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Monday, 11 December 2017
Neil Young: Live/Compilation/Archive/Crazy Horse Albums Part One 1968-1972
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
Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968"
(Reprise, Recorded November 1968
Released December 2008)
Emcee Intro*/On The Way
Home/Songwriting Rap*/Mr Soul/Recording Rap*/Expecting To Fly/The Last Trip To
Tulsa/Bookstore Rap*/The Loner/I Use To...Rap*/Birds/Speech (Including snatches
of Winterlong and Out Of My Mind)*/Out Of My Mind/If I Could Have Her
Tonight/Classical Gas Rap*/Sugar Mountain Intro*/Sugar Mountain/I've Been
Waiting For You/Songs Rap*/Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing/Tuning Rap*/The Old
Laughing Lady/Broken Arrow
iTunes Bonus Tracks: I Am A Child/#1
Hit Record Rap*
* = Spoken Word
anyone want me to do anything? Songs I mean? This is kind of an impromptu
Sunday night thing - and ifg it wasn't impromptu before then we're starting a
new policy right here!"
apt: Neil spends his first minute of one of his very first solo shows
post-Springfield being underestimated in Michigan, with the emcee's shock
announcement that he didn't think anyone was going to turn up at all! ('You
obviously knew something we didn't' he tells the laughing crowd, which is a
pretty fair metaphor for the rest of Neil's career!)The concert is named after
the one performance from this show that fans have always known about (‘Sugar
Mountain’, one of Neil’s earliest songs written on his 19th birthday
in 1964 and re-released many times over the years on B-sides and as part of the
excellent ’Decade’ retrospective in 1977) and yet the rest of the set doesn't
sound much like the way we always imagined it: ‘Sugar Mountain’ is sombre,
tight and together; the rest of this gig is sprawling, unrehearsed and
featuring moments of genius right next to fumbling mistakes. This ‘gig’ doesn’t
sound like some grand entrance of a future superstar – instead it’s an
intimate, rambling gig where a self-deprecating Neil speaks to the audience at
length in between each number and even – for the first and probably last time -
takes requests (his response to being asked to play ‘Out Of My Mind’, saying ‘I
didn’t think anyone out here would ever have heard of that song’, is
priceless!) All that speech rather gets in the way of the music at times (the
CD is split quite evenly between chat and music) and Neil’s interactions with
audiences down the years has always been, erm, unusual although he surpasses
himself here with his stoned five minute ‘rap’ about being fired from a bookshop for taking mushrooms, a detail that
has absolutely nothing to do with ‘The Loner’, the song he plays next or his
comments about buying up cars with all his band money - 'Can you imagine me driving
a Bentley?' - and his discussion about letting his hair 'grow and grow and
grow' in a variety of funny voices. Suddenly, though, in the middle of all the
stoned humour we get a nugget of gold as Neil interrupts himself thirty seconds
into 'Mr Soul' to explain to the audience how he feels writing is like being a
'radio', turned in to getting ideas from any direction and always being open to
new thoughts, explaining that he must have had a button turned 'on' the day he
wrote this song as it only took him about five minutes whereas other songs can
At its best this concert is the perfect
souvenir of its times, capturing Neil on the verge of leaving the Springfield (with
almost all of Neil's songs for the band in the set) and at the point when he
hasn’t yet decided to make his debut eponymous album an over-produced epic. A
majority of that first record (even the monkeynuts ten minute ramble ‘Last Trip
To Tulsa’) sounds much better here, with minor gems like ‘If I Could Have Her
Tonight’ and ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’ flowering in their new home (although
you miss the heart-tugging strings on ‘The Old Laughing Lady’). Unusually for
Neil there are no unreleased songs here, although an early version of ‘Birds’
(two full years before its appearance on ‘After The Goldrush’) sounds very
different and ‘Winterlong’ (unreleased till 1977) is heard in frustratingly
shortened form. There are three album highlights, though, all originally from
the same album (the AAA classic ‘Buffalo Springfield Again’): ‘Mr Soul is
darker, lighter and yet somehow more intense in acoustic form; the exotic
beauty ‘Expecting To Fly’ is every bit as fragile and pretty even with Neil’s
simple acoustic guitar part subbing for a full-blown orchestra and most
impressively of all sound collage ‘Broken Arrow’ is turned from some garish
psychedelic soundscape epic into a clever and heartfelt Dylanesque song about
denial and the spaces between people. The Neil Young Archives is a very up and
down collection at its best and ‘Sugar Mountain’ is another live set that’s
variable, to say the least, but it’s probably the best of the early releases in
terms of offering historical importance, great music with arrangements quite
new to anything out before and getting to the real heart and soul of what makes
Neil Young tick. You might want to keep the skip button handy for the
monologues, but even they have a certain charm (once or twice - I doubt Neil's
plea that 'everything I tell up here is the truth though!) and overall ‘Sugar
Mountain’ is an excellent purchase and a quite brilliant gig by a talented
young songwriter. Strange maybe, but don't change - and Neil didn't.
Rockets" (Crazy Horse)
(White Whale, '1968')
Hole In My Pocket/Won't You Say You'll
Stay?/Mr Chips/It's A Mistake/Let Me Go//Try My Patience/I Won't Always Be
Around/Pill's Blues/Stretch Your Skin/Eraser
me that, even if you don't want the world, you'll never leave me"
This is Crazy Horse back when they were cowboys
(or country fans anyway) rather than Indians! As a card-carrying fan of the
first Crazy Horse album in 1971 - the only one they made under that name with
original star Danny Whitten - I knew I had to own this obscure poor-selling
rarely-seen album, recorded the year before Neil had even met them. I spent
many years and a small fortune trying to get hold of it and it's one of my
prized possessions, even if - like many an artist's early work - it doesn't
hold a candle to what will come later. In fact it's not what I expected at all.
