Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Creative Outbursts of Epic Proportions

Yesterday, I came into possession of the most AMAZING disc ever (or damned close to it)!

It's a CD of a soundboard recording from a Neil Young solo show he played on 19 January 1971 at Massey Hall in Toronto. It's the late show (2nd of two shows played on the same date!). This disc is remarkable for the sound clarity, which is EASILY good enough to have been officially released. It's also remarkable for the quality of Neil's performance, which again was easily worthy of release. But, perhaps most remarkable of all, to me, is the song selection in this show. It includes two Buffalo Springfield songs from LAST TIME AROUND (1968), "Bad Fog Of Loneliness" which remains unreleased, except for the RED ROCKS DVD (2000), and "Dance, Dance, Dance" which was only released as a single. It also includes FIVE songs that ended up on HARVEST (1972) more than one year later, two songs that ended up on TIME FADES AWAY (1973) more than 2 1/2 years later, and one song that ended up on ON THE BEACH (1974) 3 1/2 years later. Of course, there are also "Helpless" and "Ohio", both of which were CSNY songs released in 1970. And, there are two songs each from EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (1969) and AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970).

This set list really started me thinking about what an amazing amount of high quality material Neil produced in a relatively short period of time in the late '60s/early '70s. It's truly awe inspiring. In fact, I think it ranks right up there with the greatest creative outbursts in the history of popular music.

With an artist such as Neil, it's incredibly difficult to keep track of which songs were written when, or which ones were recorded in what order. Albums were released out of sequence, songs deleted at the last minute, etc. So, I think the only way to "level the playing field", or at least the way I'm choosing, is to go by release date, although some minor consideration will be given to unreleased material (maybe).

Now, people will want to come at you with The Beatles from 1965 or 1966 (depending on whether they start with RUBBER SOUL or REVOLVER) to 1970. They'll drone on and on about Sgt Pepper's and the "white album" (bunch of crackers!) and ABBEY ROAD. OK, fine. But, there were FOUR guys, and three of them wrote songs. One of the three was a bit hung up on the sitar. But, two of them were fairly prolific songwriters. So, that's (at least) two on one, in a comparison against Neil.

Same logic applies to Led Zeppelin, whose first four albums are as "classic rock" as "classic rock" gets, and were released between Jan. '69 and Nov. '71. Not bad, but Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones were all writing songs (not to mention that they were basically raiding old blues standards-Here's an idea: we can credit Memphis Minnie or Willie Dixon as "co-authors"!).

And, of course, the Stones put out BEGGARS BANQUET (1968), LET IT BLEED (1969), GET YER YA-YA'S OUT (1970), STICKY FINGERS (1971), and EXILE ON MAIN STREET (1972) in succession!!! Now, "Ya-Ya's" was a live album. However, "Exile" was a double-album. So, there you go. Jagger/Richards is probably the greatest songwriting duo in rock history, and this was arguably their creative peak. However, that is still two guys.

So, consider the above as "honorable mentions". I've got a "Final Four" that I think are the absolutely best creative outbursts in rock music history. When I get some more time (later today or tomorrow), I'll post on them. HINT: Neil Young is one of the four. : - )


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