Neil Young: Neil Young (1968)
Neil Young: On the beach (1974)
Neil Young: Zuma (1975)
Neil Young: Ragged Glory (1990)
Neil Young: Harvest Moon (1992)
Neil Young in Austin, Texas, 1976 - ©Mark Estabrook
Neil Young in Ottawa, Canada, 2006 - Photo by Adrian M. Buss
People of my age / They don't do the things I do / They go somewhere / While I run away with you
Neil Young - I'm the ocean (1995)
When an old rocker is lucky enough to become 60 years old alive and healthy, the most common is that he is already retired on a sunny Southern California ranch, far from the noise and stress of any rock activity. Few of them, braver -or perhaps a bit short of money-, can make a temporary return to record a new anthology or greatest hits, or even begin a short tour, relying on an always loyal audience. Only a selected group seems to find the strength, spirit and inspiration to keep composing original, high quality albums; and being the reference of dozens of younger artists.
After a series of doubtful albums that culminate in the criticised Are you passionate? (2002) it seems that Neil Young was finally in his decadence. But then Young surprises the music world realising the epic Greendale (2003), musically interesting and conceptually admirable: emulating the best Steinbeck, Young invents an entire town in his loved California, and, focusing in the Green family, give free rein to values such as Freedom, Peace and Ecology that he has been defended since the late sixties. To complete this particular revived , in 2005 Young delighted his fans with the excellent Prairie wind, with no doubt his best work of the last 10 years, an album that gave us back the essential Young of the Harvest (1972) or the Harvest Moon (1992)
Looking back, Young's musical opus, even with its obvious ups and downs, looks admirable and full of high points. Since that young music that left Buffalo Springfield at only 22 to release his first album, Neil Young (1968) to the venerable veteran of Prairie wind, more than 40 albums forms a amazing and essential discography, unreachable for almost any active music.
In the early 70s, Young released two top-quality albums that catapulted him to the stardom into the folk-rock world: After the gold rush (1970) already fulfilled all the main elements that characterize the particular Young's Universe: complex, suggestive verses with smart deal of surrealism, a brilliant musical accompaniment, and the unmistakable Young's nasal voice over all them. Nevertheless, the success of this album can not be compared with the Harvest (1971), released the following year, and considered by many (not by me) as his masterwork. This album includes the wonderful single Heart of Gold , which gave Young his first nº 1 in the USA .
On the beach (1974) is, despite the apparent calmness of its songs and even of its cover, the nearest Young was to compose a "damned" album. After many years of addictions and excesses, Neil release what the magazine Rolling Stone described as one of the most desperate albums of all time. This is evident in lyrics as those from Vampire blues , Ambulance blues , and, above all, See the sky about to rain. To complete this particular curse , the album was not released on CD until 2003.
Next year, Young released another of his unquestionable masterworks: Zuma (1975) is perhaps the best balanced and paradigmatical work by Young, featuring wonderful, rhythmic songs as Don't cry no tears , furious electricity in Danger bird , or a merciless critic to the Spanish colonialism in Cortez the killer , when Young calls Hernán Cortés killer . A fabulous, more electric version was included in the live Weld (1991)
Young will not release an album of this quality (or even superior) until the supreme Rust never sleeps (1979), a work structured in two different sides: an acoustic first part, featuring masterworks such as Thrasher, Pocahontas , or the acoustic side of My, my; hey, hey (out of the blue) while a furiously electric second part includes Powderfinger , Welfare Mothers and concludes with the epic Hey, hey; my, my (into the black) , surely Young's masterwork and one of the all-time peaks of the rock music. The album forms an extraordinary crescendo that features all the elements that characterize Young's best works, together with implicit or explicit references to the collapse of CSNY ( Thrasher ) the British punk boom, or the validity of the rock n' roll ( Hey, hey; my, my ) After this album Young began a long tour that concludes with the live album Live Rust (1979)
The hangover of such titanic effort was not positive for Young, who began in the early 80s an evident collapse that last until the end of that decade. Albums as Re-ac-tor (1981) Trans (1982) or Landing on water (1986), while featuring some interesting songs, make some fans and critics to believe that Young's artistic end was very near. However, This note's for you (1988), a not very ambitious but musically interesting album, and the EP Eldorado (1989) announced the back of the genius, already admired by post-punk bands as Pixies or Pearl Jam
With the sensational Freedom (1989) Young reaches one of his biggest achievements. Repeating the structure acoustic-electric shown on the Rust never sleeps , Young give us the beauty of Someday or Hangin' on a limb , the surrealism of Eldorado (already released on the EP with the same name) and even a smart version of the famous On Broadway . But over all of them, the successful and politically committed Rockin' in the free World, in both versions: acoustic and electric
Young was not satisfied with that, and the following year he release Ragged Glory (1990), another furiously extraordinary album, featuring masterworks as Mansion on the hill , F***** up, or Love to burn . It looks like if Neil Young, contemplating the success of the post-punk or the arising of the grunge , would like to send an explicit message to the new generations, something like beware kids cause I'm still the fucking Boss and of course he does. Personally, I cannot understand those critics who don't consider this album as one of his masterworks. In my opinion, it forms, along with the Harvest , the Zuma , the Rust never sleeps , and the Freedom , the essential pentagram of Young.