Though Danny is the dominant force he's nearly matched song for song by Leon
and George Whitsell, the band's original rhythm guitarists (Danny was on lead)
who passed on Neil's later invitation to work with them (though George will be
Danny's 'replacement' of sorts at the end of 1971), while musically the most
recognisable sound here comes from Bobby Notkoff's violin (he won't stay the
course either, though he will guest on 'Running Dry' on the 'Everybody Knows
This Is Nowhere' album). Goodness knows why Neil heard the rough heavy
simplistic sound he'd heard in his head from this record and the band's period
live stage shows because this album doesn't sound anything like the future
Horse at all. Instead of mind-numbing rock and roll many of the best songs here
are pop or country, with The Rockets revealing their early influences as the
doo-wop group 'Danny and The Memories' too.
They certainly don't sound like a garage band -
this six piece could really play and technically this bunch of teens and
early-twenty-somethings perform better than any future Horse line-up. It's the
songs that aren't quite there yet but even then many are cute and charming,
either going for pretty pop or working their own rather lighter brand of rock
and roll or psychedelia. Danny is a star already on lead vocal, singing with
full power on 'Let Me Go', with a melancholic wistfulness on 'Won't You Say
You'll Stay' and with utter bare-faced cheek on 'Mr Chips', all three album
highlights. The songs are often sadder and slower than you expect, with the deep
beautiful sadness of the later album already here even before Danny realises
his grasp of life is slipping. However unlike the 1971 effort, which was
basically Danny supported by Nils Lofgren and the occasional cooking jam
session, 'The Rockets' is a real band effort and all six men pull together,
with Billy and Ralph concocting their first song between them (and their last
until 1978!) and the Whitsell Brothers are highly impressive too. This record
might not be a masterpiece - too many songs are simple derivative numbers - but
if there's a word for this record then it's 'cute' (a word surely never used
about Crazy Horse ever again!) with its falsetto harmonies, teenage romance
lyrics and good time pop, at least at the time Danny isn't baring his soul. I mean
just look at the cover - the joke amongst fans was that Crazy Horse had a
'quasi-criminal' look but this bunch look like the sort of boy next doors you'd
feel safe leaving your children with (note that Danny, so much taller than the
rest of the band, squats down so he's the same height as the others). What
changed? Clearly something only Neil could hear and it's nothing short of a
tragedy that the Horse never returned to their original plan of recording these
Rockets albums alongside their work for Young in a CSNY-style capacity. Sadly
sec, drugs and rock and roll will put an end to that dream long before time -
this is a band with real potential (arguably every Horse album - almost all
made with different line-ups - show potential but the band never stay together
long enough to fulfil it)...
The CD re-issue on White Whale in 2006 (sadly
the only official one to date and that didn't exactly hang around long) is well
worth getting if you're a fan even if the band don't sound much like Crazy
Horse, with some superlative sleevenotes which make good use of interviews with
all the surviving band members and Danny's sister Brenda, who as well as
providing the rare photos of her brother in his teens offers this moving
testimony to her brother: 'I want to take the time to thank every one of you
who play, listen to and buy Danny's music. Without you he is dead. But with
you, as long as you can hear him sing, he is alive. Long live Danny!'
Danny's 'Hole In My Pocket' sums up Crazy Horse's dichotomy
even before the 1971 album. A sad song about poverty and loss that's performed
as if it's the happiest song in the world, it's kind of the opposite of the
later album (written when Danny was happy and recorded when he was dying and
miserable). 'I had a coin, but I lost it, you captured my heart but you took
it' sings Danny as the rest of the band try to cheer him up and only Bobby's
violin captures the sad mood of the track.
The album's gem is the violin-drenched ballad 'Won't You Say You'll Stay'
which is Danny's song but performed superbly by everyone. Just listen to
Ralph's heavy shrug of a drumbeat, Bobby's scratchy violin and the band's
superb harmonies as Danny sings about life being pointless when you're on your
own 'with no one to face it for'. In retrospect you can already tell that Danny
isn't long for this world, even back in the days before he could dream of
affording drugs. You can tell this is where Neil got his idea for future song
'Running Dry' from as both songs have the same mood - this 'original' is just
as good, if not better.
'Mr Chips' may have cost The Rockets
fame and fortune in their own right. Danny's wickedly cruel song about a
bald-headed miser who only cares for money was in all likelihood one of those
very 1960s 'story' songs where the greedy never prosper and wasn't based on
anyone in particular - but singing this song to the bald-headed miser and
record label boss Ahmet Ertegun at an audition for Atlantic records probably
wasn't a good idea (just think, Crazy Horse could have been on the same label
as CSNY!) He turned them down flat.
Billy and Ralph's only collaboration 'It's A Mistake' is the song
that sounds most like the country/folk-rock of the Horse albums to come
post-Whitten. Ralph has a really lovely falsetto and sings well with some 'ooh
la la's behind him and the song is ok, forgettable but sweet and enthusiastic
as the narrator falls in love and pledges his everything.
Though credited to Danny, 'Let Me Go' sounds more like
a band jam. It's certainly the most Horse-like thing here with a repetitive
riff that gets quite hypnotic by the end and Danny's rhythm bouncing off
Bobby's violin in a blood-curdling duel. The lyrics about entrapment are highly
fitting while Notkoff's violin is having hysterics by the end in the way
Young's guitar jams will end in the future.
Leon wrote the rather forgettable 'Try My Patience', a jaunty
Stones-style song about a girl who never appreciates the love he tries to give
her. Again this album tries to perform in a happy-go-lucky way but the very
real sadness shows through in this track. Leon's vocal is a little raw, but his
burst of guitar notes is pretty great!
Leon also wrote the pop ballad 'I Won't Always Be Around'
which is sung with full harmony. However the retro 1950s feel of the song means
the Horse sound more like The Association than CSNY.
Blues' is trying so hard to be
rebellious and controversial - the way Crazy Horse will just by blinking later
on in their career. But this song by George tries a little too hard with the
crazy sound effects, the atonal jamming and the lyrics about taking drugs just
to survive (though the song does include a fine opening couplet, 'Woke up in
the morning and couldn't find my mind!') To be honest it just sounds like a
bunch of teens pretending they're being edgy and cool and borrowing the riff
from 'Little Red Rooster' while they're doing it. Plus it's sad to hear a song
about drugs this early on in the career of a band who'll forever be haunted by
them, with Danny's bluesy bluster of a guitar solo proving that he oh so knows
where this coming from.
