Friday, March 31, 2006

The Next Album I'm Going To Buy

Yes, I know. I should already HAVE this album! It's hard to believe I don't, being the big fan of noisy guitars that I am. Radiohead's THE BENDS (1995) was released during a time when I was no longer buying as much music as I had previously, in my younger years.

Anyway, I'm listening to it right now ("My Iron Lung" just finished), courtesy of this bit of genius (streaming audio for almost all of Rolling Stone Magazine's "Top 500 Albums" -- THE BENDS is # 110). This is too cool. I'm LOVING this album, and I will be BUYING it very soon (today, perhaps).

Anyway, more on this album later, maybe. Right now, I just wanted to make people aware of this streaming audio's availability.

UPDATE: I went out at lunch and bought THE BENDS on CD at the local record store right across the river. I've got the Beach Boys' PET SOUNDS (# 2 on the RS list) streaming right now...use that link above! It' a good opportunity to check out some stuff you haven't heard (or, haven't heard in a long time).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Mixed Feelings...How About You?

I've heard some songs by the Black Crowes that I really like. Other songs of theirs don't do a lot for me. I suppose I don't have very strong feelings about them, either way. Anyone out there have any major love (or hate) for the Black Crowes? Please feel free to comment.

I am going to check out the unreleased stuff posted by the "Aquarium Drunkard"... Tall is HERE ... The Band (aka Meet The Band) also appears to still be available, but I'm having trouble linking directly to it. After checking out Tall, click on the 2006/03 Archives and scroll down to 03.23.2006 (3rd post down under that dateline).

Try it out and let me know what you think.

Sorry for the less frequent blogging this week......hectic around here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Great "Unreleased" Album--Join The Rust!

Here's a bootleg Haahnster highly recommends: CHROME DREAMS by Neil Young. What follows are the liner notes, written by Jules Gray:

Neil Young
Chrome Dreams (Rust Edition)

Source/Lineage: Remastered from the best available sources of each track.
No other version of Chrome Dreams can compare to this.

01. Pocahontas
02. Will To Love
03. Star Of Bethlehem
04. Like A Hurricane
05. Too Far Gone
06. Hold Back The Tears
07. Homegrown
08. Captain Kennedy
09. Stringman
10. Sedan Delivery
11. Powderfinger
12. Look Out For My Love
Bonus Tracks:
13. River Of Pride ('White Line', Unreleased Studio Version, 27 NOV 75)
14. Campaigner (Unedited, Unreleased Studio Version, Summer 1976)
15. No One Seems To Know (Live, Tokyo, Japan, 10 Mar 76)
16. Give Me Strength (Live, Chicago, IL, 15 Nov 76)
17. Peace Of Mind (Live, Chicago, IL, 15 Nov 76)
18. Human Highway (CSNY, Unreleased Studio Version, April 76)

Artwork by Paleojack.


Neil Young was on a creative high in 1975. By the end of the Summer, "Zuma" was finished, though still not released, yet Neil carried on recording his new songs. Sometimes he recorded solo and sometimes with
Crazy Horse. Lots of these songs would remain unheard by the public until quite a while later, but by late '75 Neil had already written and recorded versions of such future classics as Like a Hurricane, Powderfinger,
Sedan Delivery, Pocahontas and Ride My Llama.

He carried on recording in 1976. More great songs were put down on tape, such as Will To Love, Stringman and Campaigner. Some of us may feel that the "Long May You Run" album with Stephen Stills robbed us of the
natural successor to "Zuma", but Stills always suspected that Neil was holding back his best stuff for his solo album. That solo album was a work in progress throughout this period. Titles were reported in the press.
"Ride My Llama". "In My Neighborhood". "American Stars 'n Bars". "Chrome Dreams".

When "American Stars 'n Bars" was released in 1977, Neil had scrapped most of the material he'd been recording since late '75, replacing much of it with a series of rough hewn cowboy songs. Fun stuff to be sure, but had Neil committed the latest in a series of difficult to explain career suicides? Who else, except maybe Bob Dylan, would sit on a stash of such quality songs and not let the public hear them?

Tracks 1 to 12 of this compilation are thought to be the unreleased "Chrome Dreams" album, readied for release weeks before Neil recorded those country hoedowns and rethought his strategy. Some of these song titles will be more than familiar to you, but the actual performances may surprise you. Powderfinger is performed as an unadorned solo acoustic song; Sedan Delivery, a second song destined for 'Rust Never Sleeps' is presented in its pre-punked up arrangement and in many people's opinion sounds all the better for that; you'll also find the definitive Stringman, a song not given an official airing until Neil's 'Unplugged' set, heard here in a 1976 live performance enhanced by subtle yet beautiful studio vocal and guitar overdubs; Hold Back the Tears is another solo performance, longer and more ghostly than its later remake for "American Stars 'n Bars"; Pocahontas is the same performance as the one that made "Rust Never Sleeps", but in its original 'naked' mix; Too Far Gone wouldn't be officially released until the "Freedom" album in 1989, yet here's a version from 14 years earlier with Poncho Sampedro adding a tasty mandolin part.

The other six songs from the album were released unchanged on the albums "American Stars 'n Bars", "Comes a Time" and "Hawks and Doves", yet you may still be able to pick out slight differences in the mixes. Homegrown, for one, would seem to have a little more fire in the guitars. Have a listen and see what you think.

We've chosen a select batch of bonus cuts to give you a further taste of just how creative Neil was during this fertile period. If the version of White Line (here retitled River of Pride, maybe because Neil forgot to sing the actual "white line" lyric) didn't make the "Chrome Dreams" shortlist, then its continued circulation amongst collectors is something of a mystery. Maybe it was pressed onto acetate as a possible contender for "Decade", which Neil was also preparing at this time. Whatever the truth, it's a stupendous version of the song, recorded in 1975 with a loose and joyful Crazy Horse. Neil's remake for "Ragged Glory" in 1990 may have been fine, but it doesn't quite capture the spirit of this earlier version. Campaigner did make "Decade", but not before losing one of its verses. You can hear the full length version here.

Three live cuts follow: No One Seems to Know is an aching piano ballad that Neil once described as part 2 of A Man Needs a Maid, it's first class but remains unreleased; Give me Strength dates from an earlier ill-fated album called 'Homegrown' (an album that would have also featured Star of Bethlehem, the oldest cut in this collection) and is another lost classic; Peace of Mind is heard as an electric rock song played with the Horse and very different from the version Neil released on "Comes a Time".

And as a nod to "Zuma", we close with Crosby Stills Nash & Young. Human Highway was recorded during the Stills-Young Band sessions in 1976. The song was always meant to be a CSNY track, but Neil had run out of
patience by the "Comes a Time" LP. Now you can have a glimpse of what might have been.

Which, come to think of it, is also true of the whole collection.

Jules Gray, 20 May 2004

Haahnster Note: If you are interested in more Neil Young information, here's a GREAT site called hyper-rust. Great discography and lyrics, searchable by album or by song, including known unreleased songs.

Also, consider joining the "rust-list", a Yahoo Group, which serves as an online community, discussing all things Neil, and lots of other threads of discussion as well. Tons of good music sharing and trading opportunities (maybe even CHROME DREAMS, "Rust Edition"!!!).

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Coming Soon: Tenth of the Eleventh - UPDATE!

Apparently, I stumbled across the link to the upcoming Eleventh Dream Day album (ZEROES AND ONES) as it was being constructed. At the time, the 1st song was the only one available for listening. Now, all the songs are up and running. Check it out here.

Man, I wish I had a similar link for their earlier albums, especially PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT and BEET. Seek them out. I implore you!!!

My Worst Fears Confirmed...

I am a curse! It was confirmed last night, but I decided to sleep on it to be sure. Well, I'm awake again, and more certain than ever: I am a curse!!!

Just the mere fact that I had Memphis in my "luck of the draw" pool was enough to cause them to shoot a meager 31.5% from the field, including an astonishingly low 11.8% (2 of 17) from 3-point range! Clearly, I am a curse. Or, it could've been UCLA's defense. But, it wasn't. It was ME!!!!!!! [Haahnster hangs his head in shame]

Oh, also, LSU, one of the teams I picked to be upset in Round 1 (because it didn't matter, because Duke was going to beat them anyway), has advanced to the Final Four. See, the curse even works in reverse. (Uh huh huh huh...that rhymed, Beavis. Heh heh heh heh heh...what's "rhymed", Butthead?)

"Please take my advice" DON'T listen to my picks. My wife's right. I enjoy the tournament more when I do NOT have money on it...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Saturday Afternoon: Hoops and the Horse!!!

LSU and Texas are playing an incredibly close game, early in the 2nd half. The CD changer just switched from Disc 1 to Disc 2 of the "Festival Crazy Horse" bootleg (7 July 1996, Werchter Festival in Belgium). What a way to spend a dreary Saturday afternoon!

Here's something I'm going to check out, from Thrasher's Wheat: It's a flyer for the "Neil Young Appreciation Society". I can't believe something like that exists, and I'm not a member!!! Sounds like something I need to rectify!!!

"How Does It Feel To Be On Your Own With No Direction Home..."

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You/Gonna Slap You Right In The Face

Strange how "what goes around comes around." When Washington beat Illinois in the 2nd round, 67-64, Washington shot 39 free throws to the Illini's 11. Brian Randle fouled out, while Augustine, Pruitt, and McBride each finished with 4 fouls. Many have said that the officiating changed the complexion of that game.

Fast forward to the Sweet 16. Man, did Washington have to cash that check, or what?! UConn shot 47 free throws to Washington's 23. Four (not 1, 2 or 3, but 4) of Washington's players fouled out, including their star, Brandon Roy. Worse yet, Roy spent several key minutes in the 2nd half on the bench with 4 fouls due to a ridiculously quick-whistled double-technical on he and UConn's Rudy Gay.

