Monday 13 November 2017

Neil Young: A Guide To Five Unreleased Albums 1974-1988

You can buy 'Here We Are In The Years - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Neil Young' in e-book form by clicking here

Goodness knows Neil Young has released a lot of material in his lifetime - if you're reading this book or these website articles I don't need to tell you that because you'll have seen several hundred pages' worth already! However it's a sobering thought that Neil may have half as much again still sitting in his archives (or indeed on the Archives if he ever returns to his retrospective project sometime in the future), perhaps more. Occasionally in these pages we tell you about an album that Neil was supposed to be working on before the mercurial songwriter changed his mind and decided to begin again - sometimes taking a portion of what he'd already made as the backbone of a new LP and sometimes heading somewhere different altogether. We didn't want to write about these albums as if they really existed and have fans demanding to know why their record dealer didn't stock them - and yet for true fans they often feel like 'proper' albums in a way the released hodge-podge replacements sometimes don't. Many of these albums are available on bootleg (the 1970s work especially), while others can be re-assembled by anyone who simply owns a comprehensive series of Young albums from all periods ('Chrome Dreams' is pretty much out complete now, though you have to own five separate albums to have it all!) Some were abandoned by Neil himself at the last-minute ('Homegrown' was announced as his next LP in all the papers and the artwork was already made before a friend at a party heard a cassette with the then-unreleased 'Tonight's The Night' on the back of it and raved about that album instead of all the new songs!), others were cancelled by the record company (Geffen hated the first version of 'Old Ways' - although it's arguably a lot more interesting than the second version which they did get!) We could have made this article several hundred words longer by looking into the ins and outs of every single Neil Young project considered and abandoned somewhere along the line but we've decided to stick to the five projects that came closest to being released and which we do know a lot about, with an appendix at the end for records where details are sketchy. Please bear in mind that the track selection we've chosen for each of the records, though generally agreed on by fans as being the most 'likely' combination of songs for each album, was always up for debate - even 'Homegrown', the record that came closest to release, was always likely to be tweaked before release (Neil's that kind of guy!) Until or if Neil finally gets around to releasing 'Archives II' we won't know for sure what he wanted released when - and chances are it'll be what the 'current' Neil fancies anyway, rather than his younger self. There's more than enough to discuss here though and most if not all of these LPs do seem far preferable to the ones they were replaced with...

1) Homegrown (1975)

(Possible track listing taken from prototype back cover: Star Of Bethlehem/Homegrown/Vacancy/Homefires/Try/Little Wing/ Pardon My Heart/ Love Art Blues/Frozen Man/Separate Ways/Deep Forbidden Lake/Love Is A Rose/Daughters/White Line/We Don't Smoke It/Give Me Strength/ Mediterranean/The Old Homestead)

'Though the moon isn't full, he still feels the pull'

'Homegrown' is the album that represented a stepping stone between the gloomy 'Doom Trilogy' of 1972-1975 and the happier album 'Zuma' that followed. In this period Neil has split from wife Carrie Snodgrass and still feeling emotional and hasn't yet met second wife Pegi, but he's also having fun being an eligible bachelor for the first time in years and his songs are a little lighter and freer. Many of these songs will become loved by fans as some of Neil's favourite with a folkier flavour than usual and come from a more identifiable branch of the Neil 'autobiographical' flavouring, without the details-you-wouldn't-know feel of 'On The Beach' or 'Night'. The first song to find release was the beautiful 'goodbye' song to Carrie 'Pardon My Heart', which became the sermon on 'Zuma's mount at the end of 1975 about a year after recording took place. Next 'Star Of Bethlehem', a sorrowful song about wondering whether love is an illusion and whether 'there wasn't a star of Bethlehem at all' found a home at the start of side two of the mis-matched collection 'American Stars 'n' Bars' in 1977. 'Homegrown' itself seems even more out of place at the end of side one, a dumb little song about going back to the country or growing your own marijuana depending how many references you understand! At the end of 1977 Neil released his first compilation 'Decade' which included a number of unreleased oddities - 'Love Is A Rose' is one of these, a pretty song that's light-hearted despite the sarcastic references to thorns in marriage and 'losing your love when you say the word mine'. 'Deep Forbidden Lake' was released on the same set, a moody but quietly uplifting song that has Neil looking back on just how far he's travelled and how deep and dark his past was with a hope that his future will see better days. Finally, 'Hawks and Doves' was a second catch-all set released in 1980 when Neil was busy looking after his son Ben, whose cerebral palsy diagnosis took up much of Young's time and he wasn't yet ready to disappear and tell the world why. 'Little Wing' is a fragment of a song at best but it's a very pretty fragment with a girl this time trying to find the strength to carrying on, 'leaving feathers as she falls' but still flying, ragged, all the same (my guess is the similar imagery on  'Dangerbird' comes from this period too - that glorious epic always seemed far too dark for the safety of 'Zuma' - but it isn't on the intended track listing apparently). 'The Old Homestead', meanwhile, is one of Neil's strangest songs that might well be an autobiographical tale of reporters asking Neil 'why do you ride that crazy horse?' and three vultures stuck in their old ways who might well be CSN. If released at the end of the album it would have served the same 'what the?' purpose as 'Last Trip To Tulsa' on 'Neil Young' in 1969, throwing the listener off-guard right at the point when they felt they 'knew' Neil. 'White Line' waited patiently for sixteen years before finally being released on 1990's 'Ragged Glory', where it's period sighing and need to run away to better times sounded out of place (the 'white line' is the middle of a road, not a cocaine reference by the way). Finally, 'Love Art Blues' was also performed on the CSNY '74 stadium tour and appears on the much-delayed live recording of that set from 2015. It's a self-deprecating giggle, the album's light relief, as a folky Neil tells us 'my songs are all so long and my songs are all so sad...' Art, by the way, isn't about 'art' as in something deep and profound as written by a composer to his audience but, as befits the playful nature of the song, Neil's dog Art!

