian May song from 1991’s Innuendo is one of the band’s best, with a emotional underpinning that wasn’t always a strength of a theatrical band:

For more in-depth analysis of Queen and reviews of their individual album, please visit https://aphoristical.wordpress.com/reviews/queen/

Do you have a favourite Queen song?

An Explanation and a Plan

An Explanation

I wanted to provide an explanation to my fellow bloggers who may have noticed that this blog has undergone a name change, and that I’ve had to un-follow and re-follow your blogs. A few weeks ago, I noticed that I had received a visit from a strange URL. Out of curiosity I looked it up, and it was a site where image owners can report use of copyrighted images. I looked through pages that had recently received visits, and realised that I’d used an image that had a faint author’s name and copyright image. Some Googling revealed that there are harsh penalties, even for non-commercial blogs like this one, that can be enforced before even receiving a notice to take down the image first.

Here’s an article that outlines what the penalties can be like: http://www.contentfac.com/copyright-infringement-penalties-are-scary/ The potential penalties are frightening, especially given that the page and post that had used the image in question had received only 18 visits between them. While I imagine it’s very frustrating being a photographer and having your work misused, there should be initial warnings for people who are not repeat offenders and who are not operating in a commercial capacity.

Because it’s been a few weeks, and I haven’t heard anything, I’m assuming I’m in the clear. But I should have been more careful, and I’m only using album covers in my blog from now on. I wanted to put the message out there to my fellow bloggers to be careful about what images you use.

A Plan

I’ve had to quickly think of a new name. I think my reviews are generally concise, so I googled synonyms for short, and chose the most pretentious one. I’m currently using aphoristical as my URL. Aphoristic was unavailable, and Aphoristic Album Reviews looked like Aproristical Bum Reviews when it was all strung together.

I used to have an album review site between 2000 and 2007, and a lot of what’s on this blog so far is simply slightly edited versions of that. Because of this I’ve been able to create content very quickly to date – since starting this blog in June 2016, it’s already at more than 500 pages. But it’s obviously going to slow down as I run out of pages to bring across.

I’d quite like to cover some of music’s most major artists – they’re mostly very well trodden already, but since I’d like to cover the canon I think I’d like to get to them sooner rather than later. Here’s a list of the 20 most acclaimed album artists from http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/Current/1890-19arta.htm. While it’s a little bit lacking in diversity, I think all of these artists are major and are worth covering.

1 The Beatles
2 Bob Dylan
3 The Rolling Stones
4 David Bowie
5 Miles Davis
6 Neil Young (in progress)
7 Bruce Springsteen
8 Radiohead
9 R.E.M.
10 Led Zeppelin
11 The Who
12 The Velvet Underground
13 Elvis Costello
14 Pink Floyd
15 Prince
16 Tom Waits
17 Van Morrison
18 U2
19 The Beach Boys
20 Jimi Hendrix

I’ve already covered the artists that are crossed out – although I’m only halfway through Neil Young’s discography at the moment. I already covered some of Van Morrison and Tom Waits on my old site, so I think they’ll be next off the ramp, while I think The Beatles, U2, and Elvis Costello (at least through to 1986) will be in the near future as well. Miles Davis is a little tricky for me; if anything I’d probably just cover his fusion era.