Neil Young / Legend Of The Loner 1969 – 2003
1969 - 1978
01 The Old Laughing Lady / Neil Young January 1969
02 Down By The River / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere July 1969
03 Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets) / Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere July 1969
04 After The Goldrush / After The Goldrush September 1970
05 Southern Man / After The Goldrush September 1970
06 Cripple Creek Ferry / After The Goldrush September 1970
07 Out On The Weekend / Harvest March 1972
08 The Needle And The Damage Done / Harvest March 1972
09 Revolution Blues / On The Beach August 1974
10 On The Beach / On The Beach August 1974
11 Tonight’s The Night Pt 1 / Tonight’s The Night June 1975
12 Lookout Joe / Tonight’s The Night June 1975
13 Cortez The Killer / Zuma November 1975
14 Like A Hurricane / American Stars ‘n‘ Bars June 1977
15 Goin’ Back / Comes A Time October 1978
1979 – 2003
01 My My Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) / Rust Never Sleeps June 79
02 Pocahontas / Rust Never Sleeps June 79
03 The Old Homestead / Hawks And Doves October 1980
04 Misfits / Old Ways August 1985
05 Hippie Dream / Landing On Water August 1986
06 Mideast Vacation / Life May 1987
07 Rockin’ In The Free World / Freedom October 1989
08 Eldorado / Freedom October 1989
09 Mansion On The Hill / Ragged Glory September 1990
10 Unknown Legend / Harvest Moon October 1992
11 One Of These Days / Harvest Moon October 1992
12 Stringman / Unplugged June 1993
13 My Heart / Sleeps With Angels August 1994
14 Sleeps With Angels / Sleeps With Angels August 1994
15 Song X / Mirrorball June 1995
16 This Town / Broken Arrow June 1996
17 Silver And Gold / Silver And Gold April 2000
18 Bandit / Greendale August 2003
I admit right here that I have taken absolutely no interest in Neil Young ever. Hailed as a genius by many, particularly music critics and muso’s trying to sound like they know their stuff (come on down Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher), I‘ve never been able to dismiss the old hippy vibe that oozes from his every pore. But then again that may be slightly wide of the mark as he was one of the few early seventies rock giants who gleefully accepted the punk zeitgeist. One things for sure, over the last 35 odd years he has been a mass of contradictions.
It all began with Buffalo Springfield where Young’s ‘difficult’ traits led to constant bitching and comings and goings, mainly by the man himself. He pulled the same trick later with the truly shit Crosby, Stills and Nash but who could blame him. As he couldn’t get on with anyone else, a solo career beckoned and 1969’s Neil Young remains unlike any of his other work principally because he rapidly became bored with the slow recording process, vowing to bang it down live in future.
Crazy Horse are a band synonymous with Neil Young. They would be fired, celebrated and abandoned but whichever avenue he took he always seemed to return to them eventually. They made their first appearance on Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, their sound best encapsulated on long, mesmerising guitar epics like ‘Down By The River’. However, this first appearance was rapidly followed by their first dismissal as Young went at it alone on After The Goldrush. A haunting record, it gave him deserved cult status before the follow up Harvest pushed him straight into the superstar bracket. A recognised critical classic yet loathed by Young himself, its country tinged edge is typical of seventies soft rock, packed with pleasant, hummable tunes.
Surprisingly, he reacted to Harvest by rejecting his pre-ordained path to superstardom, channeling his discomfort, uncertainty and pain into On The Beach, a record stripped of the sugar coated melodies his new fans so desired. Reeking of complete despair, it remains the pinnacle of his achievements as a singer/songwriter. As he’d wished, sales were dismal but to completely kill off ‘Neil Young Rock Star’ he made sure Tonight’s The Night was even bleaker, so bleak infact that’s its release was delayed for two years. Stunned by the inevitable, heroin death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, the album became a crazed wake for his lost friends but represented a key moment for seventies rock by perfectly bridging the gap between singer/ songwriter angst and the dawn of punk.
Viewed from the ground zero punk blast, Neil Young’s refusal to play by any rules but his own left him clear of the shit kicked at his flaccid contemporaries. Loving punks rejection of pomposity he regarded it as a resurrection of the original rock’n’roll spirit. Fired up by punks energy if not its manic noise, Rust Never Sleeps, recorded between 1976 and 1978, kicked off with ‘Hey Hey My My’, which name checked Johnny Rotten and encapsulated his punk sympathies by insisting ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’. That was a sentiment Sid Vicious and a million other angry young ragamuffins, including myself, could subscribe to. And yet those words would come back to haunt him 15 years later in the most dramatic way possible when Kurt Cobain made the point by blowing his brains out, the immortal line etched on his suicide note.
Rust Never Sleeps should have seen Neil Young through the eighties but he chose to self destruct spectacularly. Scared shitless of absolutely everything he retreated from the edge of stardom again to crawl completely up his own arse and produce a series of albums featuring a bewildering assortment of alien genres that included Kraftwerk style electro and fifties rockabilly. When he finally got a grip some seven years later it was indicative of how low he had fallen when Life, a decidedly average reunion with Crazy Horse was widely considered a creative comeback.
The real comeback didn’t come until two years later on Freedom. Emerging from yet more indecision it was by far his best album of the decade, ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ another classic used in its electric form by Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 9/11 confirming his brief rehabilitation. Ragged Glory capitalised on the Crazy Horse grunge style suddenly becoming hip but as usual Young followed it up with Harvest Moon, another all acoustic affair. Reflective and laid back it indicated his musings on family life and middle age.
Having impressed with contrasting electric and acoustic albums reflecting former glories, Young sorely needed to present something challenging and new. Sadly it took Kurt Cobains suicide to provide the impetus, shocking him into creating Sleeps With Angels, a series of sombre and mysterious songs recalling his greatest work. It was good to know that after two decades he still had the capacity to disturb and intrigue. His renewed relevance and connection with the nineties rock scene continued via Mirrorball, recorded with Pearl Jam in two hectic sessions. Once prone to straying all over the musical map, he had clearly contented himself alternating between country squire and compulsive rocker, Broken Arrow another rocker, Silver And Gold the quieter, pastoral offering and that’s pretty much how its been ever since.
Neil Young has never been less than interesting although often that’s been more to do with his strange character than his music which, apart from his weird Eighties, has always been totally recognisable and predictable . One of the few original tortured artists left he has striven to meet his own needs while leaving his footprint in the musical landscape. But, I think it’s fair to say his best stuff is at least 30 years behind him. Does it really matter? Probably not, but so confident is he in his own aversion to complacency that he may play out the remainder of his life as solidly and unmomentously as say, Muddy Waters – never dismissed but taken for granted. Whether anyone will be listening or even cares is another matter. I don’t think I do.