Leon's 'Stretch Your Skin' is slightly clumsy, sounding the way Bob Dylan
would if he ever went on tour backed by Love. The disparate parts never quite
form into a song while the surreal lyrics never quite come together.
Leon also gets the last word with 'Eraser', an R and B pastiche
that sounds as if it's being performed in an echoey swimming pool. This is the
Rockets idea of psychedelia without having access to any psychedelic
instruments, so they break a song down to its constituent parts and play
randomly on guitar, bass, drum, banjo and violin in search of a jam that never
quite materialises. This is a strange way to end an album, even for Crazy
Still, even if the second side isn't anywhere
near as great as the Danny-led first and even if the whole LP totals around
twenty-seven minutes (short even in the vinyl age!), 'The Rockets' is an album
that deserves one hell of a lot more attention than it ever gets. This is an
important historical document, featuring the debut recordings by two of the men
who'll play on some of the best-selling recordings of all time, plus their
talented bandmate who would surely have been a huge star in his own right had
life gone a different way, while the Whitsell brothers and Bobby Notkoff are
all three fine musicians. More than just being historically significant,
though, this is musically great too with two songs as great as anything in
Young's canon and a couple more not far behind. The future Horse might not be
crazy quite yet, but you can tell that this is already a band with a really
bright future and someone sometime was surely going to snap them up; few
listening to this record would have realised it would be Neil in search of a
rock and roll band though.
At The Toronto Riverboat 1969"
(Reprise, Recorded February 1969
Released June 2009)
Emcee Intro-Sugar Mountain Intro*/Sugar
Mountain/Incredible Doctor Rap*/The Old Laughing Lady/Audience Observation-Dope
Song-Band Names Rap*/Flying On The Ground Is Wrong/On The Way Home Intro*/On
The Way Home/Set Break-Emcee Intro*/I've Loved Her So Long/Allen-A-Dale-Rap*/I
Am A Child/1956 Bubblegum Disaster*/The Last Trip To Tulsa/Words Rap*/Broken
Arrow/Turn The Lights Down Rap*/Whiskey Boot Hill/Expecting To Fly
Intro*/Expecting To Fly
* = Spoken Word
put his hand right inside me!...Some people come to the show - or whatever this
is - and sit back and goes 'this is pretty cool man' and they just sit there
and they don't do anything and then the artist starts to cry and kind of
shrivels up and...everybody's supposed to write a dope song, right?'
second earliest Neil Young show is impressively different to 'Sugar Mountain'
recorded a few months before. Though the record wasn't a big seller it's
clearly boosted Neil's confidence a lot and he sounds a lot more comfortable at
this Canadian home-coming gig, with Crazy Horse rehearsals already going well
back home. Oddly for Neil he doesn't preview any songs from 'Everybody Knows
This Is Nowhere' but more typically neither does he sing many tracks from the
debut album he's meant to be plugging! (Though 'Old Laughing Lady' sounds
rather lovely shorn of orchestration and a gorgeous 'I've Loved Her So Long'
beats the record hands down, even if 'Trip To Tulsa' still sounds weird).
Instead Neil's on a nostalgia kick, performing no less than five Buffalo
Springfield songs (more than he used to perform regularly as a member of the
band!) and not just the simple ones either - 'Expecting To Fly' sounds lovely
with just fragile Neil and his ethereal guitar playing and 'Broken Arrow' is a
brave stab at a song that's surely impossible to reproduce on stage. This might
be because his special guest for the night is Springfield bass player Bruce
Palmer, back with Neil after a two year gap for this gig only - sadly it's the
last time the two old friends will work together until 'Trans' in 1982 (though
you can't exactly hear him that well on this otherwise crystal clear CD, which
is a shame). The only then-unreleased material is 'Country Girl', or at least
the opening 'Whiskey Boot Hill' section of it, which tails off just on the 'too
young to leave...' line but already sounds like a stunner. The highlight,
however, is a breathless rendition of 'Sugar Mountain' that's performed with
real energy and excitement compared to the more famous version from Canterbury
House which cried bitter tears. Throughout the show Neil is in a good place,
with Crazy Horse about to break big and songs pouring out of him. Neil has
never sounded happier or seemed more charismatic than here at this classic gig.
interesting still than the music, though, is the chat which takes up almost as
much of the CD as the music. Whatever Neil's on I want some because he's
clearly in a mellow frame of mind across this concert, greeting the audience
like old friends and chatting away like they know each other intimately. Every
song comes with some elaborate introduction - often ones that have nothing to
do with the song whatsoever - as Neil discusses writing 'Sugar Mountain' at the
same time Joni Mitchell was writing 'The Circle Game' and how turning 20 'seems
an awfully long time ago' (Neil is still only 23!); Neil complains about '700%
interest on pills that mess you up worse than what you went in with anyway -
that's the incredible American system' before talking about having one of his
feet getting bent while stuck on a doctor's table (though Neil doesn't mention
the polio hat weakened his left side); next Neil's onto the daft names used by
rock bands and how stupid they are (erm, yeah sure 'Buffalo Springfield' is an
obvious name for a group!) before plugging 'The Guess Who's cover of 'Flying On
The Ground Is Wrong'; following that 'On The Way Home' is revealed as a song
about 'leaving friends' which is a nice way of describing the band he couldn't
wait to leave less than a year ago; next Neil rambles about a 'mind slip' as he
tries to remember 'I Am A Child' ('There's only about six songs here anyway -
it's in D minor if anyone wants to play along!') and a very stoned rap where he
gets cross that none of the Canadian audience know who Alan-A-Dale of the English Robin Hood legends
is (he's the rooster in the Disney version!); after that Neil makes up a verse
about 'the bad pod' in '1956', the rather dated place nearby ('It took me three
years to write that!') and replaces the words to 'I've Loved Her So Long' with
a tale of wrapping his dog in bubblegum (you had to be there I think!); up next
Neil jokes about 'being a blues band - all by myself!' and ponders over the
semantics of whether the word 'request' is groovy or not (pity the person who asked
him to sing 'Broken Arrow'!) before exploding 'ah, you don't care about that
sort of thing, why am I even talking about it? Some of you must think about
things like that - or you wouldn't be there!'; He says he hasn't performed
'Whiskey Boot Hill' 'in about two years' and is clearly nervous about playing
it, getting ratty about the lights; finally Neil also admits to being nervous
of playing 'Expecting To Fly' ('I've been uptight for two weeks because I've
only ever played it for myself because you know I had that group thing - and
now I'm so relaxed I can hardly play!')