And, then there was the goaltending call that was not to be. In OT, with Washington down by 1 point, Roy drove in and put up a floater from about 8 feet on the right wing, near the baseline. It was swatted away, CLEARLY on its way down toward the hoop. No whistle. UConn saves, and heads the other way, still up 1, instead of down 1. UNBELIEVABLE!

And yet, as with the Illinois game, where the Illini still had plenty of opportunity to win, Washington never should have let it get that far. With precious little time left in regulation, pseudo-albino, Mike Jensen committed his 5th foul on a UConn lay-up, but without fouling hard enough to stop the shot. Ultimate sin. The free throw was converted for a 3-point play. Without that point, the dramatic, game-tying 3-pointer by UConn's Rashad Anderson likely never happens, or almost certainly DOES NOT TIE THE GAME. Hence, there would've been no OT, and thus no missed goaltending call. Bonehead of the Tournament nomination for Jensen (and with that ridiculous hair color, I'd say he's the frontrunner to win such an award).

Like the song says, "And, we all shine on/Like the moon/And the stars/And the sun..."

Friday, March 24, 2006

'Nova is "Bad News" (Neil Young) for B.C.

What an amazing game! Of course, I needed B.C. to hold on to help my "luck-of-the-draw" pool, but oh well...

That's the breaks. How they let 'Nova run that good an out-of-bounds play that late in OT, I'll never know. Gotta love the college game!
Luckily, I have Neil Young ("Archives Be Damned 2000", Disc 3) blaring while I watch. NEVER listen to Billy Packer! His ass-hole-ishness will rub off on you. Man, the bluesy stuff here (unreleased Blue Notes and Booker T songs) just RULE!!! Neil wails on the blues guitar. "Separate Ways", "Bad News", "Walking After Midnight", etc. If I knew how to upload music. I'd do it. EVERYONE should hear these songs!!!!!

Prairie School Freakout (Haahnster Loves The '80s Vol. 2)

My goodness, I love listening to amazing electric guitar sound. Even better, I love turning other people on to bands with amazing electric guitar sound. So, here's wishing nothing but the absolute best for Thrill Jockey records [Box 08038 / Chicago, IL 60608 -]. If it weren't for their 2003 CD re-issue of this 1988 classic, your chances of finding it at all would be next to nil. It was originally issued on vinyl only by a tiny Los Angeles label, Amoeba Records. How tiny was Amoeba? When Eleventh Dream Day released their debut, 6-song, self-titled EP in 1987, it was Amoeba release A002. When E.D.D. released their follow-up, full-length LP, PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT several months later in 1988, it was Amoeba relase A003!!!

The liner notes say it all: "This piece of vinyl is our second record. It was recorded on a hot pollution alert day during July in Louisville, Kentucky, and was made at a place called Artist Recording Service. We recorded 15 songs between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., half of the time spent trying to fix the wild buzz coming out of Rick's amp. We finally gave up and decided to make amp buzz the theme of the record..."

The E.D.D. line-up was
Rick Rizzo - lead vocals, guitar
Baird Figi - guitar
Janet Beveridge Bean - drums, vocals
Doug McCombs - bass

Rumor has it that Rick Rizzo taught himself to play guitar with the songbook for Neil Young's ZUMA album. I'm not making that up. I've actually read it somewhere. It certainly makes sense to me. PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT comes as highly recommended an album as I can imagine. It comes as close as possible to capturing this line-up's live sound. And, ohmigod, did they ever rock!!!

Side A

  1. Watching Candles Burn (Figi) - 4:01
  2. Sweet Smell (Bean) - 4:37
  3. Coercion (Bean) - 3:47
  4. Driving Song (Figi) - 4:09
  5. Tarantula (Rizzo) - 5:37

Side B

  1. Among The Pines (Rizzo) - 6:24
  2. Through My Mouth (McCombs) - 4:57
  3. Beach Miner (Music: Bean, Lyrics: Rizzo) - 3:43
  4. Death Of Albert C. Sampson (Bean) - 4:45
  5. Life On A String (Rizzo) - 5:05

"Watching Candles Burn" is one of the all-time greatest dual-lead-guitar attack songs in recorded history, and that's absolutely NOT an overstatement! And so it goes, each song incredibly remarkable in its own right. "Beach Miner" is probably the most overtly, "sounds-like-Neil" song, but his influence pervades the LP. To say Neil & Crazy Horse influenced E.D.D. is obvious. However, this isn't just some knock-off, tribute band. These guys (and gal) were writing their own, very vital material. Janet's pounding drum style, and Doug's stalwart bass playing provide such an anchor that Rick & Baird were both free to wail away on their guitars, often soloing simultaneously. Eleventh Dream Day's PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT truly must be heard to be believed. And, even then, the question of how Atlantic could ever have missed with these guys will haunt you.

Cool lyrical snippets:

from Watching Candles Burn: “If looks could kill/Here’s looking at you”
from Sweet Smell: “Her mind was clear/As she reached for a rope/Ambulance Blues filled the room/Confusion everywhere, but still the flowers bloomed”
from Coercion: “His face, white, so placid/Her mind was a cold casket”
from Among The Pines: “His head felt like a loaf of bread/With the crust peeled off/Sandwiched between the shower stall/And purgatory”
from Tarantula: “In the snow covered pure/There fell two drops of blood/That burned through the ground/And pooled into one”
from Through My Mouth: “Every day that goes by/And I don’t know why/But I feel like I’m ten years older”
from Beach Miner: “Sure I’m sad/I ought to be sad/Is there any good reason/Why I shouldn’t be sad?”
from Death Of Albert C. Sampson: “So he bought some beer/And then he killed the grocery man”
And, my personal favorite, from Life On A String: “When you love without reciprocity/It will slam like a door back in your face”

The CD re-issue also incudes the 3 songs from their 3rd release, a 12" single WAYNE (1989), Amoeba release A006:

Side A
1. Go (Words: Rizzo, Music: Bean) – 4:50
Side B
1. Southern Pacific (Neil Young) – 5:04
2. Tenth Leaving Train (Rizzo) – 11:19

These songs are presented in reverse order ("Go" last) as tracks 11, 12 & 13 on the CD. More amazing music, in addition to the PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT songs. If you like hard-rockin', Neil/CH-influenced music, then this CD is an absolute MUST HAVE in your music collection. End of story. (And, thanks again to Thrill Jockey for making it possible for the previously uninitiated to get involved.)

PS - Someday, I'll tell the story of the reunion show to celebrate the CD re-issue. It was in Chicago at the "Double Door" in November (?) 2003. My friend and I stood dead center in front of the stage, literally INCHES from the band...what an ultimate rock experience!

Don't Cry No Tears: The Incredible, Collapsible Zags

Don't Cry No Tears (Neil Young)

Don't cry no tears around me
Don't cry no tears around me
'Cause when all the water's gone
The feeling lingers on
Old true love
ain't too hard to see
Don't cry no tears around me.

Well I wonder
who's with her tonight?
And I wonder
who's holding her tight?
But there's nothing I can say
To make him go away
Old true love
ain't too hard to see
Don't cry no tears around me.

There's nothing I can say
To make him go away
Old true love
ain't too hard to see
Don't cry no tears around me
Don't cry no tears around me.

Dicked, Dicked, and Re-dicked


PS - Add a "d" to your name if you want it pronounced "red-dick". Although, come to think of it, that's not much better now, is it?

PPS - Those ridiculous, should-be-a-recruiting-violation, Coach K commercials just got A LOT easier to watch.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Coming Soon: Tenth of the Eleventh

One of my all-time favorite bands, Eleventh Dream Day, is due to release their 10th album on April 25, 2006. ZEROES AND ONES will be released on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label. Click here for a preview. There's a brief bio, and a bit about the upcoming album. Also, you can listen to the 1st song, "Dissolution". It sounded pretty good on my initial sampling (low volume level on my work computer).

I just might have to make them the focus of my next "Haahnster Loves The '80s" post...since I got such a massive response with the Pixies post yesterday (Did you see the memo about this?)...NOT! Oh, well.

It's just a tremendous shame that this band never made it huge. Talk about a direct link between Neil and the so-called "grunge" bands of the '90s. Atlantic Records' mishandling of Eleventh Dream Day has to be one of the most incredible examples of screwing up a "can't miss" scenario in music history. Meanwhile, Smashing Pumpkins is the band from Chicago that topped the charts in the early '90s. I guess no one ever promised justice in the world of rock music...

For those of you who missed the opportunity to see E.D.D. perform live, my condolences. They were one of the highest-energy, hardest-rockin' bands I've ever seen. Now, Baird Figi (the original 2nd guitarist) is off in Arizona (or some such place), and Rick Rizzo (vocalist/lead guitarist) is teaching high school math. Damn. At least they still make the occasional album. Janet Beveridge-Bean (drummer) is also in another band, Freakwater. Doug McCombs (bass) is in Tortoise.

I'm going to listen to PRAIRIE SCHOOL FREAKOUT and BEET back to back tonight. I can do it during the Bradley/Memphis listening to the announcers.

UPDATE: I suppose I should read my own links a bit closer...from the Freakwater site:

EDD will play these dates: Wednesday, April 12, Detroit/Thursday, April 13, Cleveland, Beachland Tavern/Friday, April 14, New York, Mercury Lounge /Thursday, May 18, Chicago, Empty Bottle

Now, Detroit is a big place. So, I assume there's a venue, but it's just missing. In any event, as far as the May 18th show in Chi-town, color me THERE, dude!!!!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Haahnster Loves The '80s (Just Not VH1's '80s)

This is the 1st in what should be a series of posts (not sure how frequent) that will examine some '80s music that doesn't seem to make it into those VH1 "I Love The '80s" shows.