Neil Young was still experimenting in the early 90s, releasing albums so interesting as the Harvest Moon (1992), which represents a momentary return to his origins in the folk music (though it is also true that this origins were never fully forgotten) with songs as From Hank to Hendrix , the interesting and pessimist Sleeps with angels (1994) or the brave Mirrorball (1995) in which the young band Pearl Jam accompanies the Canadian music. This album includes the fabulous I'm the ocean , with no doubt the best song by Young of the last 15 years.
Being conscious of the risks that such a subjective decision entails, theArtWolf has humbly selected ten songs that, in his opinion, make up the most prominent of the majestic Neil Young's discography.
After the gold rush
After the gold rush, 1970
A final that is also the beginning. Searching his own identity after the CSNY rush with the full moon in his eyes. A piano marks the way. Flying Mother Nature's silver seed to a new home in the sun. Young's universe begins here its dawn.
Heart of gold
Golden folk. The song that best reflects the complex and permanent search for love underlying in every Young's theme. I've been a miner for a Heart of Gold. It's harvest time, the field is now ready. And I'm getting old.
The Indian summer is gone. Orange sky, northern wind. The first snowflakes. Wonderful invocation to the Great Winter that only Black Francis and his Pixies could repeat 15 years later.
Like a hurricane
American Stars 'n' bars, 1977
Sometimes a mere verse is more suggestive than the entire opus of many famous poets: I am just a dreamer, but you are just a dream. Desperate, devastating. Like a hurricane. Young composes this electric marvel in a quite irregular album.
Hey, hey; my, my (into the black)
Rust never sleeps, 1979
Electroshock. An electric storm (over)charged with a ferocious and merciless vitalism: It's better to burn out than to fade away. The Indian Warrior running prairies and plurichord canyons. Crazy Horse rides on his side: he's runaway
Rust never sleeps, 1979
Lyrically, here it's Young at his very best. The literal and the metaphoric hiding its identities behind hay and shrine bales. The definitive confirmation of the own identity, a praise to the individuality. The negation of a dead way; they were just deadweight to me . Dinosaurs -CSNY- stuck in canyons, eagles raising the flight. I'll know the time has come to give what's mine
Rust never sleeps, 1979
Neil's Indian Spirit, already present in jewels as Cortez the killer (Zuma, 1975) achieves here its zenith. Acoustic guitars, surrealist imagery, tragic inventive, Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and he. It must also be highlighted the excellent electric version included in the live Year of the Horse (1997)
Rockin' in the free world
On the road again. The 80s were not a golden age for Young, but he came back with the fabulous Freedom (1989) Furious and politically committed, Neil demonstrates that he has still a long way to go. Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive
Mansion on the hill
Ragged Glory, 1990
Yeah, Rage and Glory. Old rocker made of chrome and gasoline. His words were kind, but his eyes were wild. A highway to the sun, a rocky road. A mansion on the hill.
I'm the ocean
Young surrounded himself with Pearl Jam's fresh sap to compose a supreme, epic, monochord song. Like the ocean. Like the giant undertow. Although the work exudes electricity, the permanent demand of his own identity and individuality relates it with Thrasher or After the gold rush. Tremendous.
If these ten songs are not enough (surely they are not) let's select a few others songs, although I guess that if I continue in this way I am risky to put here every Neil Young song (which is possibly the fairest)
Cinnamon girl (Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, 1969)
Are you ready for the country? (Harvest, 1972)
See the sky about to rain (On the beach, 1974)
Tonight's the night (Tonight's the night, 1975)
Don't cry no tears (Zuma, 1975)
Cortez the killer (Zuma, 1975)
Powderfinger (Rust never sleeps, 1979)
This note's for you (This note's for you, 1988)
Eldorado (Freedom, 1989)
F***** up (Ragged Glory, 1990)
From Hank to Hendrix (Harvest Moon, 1992)
Western hero (Sleeps with angels, 1994)