'Riverboat' is a fascinating gig and one of the very best in the 'Archive'
series, adding to our knowledge of not just the songs (which all sound
different as played here, even the songs that were already solo and acoustic to
begin with) but the man himself. Neil might be playing to a small audience but
he's already got them in the palm of his hand and thinking big, content to
tease them with titbits from his past delivered as if he's the most important
star ever while revelling in the fact that he knows what's coming next and they
don't. Maybe the Star of Bethlehem really was a star after all. Highly
At The Filmore East"
(Reprise, Recorded March 1970 Released
Everybody Knows This Is
Nowhere/Winterlong/Down By The River/Wonderin'/(C'Mon Baby Let's Go)
Downtown/Cowgirl In The Sand
"This much madness is too much sorrow"
all the releases in the 'Archive' series this was the one I was looking forward
to most: Crazy Horse, with Danny Whitten in his prime, on a rare charge through
what turned out to be their one and only full tour on a setlist heavy on
numbers from 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' with a few unreleased classics
thrown in. I wouldn't say the result is bad by any means (unlike some of Neil's
future bands this is one that's perfectly suited to his strengths and even when
Neil is flagging Danny's right there to catch him), but this show doesn't live
up to that billing. The Horse are a bit over-laden here, tripping over
themselves too often while Neil doesn't sound comfortable at all. At their
best, as on 'Nowhere' and a few songs off 'Goldrush', this band could actually
dance like no other - switching gears, tempos and ideas wherever the whim could
take them, but too much of this record sounds the same - loud and heavy.
There's no subtlety here with every song played at near enough the same pace
with near enough the same middling amount of passion and the same loud but
crude sound. The two monster jams from 'Nowhere' sound a pale shadow of both
the album versions and what CSNY were doing in concert around this same time
('River' being a little too slow and 'Cowgirl' a little too fast), 'Everybody
Knows This Is Nowhere' itself sounds suitably lost and an early airing for
'Winterlong' lacks the beauty of the finished product. Only two tracks excel -
a charming country-rock version of 'Wonderin' a full thirteen years before its
release on 'Everybody's Rockin' and it sounds so much better here played at a
faster lick with Danny's charming backing vocals; plus the version of
'Downtown' already released on 'Tonight's The Night' heard back in context,
with Danny shining once again. If this was a new band or Crazy Horse had never
made any records with Whitten this would have been a revelation - as it is this
was the end of quite a gruelling and busy period (with Neil on back to back
tours with CSNY) - we probably just caught the Horse on an off night. It's a
shame too that this CD wasn't a double set featuring the full show - Neil
opened with an equally long electric set and a rather ragged 'Cinnamon Girl'
was given the chop to fit even this electric set onto one CD. Maybe - dare I
say it - there'll be a 'deluxe archive series' one day?! Though listed as '02'
this was actually the first release in the 'archive' series and rather set the
tone for most of what's to follow: all rather good, but not quite as
interesting or as un-missable as it looks.
At The Cellar Door"
(Reprise, Recorded November-December 1970,
Released December 2013)
Tell Me Why/Only Love Can Break Your
Heart/After The Gold Rush/Expecting To Fly/Bad Fog Of Loneliness/Old
Man/Birds/Don't Let It Bring You Down/See The Sky About To Rain/Cinnamon Girl/I
Am A Child/Down By The River/Flying On The Ground Is Wrong
caught you knocking at the Cellar Door, I love you baby can I have some
released as an afterthought (this show is the first of the period archive sets
not be released as part of the big fat box and the 'volume 2.5' suggests Neil
didn't include this show in his original plans for the series), 'Cellar Door'
was also clearly recorded on a home tape recorder rather than anything 'proper'
and suffers from more hiss and distortion than any of the other releases in the
series so far. For all that though, it's another fascinating listen as Neil
returns to playing solo shows in the wake of 'After The Goldrush' and
reluctantly leaving the pace and noise of Crazy Horse and then CSNY behind for
something more languid and impersonal. Neil sounds relieved in a sense though,
going back to old friends and chucking in a good half of the 'Goldrush' album
with only two returns to Crazy Horse' on fun acoustic takes of 'Down By The
River' and 'Cinnamon Girl' (on piano!) Unlike the other shows in the series
this one isn't a full set but a compilation taken from six separate gigs at the
famous Washington DC venue (itself name-checked in 'The Needle and The Damage
Done' from 'Harvest' in 1972). In a sense it's like hearing Neil's solo spot in
the '4 Way Street' era CSNY gigs but stretched out to an hour, with almost all
the songs in the setlists fan favourites performed on that tour at some stage.
The exceptions are surprise returns to the Springfield days with a pretty
'Expecting To Fly' (this time transferred to piano where it works even better
than it did on guitar) and a mournful 'Flying On The Ground Is Wrong' prefaced
by Neil making weird Stockhausen style sound effects on the strings of his
piano and chuckling to himself. Interestingly none of Neil's CSNY compositions
are performed - not even 'Ohio', at the time still his highest profile song by
far, as if Neil is trying to distance himself from the quartet's super-stardom.
are also lovely previews of three songs that hadn't been released at all at the
time: a slower and more doddery but still beautiful 'Old Man' (two years before
'Harvest'), a confident 'See The Sky About To Rain' (three years before The
Byrds reunion cover and four before Neil's own take of it for 'On The Beach')
and the unreleased-till-Archives 'Bad Fog Of Loneliness' that's sung with more
hope and vigour than usual. In fact this is a very upbeat set all round,
despite the gorgeous melancholy of songs like 'Birds' and the paranoia of 'Don't
Let It Bring You Down'. Overall this is another strong set with several strong
performances, but it is perhaps less revealing than the other three solo shows
in the series ('Canterbury House' 'The Riverboat' and 'Massey Hall') with less
chances taken and far less chatting in between the songs (the best quip comes
at the end when Neil talks about having a nine-foot Steinway written into his
contract 'to prove my eccentricity' and that he thinks he'd better play it!)