As for the songs that haven't appeared since, most have appeared on bootleg. 'Homefires' is a bootlegger's favourite, a glorious folk-rock song about having learnt through difficult times that starts with the line 'I'm not the man I was not so long ago' and tells someone (presumably Carrie) that he has a lot of love but not for the person he expected to have it for 'so I've got to keep the wheels turning and the homefires burning!' 'Try' is a pretty piano ballad that sounds not unlike the 1990s single 'Philadelphia', with lyrics that would have fitted this album's 'getting back on my feet though it's hard' theme - it may well be an early love song for Pegi too, as Neil knows it's meant to be that they meet up, though he doesn't know why and has a mysterious figure changing his outlook as he 'walks to your house in the rain and walks back dry'.'Separate Ways' is one of the few 'electric' songs here, with an urgent stabbing aggressive part that gets slowly tempered by a slow organ and a Clatptonesque lead. A bluesy Neil refuses to apologise for falling in love with an ex (almost certainly Carrie) even though they both got burned because their love was real and will be forever, even if they're destined to go their 'separate ways'. The feel of this song is very much like the 2002 album 'Are You Passionate?' with a mix of guilt, blues and dark nights of the soul. 'Give Me Strength' is another catchy folk-song has Neil trying to take stock of his life and get out of his depression blues, commenting that 'it's not as bad as some things I've seen'. However despite reading like a self-help manual the mood is still sad and bitter and sounds not unlike an acoustic Noel Gallagher-sung Oasis B-side. Finally, 'Mediterranean' is an earlier song from an even earlier abandoned album in 1974 that Neil seems to have felt worthy of trying again here. It's probably the weakest track though as a husky Neil improvises a few lines about getting to his fate 'right on time' and the song - or at least the only version I've heard - is the only one that feels very much like a demo rather than a finished track. As for 'Vacancy' (apparently ten seconds of this was 'leaked' on Neil's website in 2010 as a trailer for the 'Archives II' set which still isn't out yet but I never heard it!) 'Frozen Man' 'Daughters' and 'We Don't Smoke It' (apparently a 'blues vamp' in the manner of 'Vampire Blues'), I'm afraid I've never comes across these tracks which seemed to have been hidden ever from the bootleggers; it's possible of course that they were working titles for later songs as often happened with Young compositions but none of these songs 'feel' like any later released song either. One other song possibly intended for this album is 'Florida', a song whose cryptic stream-of-consciousness lyrics were printed - but on the sleeve of this album's replacement 'Tonight's The Night' instead (nobody seems to know what the music would have been!)