We begin with SURFER ROSA (1988) by the Pixies. What a rockin'-ass classic!

1. Bone Machine, 2. Break My Body, 3. Something Against You, 4. Broken Face, 5. Gigantic, 6. River Euphrates
1. Where Is My Mind? 2. Cactus, 3. Tony's Theme, 4. Oh My Golly! 5. Vamos, 6. I'm Amazed, 7. Brick Is Red

"Bone Machine" is a classic opener, with crashing drums and noisy guitars. The lyrics are odd to say the least (e.g., "You're so pretty/When you're unfaithful to me", and the chorus: "Your bone's got a little machine", as well as some of my all-time favorite creepy lyrics: "I was talkin' to Peachy-Peach/About kissy-kiss/He bought me a soda/He bought me a soda/He bought me a soda/And he tried to molest me in the parking lot"). All the songs are solid, but to me the other highlights of side one are "Gigantic" and "River Euphrates".

Side two kicks off with one of the catchiest tunes you'll ever hear on any "alternative" (not a big fan of that descriptor) album, "Where Is My Mind?" This song was used at the very end of David Fincher's film Fight Club (1999), and more recently in Gore Verbinski's The Weather Man (2005) starring Nicholas Cage. As with side one, all of side two is fairly solid, but...

"Vamos" is the climax of the entire album. It has a feedback opening. It has that Black Francis (aka Frank Black) technique of humorously mixing Spanish and English lyrics. It has an impossibly fast, driving drumbeat. It has loud, distorted, stinging guitar noise. It has vocal sceams and screeches. In short, it is the quintessential Pixies song. You should really listen to it again soon. Listen to the guitar, particularly after the lines "If we get bored/We'll move to California", and think about Neil Young's guitar solos in "Hey Hey, My My". I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin'. (And, of course, I love it!) "Vamos" had previously been on the band's EP "Come On Pilgrim". It was a very good song there, but as re-recorded on ROSA, it achieves its full brilliance.

PS - Read about one of the coolest records in my collection here. Man, I was lucky to be at the U of I in Champaign, home of the coolest record store in history, Record Swap. That was a place where imports like this 12" single of "Gigantic" would show up in the used bin for $2.99...freakin' amazing. (This store is also where I stumbled upon TIME FADES AWAY for $3.99, by the way.) The re-recordings of "Gigantic" and "River Euphrates" seem somewhat slower and more deliberate. And, at least in the case of "River Euphrates", there's even more guitar noise. I mean we're talking "Vamos"-like guitar noise. Then, the live songs are WAY cool. "Vamos" is very well represented live, and the cover of the song "Heaven (The Lady In The Radiator Song)" is brilliant, a complete Brank Francis scream-fest! The jacket photography is among the most disturbing I've ever seen...naked, crying baby boy, filthy from the waist down...the reverse side is just a filthy black glove...YUCK!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Quite Simply, The Man Is Amazing Live In Concert

If you get the chance to see Neil Young perform live, do it! If not, then try to get some of his live material. After you've already purchased LIVE RUST, WELD, and YEAR OF THE HORSE (I'd also highly recommend the BERLIN and RED ROCKS DVDs), go ahead and get some bootlegs. Neil is on record as not being opposed to sharing tapes of live shows that he is not commercially releasing himself.

One amazing set of bootlegs is the 4-CD series dubbed "Rock 'n' Roll Cowboy". Disc 1 is highlighted by a mind-blowing version of "Cowgirl In The Sand", as well as some great solo-acoustic stuff, and the unreleased gem "Dance Dance Dance". Disc 2 opens with a great "Pardon My Heart", has an amazing "Southern Man", and also includes unreleased songs "Traces", "Love Art Blues", "Hawaiian Sunrise", "Evening Coconut", "Give Me Strength" and "Lady Wingshot".

Disc 3 has a 10+ minute version of "Touch The Night" that is incredible enough to make you rethink the entire Geffen Era, and the unreleased "Grey Riders" just about knocked me out cold! Disc 4 contains what might well be Neil's best unreleased song ever, "Ordinary People", as well as his Academy Awards Show performance of "Philadelphia".

This is a great collection that spans Neil's career from the mid-'60s to the mid-'90s...30 years of rockin' in the free world. Remember: LIVE MUSIC IS BETTER!!!!

It's All About BC and Memphis, BABY!!!

Well, I've officially given up on my pick'em pool. I'm not even sure how badly I'm doing, because every time I try to look at the damned thing I hear whistles in my head (I think Illinois just picked up their 157th team foul...Washington is now shooting 5 free throws for each...the little known "quintuple bonus" rule).

So, now I'm down to my other office pool...the infamous "luck of the draw" pool. 8 people pledge $20 each, and everybody gets a #1 or #2, then a #3 or #4, etc. until each person has 8 teams. Memphis, B.C., and Texas A&M earned me back $1 each for 1st round games. Then, Memphis and B.C. earned me another $2 each for the 2nd round. So, I'm $13 in the hole, but I have 2 teams in the Sweet 16 (games are $4 each, and Regional Finals are $6 each). So, GO MEMPHIS TIGERS and B.C. EAGLES!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, go Bradley Braves, too! Amazing. (Of course, if Bradley beats Memphis, my chances of making money on the pool are greatly diminshed. But, it'd be worth it.) Interesting side note: none of last year's Final Four made it out of the 2nd round (Louisville didn't make the field, Michigan St lost in the 1st round, Illinois and North Carolina both lost in the 2nd round). March Madness, baby!

PS - Congratulations to the Richwoods Knights...2nd in the Illinois Class AA State Finals!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Day Two Damage: How Extensive?

The numbers are too depressing to recite, and yet I'm happy. How can that be? Because a # 13 seed from my hometown, Bradley University, just handed Bill Self (traitor to Illini-nation) his 2nd Annual 1st-Round Upset Defeat...f-cking BEAUTIFUL!!! Now, don't get me wrong, Bill Self will end up recruiting his way to a national title. I.e., he will amass so much talent in one place at one time that even his complete strategic ineptitude will not be able to hold the team back. But, let's be honest, the guy couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag, to bastardize an old expression.

Anyway, let's see...Duke, Texas, Memphis, Gonzaga, UCLA, UConn, Illinois, UNC (big scare last night as well), Wichita St, 'Nova, B.C., Florida & Ohio St...So, 13 of my Sweet 16 (and all 8 of my Elite 8) are still alive after round 1. That's not too bad, I suppose. And, when you lose a pick in as wonderful a way as that Bradley upset of Kansas, that's just the beauty of March Madness!!!! (Underachieving Team of the Year Award goes to Michigan, you guys were PITIFUL last night, and CBS made me watch almost every stinkin' minute.)

PS - My high school alma mater, (Peoria) Richwoods is in the state semifinals today...good luck Knights!!!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Do IU Fans Really Want This Guy?

OK, so Indiana was thoroughly outplayed for most of last night's game. At least they found a way to win in the end. To what degree Mike Davis deserves any credit is open to debate, I suppose.

HOWEVER, after Iowa's PATHETIC display of 17-point-lead-blowing (and just "blowing" in general) today against mighty Northwestern State (!), does anyone out there really want Steve Alford? Is that the best Indiana can do? Keep in mind, as an Illinois fan, I have no vested interest in this. Either way (Iowa or Indiana), Alford's coaching at a conference rival. I can't get rid of his disgusting mug regardless. Thus, I believe I am thinking about this with the type of pure logic only possible through total emotional detachment. ALFORD SUCKS!!! I have it on deep background from an unnamed source close to the situation that Alford molests barnyard animals.

Worst of all, the guy can't coach. End of story. So, go ahead, Indiana. Hire Alford, thereby confining yourselves to certain mediocrity for the duration of his head coaching tenure...(OK, you're right. I lied about the "total emotional detachment" part. I had Iowa in the Sweet 16, g-dd-mmit!!! At least I got Bucknell & Ohio St right so far today. I won't even talk about how glad I am that I went against my initial gut feel and changed my pick from Arizona to Wisconsin...smooooooth one on my part, since the cheeseheads came soooo close to winning. What the f-ck is wrong with these Big Ten bastards?!)

Day One Damage Report

"A record 8 teams from the Big East"...blah, blah, blah. 1st of all, they have SIXTEEN teams in the conference!!!! 2nd, they're dropping like flies...0-3 yesterday. Admittedly, their bigger guns are playing today, including # 1 seeds UConn & 'Nova. Still, gimme a freakin' break with the "record 8 teams" bullshit, please!!!!

OK, so I got mixed up a bit on my # 12 over # 5 calls. I got Montana over Nevada correct. However, I had Utah St over Washington...incorrect. On the other hand, I had # 5 Syracuse over # 12 Texas A&M...wrong again. (Here, I mistakenly thought that Syracuse was a hot team, based on their "amazing" run through the F-ckin' "great" Big East tournament...meaningless, especially since McNamara has a pulled pud.)

Early session yesterday, I was 8 for 8. Later games, I was 4 for 8. So, for Day One, I was 12-4 picking games. The four teams I lost were Utah St., Iona, UNC-Wilmington, and Syracuse. I cannot freakin' believe that UNC-Wilmington, playing so close to home, blew an 18-point lead...that sucked! Anyway, of the 4, the only one I had in the Sweet 16 was Syracuse, and I had them losing to Duke there. All in all, I'd categorize the damage as "controllable".

There's only one # 5 vs. # 12 match-up left, Pitt vs. Kent St. I've got Pitt winning. However, if Kent St. pulls the upset, I pledge to blare "Ohio" at full volume 12 times in a row, in their honor.

IU can breathe again now!!! Talk about pulling one out of your collective ass...