Neil's still clearly riding a career peak though, with some fine vocals and
guitar work and many of his career best songs already in the setlist.
At Massey Hall"
(Reprise, Recorded January 1971
Released March 2007)
On The Way Home/Tell Me Why/Old
Man/Journey Through The Past/Helpless/Love In Mind/A Man Needs A Man-Heart Of
Gold/Cowgirl In The Sand/Don't Let It Bring You Down/There's A World/Bad Fog Of
Loneliness/The Needle and the Damage Done/Ohio/See The Sky About To Rain/Down
By The River/Dance Dance Dance/I Am A Child
some of these songs has been like living them as well as singing them..."
This double album set, planned by producer
David Briggs as the follow-up to ‘After The Goldrush’ instead of ‘Harvest’, might
not be the best 'Archives' release in terms of interest or rarity value but it
does capture Neil at his absolute peak. here, at a (near enough) home-coming
gig in Toronto in January 1971 everything is working for Neil: he's now got a
fanbase thanks to CSNY, a band he can rely on in Crazy Horse and the perfect
backroom team in David Briggs and Elliot Roberts while the songs are pouring
out of him at a rate of knots. Neil is on fine form, revelling in the new
attention his solo career is getting and his piano playing, especially, is a
revelation here – poetic and complex rather than the simple chords he often
plays in later concerts. Though to the modern fan this setlists looks like most
Neil concerts from the 1970s, it's a shock to realise that so much of this
album was made up of just-released classics from 'Goldrush' - with lots more
classics from 'Harvest' (not out for another year yet) given their first public
It's not just the then-new songs that make this
set special though as Neil performs some great versions of the 'oldies' too,
many of them sounding refreshingly different to the originals (such as the
opening ‘On The Way Home’, a poppy
ballad on album and a ragged harmony piece on ‘Four Way Street’ heard at its
best here, plus a fiery acoustic version of the career highlight ‘Ohio’). 'Love
In Mind' sounds rather fine here too, with a more elaborate arrangement and
more confident vocals than the version released two years later on 'Time Fades
Away', though an early 'Journey Thru The Past' doesn't fare quite so well.
Proof of Neil's prolificness comes with 'See The Sky About To Rain', performed
three years before 'On The Beach' though this song too sounds slightly
undercooked here. There is one entirely unreleased song here (at least when the
set first came out - a studio take appears on the full 'Archives' box set) -
‘Bad Fog Of Loneliness’ a song unreleased in studio form till the Archives box
set and its a winning mix of vulnerability and Dylan-like stream of
consciousness (it sounds better here than it did in the studio, too), along
with the poppy ‘Dance Dance Dance’ given to Crazy Horse which isn’t exactly one
of Neil’s better songs (he’ll re-write it as ‘Love Is A Rose’ for ‘Deacade’ in
highlight though is a fascinating medley of ‘A Man Needs A Maid’ and ‘Heart Of
Gold’ back at the time when it was a brand new heartfelt song and Neil was
still very much in love with second wife Carrie, admitting that the line ‘I
fell in love with the actress’ is true. Though the version on 'Harvest' is a
little artificial, smothered with strings and all sorts of things to the point
where the message got lost, this simple piano arrangement is devastatingly
direct and poignant, with Neil singing the much more moving line 'a man feels
afraid' instead of 'a man needs a maid'and clearly going through a very
turbulent period in his life. A half-finished 'Heart Of Gold' is, for now, a
positive sounding coda full of hope and empathy rather than the slightly
annoying singalong it will become - the two shouldn't work as a pairing on
paper but in fact this may be the single most revealing moment of any of the
'Archives' releases so far. 'There's A World' too sounds like a really pretty
song without the weight of the Harvest arrangement. Not everything here works –
many of the ‘Goldrush’ songs sound far too similar to the record and this
bigger show doesn't feature the same cute informality and between song patter
Neil brought to his gigs in 1968 and 1969 and that's understandable but a shame (one audience
tends to sound like another on audio). There are perhaps less surprises than on
the 'Riverboat' and 'Sugar Mountain' sets from earlier - and perhaps the later
'Treasure' and 'Blue Note Cafe' sets as well. All in all, though, Neil deserved
to get his first American #1 since ‘Harvest’ with this long awaited record and
it's another must-have live release. David Briggs was right again.
Hit and Run/Try/One Thing I
Love/Move/All Alone Now/All The Little Things//Fair Weather Friend/You Won't
Miss Me/Going Home/I Don't Believe It/Kind Of Woman/One Sided Love/And She
Won't Even Blow Smoke In My Direction
will tell what they know, knowing nothing at all..."
less than a year separates them, there's a world of difference between the
first two Crazy Horse albums - and none of it is for the better. Danny Whitten
was still alive until November 1972 but he was clearly in no fit shape to make
music with the band he'd founded, while Jack Nietzsche had gone back to working
with Phil Spector, Nils Lofgren was busy with his own band 'Grin' and Neil had
turned his back on them all, heartbroken from Danny's state of health. The duo
did the only thing they could do in the circumstances and contacted their old
mates from the days when they were 'The Rockets'. Original guitarist George
Whitsell jumped at the chance to rejoin his old band, though he couldn't
persuade his brother Leon or Bobby Notkoff to join him. Instead George
recommended some other pals - singer John Blanton and fellow guitarist George
LeRoy. Though this line-up was heavily criticised at the time by fans, actually
this new look Crazy Horse sound rather good with some natty harmonies between
all five members and if they'd have been a new band they'd have fared quite
well; unfortunately the natural leanings of the new group were towards country
music and not their old raw wild rock and roll style at all. The group also
badly miss Danny, not just as a guitarist and singer to add a bit of earth to
the songs, but particularly as a songwriter - though the new writers come up
with a few good ideas between them, they don't have Danny's raw power or
emotional pain. Perhaps the biggest fault with 'Loose' is, ironically, that it
isn't loose enough and feels far too tidy for something Crazy Horse made (in
fact it's more like CSNY for the most part, though nothing like as good) -
which is also a problem all their future albums would suffer from. However,
short of finding another Danny Whitten or Neil Young (and both men are
decidedly one-offs) there was simply nothing else to be down and though this
second album is often boring, frequently toothless and a huge comedown after
the brilliant heights of the debut album, it was as good as it ever could have
been in the circumstances. There's a tale that Neil likes dividing his backing
bands (and the ones he loves from afar) into either pretty 'Beatles' or raucous
'Stones' - here the most Rolling Stones of all his bands release their most
Beatles album and for once on this site that's not a compliment.