Overall, then, 'Homegrown' would have been a smashing set that would have made the switch from 'Night' to 'Zuma' (although it's real predecessor in recording terms would have been 'On The Beach') much more natural. Neil is still in late-night agony mode, but he's caught sight of the sunrise and heard together these songs make for quite an uplifting album. It would have been one of Neil's more consistent releases if left like this too, with out of the tracks we know only 'Mediterranean' and 'Homegrown' itself less than stellar, while 'Star Of Bethlehem' 'Pardon My Heart' 'Deep Forbidden Lake' 'Homefires' and 'Try' are all amongst Neil's greatest work of the 1970s. That party Neil held must have been a very dark one - while artistically 'Night' is clearly the stronger and braver of the two and breaks so much new ground, 'Homegrown' would have been a good balance of commercial and creative and wouldn't have been a million miles behind. The only thing that wouldn't have been good is the intended sleeve, a chocolate-box painting of a boy with dog and flute looking to all the world as if they've wondered in off an Enid Blyton book. Allegedly this entire LP is coming out on 'Archives II' one day, but don't hold your breath - this was last heard of in 2010!

2) Chrome Dreams (1977)

(Possible track listing taken from acetate of 'finished' album: Pocahontas/Will To Love/Star Of Bethlehem/Like A Hurricane/Too Far Gone/Hold Back The Tears/Homegrown/Captain Kennedy/Stringman/Sedan Delivery/Powderfinger/Look Out For My Love. Possibly also Campaigner/River Of Pride/No One Seems To Know)

In 1977 Neil began referring to a project he named 'Chrome Dreams'. Fans assumed, given his prolific workload, that this was a whole new album to be released quickly on the back of the Stills-Young Band debacle in early 1977, but Neil admitted later that all he had was an album cover - a close-up of a grille for a 1955 Chrysler (a modified version of this, minus naked lady, appeared on the front cover of 'Chrome Dreams II' in 2006). He did however have an album's worth of material and some fans (including biographer Jimmy McDonnaugh) have even claimed to have seen an acetate and a track listing in Neil's collection. Whether this album was ever intended to be released this way is a moot point (not one song mentions a car!), but there's no denying that it would have been one of Neil's tastiest works of the 1977 featuring several of his best loved songs from this period.
In the order released, several songs made it onto this album's replacement 'American Stars 'n' Bars' including several highlights. 'Bethlehem' and 'Homegrown' were revived again with the same performance according to the bootlegs, while 'Will To Love' is a smashing seven minute moment of madness in which Neil becomes a salmon, driven on by the urge forward which must be love across even densely packed minutes, a crackling fire and multiple overdubs recorded by Neil on the same night. 'Like A Hurricane' is arguably both this album and it's replacement's most famous moment, a stirring song about obsession with an on-form Crazy Horse that features one of Neil's all time classic guitar solos. 'Hold Back The Tears' is one of Stars' lesser moments though, a forgettable country-rocker featuring Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson - Neil enjoyed the session so much he brought the pair back for another four equally forgettable songs in the same vein for the later released album. 'Look Out For My Love' was one of the highlights of 1978's 'Comes A Time', an urgent paranoid spooky song with some classic Crazy Horse harmonies that never quite fitted on that LP's generally positive and loved-up vibe (the song suits this one better). Several songs were held back for 1979's best-seller 'Rust Never Sleeps'. Neil's charming tale of time-travel 'Pocahontas' is one of his greatest American Indian songs, 'Powderfinger' is a powerful warning song from the point of view of an Indian being invaded by white settlers and 'Sedan Delivery' - first recorded in this period as a much slower, less sparky, almost sad song without the released versions' punkish energy - is a popular tune about either delivering chairs or keeping up in an ever-changing music world. Meanwhile another song found a home on 'Hawks and Doves' from 1980 - the simple folky war tale of 'Captain Kennedy' who may or may not be JFK or maybe even his elder brother. 'Too Far Gone' had to wait until 1988 to find 'Freedom' thanks to a terrible re-recording that was countryfied and hokey - thankfully the original version is far superior, sweeter and more genuine as Neil regrets a drunken night out that should have had him pluck up the courage to woo his sweetheart but just had him making a fool of himself instead (why wasn't this revived for 'Bars' ? - it fits that album's weird vibe perfectly!) Neil didn't throw in as many surprises as expected on his 1993 performance on MTV's 'Unplugged' but as well as a pump organ version of 'Hurricane' the biggest was this period's sweet song of solidarity 'Stringman' that gets as close as any Neil Young song does to being nice and supportive ('There is no dearer friend of mine that I know in this life' - rumour has long had it this song is about Stills, though manager David Briggs seems a stronger bet). Outside chances for this album - not listed on the acetate - include 'Campaigner', a song released on 1977 compilation 'Decade', a sad folk song which has Neil regretting his once tough stance on Nixon after watching a broken man walk away from the Whitehouse on the news and is one of his best 'near-outtakes' from the period.