Oh, and the Air Force can go back to defending this great country of ours, now that they don't have to worry about hoops any more (I...L...L...................I...N...I, baby!!!)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness Is Upon Us

What a jackass Billy Packer is! And, man, did I like it sooo much better when ESPN used to have the 1st two rounds. But, that said, this is still my favorite sporting event of the year, the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament (aka "March Madness").

So far, I'm 3 for 3. I had Wichita State, UW-Milwaukee, and Boston College all winning. Double-OT for B.C. though...close call!!! My alma mater (Illinois) plays Air Force tonight. A.F. is almost universally believed to be undeserving of even being in the tournament. That usually means only one thing: WATCH OUT!!! (I remember one year when I was in high school, Illinois was upset by Austin Peay...I'm still not sure who the hell they are!)

Watch out for SIU over West VA, Utah St over Washington, and Montana over Nevada. Remember, as you'll hear repeatedly, no #16 has EVER beaten a Oral Roberts. I didn't have the guts to pick them. Just have an odd feeling about Memphis (they'll probably win by 50 since I wrote that).

PS - Winthrop is giving Tennessee all they want and more so far (1st half)...I LOVE IT!!!! (I picked Tennessee, but have them losing in the 2nd round to Wichita St. So, I really wouldn't mind seeing the upset. I've mentioned Illinois enough that you should know I HATE Bruce Pearl!)

"tell Waterface to put it in his lung and not in his vein"

I've finally made it to the end of my album-by-album journey with Neil Young. TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT (1975), which I listened to back in January for the 1st time in more than a decade, was actually the impetus for the entire "project". However, the next album I chose to re-discover was TRANS, which was the subject of my 1st post. So, have I saved the best for last? Many Neil fans would say I certainly have. For me, it's more complicated. Suffice it to say, though, that this is definitely "Top 5" material.

The album was recorded in 1973, while Neil mourned the loss of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. I've read conflicting accounts of why it was shelved for 2 years before release. Some say Neil didn't want to release it (he certainly has been known to sit on material for years before ultimately releasing it). Most accounts, however, say that the record company folks were mortified by what they heard, and blocked its release. In any event, we should all be thankful that it finally saw the light of day, and thus became the 2nd recorded and 3rd released member of the so-called "Ditch Trilogy".

All songs written by Neil Young, except as noted:

Side I
Tonight’s The Night (4:39)
Speakin’ Out (4:56)
World On A String (2:27)
Borrowed Tune (3:26)
Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown (3:35) - by Danny Whitten & Neil Young
Mellow My Mind (3:07)
Side II
Roll Another Number (For The Road) (3:02)
Albuquerque (4:02)
New Mama (2:11)
Lookout Joe (3:57)
Tired Eyes (4:38)
Tonight’s The Night – Part II (4:52)

This has to rank right up near the top of the list of sloppy, alcohol-fueled rock albums, surpassed (possibly) only by the Stones' EXILE ON MAIN ST (1972). However, T.T.N. is raw and cathartic to a degree that even Exile can't quite match. I'll just say if you're taste veers toward studio tricks and slick production, you're probably in the wrong place. If you like music with gut-wrenching emotion, here's your holy grail.

Here is where Neil 1st employed the device of beginning and ending an LP with different versions of the same (or VERY similar) songs, starting more acoustic and ending more electric (although the acoustic/electric differences are not as pronounced here as with RUST NEVR SLEEPS or FREEDOM). The opener is an all-time classic Neil Young song, included on DECADE and played in concert approximately 1 billion times. It's so stark, hauntingly beautiful yet horrific, and just plain good that it defies all logic. I mean, "Early in the mornin'/At the break of day/He used to sleep/Until the afternoon", could that make any less sense semantically? Of course one cannot actually sleep until the afternoon at the break of day. It's nonsensical when taken literally. But, so what? It conveys a mood and feeling. The guy was out all night partying and now he's passed out sleeping through the morning. Moving on.

"Speakin' Out" has Neil noodling away at the piano, with some great bluesy guitar by Nils Lofgren. (By the way, I totally forgot to mention Nils in my post on AFTER THE GOLD RUSH, like how he was only 19 freakin' years old when Neil found him!!!!) "World On A String" has Neil back on guitar, and man does it sting ("No, the world on a string/Doesn't mean a thing/It's only real in the way/That I feel from day to day"). Neil later included a version of this song in his UNPLUGGED set.

"Borrowed Tune" is all Neil (piano, harmonica & vocal), sung to the tune of "Lady Jane" by the Rolling Stones ("I'm singin' this borrowed tune/I took from the Rolling Stones/Alone in this empty room/Too wasted to write my own"). This is quite simply a soul-baring motherf-cker of a song. The perfect follow-up is "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown", which is just a balls-out ROCKER featuring Danny Whitten's raw vocals. It was recorded live at the Fillmore East. Side I ends with "Mellow My Mind", which has Neil on guitar and employing the rawest, most screechingly hoarse vocals ("Something so hard to find/A situation that can casualize your mind").

Side II opens with "Roll Another Number (For The Road)" which feels like a laid-back hangover of a song. A live version of this song ends WELD. "Albuquerque" is a strung-out ode to joint-smoking road trips in New Mexico ("Well, they say/That Santa Fe/Is less than ninety miles away/And I got time/To roll a number/And rent a car/Oh, Albuquerque"), and getting away from it all ("I'll find somewhere where/They don't care who I am").

On "New Mama", Neil gives us a great, haunting acoustic guitar intro that yields to harmony vocals that some might describe as sounding like "CSNY on crack". It's pretty damned sweet ("New mama's got a sun in her eyes/No clouds are in my changing skies/Each morning when I wake up to rise/I'm livin' in a dreamland"). "Lookout Joe" is a chunky rocker with Neil on guitar and Ben Keith on slide ("pick it, Ben").

"Tired Eyes" is the other song from this album that Neil deemed DECADE-worthy. It's definitely the slower, hung-over vibe again ("Please take my advice/Open up the tired eyes"). The album ends with the bass-heavy "Part II" version of the title track.

Bottom line: This is a dark, harrowing classic. But, it's certainly not all doom & gloom. Or, at least, it won't necessarily bring you down when you listen. In fact, it can be quite a nice way to fight through a down mood.

PS - This is literally a "dark" album. The cover, inner sleeve, and even the fold-out insert are all in black & white. Most notably, however, the label itself is black with silverish lettering (as opposed to the typical Reprise orange with black lettering that is on EVERY OTHER known album on that label - Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, etc.). The inner sleeve has a picture of the band with "Danny Whitten" written under an empty spot on the stage. The fold-out insert is just crazy. It's got a picture of a Huck Finn/Opie Taylor-lookin' kid with a straw hat. It's got extensive notes in a foreign language (someone said Dutch?). It's got a picture of the inner sleeve from ON THE BEACH with a crazy typewritten story over the top of it. It's got a picture of a scrap of newspaper that included the following, "For Players and hustlers, tonight's the night." It also has text written as if it were a letter, that includes the words used as the title of this post. That same "letter" includes the following, "I'm sorry. You don't know these people. This means nothing to you."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Banned In Spain, Underrated EVERYWHERE

Apparently, they hold their explorers, or at least Cortez, in very high regard in Spain. "Cortez The Killer" was enough to get ZUMA (1975) banned there. Now, as for why I never heard any of these songs growing up in the U.S., I have no idea, and frankly it pisses me off to no end. I listened to FM radio quite a bit in the last 1/2 of the '70s. I heard "Cinnamon Girl", but never "Barstool Blues". I heard "Southern Man", but never "Danger Bird". Hell, I don't even remember hearing Cortez!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. The good news is that Frank "Poncho" Sampedro played rhythm guitar, allowing for a new formation of Crazy Horse. Long live the Horse! Neil appeared to be emerging from the "ditch", not that there was much wrong with that trilogy (TIME FADES AWAY, TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT, ON THE BEACH), of which T.T.N. had just been released earlier in 1975. In any event, the songs:

Side I: Don't Cry No Tears (2:34), Danger Bird (6:54), Pardon My Heart (3:49), Lookin' For A Love (3:17), Barstool Blues (3:02); Side II: Stupid Girl (3:13), Drive Back (3:32), Cortez The Killer (7:29), Through My Sails (2:41)

This album just has a really cool feel to it. "Don't Cry No Tears" kicks things off as a relatively laid-back, but solid rocker with a bit of country spirit (alt-country, anyone?). Next is "Danger Bird". From the beginning (incredible controlled-feedback intro.), this is a virtuoso performance of pure, distorted glory. This is definitely a candidate for the "most overlooked" Neil song award. It probably doesn't help that Neil left it off DECADE, but this should be a huge "classic rock" radio song (I mean, for chrissakes, as many times as I heard "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd...awww f-ck it). Interesting lyric: "I know we should be free/But freedom's just a prison to me".

Neil follows with "Pardon My Heart", a great, quiet, acoustic song ("You brought it all on/No, no, no/I don't believe this song"). Next up is "Lookin' For A Love", which is similar in spirit to "Don't Cry No Tears" and includes these cool lyrics, "But I hope I treat her kind/And don't mess with her mind/When she starts to see/The darker side of me".

"Barstool Blues" closes out the 1st side. It's still got the distorted, alt-country feel, and with some serious EDGE in the vocal delivery by Neil. Let me say this, I started college in the late '80s. So, I cannot even begin to count the number of "college radio" or "alternative" bands that sounded exactly like "Barstool Blues". It boggles the mind. Now, Neil leaving this one off DECADE is an absolute sin. I nominate this song for "most overlooked" as well. Should I make a "most influential" category too?

