Neil Young Album Reviews

Neil Young was born in Canada in 1945, where his father was a famous sports broadcaster. Before fame, he played in the Mynah Birds, with a young Rick James, before relocating to Los Angeles where he joined Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Initially, Young took a back-seat role, allowing Richie Furay to front some of his compositions on the band’s first album, although his ringing guitar was an important component of the band’s breakthrough hit ‘For What It’s Worth’. Young’s confidence grew on Buffalo Springfield Again, where he contributed the orchestral and ethereal ‘Expecting To Fly’ as well as the ambitious, multi-part ‘Broken Arrow’, although tensions between the band members and bassist Bruce Palmer’s run-ins with the law meant that the group never reached their potential.

Although his songs with Buffalo Springfield had established Young as a writer with an individual voice, his 1968 solo debut was tentative. On his second album, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, he recruited Crazy Horse as his backing band, and their primitive stomp was the perfect backing for songs like ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Down By The River’. Young then infiltrated the mainstream as he joined Crosby, Stills, and Nash for Déjà Vu, and released two popular solo albums, including Harvest, which reached the top of the US charts on the back of number one single ‘Heart of Gold’.

The loss of Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry in drug-related deaths were among the factors that caused Young to pull away from the mainstream; as he famously wrote ‘Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. The ensuing “Ditch Trilogy” was rawer and less accessible, although 1974’s mournful On The Beach is one of Young’s best realised albums. Other highlights of Young’s 1970s included reforming Crazy Horse for 1975’s Zuma, and 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps, with its acoustic and electric halves showcasing some of Young’s finest work.

Young signed with Geffen Records in 1982, where he recorded a series of erratic, genre-hopping albums, ranging from the electronic Trans to the country of Old Ways. He refocused with 1989’s Freedom and 1990’s Ragged Glory, and enhanced his reputation by his engagement with 1990’s alternative; Kurt Cobain quoted Young in his suicide note, while Young collaborated with Pearl Jam on 1995’s Mirror Ball. Even in his late career, Young has continued to release new albums frequently.

Neil Young is recognised as one of the rock music’s premium solo artists. His voice, high and creakily off-key, can be an acquired taste, and his work is often primitive, especially when accompanied by Crazy Horse. His lyrics impulsively veer from supporting Reagan in the 1980s to suggesting the impeachment of George W Bush. A lot of Young’s work falls into three main templates; abrasive guitar rock like ‘Cortez The Killer’, gentle folk, or country.

Most of what Young recorded in the 1960s and 1970s is worth hearing, but he’s so prolific that his discography is intimidatingly large. I’ve covered all of his studio albums through to 1982’s Trans, but I’ve only reviewed select albums after that point. I’ve listed Neil Young’s albums of new material up to 2016 below and marked the ones I’ve covered in bold. If I was to go further into his discography, Silver and Gold, Le Noise, and Psychedelic Pill are the records I’m most interested in, but I feel like covering 27 Neil Young albums is a respectable effort.

Neil Young (1968)
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
After the Gold Rush (1970)
Harvest (1972)
Time Fades Away (1973) [live album of all new material]
On the Beach (1974)
Tonight’s the Night (1975)
Zuma (1975)
Long May You Run – with Stephen Stills (1976)
American Stars ‘n Bars (1977)
Comes a Time (1978)
Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
Hawks & Doves (1980)
Re-ac-tor (1981)
Trans (1982)
Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983)
Old Ways (1985)
Landing on Water (1986)
Life (1987)
This Note’s for You (1988)
Freedom (1989)
Ragged Glory (1990)
Harvest Moon (1992)
Sleeps with Angels (1994)
Mirror Ball (1995)
Broken Arrow (1996)
Silver & Gold (2000)
Are You Passionate? (2002)
Greendale (2003)
Prairie Wind (2005)
Living with War (2006)
Chrome Dreams II (2007)
Fork in the Road (2009)
Le Noise (2010)
Americana (2012)
Psychedelic Pill (2012)
A Letter Home (2014)
Storytone (2014)
The Monsanto Years (2015)
Peace Trail (2016)

Ten Favourite Neil Young Songs

Down By The River
See The Sky About To Rain
Cortez The Killer
After The Goldrush
Revolution Blues
A Man Needs A Maid
Cinnamon Girl
Like A Hurricane
Old Man