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.
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Do you have a favourite Neil Young song?