Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Godfather, Part IV...Neil's RAGGED GLORY

OK, so there's absolutely no known connection between Neil Young and the Godfather trilogy (although, shouldn't it really have just been a two-ogy, 'cause Part III isn't that great?). In any event, Neil has been dubbed the "Godfather of Grunge". To the extent that nickname has any meaning, this is the album that cemented it.

Recorded somewhat hurriedly, in fine Crazy Horse fashion, in a barn on Neil's ranch, RAGGED GLORY hit the stores on October 11, 1990, just as the Seattle bands were gearing up to take over the charts. Of course, outside of some occasional heavy guitar feedback, this album really bears little resemblance to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, or Soundgarden (or Mudhoney or Screaming Trees, etc.). However, it did represent the first time in years that Neil had recorded two commercially successful albums in a row (see also the 1989 release FREEDOM).

RAGGED GLORY is largely a feel-good album, with a mostly upbeat Neil jamming and singing with what sounds like the sonic equivalent of a boyish grin. (Contrast this to the young man's angst of a Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, etc.) This mood is especially evident on the winkingly nostalgic "Mansion on the Hill" and the rockin' cover version of "Farmer John".

Of course, the album is not without some dark lyrics. Witness, from "Love to Burn", "In the valley of hearts/There's a house full of broken windows/And the lovers inside just quarrel all the time/Why'd you ruin my life?/Where you takin' my kid?/And they hold each other saying/How did it come to this?"

However, by and large, it's Neil just working out some aggression with his Crazy Horse pals. There are even a few extended jam sessions ("Country Home" at 7 minutes, "Over and Over" at 8 1/2, and "Love to Burn" & "Love and Only Love" both at 10 minutes each) in the tradition of "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand". Although, again, there's a more lighthearted mood, as opposed to the relative bleakness of those classics from EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (1969).

Neil ends with a message song on the environment, "Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)", which implores us to "Respect Mother Earth/And her giving ways/Or trade away/Our children's days."

Bottom line: You know I'm lovin' it. I even have the added benefit of reflecting on the fun I was having in college at the time this album was released. Regardless of where you were in 1990, however, this is a solid album.

PS - Check out the CD-single for "Mansion on the Hill" (if you can find it) for a cool bonus track, "Don't Spook the Horse", which is more or less a tongue-in-cheek sequel to "Cowgirl in the Sand", I suppose. In any event, it's a fun tune. "If you want to go riding/In the tall green grass/Try to not spook the horse/If you want to pet/That old hound dog/Make sure he ain't rolled in shit" etc.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that you are maybe putting too much imphasis on the music and missing the whole picture. Neil never cared what he looked like when he played. He wasn't out there to be a glamore boy. He just wanted to play, which he has never faltered from. Yes now he is a little more formal if you wish to call that for Neil's look but,I believe that the grunge came first from his politics and non conformity to anyone or anything. That's what these younger bands took from Neil and appreciated,because he is and was the epitome of a grunge look and a grunge feel. If you have ever noticed that the younger bands dressed almost exact as Neil even down to the red plaid shirts. So he gave them a father as it were to look up to in the days when pop,hip-hop and any other garbage that was called rock was not acceptable to these young people.

9:40 PM, January 19, 2012  

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