Side II opens with "Stupid Girl" (not the Stones song), which is more brilliant guitar distortion. "Drive Back" is a ROCKER with blistering bursts of guitar solo. Then we get the famous "Cortez The Killer", which Neil deemed DECADE-worthy, and also later played on LIVE RUST, etc. Even this one didn't get FM play where I grew up (maybe they were honoring Spain's ban in Central Illinois). "Cortez..." has great imagery (lyrical, and with the guitar sound) and gives us a glimpse into Neil's fascination with "Indians" (and explorers, for that matter). The album closes with a CSNY formation on "Through My Sails", a nice, mellow tune.

I think it's interesting to look at ZUMA almost as a "sequel" to EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE. One was the 1st album Neil did with Crazy Horse. The other is basically the 1st album with the "new" Crazy Horse. They each have two guitar "epics", although "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand" are in the 9 to 10 minute range, whereas "Danger Bird" and "Cortez The Killer" are in the 7 minute range. There seems to be a natural progression. EKTIN seemed to have two distinct types of songs: hard rockers ("Cinnamon Girl" and the two "epics"), and more country-influenced tunes, with the title track being the closest thing to a mix of the two. ZUMA, however, seems to blend the two sounds together into one uniquely-Neil creation of country attitude (ranging from laid-back to full of invective) and heavy guitar feedback & distortion.

Bottom line: This is a GREAT album. It's not just "good" or "very good". It's "great". It's one of Neil's most underrated in my opinion. There's no reason why ZUMA shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath with Neil/Crazy Horse classics such as EKTIN, RUST NEVER SLEEPS, and LIVE RUST.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Suave...Godd@m, You Are One Suave F#$%*!"

The title of this post just came to me in a flash, 15 seconds before I typed it. I took just enough time to say to myself, "That's WAY too obscure," and then, "Is that even the right line?" Finally, I answered myself, "Close enough, since nobody's going to get it anyway." [A hint follows in the 1st sentence of the next paragraph.]

Neil writes on AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970), "Most of these songs were inspired by the Dean Stockwell-Herb Berman screenplay "After the Goldrush'." Apparently, Neil was quite the fan of Dean Stockwell. In any event, this is one of my absolute favorite Neil albums of all time. It's hard for me to rank Neil's albums in order of "best to worst", because each album has its own mood and feel. But, any way you cut it, this is on my short list (say, "Top 5" certainly).

This is definitely one of Neil's most consistently excellent albums from start to finish, and one of his most lyrically inventive. The imagery is inspired. Maybe I should try to track down that screenplay...

Side One begins with the acoustic "Tell Me Why", which is classic Neil ("Sailing heart-ships/Through broken harbors/Out on the waves in the night/Still the searcher/Must ride the dark horse/Racing alone in his fright/Tell me why/Tell me why/Is it hard to make/Arrangements with yourself/When you're old enough to repay/But young enough to sell?"). Great opener. [haahnster note: Many people have misheard the "old enough to repay" as "old enough to repaint".]

The title track follows, and is one of Neil's most brilliant songs. He plays it on the piano, and sings in that ultra-high/falsetto voice that doesn't always work, but works perfectly here. "Look at Mother Nature on the run/In the 1970s", "I was thinking about/What a friend had said/I was hoping/It was a lie", etc. Amazing.

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is acoustic-based, but with more accompaniment. "I have a friend/I've never seen/He hides his head/Inside a dream". This is followed by the blistering "Southern Man", one of Neil's all-time classic rockers. "I saw cotton/And I saw black/Tall white mansions/And little shacks/Southern man/When will you/Pay them back?/I heard screamin'/And bullwhips cracking/How long? How long?" And, the guitar-soloing easily matches the fury of the lyrics. Side One ends with the ultra-brief "Till The Morning Comes". It's as if Neil is allowing the listener to regain his/her senses after the onslaught of the previous song.

Side Two opens with a cover of Don Gibson's country standard, "Oh, Lonesome Me". I've read negative things about this song. I think it works here. However, it's certainly not essential to the album, in my opinion. Next up is one of my favorites, and another candidate for Neil's "most overlooked song" (I can't believe it wasn't on DECADE), "Don't Let It Bring You Down". Check out the lyrical imagery on this one, "Cold wind ripping/Down the alley at dawn/And the morning paper flies/Dead man lying/By the side of the road/With the daylight in his eyes". It goes on...truly awe-inspiring.

"Birds" is a beautiful, piano-based tune with great harmony vocals. "When You Dance I Can Really Love" is a great rocker of a song. It is a favorite concert tune, and later appeared on LIVE RUST and YEAR OF THE HORSE. "I Believe In You" is next. It's a perfectly fine song, but I certainly wouldn't have included it on DECADE over some of the others on this album (of course, Neil never asked me). "Crippled Creek Ferry" closes the album. Man, at 1 minute, 34 seconds, it is WAY too short!!! I would love to have this expanded into a full 3 or 4 minute song.

It's interesting (to me, at least) to note that after Neil's previous album, which ended both sides with extended guitar workouts, he went in the exact opposite direction here, ending both sides with extremely short songs. Also, some housekeeping issues: my album cover lists these songs as "When You Dance I Can Really Love" and "Crippled Creek Ferry", but the label on the record itself says "When You Dance You Can Really Love" and "Cripple Creek Ferry". However, the lyrics, which are in Neil's handwriting, have the "I Can" and "Crippled" versions of the titles that match the album cover. So, that's what I'm going with. I know it seems like a minor point, but somebody somewhere would've said something.

Bottom line: When my brother expressed an interest in Neil Young's music, I bought him this album (on CD), along with GREATEST HITS (2004). That's how good I think this album is, and how underrepresented I think it is on DECADE.

PS - OK, I couldn't help myself. I just did some quick research (gotta love the internet), and found this about the David Lynch film Blue Velvet:
In one of the film's most striking scenes, Ben (Dean Stockwell), the effeminate, clownish, kabuki-like, Queen Bee proprietor-pimp and host of the small-town bordello greets them in the outer room of the filthy gangster's den. With mascara, lipstick, and ambiguous sexual/gender orientation, he is dressed in a gaudy, ruffle-fronted tuxedo and sporting a cigarette holder. The hellish brothel is peopled by several over-bloated, heavily made-up whores and a fat man
- it is a veritable insect hive of insect creatures. Frank is impressed by the effete look of his homosexual/pimp friend:

Suave. God damn, you are one suave f--ker.

My memory isn't completely shot!!! Click here for more.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Who The #%^&* Needs Studio Tricks?!?

Of course, in my humble opinion, the title of this post is a rhetorical question. The "answer", that is so obvious it need not be spoken, is "certainly not Neil Young"! EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (1969) was the follow-up to Neil's self-titled debut album. While his debut was a fine effort, it suffered in many places from what I would term "over-production". Luckily for everyone involved in rock music, Neil pulled one of his famous, abrupt changes in direction.

As the story goes, he "discovered" a little-known band called "The Rockets", renamed them "Crazy Horse", and dragged them into the studio as his back-up band. Two weeks later, this masterpiece was finished. Heck, according to the liner notes in DECADE, Neil wrote both "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl In The Sand" on the same afternoon, while he was in bed with a 103-degree fever. I've even read elsewhere that "Cinnamon Girl" was written that day too. Maybe it's time to revisit the "creative outbursts" theme, and narrow it down to "most amazing day" of songwriting ever!

Side One starts with "Cinnamon Girl", which is one of Neil's all-time classics, and heavily played on "classic rock" radio stations. This is Exhibit A from this LP of how no one plays guitar like Neil Young (except for the thousands of people who try to play guitar like Neil Young). I could go on and on about how great a song this is to hear when you're driving down the highway, or how much amazing sound is crammed into less than 3 minutes.

Next up is the title track. This song is among Neil's most overlooked, in my oh-so-humble opinion. It's seminal alt-country with stinging lead guitar runs. I think it's fantastic, and deserves way more attention than it gets. "Round & Round (It Won't Be Long)" is a much slower song. It's a really cool song for someone in just the right mood. In the context of the album, it serves to soften the listener up "for the kill" of the song that follows.

"Down By The River" closes out the 1st side with nearly 9 minutes of proto-grunge guitar. This is certainly another fine (perhaps the finest) example of Neil being Neil. I've read his guitar-playing described as "idiosyncratic". I think the soloing here is unique in rock music history. It just has a sound all its own. And, as Neil has been quoted, "One note will do." Then, of course, there are the homicidal lyrics, which I have neither the time nor the energy to delve into right now.

Side Two opens with "(When You're On) The Losing End", which definitely features the more country-rock side of Neil, and is a very, very good song in its own right. "Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)" has a slow, haunting pace, and features one screeching violin. If I'm in a certain mood (which usually coincides with being too drunk, depressed, and/or exhausted to get up and move the needle to the next song), I find this song to be sheer brilliance. More often than not, however, it might as well be 5:30 of fingernails on a chalkboard, because I'm going to skip it to get to Cowgirl.

The closer is "Cowgirl In The Sand", which is among the most flabbergastingly excellent songs ever recorded! To even describe it here, in my pitiful fashion, would be a tremendous disservice to the song. It must be heard to be believed. I'll admit that when I first bought this album (10th or 11th grade), I would have said, without hesitation, that "Down By The River" was better than "Cowgirl In The Sand". Now, I'm not so sure that ANYTHING is better than "Cowgirl In The Sand". In fact, the question of which is "better" is a silly one. And, isn't that part of what makes blogging fun? So, feel free to comment on which song is better and why.

Bottom line: This is one of my all-time favorite albums. I love it. It starts with a kick, eases back, then gives you an extended gut-punch to end Side One. It starts heart-broken on Side Two, turns to the surreal, and emerges with a devastating, 10-minute-long groin-kick to finish you off completely.

PS - This is among Neil's best-selling albums ever. However, apparently, it did not sell immediately. It was after CSNY (DEJA VU, "Ohio") topped the charts in 1970, which helped Neil's AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970) sell hugely, that many people went back and discovered Neil's other work from 1969. I always knew those CSN boys served a higher purpose.

Friday, March 10, 2006

We Fear Change. We Fear Change. We Fear Change.

I FINALLY watched this DVD. It was a f-cking great gift, and I'm not sure how I let it sit for so long before opening it. Anyway, I watched most of it Wednesday night (all of Disc 1, and all but the last 20 minutes of Disc 2), but had to stop in time for The Daily Show, with Neil Young as guest. So I popped Disc 2 back in last night and skipped ahead to where I had stopped previously.

What a great film! I had heard that people were pissed off when Dylan "went electric". In fact, I briefly mentioned it in a previous post. Seeing (and hearing) the footage from the Newport Festival in '65, and the subsequent tour, particularly the shows in the UK, is AMAZING! Arguably the biggest musical act in the world being reacted to sooooo negatively is shocking to observe.

I don't really have a lot of time to go into more detail. But, I definitely recommend this to any Dylan fan, or anyone remotely interested in music history. As someone who did not live through these times, I found it very enlightening.

PS - I can definitely understand some of the "critiques" of Dylan's ascension to stardom. I could see the "He used Joan Baez" criticism as a possible interpretation. Of course, it could have just been two young people in a relationship that ended. He also recorded "House of the Rising Sun" for his 1st album using Dave Van Ronk's arrangement, which apparently was unique at the time, before Van Ronk himself had a chance to record it. And, were Bob's visits to Woody Guthrie, and early songs, especially "Song to Woody", sincere? I always thought so. I suppose, in context, they could be seen as calculated efforts at self-promotion. But, that's pretty f-cking cynical, isn't it?! Anyway, watch the DVD. It's great!

And, nothing (I mean NOTHING) can take away from the prolific output of ridiculously excellent songs. One of my favorite parts: watching Allen Ginsberg tell the story of hearing "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" for the 1st time and weeping, because he realized that the torch was being passed to a new generation.

Oh, by the way, the "Final Four" Neil album reviews are coming soon...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Neil Invents The "Box Set"

OK, OK, so it didn't actually come in a box...

However, DECADE (1977) was a triple-album retrospective that also included multiple unreleased songs and/or alternate versions of songs. Neil Young, along with Tim Mulligan and David Briggs, compiled the tracks. Neil also included liner notes about each and every song. Some referred to when/where/how the song was written ("Harvest - Written in London in 1971 and cut in Nashville that year. My favorite record from Nashville."). Some were more impressionistic ("Heart Of Gold - This song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch. A rougher ride but I saw more interesting people there."). Very interesting reading indeed...

Here's the incredible 35-song line-up (All selections written by Neil Young):

Side 1:
Down To The Wire (2:25)
Burned (2:14)
Mr. Soul (2:41)
Broken Arrow (6:13)
Expecting To Fly (3:44)
Sugar Mountain (5:43)
Side 2:
I Am A Child (2:17)
The Loner (3:50)
The Old Laughing Lady (5:35)
Cinnamon Girl (2:59)
Down By The River (8:58)
Side 3:
Cowgirl In The Sand (10:01)
I Believe In You (3:27)
After The Gold Rush (3:45)
Southern Man (5:31)
Helpless (3:34)
Side 4:
Ohio (2:56)
Soldier (2:28)
Old Man (3:21)
A Man Needs A Maid (3:58)
Harvest (3:08)
Heart Of Gold (3:06)
Star Of Bethlehem (2:46)
Side 5:
The Needle And The Damage Done (2:02)
Tonight's The Night - Part I (4:41)
Tired Eyes (4:33)
Walk On (2:40)
For The Turnstiles (3:01)
Winterlong (3:05)
Deep Forbidden Lake (3:39)
Side 6:
Like A Hurricane (8:16)
Love Is A Rose (2:16)
Cortez The Killer (7:29)
Campaigner (3:30)
Long May You Run (3:48)

[The CD version maintains the same song sequence, consolidated on two discs, with Sides 1-3 on Disc 1; Sides 4-6 on Disc 2.] This is an excellent cross-section of Neil's early career. Of course, I could still spend days arguing which songs should or should not have been included. For example, it's a bit heavy on Buffalo Springfield while including nothing from the TIME FADES AWAY album. I mean "Broken Arrow" over "Don't Be Denied", come on!

But, that's probably why I never bought this on vinyl. I was too busy collecting each and every album. That's just my nature. When I get this into something (e.g., Neil's music), I just have to have it ALL. However, I couldn't convince myself that the unreleased songs were worth the hefty, triple-LP sticker price. Eventually, though, the compact disc was invented (the perfect opportunity to finally buy DECADE)! This was a great purchase for me, because DECADE is a fantastic way to have easy access to a huge sampling of Neil's best work. Plus, buying DECADE gave me ownership of the unreleased stuff I'd been missing, such as "Winterlong". And, now I have "Ohio" and "Helpless" on CD (Lord knows I wasn't going to buy any CSNY on CD anytime soon).

Bottom line: If you're a huge Neil fan, but have the early stuff on vinyl, then DECADE on CD is perfect. But, is DECADE the "essential" starting point for new Neil fans? I've read elsewhere that it is. However, in most cases, you can now get the GREATEST HITS (released in 2004) and LIVE RUST both for less than DECADE by itself. Now, this GH + LR option will not give you any true Buffalo Springfield recordings. Oh well, plenty of time for that later. Plus, I like the LIVE RUST version of "I Am A Child" (and "Sugar Mountain", for that matter) better. It will give you the two CSNY songs. It will also get you the LIVE RUST versions of "Lotta Love", and the RUST NEVER SLEEPS songs, which came out after DECADE. Plus, GREATEST HITS has "Rockin' In The Free World" and "Harvest Moon", too.

By the time you've listened to GREATEST HITS and LIVE RUST, you should know if you're into Neil. At that point, you can go back for the under-represented classics (ON THE BEACH, ZUMA, etc.). Hey, it's just a different option I came up with. If you do buy DECADE, I'm certain you will NOT be disappointed! Oh, and for the 2nd day in a row, let me put in a plea to Neil himself. Neil, if you're reading this (which I'm most certain you are not, but I still have to try), I saw you on The Daily Show last night. You were a great guest. Humble and hilarious. It was perfect. Now, release the f-cking Archives, PLEASE!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Closing the Books on the Geffen Era

As careful readers of this blog already know, Neil Young released five albums with Geffen Records in the 1980s. All five have been individually reviewed previously: TRANS (1982) on January 16, 2006; EVERYBODY’S ROCKIN’ (1983) on January 19, 2006; OLD WAYS (1985) on February 9, 2006; LANDING ON WATER (1986) on February 17, 2006; LIFE (1987) on February 10, 2006. So, reviewing Neil’s Geffen compilation, LUCKY THIRTEEN (1993) is redundant, right? Wrong! As the true Neil fan knows, “There’s more to the picture than meets the eye.”

This disc comes with a tag line on the front: “Excursions Into Alien Territory”. It completely fits the TRANS-era cover photo of Neil with wicked wraparound shades and vocoder. However, it also hints at the presentation of re-worked and previously unreleased material. Here's the "Lucky 13":
  1. SAMPLE AND HOLD (8:04)
  4. GET GONE (5:06)
  6. ONCE AN ANGEL (3:54)
  8. HIPPIE DREAM (4:26)
  9. PRESSURE (2:46)
  10. AROUND THE WORLD (5:28)
  12. AIN’T IT THE TRUTH (7:38)
  13. THIS NOTE’S FOR YOU (5:34)

“Sample And Hold” has always been my favorite of the vocoder songs from TRANS. Here, however, is an “extended remix” of sorts, actually a different recording of the song with Crazy Horse in 1983. The more I listen to this, the more convinced I become that this extended version is superior to the original album version. “Transformer Man” is the second-best vocoder song from TRANS, and is presented here in original form.

“Depression Blues” is a previously unreleased song from the original OLD WAYS sessions from 1983. It might well be better than any of the songs that ended up on the official OLD WAYS release. It certainly fits the pure country style of that album. I like the lyrics, “Goin’ back to school/Savin’ up my tuition/Gonna rewrite all the rules/On the old blackboard”.

EVERYBODY’S ROCKIN’ is skipped all together, replaced instead with two longer Neil originals recorded with the “Shocking Pinks” live at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio on September 18, 1983. “Get Gone” has that familiar, Bo Diddley-type of rhythm to it, with some great lead guitar by Neil. “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me”, complete with horns, perfectly foreshadows the Neil & The Blue Notes album that was to come five years later. Neil plays an absolutely wicked blues lead guitar, with a strong vocal performance as well.

“Once An Angel” and “Where Is The Highway Tonight?” are taken directly from OLD WAYS. Waylon Jennings is featured on the latter of the two. I probably would’ve chosen the title track “Old Ways” in place of “Once An Angel”. But, who am I to question Neil’s selection of his own songs? These two certainly give the flavor of the album OLD WAYS.

“Hippie Dream” and “Pressure” are pulled right from LANDING ON WATER. Again, they definitely give the listener a representative sample of that album’s sound. “Hippie Dream” is probably my favorite from L.O.W. “Pressure” could easily have been replaced with a different song, but is interesting for its reference to “Max Headroom” if nothing else.

“Around The World” and “Mideast Vacation” are from LIFE. I get the inclusion of the latter. But, “Around The World”, I would definitely have replaced with “Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll”. Perhaps Neil was making a peace offering to Geffen by leaving it out. By the way, I know big-time Neil fan “Thasher”, who operates the “Thrasher’s Wheat” website, is a fan of the line “Stop sniffin’ that smokin’ gun” from “Mideast Vacation”. The song is an intriguing political statement to be sure. Some would say it borders on prophetic. Others would say it borders on psychotic. Listen, and you can be the judge...

“Ain’t It The Truth” and “This Note’s For You” are live recordings with the Blue Notes line-up, right after the Geffen era had ended. “Ain’t It The Truth” is a song that Neil allegedly first recorded with the Squires way back in 1964. The version included here was recorded live at The Agora in Cleveland, OH on April 23, 1988. “This Note’s For You” here is nearly three times as long as the way-too-short album version, with plenty of extra stinging guitar solos by Neil. It’s a freakin’ amazing version here, if you ask me. It was recorded live at the Hollywood Palace. There were two shows each on April 13th and April 14th of 1988. There’s no way for me to know from which of the four shows this was taken. However, Neil can be heard saying “We’ll be back in a little while…” at the end, which probably rules out the early shows on both dates, as the set lists for those shows on the Sugar Mountain website list this song dead last. Anybody have any tapes of the late shows?

Bottom line: If you EVER had ANY inkling of wanting to sample any of Neil’s so-called “genre albums” of the '80s, then LUCKY THIRTEEN might be just what the doctor ordered. Or, if you’re like me, and already have all of his '80s albums, it’s still worth it for the alternate tracks. In particular, the two live songs each with the Shocking Pinks and the Blue Notes make this a great investment in my humble opinion. “Live music is better,” I’m certain I’ve heard that before!!!

PS – The CD booklet makes no less than six specific references to the Neil Young Archives and four references to the Neil Young Archives Video Collection. And, that doesn’t include all the song titles printed in the background behind the lyrics and liner notes (including unreleased song titles such as “Soul Of A Woman” and “So Tired”). Well, Neil, it’s been 13 years since these references were printed. Will we finally see these alleged Archives this year? Could 2006 be a “Lucky 13”?!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Neil, Friends, Relatives, Red Rocks, Road Rock, WTF?

The last official live album I have left to review is ROAD ROCK (2000), aka ROAD ROCK V. 1. This could very easily be confused with the DVD release RED ROCKS LIVE (2000), which has the same cover photo. Good thing they make the cases in different shapes, and put them in different sections of the Best Buy that I've been known to stumble through drunkenly.

Actually, the DVD is better in my opinion, for two obvious reasons: it has video, and it has more songs. Plus, people claim DVD sound is better than CD sound (my ears must be shot - they both sound good to me, but I was happy with vinyl LPs!).

Here's the CD line-up:

Cowgirl In The Sand (18:00) - San Diego, CA
Walk On (4:30) - Vancouver, BC
Fool For Your Love (3:06) - Santa Barbara, CA
Peace Of Mind (5:00) - Vancouver, BC
Words (11:00) - Vancouver, BC
Motorcycle Mama (5:30) - San Diego, CA
Tonight’s The Night (10:00) - San Diego, CA
All Along The Watchtower (7:50) - Cleveland, OH

The biggest selling point for the CD over the DVD is the final song, which includes a great guest appearance by Chrissie Hynde. It's the only song that's not included on the DVD, and it's smokin' hot! By and large, though, I'm partial to the RED ROCKS versions of most of these cuts (maybe it's that clean, Colorado air). The prime example is "Cowgirl In The Sand", which appears in its natural encore position on the RED ROCKS LIVE DVD, and was recorded during what appears to be the outbreak of a vicious thunderstorm. Thus, it has been dubbed by some as "Cowgirl In The Rain". I don't know if it was the very real possibility of electrocution or what, but Neil's guitar sounds a bit more pleasingly wicked to me on the DVD version.

With either the DVD or the CD, you get the same outstanding backing band (Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Duck Dunn, Jim Keltner, Astrid Young and Pegi Young). Neil's sister and wife make a fairly formidable duo on backing vocals (this is no Yoko Ono shit here, or worse...Linda McCartney, not to disrespect the dearly departed).

By the way, I'm listening to the ROAD ROCK (CD) version of "Cowgirl" right now, and it sounds better than I remembered. I still prefer the DVD version, but I certainly wouldn't knock this version. (Or, as my friend's dad used to say to my friend and I, while we were watching Charlie's Angels as 9-year-olds, "I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers!" Man, do I need therapy or what?!)

"Fool For Your Love" was previously unreleased, and it's a pretty good-natured, laid-back tune. The DVD also includes "Bad Fog Of Loneliness", which is otherwise unreleased. The song line-up is a bit eclectic compared to other official live releases, with "Motorcycle Mama" and "Peace of Mind" from COMES A TIME as examples.

Other songs on the RED ROCKS LIVE DVD that aren't on the CD: "Powderfinger", "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", "I Believe In You", "Unknown Legend", "Buffalo Springfield Again", "Razor Love", "Daddy Went Walkin'", "Winterlong", "Harvest Moon", "World On A String", "Mellow My Mind". I mean, my goodness, there are 19 songs on the DVD, compared to only 8 on the CD!!!

Bottom line: I'd probably recommend any of the live albums with Crazy Horse over ROAD ROCK, because I'm partial to Crazy Horse. However, if you're looking for a live Neil album with a more laid-back, mellow feel, ROAD ROCK might fit the bill. It still has plenty of rockin' guitar ("Cowgirl", "Words", and of course, "Watchtower"). I think I paid $10 for the CD (brand new), which is a bargain in my book. However, I paid $16 for the DVD (brand new), and that's a FREAKIN' DEAL!!!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Brief Update on the "Neil Young Project"

Big-time trouble with the whole thing this morning (too many Oscar updates bogging down the system?)...

Too late for a full post now, but I will take a few seconds to say the following:

What started out as a brief email exchange with my brother and an old friend has really grown into quite a hobby. I had no idea "blogging" could be so much fun! My original idea was to listen to all my old Neil Young albums and write about the experience. In the process, I realized just how many things Neil had released since I had last been keeping track (1996's BROKEN ARROW). So, (much to my wife's dismay, I'm sure) I've ended up buying several items as well. And, then there was last week's diversion into "creative outbursts", which I found to be a lot of fun.

Anyway, basic plans for the coming days include wrapping up the Neil album-by-album reviews. Unfortunately (?), I have not located a reasonably-priced copy of JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST (1972). I suppose I could listen to the song "Soldier" on DECADE, and then pretend I'd heard the rest of the album. Hell, with that type of "journalistic integrity", I could be offered a job at any number of mainstream media outlets. But, alas, I'll just have to skip it.

So, what's left? 1 live album: ROAD ROCK V.1 (2000), 2 compilations: LUCKY THIRTEEN (1993) and DECADE (1977), and 4 studio classics: EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (1969), AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (1970), TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT (1975), ZUMA (1975). Should be some fun posting...I know it's going to be some excellent listening!

PS - My wife rented a couple of Oscar-type movies this weekend. North Country was good, especially if you like to get yourself pissed off about injustices. Charlize Theron and Frances McDormand were both very, very good. Walk The Line was totally out of this world! Both leads were AMAZING, including doing their own EXCELLENT musical performances! So, congrats to Reese Witherspoon...she was very deserving. I told my wife that by showing me that movie she was more-or-less inviting me to take a deep dive into the music of Johnny Cash. She just rolled her eyes...

Friday, March 03, 2006

And the winner is...

And the winner in this (hotly debated, eagerly anticipated) contest is…(drum roll)…BOB DYLAN, 1963 to 1966.

I’ll skip Bob’s self-titled, debut album from 1962, as it contained mainly cover versions of folk & blues standards, with only two Dylan originals. Let’s jump right into his 2nd album, THE FREEWHEELIN’ BOB DYLAN (May 1963), which contained this AMAZING line-up: “Blowin' in the Wind”, “Girl From The North Country”, “Masters Of War”, “Down The Highway”, “Bob Dylan's Blues”, “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall”, “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right”, “Bob Dylan's Dream”, “Oxford Town”, “Talking World War III Blues”, “Corrina, Corrina” (Traditional), “Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance” (Bob Dylan/H. Thomas), and “I Shall Be Free”. Wow!

Next up was THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN’ (February 1964), which included “The Times They Are A-Changin'”, “Ballad of Hollis Brown”, “With God On Our Side”, “One Too Many Mornings”, “North Country Blues”, “Only A Pawn In Their Game”, “Boots Of Spanish Leather”, “When The Ship Comes In”, “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll”, and “Restless Farewell”. Just a shade ahead of “She loves you, yeah yeah yeah,” wouldn’t you say, bloke?

Later that year came ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN (August 1964), with these songs: “All I Really Want to Do”, “Black Crow Blues”, “Spanish Harlem Incident”, “Chimes of Freedom”, “I Shall Be Free No. 10”, “To Ramona”, “Motorpsycho Nitemare”, “My Back Pages”, “I Don't Believe You”, “Ballad in Plain D”, and “It Ain't Me Babe”. Keep in mind that Dylan’s 23rd birthday was right between THE TIMES… and ANOTHER SIDE…crazy, isn’t it?!

Finally, we get to my personal favorite, BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME (March 1965). This one was ½ acoustic and ½ electric. He led off with the electric stuff: “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “She Belongs to Me”, “Maggie's Farm”, “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, “Outlaw Blues”, “On the Road Again”, and “Bob Dylan's 115th Dream”. The 2nd side was back to his usual solo acoustic: “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Gates of Eden”, “It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)”, and “It's All Over Now, Baby Blue”. My f-cking goodness, what a freakin’ landmark album! (And people were PISSED OFF at the time!)

