Freedom might have been inconsistent, but its best moments unequivocally showed the re-emergence of Young as a relevant artist. To complete his renaissance, Young reunited with Crazy Horse for the most ferociously electric set of his career. The “Godfather of Grunge” tag that Young enjoyed during the nineties largely springs from Ragged Glory, released just a year before the emergence of Nirvana, Pearl Jam et al, laced in distortion and feedback, raw and pared back to a simple four piece. Perversely, if the social commentary of Freedom felt relevant and forward-looking, much of Ragged Glory is firmly set in the sixties: ‘Farmer John’ is a blazing cover of a Nuggets staple, while ‘Days That Used To Be’ is a blatant cop from Dylan’s ‘My Back Pages’. The opening ‘Country Home’ even states “I’m thankful for my country home/It gives me peace of mind/Somewhere I can walk alone/And leave myself behind.”
The aggressive ‘F*!#in’ Up’ is the only song that’s angst ridden enough to fit on an actual grunge album, and it’s no coincidence that it’s made Pearl Jam’s live set. It’s difficult to find anything else as unambiguously sleazy as ‘Farmer John’ in Young’s catalogue; as simple as his writing can be, he seldom writes anything as gloriously stupid and he attacks it with relish. The only song that varies from the hard rock formula is the closing ‘Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)’, an awkward attempt at a universal statement on environmentalism. The heart of the album lies in the long epics like ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Love and Only Love’, and even if they’re not as memorable as earlier Crazy Horse epics, they’re melodic and enjoyable.
While a lack of diversity and long track running times do dull its impact somewhat, Ragged Glory is a surprisingly tuneful and vital record.