'Hit and Run'
is a Blanton song that sets the tone, being a mid-tempo rocker that never
really finds a groove. It's pleasant enough though and sounds very like what
Nils was up to on his rather under-par first album for 'Grin' out this same
'Try' is a slow swamp
blues that features some lovely leRoy guitar but otherwise isn't much to write
home about, played slow to really get across the feeling of misery that the
song intends but ending up sadly rather dull and boring.
wrote next track 'One Thing I
Love' and it's one of the best songs here, a sweet country-rock lament
that wouldn't have been out of place on a Gram Parsons album. The mood is
upbeat, the song is catchy, the acoustic guitar chords and piano work really
well and the harmonies are gorgeous - it's just a shame about the clichéd
out life as the guitar jam 'Scratchy', as heard as a bonus track on the
'Complete Reprise Recordings' set. The song sounds rather better in basic form
without being turned into yet another clichéd country-rock number, but the riff
is good fun and writer/singer Whitsell sounds nicely husky on the raw vocals.
Of all the songs on the album this was the one that could have slotted in best
on the debut album.
also wrote the bouncy 'All
Alone Now' which could have been a hit single in different
circumstances. A rare Crazy Horse song about being blissfully in love, this
song is unusually sweet and innocent but works rather well if you're not
expecting any great art.
'All The Little Things' is a LeRoy song that's angrier and more emotional than most,
held together by some stinging Young-like guitar by the author and a slightly
less convincing lead vocal which sounds more like Barry Manilow. The song is
another one that's played too slow to hold interest, but the harmonies are nice
'Fair Weather Friend'
is another album highlight, with a catchy harmony-drenched chorus that sounds
like The Eagles, only better. The lyrics about missing someone who should be
there sound very much like a lament for Whitten, even though the writer never
met his guitarist predecessor.
country-rock hoe-downs for Whitsell's truly dreadful 'think I wanna die 'cause
I told a lieeeee!' rhyming song 'You Won't Miss Me'. Not with songs like that around I won't!
'Going Home' is his
weakest song on the album, starting off like The Beatles' 'A Day In The Life'
but ending up more like The Rutles. The song drifts around without really going
anywhere - which is ironic given that it's a song about having seen a lot of
the world but still wanting to return to your roots.
raucous 'I Don't Believe It'
at last adds a bit of fun into this serious album as Whitsell sings with raw
power about feeling a relationship is going wrong, before some blissful CSNY
style harmonies come in to sort things out.
up next with 'Kind Of Woman'
which kind of sounds like Buffalo Springfield's 'Kind Woman' - slow but sexy
and sung with real pathos and feeling. The song needs an extra something to
keep it interesting, but the opening is lovely indeed and proves that even
post-Whitten Crazy Horse could really play and sing.
noise of rock and roll is back for the groovy 'One Sided Love', which nails a Whitten-style beat
to angry lyrics about betrayal and features some terrific stinging Young-like
guitar from LeRoy. The words aren't up to much, but the tune is a good 'un.
then ends the album with a brief 90 second instrumental country lament 'And She Won't Even Blow Smoke In My
Direction', whose title takes longer to read than the track does to
listen to. This sounds like a demo full of promise rather than being a decent
song in its own right and country isn't the Horse's best fitting genre despite
their 'Western' name and image, but it's pleasant enough.
all, 'Loose' is an overlooked album. Had the Crazy Horse debut not been
fabulous, had it not featured Danny Whitten at a writing peak struggling to hang
on to life in the recording and had this set been released under a different
name then 'Loose' sounds like a semi-promising debut by a country-rock band who
occasionally lapsed into rock and roll. Whitsell and Blanton are fine writers,
Whitsell, Ralph and Billy are fine singers and LeRoy is a great guitarist - but
somehow this band never quite clicks together and you can tell on occasion that
the band have met in the studio rather than through years and decades of
constant gigging. Nobody comes close to filling Whitten's shoes, but then
nobody ever could and 'Loose' does well to throw off the spectre of their
absent member as much as they do, with only a couple of songs that hark back to
the sound of that first LP. This is really a different band and shouldn't be
judged on the same merits, with Crazy Horse fans discouraged from buying it and
general music fans loosely encouraged to buy it, if that makes sense. Sadly by
the time Crazy Horse regroup later in the year only Billy, Ralph and LeRoy will
still be in the band and neither Whitsell nor Blanton will be heard of again -
a terrible waste based on their promising cameo here.
Horse "At Crooked Lake"
(Epic, October 1972)
Rock and Roll Band/Love Is Gone/We
Ride/Outside Looking In/Don't Keep Me Burning/Vehicle/Your Song/Lady Soul/Don't
Look Back/85 El Pasos
wilsl turn all my tears into a lonely melody"
Horse's fourth album (including 'The Rockets' debut) finds them going through
their fourth line-up change and by now the band are sounding distinctly fed-up.
Sounding more like their Young-backing selves than they ever did on 'Loose',
all the country and folk elements have been dropped for harder edged rock - but
the inspiration levels aren't even as strong as they were on the predecessor,
while clearly this album doesn't come anywhere close to the Danny Whitten era.