There aren't as many unreleased songs this time around - in fact the finished LP might not have had any. However two songs from period live shows still haven't appeared on official releases yet and both songs sport this album's confused, slightly-angry-but-tempered-with-love vibe. 'River Of Pride' is a re-working of 'White Line' played at a slightly quicker jog and performed as more of a happy tune (if not as happy as the version on 'Ragged Glory'). The 'Homegrown' version is superior to both. Finally piano ballad 'No One Seems To Know' feels slightly out of place in this period - it's large expressive chords and melancholy put it more in the 'Time Fades Away' period. 'Once I was in love but now it seems as if time is better sent in searching than in finding' Neil concludes before sighing that he can't find any of the help he seeks and every human being seems as confused about love as him, that 'no one seems to know'.

Overall 'Chrome Dreams' isn't quite the classic some fans talk about. Admittedly any album that includes 'Will To Love' 'Look Out For My Love' 'Like A Hurricane' and 'Pocahontas' is pretty darn great, while a finished version of 'Stringman' could well have been up to this standard too. However too many 'filler' songs like 'Captain Kennedy' 'Hold Back The Tears' 'Too Far Gone' and a second unwanted attempt at 'Homegrown' might well have held this album back too. However the record is still patently better than 'Chrome Dreams II', a Neil Young sequel to an album never released (how Neil!) and which does feature unreleased material - just not from this period but the late 1980s instead! This album too is due out on 'Archives II', maybe, one day, if we live long enough.

3) Island In The Sun (1982)

(Possible track listing based on what was recorded during the sessions and on tour: Little Thing Called Love/If You Got Love/Raining In Paradise/Soul Of A Woman/Big Pearl/Hold On To Your Love/Bad News/Silver and Gold/Like An Inca)

Fans overlook this period but the two albums made by Neil in 1982 - both released and unreleased - are amongst my favourites. This is the album made in the first half of the year as a sweet but safe contract opener on Geffen, a bunch of light acoustic songs about love topped off by a nine-minute epic about life as an Inca. Three of these songs made it to 'Trans', a far more ambitious album that was a concept album of sorts about Neil's struggles to communicate with his handicapped son and his belief that one day technology would allow him to. A tale of robots trying to hide their emotion and sung through a vocoder, it may well be Neil's bravest and best album - it's certainly among his weirdest. However the catchy and upbeat 'Little Thing Called Love' and the prettier calmer twin 'Hold On To Your Love' never really fitted with the album vibe, while the closing 'Like An Inca' only just does thanks to some fascinating cryptic lyrics about reincarnation, coming home and feeling trapped in the same place. Forget this song's poor reputation amongst fans - Neil and Nils Lofgren's twin solos are glorious, each one trying to better the other one after another! 'Soul Of A Woman', meanwhile, was finally released in 2014 on the itself-unreleased 'Blue Note Cafe', a live recording from 1988 though the original version is far less bluesy and far more soulful.'Bad News' is (probably) 'Bad News Is Coming To Town' first released on the same album, although this slow mournful blues based around the opening lick to The Beatles' 'Hey Jude, don't make it bad' probably sounded different on the 'Sun' sessions and no, sadly, no period recording has ever come to light. 'Silver and Gold', a pretty ballad about how a love only gets better with age and glitters like the title metals, will make it out on 2000's 'Silver and Gold' album - although to be fair this pretty 1976 track was considered for about half a dozen albums during the intervening quarter century.

There are a few more songs from 'Sun' that were never heard of again and while most of the best arguably did make 'Trans' the rest have worth too. 'If You Got Love' came so close to making 'Trans' it was even listed on initial copies of the sleeve and it's a pretty song with a third variant on the 'Love' acoustic riff but with some nice guitar frills going on over the top. It's a little like 'A Lotta Love' too but is less clichéd as a song, about all the ways two lovers know they're meant to be with one another. 'Raining In Paradise' is even prettier and may well be the best song on the original album, a bittersweet song that features Neil's hopeful acoustic meeting some mournful pedal steel head-on and a lyric about wanting to know how to make things better but not knowing how. The harmonies on this track, featuring a whole mix of people from albums past and present combined together, are gorgeous. Sadly I still haven't tracked down 'Big Pearl' - all I can find is 'big solos performed with Pearl Jam' and that's not the same thing at all!
The end result would have been an interesting album - a step up from 'Hawks and Doves' and 'Re-Ac-Tor' anyway with some true highlights given the three songs released on 'Trans' and 'Raining In Paradise'. However 'Trans' is undoubtedly the stronger record, breaking more ground than this bunch of love-worn ballads. Neil has also commented that his original plan for the album was 'sailing, ancient civilisations, islands and water' but unless you count 'rain' then, the song 'Like An Inca' aside, I can't really hear that link myself. Surely 'Islands In The Sun' was instead one of the more obvious albums made for Pegi, about good and bad spots in their marriage, but which just happened to have a bit of a holiday vibe?

4) Old Ways (First Version 1983)

(Possible track listing based on what was recorded during the sessions and on tour: Old Ways/Depression Blues/Your Love Is Good To Me/Leaving The Top 40 Behind/Hillbilly Band/Time Off For Good Behaviour/Your Love Again/Nothing Is Perfect In God's Perfect Plan/Silver and Gold/This Ole House)

Neither version of the country-styled 'Old Ways' is a classic but the more solo and humble first version came closest. Geffen rejected this album after already being angered by Neil delivering the out-there 'Trans'. They didn't want a country album to follow it up - though they changed their minds by the time Neil re-submitted it with some big name co-stars in 1985, suddenly seeing the benefit after Neil threatened to record ten versions of 'White Christmas' and submit that instead (he said that if it went to court his lawyers would point out that it was the best-selling commercial song in rock and roll history - even if few of his fans would have bought it!) Sadly Neil threw out everything good about his original 'Old Ways' which suffers from cringe-worthy string overdubs, over-emotive guest-stars and being too full of itself by half. The original version of the album was far sweeter and more enjoyable with some classic Neil moments of jovial humility. The album also fits much better with Neil's original intention, which was to turn his back on what he saw as the instability of rock and roll and embrace the more conservative draw of country music 'forever' instead. You can tell on the finished 'Old Ways' he's probably joking, but on this first one it sounds as if he means it.

Not many tracks were later released, not even on 'Old Ways II', although to be honest it's hard to know which of the later songs were written and under consideration in this period. Chances are the title track is the only to survive the cull, a witty song about 'trying to teach a dinosaur a new trick', although Neil embracing the oldest form of music around barring caveman rock-drumming in his search for a new sound is more ironic than he knows. The clear album highlight 'Depression Blues' is the only other song to be released, on the 1993 Geffen compilation 'Lucky Thirteen' where a penniless and frustrated farmer Neil and his 'wife' see their land taken off them by the Government, before trying to find solace that 'they still have the kids' and a bit of spare change to 'go out to the movies, right after this!' 'This Ole House' is an outside contender for this album, revived in country form for the CSNY reunion 'American Dream' in 1988 where it's a similar tale about a 'businessman' taking back a property because they don't share the same 'dreams' or memories as the family living there. 'Silver and Gold' was another possible contender for this album -again! Those of you with DVD players or long memories may also know a 1985 'Live Aid' performance of 'Nothing Is Perfect In God's Perfect Plan', one of the worst songs Neil ever wrote with its right-on Christian lyrics, right-on pure country backing and right-on conservative politics stance. Many fans hate it with a passion so perhaps it's just as well it can't be found anywhere else except on bootleg!

As for the rest of this album, it was never heard of again - sometimes for good reason, sometimes not. 'Your Love Is Good To Me' is a forgettable electric song, noisier than most from this period though still with a slight country lick. The lyrics are simple tales of obsession. 'Leavin' The Top 40 Behind' is hilarious, a song that sounds like a country music version of 'Motor City' from 'Re-Ac-Tor'. Neil celebrates both leaving his rock world behind and growing older, 'celebrating' his 40th birthday by 'being proud' of the lines on his face but complaining about his aches and pains. 'Hillbilly Band' is simple cliched country music (though not quite as clichéd as most of what made the album!) that updates 'Tonight's The Night' by complaining about the state of the rock and roll world and which praises 'these old country boys' for keeping him company. 'Time Off For Good Behaviour' sounds very like the 'Highwaymen' group of country all-stars. The lyrics are very rock and roll though - Neil complains about the unjust drug laws between states which gets one man given years in prison 'for what I've been smoking all my life!' Neil also complains about being 'locked up in the hall of fame and threw away the key' while figures he looked up to were passed over and silenced. 'Your Love Again' sounds like the records Gram Parsons made with Emmylou Harris and pleads for a lover to come back. The catchiest song here this could have been a big hit for someone else, but Neil's not the right fit for it at all.
So would this album have been any good? Hell no. But at least, unlike the later 'Misfits', the country music makes some sense and Neil hasn't yet lost his sense of humour. The simpler, homelier productions also suit the songs better too. Certainly the older 'Old Ways' was better than the newer. maybe these extra songs, still unreleased, will come out on a re-issue of the main album one day? I don't think I'll live long enough to wait for a presumably equally delayed 'Archives III'!

5) Times Square (1988)

(Possible track listing based on what was recorded during the sessions: Eldorado/Someday/Crime In The City (Sixty to Zero)/Box Car/Don't Cry/Heavy Love/Wrecking Ball/Cocaine Eyes/Ordinary People/On Broadway)

This album is simpler - it's basically Neil's five song 'Eldorado' EP released in Spain and a few European countries (but not the UK) in 1988 with a few other songs written at the time and released on later LPs, mainly 'Freedom' which housed a record six of these songs though not necessarily the same versions (the original 'Crime In The City' for example, was double the length and one of Neil's most thrilling songs with multiple cut verses and an angrier, acoustic vibe not the jazz lounge synths and horns of the finished product). Other songs released on 'Freedom' include the noisy Spanish bullfight 'Eldorado', the treacly synth ballad about hope 'Someday', the glorious out-of-control parting song 'Don't Cry' which tries so hard to be calm but can't help peeking to the darker side and breaks my heart every time I hear it, the sweet ballad 'Wrecking Ball' which co-singer Emmylou Harris had a hit with when she 'borrowed' it and the weirdest version of the Drifters classic you'll ever hear. The Eldorado EP, which exists in that twilight between legal and illegal releases given how hard to track down it is, additionally provides the noisy thrash punk metal of 'Heavy Love' (about being overwhelmed by feelings and not being able to control them) and the noisy thrash punk metal of 'Cocaine Eyes' (reportedly Young's shock at how poorly Stills was during 'American Dream'). Meanwhile 'Chrome Dreams II' in 2006 saw the re-recording of two songs from this period - 'Box Car' is a pretty acoustic finger-picking song full of curious animal metaphors and ends with Neil a 'passenger' on a 'freight train' while 'Ordinary People' - revived multiple times down the years, usually with horns - was treated here a second time to a more rock and roll treatment. A tale on the working classes as the salt of the earth, it makes a lot more sense in both 1980s versions than it does in 2006 as a slightly arch, sarcastic throwaway that drags on for sixteen minutes. Why was it called 'Times Square?' Who knows! maybe there was something about 'Freedom' Neil thought he didn't know?

6) Honorary Mentions: Abandoned Live LP (1971)/Tonight's The Night (Original Version 1973)/Mediterranean (1974)/Oceanside Countryside (First Version of Comes A Time 1978)/Farm Aid (EP 1985)/Meadow Dusk (1987)/Blue Note Cafe (1988)/Toast (2000)

