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Neil Young: Favourite Five Albums

Neil Young 1969 Debut

Neil Percival Young has enjoyed a long, erratic, colourful musical career. He started his recording career with Buffalo Springfield in the 1960s, before releasing his first solo album in 1969. Since then he’s made a ton of albums, both as a grungy rocker and as a folkie.

I’ve recently gone back and filled some holes on my Neil Young page, and have now covered 27 of his albums. I’ve selected my favourite five below. Perhaps controversially, they all come from the first ten years of his career – while Young enjoyed a strong comeback around 1989’s Freedom, none of his albums from the later era crack the top five for me. A special shout-out to 1977’s Decade, a spectacular compilation that wasn’t eligible for the list below.

Neil Young Tonight's The Night#5 – Tonight’s The Night (1975)
A drunken wake to commemorate the deaths of Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Tonight’s The Night is Young’s most ragged album, with some of his worst singing. But there are enough great songs on Tonight’s The Night for it to rank among his best.


Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere#4 – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969)
Young’s second solo album was his first with backing band Crazy Horse, whose primeval stomp fitted perfectly with Young’s grungy guitar. Some of the album’s seven songs are negligible, but it’s irrelevant when the track-list includes ‘Cinnamon Girl’, ‘Down By The River’, and ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’.


Neil Young On The Beach#3 – On The Beach (1974)
A calmer sequel to Tonight’s The Night, although it was released beforehand after Tonight’s release was held back. Notable for being out of print on CD for years, it has the apocalyptic rocker ‘Revolution Blues’, but plenty of pretty material like ‘See The Sky About to Rain’ and the entire second side.


Neil Young and Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps#2 – Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
Neil Young’s work seemed remarkably clear headed at the end of the 1970s, regaining his equilibrium after a tough few years in the middle of the decade. Rust Never Sleeps features a beautiful acoustic side (‘Thrasher’, ‘Sail Away’) and a raging electric side (‘Powderfinger’).


 

Neil Young After The Goldrush#1 – After the Gold Rush (1970)
After the success of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s Déjà Vu, Young created a confident solo album, with a set of brilliant songs, ranging from the prettiness of the title track and ‘I Believe In You’ to rockers like ‘Southern Man’ and ‘When You Dance (I Can Really Love)’.

 

Do you have a favourite Neil Young album, or a top 5? Am I silly to leave off Ragged Glory? Do you love his 21st century work?

27 thoughts on “Neil Young: Favourite Five Albums Leave a comment

    • I haven’t heard Hitchhiker, but I probably should. I already know most of the songs obviously, but it’s nice to hear them in one place. Lots of those songs are centrepieces of later albums – ‘Captain Kennedy’ is the best song on Hawks of Dove, and ‘Powderfinger’ is a highlight on Rust Never Sleeps.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I do feel like his 1990s stuff suffered a little from being released in the CD era – for me Ragged Glory mostly works on the back of that glorious Crazy Horse sound, but still might have been a better 40 minute album. A forty minute Freedom would have been excellent too.

      Like

  1. It’s amazing how Tonight’s the night sat on the shelf for a couple years before seeing the light of day – I enjoyed your line about some of his worst singing. For some reason, it’s that completely unpolished/imperfect sound that’s really started to appeal to me about Neil!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great list. One probably needs a top ten for Mr Young. I say that even though I rarely listen to his material these days and have nothing from the past 14 years.

    Nevertheless, here’s my offering (off the ragged cuff):

    5. Comes A Time
    4. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
    3. On the Beach
    2. After The Goldrush
    1. Time Fades Away (the only Neil I’ve written about)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Upon my first (okay, 30) listen(s) of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, I loved it immediately. Along with Al Green’s “Call Me”; Randy Newman’s “12 Songs”; and Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks”, “Moondance” and “Veedon Fleece”, “Nowhere” was my go-to summer album.

    Nowadays, I haven’t listened to it in about a month. I haven’t necessarily grown tired of it; rather, it’s just that I’ve realized how the songwriting isn’t top-notch. “On the Beach” has its standout moments but has really mediocre songs throughout. “Tonight’s the Night” is entirely raw and bare, and I like it for that reason alone. However, some of the song’s are just okay; others are fantastic though. Lastly, “After the Gold Rush” is amazing; probably my favorite Young album. Is nearly perfect (I just don’t like the title track, quite frankly).

    Ahhhhhh, this is making me want to listen to some Neil Young again! With that being said, I should check out Deja Vu.

    Liked by 1 person

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