While George LeRoy stayed for another record (and still does some mighty fine
Young impressions), old friend George Whitsell and new friend John Blanton have
quit (though Bobby Notkoff returns for one track), to be replaced by brothers
Michael and Rick Curtis. The CSN fans amongst you will know their name - they
were the cult duo who cut several songs through to the 1980s including one
promising song about sea and marriage named 'Seveb League Boots' which Stephen
Stills re-wrote to become the trio's 1982 and standout single hit 'Southern
Cross'. Sadly, this album rather sums them up: everything has promise, but
nothing is quite tied together and they needed a Stills or a Whitten to bash
their songs into shape, while promising songwriter LeRoy is reduced to just
three (while Billy and Ralph still don't write anything). The result is another
uninspired passing time album that doesn't sound much like Crazy Horse albums
feel like they 'should' sound - but like 'Loose' this set isn't as bad as
everybody always says. Had Crazy Horse changed their name at the same time they
changed record label (moving over to Epic) then they might have had a chance as
a promising new band making a strong-ish debut; compared to their reputation
though this album is another record that falls short. Oh and in case you were
wondering, Crooked Lake is a real place in Polk County, Florida, near where the
Horse recorded this album - they felt it summed them up quite nicely!
'Rock 'n' Roll Band' sounds like the Horse should - a fiery simple rocker that feels
as if it's running slightly slow - but also slightly uninspired with a 'la la
la la' chorus that Neil or Danny would never have written (well, barring 'Lotta
Love' anyway) and nonsense lyrics about what a good time they're having singing
in a band. Bland but inoffensive. Unknown songwriter Sydney Jordan wrote one of
the few Crazy Horse covers in their lifetime.
The Curtis Brothers wrote the pretty but pretty
sleepy ballad 'Love Is Gone'. This track sounds
like The Eagles right down to the Eagles metaphors, but it's superior to that
band's average thankfully.
is one of the album's better songs, written to a catchy Cat Stevens riff and
with slight country overtones. The Curtis' lyrics are rather good too, with
lines about hoping for the future and saying that human beings are at the
beginning of our spiritual evolution so of course we're going to make mistakes
but that doesn't mean we can't be 'free' one day. You have to be charmed with a
song that contains the line 'subways of emotion'!
goes pure country for 'Outside
Lookin' In', which features guest pedal steel from Flying Burrito
Brother 'Sneaky' Pete Klienow. This song is sweet but not up to LeRoy's work on
'Don't Keep Me Burnin' is slow ploddy rock and roll and the most Crazy Horse-style song
here, though in truth it's more like Creedence Clearwater Revival. 'Go ahead'
sneers Mike Curtis as he urges his girl to make a decision and to stop leave
is another album highlight, quite unlike anything else the Horse ever did. The
track starts off with some ear-catching backwards guitar loops and has some
even trippier lyrics about mankind being microbes passing through the universe
or something. The Curtis Brothers and Billy's busy bass may well be the only
musicians on this track. Very weird, but in a good way.
charming 'Your Song' is
way better than the famous Elton John disgrace of the same name. Speaking to a
girlfriend, LeRoy tells her that her flame keeps him burning and that she
allows him to stay 'high' without resorting to a drug. Simple, but sweet and
remember 'it's half the care that gets you there!'
Curtis Brothers are back for 'Lady
Soul', a slow charging gritty rocker that's more roll than soul, with
some great charging Leroy guitar and some oddly under-par drumming from Ralph
(this sounds like a rehearsal take to me). One of the lesser album tracks it
has to be said.
'Don't Look Back' is pretty weak too - it's the sort of thing new bands write in
their first week together and then wisely discard. Nice guitar solo though!
Horse albums tend to end on something weird and LeRoy's '85 El Paso's keeps up the tradition. LeRoy
gets the giggles as he sings this country music pastiche about being
heartbroken but still in love and coming back to El Paso 85 times in the hope
of putting a love affair right. This track sounds like an outtake and the band
clearly don't know the song well, but it's still good fun.
that's the last we'll hear of LeRoy - and almost the last heard of the Curtis
Brothers, who dropped out of the music business after this (George Whitsell,
meanwhile, 'retired' and became a driver for a local school for disabled children,
while John Blanton seems to have vanissed completely). That's a shame because,
again. 'Crooked Lake' shows promise considering this band have never played
together before and most of the songs and most of the performances are good
most of the time. You'd never call this album a pioneering work in the way that
Danny Whitten-era Horse were though and you can see why this album became yet
another flop record that didn't sell well even to Neil Young fans. By the time
the Horse are re-born another seven years, tragedy and yet another new line-up
will have befallen them and the Horse will sound entirely different again!
Through The Past" (Film Soundtrack)
(Reprise, November 1972)
For What It's Worth-Mr Soul (Buffalo
Springfield)/Rock 'n' Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield)/Find The Cost Of Freedom
(CSNY)/Ohio (CSNY)/Southern Man/Are You Ready For The Country?/Let Me Call You
Sweetheart*/Alabama//Words (Between The Lines Of Age)/Relativity
Invitation*/Handel's Messiah*/King Of Kings*/Soldier/Let's Go Away For A While*
* = Music Used In The Film Not
Featuring Neil Young
can't deliver! - I wonder why?"
really glad I don't live in Neil Young's head sometimes (not that mine makes an
awful lot more sense!) 'Journey Through The Past' was how Neil chose to spend
his 'Harvest' money - a surreal indulgent clip-fest of Springfield, CSNY and
solo moments interspersed with moments taken from his own dreams and given a
soundtrack mixing Handel's Messiah and The Beach Boys. Nobody hardly got to see
the film but several people did buy this pricey double-album soundtrack set
based on Neil's reputation and star status, which came a full six months
earlier. Most fans hated it, Neil's new sudden casual fans in the wake of
'Goldrush' and 'Harvest' all left thinking he'd left the plot and even those of
us who like bits of it are left scratching our heads over what exactly to make
of other parts. To be fair, that's the point: Neil didn't tell anyone at the
time but he was very messed up in the head at the time this album came out.