That's all for the article proper. However a number of other Neil Young unreleased albums keep cropping up too - either with hints dropped by Neil himself, through sourced bootlegs and acetates or announcements that are then quietly cancelled. Speculation is rife for all of these and not much is known, however they're worth a quick mention at least. The abandoned live LP was first mooted by manager David Briggs as the obvious follow-up to 'After The Goldrush' in 1971 after Neil played a great gig at Massey Hall in his Canadian homeland. Neil wanted a studio LP and made 'Harvest' instead, but on releasing the CD in 2007 as the second volume in his 'Archives' set admitted in the sleevenotes that he 'probably should have listened to David'. He's right - it's his best concert recording so far and easily the highlight of the 'archives' series. The original version of 'Tonight's The Night' is still unheard sadly but sounds terrific. Nine of the songs that made the 1975 cut were on it (three 'new' songs were added to 'lift' the mood) but were heard in their original unedited form, complete with fumbled mistakes, shambolic track announcements and stoned humour. Those lucky enough to have heard it say it sounds like even more of a 'wake' for the departed Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry and is a lot more intense and ragged. It sounds like genius - even the diluted finished version was pretty close even if sadly, the lovely 'Borrowed Tune' was only ever on the 1975 model. Not much is known about 'Mediterranean', which seems to have been the first version of what later became 'Homegrown' - the only track we know for sure would have been on it is the title track! 'Oceanside Countryside' is an interesting one - Neil announced it as a double set that would be given a first release on 'Archives II' when that set was announced in 2010 (before Neil ran off with Darryl Hannah and everything came to a halt). Many fans were left scrambling for the forums to find out if anyone else had heard of it - and no one had. Word has come back since from Young insiders that this is the original un-bootlegged version of Neil's 1978 record 'Comes A Time' back when it was more of a solo album and features unadorned recordings released on that album and numerous outtakes. It sounds fascinating, though where the country and ocean part fits in is anyone's guess. The 'Farm Aid' LP is a second attempt to release the 'Old Ways' material and was intended to raise money for Willie Nelson's 'Farm Aid' charity, for which Neil also performed a set in 1985 (it was a sequel to 'Live Aid' but raised money for local farmers being squeezed by subsidies). We know that 'Depression Blues', Neil's favourite of his early songs, was definitely going to be on it and probably 'Nothing Is Perfect' (another track sung at Farm Aid) too though what the other tracks were is anybody's guess and people who've seen a mock-up for the EP vary between whether it featured threem four or five songs. 'Meadow Dusk' is an oddball - when Geffen announced they were suing Neil for delivering 'records that didn't sound like Neil Young' but that he'd have to keep making material for them to release anyway, Neil got mad and made reportedly his weirdest record yet. Neil intended it as a 'new age' recording but with feedback, so it would probably be a cross between the noise of 1991's 'Arc' (a freebie with the 'Weld' CDs) and 2016's 'Earth' and it's sound effects (when asked about the record, Crazy Horse guitarist Frank Sampedro described it as 'basically an hour of crickets farting'). It sounds weird - no wonder Geffen backed down and decided to let Neil out of his contract early. 'Blue Note Cafe' was a whole live album featuring The Blue Notes that was intended to come out instead of the 'This Note's For You' LP in 1988 Instead it came out as part of the 'archive' series in 2015 and mighty good it sounds too - way better than the studio LP as it has real swing and as a double album set numerous unreleased songs. Finally, 'Toast' may or may not exist and may or may not be Neil's idea of a joke. The title doesn't exactly give great pause for thought that this was a 'proper' album and yet Neil responded with a straight face to reporters that this was a whole new collection of songs performed with Crazy Horse which he felt was their 'best yet'. A flurry of promotional activities promised the album imminently across 2002 but the set was delayed and delayed and eventually replaced by 'Are You Passionate?' Chances are that album's one song with Crazy Horse, the highlight 'Goin' Home', first had a home on the 'Toast' album but what the other tracks were or whether there were any other songs at all is something of a mystery. That's very Neil though - even if medicine somehow finds a way of freezing time, preventing death and adding another twenty hours to each day I doubt Neil will ever find the time to explain every album or release every note in his archives. Maybe that's the way it should be - both given the state of some of the things that did get released and because, as fans, we wouldn't want our hero any other way. 

Other Young related madness from this website you might be interested in reading:

A now complete list of Neil Young and related articles at Alan’s Album Archives:

'Neil Young' (1968)

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969)

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970)

'Harvest' (1972)

'Time Fades Away' (1973)

'On The Beach' (1974)

'Zuma' (1975)

'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977)

'Comes A Time' (1978)

'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979)

'Hawks and Doves' (1980)

'RelAclTor' (1981)

'Trans' (1982)

'Everybody's Rockin' (1983)

'Old Ways' (1985)

‘Landing On Water’ (1986)

‘This Note’s For You’ (1988)

'Freedom' (1988)

'Ragged Glory' (1990)

'Weld' (1991)

'Harvest Moon' (1992)

'Sleeps With Angels' (1993)

'Mirror Ball' (1995)

‘Silver and 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' (2011)

'A Treasure' (1986/2012)

'Storytone' (2014)

'The Monsanto Years' (2015)

Live/Compilation/Crazy Horse Albums Part One 1968-1972

Live/Compilation/Crazy Horse Albums Part Two 1977-2016

Surviving TV Clips 1970-2016

Neil Essay: Will To Love – Spiritualism and The Unseen In Neil’s Music

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