Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The greatest live album EVER

And, no, that is NOT a stretch. It is, however, a matter of opinion. Thus, I would gladly entertain contrary views. So, I say again, LIVE RUST (1979) is the greatest live album EVER.

I am lucky enough to have the original, vinyl, double-LP, and it breaks down like this:

Record 1, Side 1 (Acoustic)
"Sugar Mountain" - An amazing version of this great tune, originally recorded in '68 or so (around the time of Neil Young's self-titled debut solo album).
"I Am a Child" - Here, Neil goes back to a tune he wrote for Buffalo Springfield, originally released on their "Last Time Around" LP.
"Comes a Time" - Sparklingly flawless version of this title track to Neil's 1978 album. Many might consider this one of Neil's more Dylanesque tunes ("This old world keeps spinning round/It's a wonder tall trees ain't laying down"). I just call it a great folk-rock (mostly rock) tune, and a Neil classic.
"After the Gold Rush" - A piano appears for this phenomenal version of another title track, this time from Neil's 1970 LP. This is simply a brilliant song, and I don't really think it's open for debate.
"My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)" - I'm not sure (too lazy to do the research), but since RUST NEVER SLEEPS barely beat LIVE RUST to record stores in 1979, I'm guessing this version was recorded before the song had actually been released to the public on an LP. No matter, it's a crowd-pleaser!
Record 1, Side 2 (Acoustic/Electric)
"When You Dance I Can Really Love" - Neil and Crazy Horse rock out with this slightly grungier version of a very cool tune from the "After the Gold Rush" LP.
"The Loner" - Neil goes back to his debut solo LP, and again this version is just a bit edgier and nastier (or, it could be my imagination).
"The Needle and the Damage Done" - Just as arresting and chilling as the (also recorded live) version on 1972's "Harvest" LP. If you don't like this song, there is something horribly, awfully wrong with you.
"Lotta Love" - More piano on this uncharacteristically poppy tune, originally released on the "Comes a Time" LP. This one has been covered, so you'll probably be shocked that it's a Neil Young song (yes, he wrote it).
"Sedan Delivery" - Neil leads in with this comment, "Let's play some rock 'n roll!" And then, they do. Comments from "My My, Hey Hey" apply here as well.
Record 2, Side 1 (Electric)
"Powderfinger" - Picks up where "Sedan Delivery" left off. This is a magnificent rock song, also from RUST NEVER SLEEPS.
"Cortez the Killer" - Prototypical Crazy Horse, originally released on 1975's ZUMA.
"Cinnamon Girl" - Wonderfully heavy, chunky version of this absolute Neil classic, originally from 1969's "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" LP.
Record 2, Side 2 (Electric)
"Like a Hurricane" - Originally from 1977's "American Stars 'n Bars" LP. Neil & Co. provide that bit of extra feedback and distortion that makes this a must-have version of an already classic rock song.
"Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" - Also from RUST NEVER SLEEPS, this song is destined to be a highlight whenever and wherever it is played. It is an anthem of epic magnitude. Heavy & chunky, like large-curd cottage cheese or lumpy oatmeal, but with withering, blistering, stinging bursts of guitar pyrotechnics. I'm going on record right here: Please, please, please play this song at my funeral.
"Tonight's the Night" - Yet another title track, this time to one of the albums Neil released in 1975. Many consider the "Tonight's the Night" LP to be Neil's all-time greatest. It's hard to argue. I'd say he's released about 5 or 6 albums that are so close in quality, and so different in style, that it's hard to split hairs and say which is THE best. In any event, this is a great version of a great song from a great album, and a fantastic choice to close out this concert set.

It occurs to me that the 4 songs that are from both RUST NEVER SLEEPS and LIVE RUST could be the same versions; one with, one without the audience track. Again, I'm too lazy to research right now. However, I will do a side-by-side listening soon (tonight, if possible), and report back. If someone knows the answer and wishes to share, please feel free to do so.

In any event, if you do not have LIVE RUST, you should get it. If you are looking for an introduction to classic Neil Young, this is a damned fine choice.

Now, tell me, what live album is better than this?


Blogger Macky OlĂ© said...

Yo Rob's brother! Up with Clapton!

Also, way to go with the Neil posts. One thing I noticed (on the day I turned 20... suger mountain) is that the first three songs on Live Rust are quite possibly a narrative of Neil's life to that point. Just look at the order in which they are presented:

"Sugar Mountain" - a collection of memories from life as a child and a young adult. Each verse is a very vivid recollection of a key moment in his life. -- "It's so noisy at the fair, but all your friends are there. The candy floss you had, and your mother and your dad"

"I am a child" - a classic case of mid-twenties frustration, and learning to grow as an adult... which leads in to...-- "I am a child, I'll last awhile"

"Comes a time" - finally the character has learned to embrace his own individualatiy and carry on with lessons learned. -- "Comes a time when you're driftin'. Comes a time when you settle down"

"After the Goldrush" - This tune comes off like a colleciton of lucid dreams. Some of them have a tinge of recollection and even regret. Perhaps life flashing before his eyes? Remembering the good times as a young man? -- "I was thinking about what a friend had said, I was hoping it was a lie."

... anyway, this is just what I came up with on my 20th birthday, when I happen to throw in Live Rust. What a great album.

10:10 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger rabidt said...

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco agrees! In Harp magazine, December 2005, Jeff Tweedy picked his 10 most essential albums of all time. Number 1 - LIVE RUST. Read closely: Tweedy writes, "There's not much Neil Young that I'm not into. But "Powderfinger" on this - he's on fire. I just saw him at Farm Aid. He did "Southern Man" with the Fisk University gospel choir. It was a fucking perfect performance of a classic song, and maybe my favorite moment ever of seeing live music. There was a lot of shit going on, things that seemed to fuel Neil's anger. And an angry Neil Young, that's pretty unbeatable. That's kind of what "Powderfinger" sounds like to me. He's invested himself in some of the fury of it." Wow, Haahnster, you and the Tweedster are right on the same page: I remember you telling me about being at FarmAid, and how much this particular performance of "Southern Man" kicked ass. And clearly you guys agree on Live Rust as #1 live album.

11:29 PM, January 17, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Macky, I am afraid you and I will have to disagree on "Slow Hand". I'm in such a positive vibe with this Neil tangent that I'll just leave it at that.

I appreciate your observations on Neil's tunes. The great part is feeling the connection to the music, and associating songs and albums with your own life events. Dick Clark says, "Music is the soundtrack of our lives." Now, Dick Clark happens to be an asshole, and that line was probably written for him. But, once you get past that, I suppose it rings somewhat true.

But that's neither here nor there. I'm a bottom-line kind of guy, and the bottom-line is NEIL RULES, and LIVE RUST F---ING ROCKS!!!

As far as "Southern Man" at the 20th Anniversary Live Aid show, in the southern 'burbs of Chicago, that was a triumphant performance. Neil played some angry-ass solos on that tune. It was a definite highlight. Maybe Tweedy will buy me a beer some day, if someone ever alerts him to my meager little blog.

1:13 AM, January 18, 2006  

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