Danny Whitten died the very same month the album was released and in retrospect
this album seems like an early attempt at the 'Doom Trilogy', with Neil so sick
of show business and how it sucks people in that he's determined to punish his
audience for being sucked in by fame - for being sucked in by him. No other
artist of this era would ever have been brave - or stupid - enough to release a
full side-long rambling version of 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age)' (the song
generally voted the least popular of this most popular of eras), some tinny
soundtracks literally taken off TV shows or a whole side that doesn't feature
Neil at all. It's that bravery that makes and breaks this album, as it tries
your patience over and over again, only to come out of it with a new
understanding of where Neil's head is at (sort of - I still don't understand what
the Ku Klux Klan on horseback is all about) and a couple of good performances.
Most notable of these is 'Soldier', a brooding piano attack on religion that
really deserved a much better home (note that this is a different mix to the
one on 'Decade' and runs slightly longer too), while the otherwise unreleased
live recording of CSNY performing 'Ohio' and 'Find The Cost Of Freedom' (a song
Neil didn't even write!) are worth owning too. By and large, though, this is a
litmus paper test for fans: if you can survive this one you can survive
anything - except maybe 'Time Fades Away' up next... The film was included on
the end of the 'Archives' box set, for those who hadn't already suffered
enough! Oh and where is the autobiogrphical title track, which would have made a
perfect addition to the album (but was instead left for 'Time Fades Away')?
didn't write 'For What It's
Worth' but as Buffalo Springfield's most famous moment it had to be here
anyway via the famous clip of the band on Hollywood Palace.
has great fun miming to the record of 'Mr Soul' from the same show - but you can't tell that on the
soundtrack album, just the film. Using a TV soundtrack of a band miming to a
studio record seems pointless.
think the take of 'Rock and
Roll Woman' - which Neil didn't write either by the way - comes from a
show known as 'Popendity'. Either way it's just the record again with some chat
and some distinctly muddy sound.
are up next with a brittle 'Ohio'
from a show at the Fillmore East on June 6th 1970. This version lacks the power
and clarity of the '4 Way Street' one but it's still worth hearing as an
example of one of CSNY's greatest tracks back when it was brand new and the
pain was clearly still very real.
'Find The Cost Of Freedom' - which allows Stills to get more songs on the record than Young
so far - doesn't fare quite so well and loses the spooky defiance of either the
studio original or '4 Way Street'. No versions of this superb song are ever bad
though and this is worth hearing too if you're a CSNY fanatic.
'Southern Man' is from the same show and would be a fine performance had it not
been chopped about quite so much. reduced to seven minutes this doesn't have a
chance of the power of the '4 Way Street' take at double the length.
'Are You Ready For The Country?' is a rehearsal take for 'Harvest' that's performed to pretty
much the same arrangement but everybody is still clearly learning their parts
and they don't play with quite the same finesse as the finished version.
the next feature doesn't include Neil at all, as an un-credited female chorus
and an un-credited announcer tell us the next song is going to be 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart'.
Is it Timi Yuro? She had the hit with this song in 1962 but as I can't track
down that version (and frankly I never want to hear this Godawful tune again
anyway) I'm not sure!
is more interesting than most, as we hear both a 'Stray Gators' take of the
backing track and Crosby and Stills discussing how to sing the backing vocals
with Neil (somewhere along the line Croz was persuaded to drop the emphasis on
the 'wind-ows' line which he's adamant about singing here). You also get to
hear their verdicts on the new Stones documentary film of Altamont 'Gimme
Shelter' (predictably Crosby: 'I hated it!' Young: 'I loved it!')
three is a full sixteen minutes of 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age)'. It felt longer. Much longer.
Believe it or not we don't even get the bulk of the song, just the endless
jamming section and the finale which comes as a surprise when Neil starts
singing for the first time.
speaks to some Christian worshippers for 'Relativity Invitation' in which human beings impact
on one another's thoughts 'like dominoes' and turn people 'on' to stuff. Neil
sounds less convinced by the 'Jesus' bit
but likes the thought of ideas impacting others as that fits in so well
with his own musical career ('I can dig that!') Quite why this minute snippet
of dialogue is on the album is anyone's guess, but it makes a good segue
'Handel's Messiah' as performed by The Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation. I
can't get a handle on it and why this overblown bit of baroque is here myself.
Is Neil laughing at the followers or joining in?
Rozsa's 'King Of Kings'
is better, but still very out of place and feature the same performers who must
have been very surprised when their royalty fee came through!
up is 'Soldier', Neil's
sly commentary on what he sees as Christian hypocrisy recorded with icy chills
in front of a roaring fire (which is miked up louder than the performance
itself!) 'I don't believe you!' cackles Young as he reflects on Biblical readings
about walking on a river and wonders why a young crusading soldier fighting in
the name of Jesus has such a light shining in his eyes when Jesus was all about
peace. Neil's piano playing is gorgeous here and there's a bit more that was
edited out of the mix heard on 'Decade' (where not surprisingly this became the
only one of the album's songs to make the cut). One of Young's most overlooked
songs, more than likely because of the weird surroundings, this has a strength
and direction missing from the rest of the work.
album then closes with weirdo Beach Boys instrumental 'Let's Go Away For A While' from 'Pet Sounds.
Though it closely resembles Neil's work with Jack Nietzsche it has no place on
this album - the same album's 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' would have
been a more suitable choice!
then, 'Journey Thru The Past' is a journey through a nightmare - on the film
but even more so on the soundtrack we keep hearing bands going over and over
the same bits, interminable jams without any sense of context and a load of
classical works that are no substitute for Neil at his best. But then by the
end of 1972 Neil wasn't at his best and that's kind of the whole point: Neil's
lost confidence in his band, in his life and in his music and is searching for
something which the 'Jesus freaks' and his own weird subconscious can't
provide. He'll only find it via the Doom Trilogy and the sense of desperation,
hopelessness and realism of those albums, but Neil hasn't quite made that
realisation yet. Cryptic, fragmented and metaphorical 'Journey' shares nothing
with those album's sense of living in the moment but it very much points
towards the darker music to come. In that sense it will tell you as much as any
of the better known Young albums out there; in practice it's an hour of dodgy
TV soundtracks and Handel's messiah interrupted by false starts, jam sessions
and one pretty decent song.
now complete list of Neil Young and related articles at Alan’s Album Archives: