The Back Catalogue of Neil Young : Part Three

The tales of a happy old Man.

 


Part Three : From feedback to fiction.  

 

NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE : ARC/WELD - released October 1991

Arc is 20 odd minutes of feedback and white noise; snipped from improvised outros to songs performed live on stage and edited into this bizarre collage of sounds. Similar in some ways to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music it's something that I don't think many of you would want to bother with. It was originally packaged with the double live album Weld, but it's one you can safely leave in the rack as far as I'm concerned. Weld, however, is something you can't leave on the shelf. This is the album that rubber stamped the Godfather of Grunge label on Neil's head. Released at the time when Grunge was in full swing, Neil and The Horse took to the road with a bunch of old faves and a new attitude and proceeded to 'out-grunge' every band going. Weld is quite simply one of the heaviest albums ever released. The guitars throb with menace and are wrapped in layers of fuzz and white noise. Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) kicks things off in such an aggressive fashion, even the rockier version on Rust Never Sleeps sounds gentle compared to it. The versions of Cortez the Killer and Powder Finger are good enough to send shivers down your spine and the apocalyptic version of Like A Hurricane is amazing. An essential buy to say the least; it's one of the greatest live albums of all time.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Harvest Moon – released November 1992

 

After getting all of his frustration out with Weld, Neil finally got round to making something similar in tone to Harvest. This is one of Neil's most consistent albums and contains some of his most beautiful and heartfelt songs, (One of These Days is one of my all time favourites). Personally I think the production is a little too polished but it's a highly recommended album nonetheless.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Lucky Thirteen – released January 1993

 

A collection of songs taken from Neil's Geffen period, which should tell you enough about whether or not to buy it.

 

NEIL YOUNG : MTV Unplugged – released June 1993

 

Apparently Neil doesn't like this but I think it's a great album. The set is built mainly around Harvest Moon material but it also contains the wonderful Stringman and a version of Transformer Man that proves that there were some fantastic songs hiding behind Trans' synthesizers. Neil may not recommend it, but I will.

 

NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE : Sleeps With Angels – released August 1994

 

The death of Kurt Cobain and in particular Kurt's use of a Neil lyric in his suicide note sent Neil and the Horse into the studio where they came up with this dark, melancholy masterpiece. It's not an easy listen, but it is totally rewarding. It's not for everybody, but I think it's one of his best.

 

NEIL YOUNG AND PEARL JAM : Mirrorball – released August 1995

 

Recorded over a few days this is loose, raw and ragged. In fact, it's probably the most grunge like album ever created. If Grunge wasn't your thing then you'll want to ignore this but you can tell they had a lot of fun making this. Pearl Jam get a good groove going with Neil and from the opening sea shanty of Song X to the last, squealing notes of Fallen Angel, Mirrorball is a blast from start to finish. Worth tracking down for I'm The Ocean and Act Of Love alone.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Dead Man soundtrack – released  February 1996

 

The soundtrack to the film by Jim Jarmusch. The film is worth checking out, but the soundtrack is for completists only.

 

NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE : Broken Arrow – released July 1996

 

Most of this album is well worth a listen. Loose Change and Slip Away are two extensive Horse workouts, similar in vein to those found on Sleeps With Angels; slow burning, powerful tracks that you can really get lost in. Scattered (let's think about livin') is a great song and Music Arcade is Neil at his most direct and simple and it's wonderful. If only the album ended there though. Tacked on the end is a live recording of the old blues standard Baby What You Want Me To Do which is just ghastly. I think the band are on good form but you'll hear more chattering, feet shuffling and glasses clanking than you will anything else. Most bootlegs are of better quality than this. Highly recommended but press stop after Music Arcade.

 

NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE : Year Of The Horse – released June 1997

 

A live album companion piece to the documentary film of the same name, shot by Jim Jarmusch. The film is excellent and well worth seeking out. This album sees the Horse on top form, playing mainly Broken Arrow material. Not in the same league as Weld though.

 

CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG : Looking Forward – October 1999

 

This is a damn sight better than American Dream, but it's still not in the same league as Dejà vu. It's not a great album by any standards but it does contain two fantastic Neil songs, Slowpoke and Looking Forward. Worth checking out for those two alone.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Silver and Gold – released April 2000

 

I think Rust Never Sleeps is the best Neil Young album, but Silver and Gold is the one I listen to most, believe it or not. Neil actually sounds happy on this record, or at least at peace with himself. When you listen to Harvest and his earlier work, he sounds like an old soul in a young man's body. Here, Neil has finally grown into his voice. I think this is the best collection of straightforward 'songs' that Neil has ever put together. This is easily his most heartfelt and emotional album. Razor Love is my favourite Neil song of all time but every single song on here is wonderful. This album comes unconditionally guaranteed.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Road Rock Vol 1 – released December 2000

 

Neil's worst live album. There's a full concert available on DVD called Road Rocks Live that you should definitely look out for, but you can ignore this.

 

BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD BOX SET - released July 2001

 

A beautifully designed 4cd box set. Compiled by Neil it contains a bundle of demos, outtakes and alternate versions of songs. It also contains the first two Buffalo Springfield albums in full, err, twice. It's got a whopping price tag, but if you're a big Springfield fan, it's an essential buy.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Are You Passionate – released April 2002

 

Neil Young as Soul Man. Backed by Poncho and members of Booker T and the MG's, this is a decent album, but far from his strongest work. Differently and Mr Dissappointment are excellent, as is Two Old Friends, but the version of Going Home on here (a great live track) has a chopped ending that ruins it and Neil's 9/11 song, Let's Roll is ok but it's no Ohio. The rest of the album just passes by rather nicely, without being particularly memorable.

 

NEIL YOUNG : Greendale – released August 2003

 

A concept album. No wait, don't run away just yet. It's not that bad. Based around a fictional town and a group of fictional people it's kinda political, but it's mainly just Neil having a bit of fun. He's basically just getting a kick out of writing a little story and what began has something rather simple has turned into a whole brand in itself. Greendale has it's own website, it's own art gallery; the US stage shows had the band surrounded by props, sets and a bunch of actors miming along to his singing. There's also a Greendale movie and it doesn't look like he's got it out of his system yet. As for the album, the production is sloppy (to say the least) and it was recorded so quick you get the impression that the band had only learnt the songs that morning. In fact, at times it sounds like Neil's reading the words off a piece of paper. Still, there are some great tunes on here. Carmichael and Bandit are my two favourites but I can't help but find the album somewhat disappointing.

 

I first heard the Greendale material on Neil's solo European tour of 2003 and by that time, Neil was obviously a lot more comfortable and deeper involved with these songs. On the album, the songs are just beginning to form and if you compare the album version to the acoustic concert filmed in Dublin (that came free with the first edition cd) I think you'll agree that the songs are far superior in structure and feel there than they are on record. I think the album has a certain charm, but I'd recommend you track down some of the later live versions instead.

 

 

 

And as of today, that's it. I'm sure you'll agree that the catalogue of Neil Young is an interesting place to spend some time, and here's hoping that Greendale isn't the end of the line. To sum up; begin with Decade as that will give you the best overview of what Neil's about. Everything released before Hawks and Doves is worth checking out. Ignore anything with Geffen on it and then check out everything since Freedom and you can't go far wrong.

 

Right, go stretch your legs, I need to lie down.

 

Words and photograph : Damian Leslie