Dylan had officially, 100% “gone electric” with his next album, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (August 1965). Many consider this his best album. I suppose it’s hard to fault them when you look at the songs included: “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Tombstone Blues”, “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry”, “From a Buick 6”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”, “Queen Jane Approximately”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues”, and “Desolation Row”. In fact, many consider this the greatest album in rock history. (I’m still partial to BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, though!)

How do you possibly follow all of that up? Well, if you’re Bob Dylan, you release a double-album, BLONDE ON BLONDE (May 1966). “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”, “Pledging My Time”, “Visions of Johanna”, “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)”, “I Want You”, “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again”, “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat”, “Just Like a Woman”, “Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine”, “Temporary Like Achilles”, “Absolutely Sweet Marie”, “4th Time Around”, “Obviously Five Believers”, and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”, not a lot of “filler material”, eh? The man is an absolute genius!!!

Oh, and somewhere in there he also found time to write one of his all-time classics, “Positively 4th Street”, which ultimately surfaced on his Greatest Hits album (1967). Look at the lyrics that end this song, “I wish that for just one time/You could stand inside my shoes/And just for that one moment/I could be you/Yes, I wish that for just one time/You could stand inside my shoes/You'd know what a drag it is/To see you”. OUCH! Better yet, go to and you can search by album or directly by song, and read the lyrics to the songs I've listed above. They are really quite phenomenal.

Bob Dylan took the storytelling tradition of folk and blues lyrics, and truly elevated those lyrics to the level of poetry. His lyrics stand on their own as great literature. Not only that, but he introduced a level of social and political awareness that did not exist in the other hit songs of the day (e.g., The Beatles' “Love, love me do/You know I love you/I'll always be true/So, please, love me do” vs. Dylan's “Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?/Who did you meet, my darling young one?/I met a young child beside a dead pony/I met a white man who walked a black dog/I met a young woman whose body was burning/I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow/I met one man who was wounded in love/I met another man who was wounded with hatred/And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard/It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.”). It was all quite unprecedented, and caused a paradigm shift in the approach to popular songwriting. Not to mention, an incredible number of musicians and musical groups launched their careers by covering Dylan's songs.

All of that is amazing enough. But, here's the kicker: Dylan was an amazing guitar player too. That is so often overlooked that it truly sickens me. I absolutely cannot BELIEVE that he doesn't get more credit for his guitar work. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot (wink, wink), here's a big, heart-felt “F-CK YOU” to anyone/everyone that ever uttered the words Bob Dylan can't sing. It's right back to the most fundamental element of music: FEELING. Are you one of those completely soulless beings that only respect the finest, pitch-perfect, classically-trained singers/musicians? Well, then I suppose Dylan isn't for you...your loss, sh-thead, not Dylan's! I can understand describing his voice as “distinctive”, “unusual”, even “nasal”. But, to say “he cannot sing” is fundamentally incorrect, as I have hours of recordings of him doing just that, singing (and playing guitar and harmonica, too)! If his style of singing does not fit your narrow-minded definition of what singing is, then what a drag it must be to BE you.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bob Dylan's songwriting and recording output from 1963 to 1966 is the single greatest “creative outburst” in the history of rock music. Any thoughts?

I just have to give one more comparison (this is so fun that I could easily go on all day): The Beatles' “Yeah, you got that something /I think you'll understand /When I say that something /I want to hold your hand /I want to hold your hand /I want to hold your hand” vs. Dylan's “You fasten the triggers/For the others to fire/Then you sit back and watch/When the death count gets higher/You hide in your mansion/As young people's blood/Flows out of their bodies/And is buried in the mud”...Doesn't seem like a fair fight, does it? Hey, both songs were from 1963. So, you tell me...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coming in Second on the "Creative Outbursts" List...

By now, if you’ve seen my previous posts on this blog, it should be no surprise that I am a Neil Young fan. Probably the only surprise here is that Neil would ever come in anywhere below the very top of any “best of” list I developed. Alas, I am ranking Neil # 2 in this case. Specifically, I’m looking at the the music he created beginning in early 1969 through some point in late 1975. In terms of album releases, I’m talking about EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE through ZUMA, inclusive.

I still plan on doing detailed posts on most of these albums. In fact, I’ve been saving them deliberately (“best for last”, just like my Mom always taught me). So, I won’t get into a ton of song-by-song description. However, in many cases, just listing the titles themselves will speak volumes.

EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (May 1969) was comprised of seven Neil originals: “Cinnamon Girl”, the title track, “Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)”, “Down By The River”, “(When You’re On) The Losing End”, “Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)”, and “Cowgirl In The Sand”. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this album laid the foundation for both “grunge” and “alt-country”. Or, at least, it dug the hole into which that foundation was laid. Long live the Horse!

The CSNY album DÉJÀ VU (March 1970) contained Neil’s classic “Helpless”. On May 4, 1970, the National Guard fired into a protesting crowd, killing four students at Kent State. Not long after, Neil wrote, and CSNY recorded and released, the classic single “Ohio”. This was followed by Neil’s AFTER THE GOLD RUSH (September 1970), which contains these classics: “Tell Me Why”, the title track, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Southern Man”, “Till The Morning Comes”, “Oh, Lonesome Me” (Don Gibson), “Don't Let It Bring You Down”, “Birds”, “When You Dance I Can Really Love”, “I Believe In You”, and “Cripple Creek Ferry”. It's obvious that 1970 was an amazing year for Neil.

HARVEST (February 1972) featured Neil in almost every style, although it became a mega-seller based primarily on its more country-rock tunes. The entire line-up was “Out On The Weekend”, “Harvest”, “A Man Needs A Maid”, “Heart Of Gold”, “Are You Ready For The Country”, “Old Man”, “There's A World”, “Alabama”, “The Needle And The Damage Done”, and “Words (Between The Lines Of Age)”. Neil’s lack of willingness to immediately follow this album with anything similar created a vacuum which The Eagles, among others, were all too willing to fill.

Instead, Neil went to work on directing a movie! Somehow, the soundtrack was released well in advance of the movie itself. This was JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST (November 1972), and it contained only one new song, “Soldier”. Neil then made the unprecedented move of releasing an album of previously unreleased material that had been recorded live in concert. The album was TIME FADES AWAY (October 1973), and it includes the title track, “Journey Through The Past”, “Yonder Stands The Sinner”, “L.A.”, “Love In Mind”, “Don't Be Denied”, “The Bridge”, and “Last Dance”. Is it rough, raw, and uneven? Hell yes. But, the songs, especially “Journey Through The Past” and “Don’t Be Denied” stack up pretty well with Neil’s all-time best.

Just in case the mood wasn’t dark (and anti-HARVEST) enough, Neil continued to deal with the deaths of roadie Bruce Berry and Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten by recording TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT, though it sat unreleased by Reprise Records. Instead, the next album released was another brilliantly bleak and bluesy affair, ON THE BEACH (July 1974). It contains “Walk On”, “See The Sky About To Rain”, “Revolution Blues”, “For The Turnstiles”, “Vampire Blues”, “On The Beach”, “Motion Pictures (For Carrie)”, and “Ambulance Blues”. What an amazing album!

Apparently, at this point someone at Reprise realized that they might as well release TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT (June 1975), to complete the so-called “Doom Trilogy”. The songs were “Tonight's The Night - Part I”, “Speakin' Out”, “World On A String”, “Borrowed Tune”, “Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown” (Neil Young/Danny Whitten), “Mellow My Mind”, “Roll Another Number (For The Road)”, “Albuquerque”, “New Mama”, “Lookout Joe”, “Tired Eyes”, and “Tonight's The Night - Part II”. To this day, many of Neil’s most dedicated fans consider this his best album. It is a masterpiece of drunken sloppiness, and pure catharsis.

This was followed by ZUMA (November 1975), a guitar masterpiece of controlled feedback and distortion. The songs on this album (“Don't Cry No Tears”, “Danger Bird”, “Pardon My Heart”, “Lookin' For A Love”, “Barstool Blues”, “Stupid Girl”, “Drive Back”, “Cortez The Killer”, and “Through My Sails”) virtually gave birth to innumerable “alternative” bands, albeit after about a 10-year pregnancy.

Rather than try to explain away the whole “Stills-Young Band” thing, I’ll cut it off here. But, keep in mind that we might never know exactly how many unreleased songs were written during this same time period (’69-’75). Three of them ended up on AMERICAN STARS 'N BARS (1977). They were “Star Of Bethlehem” (Nov’74), “Like A Hurricane” and “Homegrown” (both Nov’75). (Yeah, that’s right. Throw in an all-time classic “Like A Hurricane” with everything else I've listed!)

“Little Wing” (not the Hendrix tune) from 1975 and “The Old Homestead” from 1974 both ended up on HAWKS & DOVES (1980). Other songs from this timeframe include “Deep Forbidden Lake”, “Love Is A Rose”, and the amazing “Winterlong”, all three of which ended up on DECADE (1977). And that’s not to mention the never officially released songs, such as “Dance, Dance, Dance”. Oh, yeah, and “Bad Fog Of Loneliness”, which finally saw the light of day on the RED ROCKS LIVE DVD (2000).

So, there you have it, seven classic Neil albums (not including JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST) plus multiple contributions to CSNY, as well as unreleased (or released later) songs galore, all in less than seven years. Now, it’s true that Hendrix fundamentally changed the way people approached playing the electric guitar. His influence is ubiquitous, even to this day. However, the number of imitators spawned by Neil Young, particularly his music of this time period, is staggering. (And I didn’t even extend the time period through 1979 to pick up RUST NEVER SLEEPS, which might well be my favorite, and Neil’s most imitated, album of all.) There’s clearly a reason that Neil was named “Artist of the Decade” for the 1970s (Click here for a cool article recapping Neil's entire decade of the '70s). Thus, I say, from early 1969 through late 1975, Neil Young had the 2nd greatest “creative outburst” in rock music history!