Friday, February 24, 2006

"The Lost Songs" II + What's In A Name?

This post will conclude my run through "The Lost Songs" of Neil Young, per the Jan. 26, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone. Plus, I've got a new idea for a Neil compilation.[For those of you keeping score at home, I believe there are ten officially released albums about which I have yet to post. I'll get to those soon.] Rather than waste time & space with a recap of yesterday’s post (Feb. 23, 2006), I’ll just jump right back in:

It’s hard to argue with the choice of “Mideast Vacation” from LIFE. However, “Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll” is also a ton of fun. And, Neil’s inclusion of live versions of it and “When Your Lonely Heart Breaks” on YOTH certainly bring a little added perspective to the album LIFE as a whole (though I still think it's his weakest album with CH).

“Kinda Fonda Wanda” is a cool choice from E.R. But, as I stated in my Jan. 19th post, that whole album is a blast. If you’re at all a fan (even just a little bit) of early rock and roll, then this entire album is a cool listen.

“Goin’ Home” might be the closest thing to a “lost song” on Sheffield’s list, as it is the lone Crazy Horse song on an otherwise Memphis soul/blues album cut with ¾ of Booker T. & the MGs. If you’re an avid fan of Crazy Horse-Neil only, then you would want to cherry-pick this song. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking you’d be getting the flavor of the album as a whole.

I just wrote about YOTH earlier this week. I’m a big fan of the entire album. We all know that Neil & CH have a phenomenal live sound. This album in particular has an understated, free and easy feel to it (especially compared to the more aggressive sound of WELD, which I also love). The YOTH version of “Slip Away” is really cool. But, I can’t get past that 13+ minute version of “Danger Bird”! I refuse to concede that YOTH is a “not-so-stellar” album.

Speaking of which, we come to UNPLUGGED. Certainly, “Stringman” was previously unreleased. But, what about the complete re-envisioning of classics like “Mr. Soul” (does not violate my previously-stated “Neil...” rule—UNPLUGGED was released as a “Neil Young” album), and “Like A Hurricane”, or the stripping down of the (in my humble opinion) previously over-produced “The Old Laughing Lady” and the de-techno-fying of “Transformer Man”?

Speaking of "Transformer Man"…Where is a song from TRANS on Sheffield’s list? How do I interpret this absence? Does it mean that he thinks TRANS is a “stellar album”? Or, does it mean that he couldn’t even find a single “buried treasure” on it? Ditto for LANDING ON WATER and OLD WAYS. You see, that’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen to review each album, and each album in its entirety. I wanted to put the entire official catalog out there (and I’m almost done; though, barring a miracle, I won’t get to JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST, which I don’t possess).

Now, as far as Macky’s request for a “greatest hits” limited to 15 songs, that’s a challenge. I’ll need at least the weekend to consider that one. But, here’s an idea I had for a Neil compilation: NEIL YOUNG – TITLE TRACKS (aka "What's In A Name?"). Sometimes, one of the best tunes on a Neil album is the title track. Other times, it’s just one of the songs. But, it would be an easy, albeit arbitrary, way to get an interesting cross-section of Neil’s career:

1. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” 2. “After The Gold Rush” 3. “Harvest” 4. “Time Fades Away” 5. “On The Beach” 6&7. “Tonight’s The Night” 8. “Comes A Time” 9. “Hawks & Doves” 10. “Everybody’s Rockin’” 11. “Old Ways” 12. “This Note’s For You” 13. “Harvest Moon” 14. “Sleeps With Angels” 15. “Silver & Gold” 16. “Are You Passionate?” 17. “Prairie Wind”

Bonus Tracks: “Journey Through The Past” (song is actually on TIME FADES AWAY), “Mystery Train” (from EVERYBODY’S ROCKIN’, later used as title of a compilation of Geffen-era tunes released in Germany), “Eldorado” (title track of an EP released only in Australia & Japan; this song was later released on FREEDOM), “Philadelphia” (title track of, and only Neil song on, this movie soundtrack)

Bonus, Bonus Tracks (some of which break my "Neil..." rule): “Broken Arrow” (Buffalo Springfield tune that pre-dates Neil’s album of the same name by almost 30 years), “Long May You Run” (title track of the “Stills-Young Band” LP), “American Dream” (title track of CSNY album), “Looking Forward” (title track of CSNY album), “Buffalo Springfield Again” (Neil tune from SILVER & GOLD that appeared more than 30 years after the Buffalo Springfield album of the same name)

Bonus, Bonus, Bonus Tracks: The entire ARC and DEAD MAN discs, which have only “untitled” tracks on them!

Now, how’s that for a compilation?

PS – I’ve been fairly strict in my interpretations. One could open it up a bit, and include the songs from which album titles are taken, but are not actually title tracks in the strictest sense (e.g., “Rust Never Sleeps” is an album title pulled from the lyrics, “It’s better to burn out 'cause rust never sleeps,” of the song “Hey Hey, My My” – and, before you say anything, no it’s not also from “My My, Hey Hey”, in which Neil says instead, “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust”). But, you might say the turn of phrase in “My My, Hey Hey” is close enough. But, then, to represent RE*AC*TOR, I suppose you’d have to pull the song “Rapid Transit”, given that it contains the words “Melt down” (which are the most “reactor”-related lyrics I can find on the album). So, it’s a slippery slope, as you can surely see. By the same token, the two versions of “Rockin’ In The Free World” might well be the signature pieces on FREEDOM. But, I don’t see how they could be called title tracks, by any definition, as they merely allude to one interpretation of our relative freedom(s), but do not actually include the word “freedom” at all. Hey, I have to draw the line somewhere.

PPS – The CSNY album DÉJÀ VU had a title track, but Neil did not write that one. Here’s a “near-miss” for you: TIME FADES AWAY has a song called “The Bridge”, you know, as opposed to “The Bridge School Concerts”. Coincidence? I think not. But, I'd better stop before I lose my mind completely.


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