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.


Blogger Rob said...

I have three things.

1.) I totally got the Blue Velvet reference without the PS.

2.) The song "After the Gold Rush" is near-perfect, as good a song as I can think of. I love "Southern Man" too.

3.) Any chance we'll get to see some NCAA tournament blogging? Neil Young ain't going anywhere...

3:10 PM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

Ok, good, I was hoping people would get that one. Sorry for "dumbing it down" with the PS...(although that website I ended up stumbling across is pretty cool, IMHO).

You know I'm completely enthralled with March Madness. With only 2 official Neil albums left (not including the one I don't have), it's a good possibility for posts later this week!!!

3:46 PM, March 14, 2006  
Blogger rabidt said...

Candy colored clown they call the "Stringman"...

Ok, the Stringman is supposed to be Stills (I think), but I couldn't resist one more Blue Velvet/Neil reference. I have to say that I caught the reference too, but the Neil/Dean Stockwell thing is odd enough that going ahead and explaining it is not too much of a dumbing down. That description of that scene is pretty priceless as well. I'm scared to click on the link here at work, not knowing what pictures may lurk there. Looking at a picture of Stockwell in that get-up could be enough to get a guy fired! Would love to know more about the "After the Goldrush" script.

Damn, do I want to hear "Don't Let it Bring You Down." Right Now!

10:31 AM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger rabidt said...

Couple other things I just thought of: the movie "Paris, Texas." Stockwell is in it - what a great film! Highly recommended, don't know if it's on DVD (got it on VHS myself!). Stockwell is great in a small role, but Harry Dean Stanton is the star, and who can get enough Harry Dean Stanton! Talk about your underrated/unknowns...

Also, watched "Broken Flowers" last night. Jarmusch slipped in a Neil tribute by naming a character (a flower-shop employee) "Sun Green." Jarmusch giving the nod to Shakey - that's an obscure director reference no matter how you cut it! Of course, "Broken Flowers" is a total sell-out by Jarmusch standards (I'm joking somewhat, but this has got to be his most commercially viable film to date with all the star power, and conventional plot, closer to normal pacing, etc). I enjoyed it!

11:17 AM, March 15, 2006  
Blogger haahnster said...

COOL! I'll have to check out the film recommendations.

By the way, I can't BELIEVE that I never got BLUE VELVET on DVD!!! What a supremely quotable flick! Almost every word out of Frank's mouth is priceless. Couldn't be a more perfect part for Dennis Hopper.

"No, I want you to fock it! Sh-t yes, Raymond, pour the fockin' beer!"

7:07 PM, March 15, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home