enough. but so would a whole slew of country rock bands. not to mention a couple of generations of singer-songwriters.
That’s the big thing about Young — he has never settled for being a one-trick pony. regurgitating the same old stuff year after year. With an independence that has seemed to border on perversity at times — it reached some kind of culmination of weirdness in the 80s when his then label. Geffen. sued him for making records which didn’t sound enough like himself— he has corkscrewed his way through four decades of music-making.
Every time we place him neatly in a particular bag. he rips a hole in the bottom and saunters off in some highly contrary direction. Which is not to say that he won’t call back that way sometime down the line. If he rarely stays on one tack for very long. he rarely abandons anything completely. either. He hasn’t returned to the synth-scapcs of Trans or the pastiche rockabilly of livery/)mlys Roe/rin’ (not yet. anyway). but several other musical strands run right through his career.
Young arrived in Los Angeles from his native Toronto in a beaten-up Pontiac hearse in the mid-60s. and linked up with former school-mate Stephen Stills in the ground-breaking Buffalo Springfield (and later in Crosby. Stills. Nash and Young and the short-lived Stills-Young Band). His second album. [Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was his first with Crazy Horse: it remains a classic. and that relationship forms the first strand in the tapestry.
The second principle thread became overt with the country-rock sound of After The Gold Rush and l'lat‘vesl in the early 70s (he made a literal re-visit to the latter album twenty years on with Harvest Moon). Both were huge commercial successes: Young’s response was to issue the death-haunted. wholly uncommercial masterpiece ()n The Beaeh and the grungy- bel'ore-its-time live album Time Fades Away.
That pattern has been repeated many times. in a sequence of highs and lows. He has been written off countless times. and bounced back
Young has always seemed to stand to one side in the rock and roll playground, the weird kid in the corner who just happened to be
something of a genius.
undaunted with a new classic to add to the storehouse. alongside Tonight's Tlte Night. Zunta. and Rust Never Sleeps from the 70s. or Freedom and Sleeps With Angels from the resurgence of the late 80s—early 90s.
Others have been less memorable. but even
'less exalted albums have turned up essential
tracks. the classic example being ‘Likc A Hurricane’. already a staple of his live shows before it appeared on Ameriean Stars'n ’Bars in I977. He has returned to acoustic country on Comes A Time and ()Id Ways. and gone in an entirely contradictory direction in the fearsome guitar maelstrom of Weld and the Pearl Jam collaboration Mirror Ball.
His new album. Broken Arrow. out this month to coincide with his UK dates. and featuring a four- piece band with Crazy Horse regulars Poncho Sampedro. Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina. doesn’t immediately sound like an addition to the classic roster. but Young albums have a way of sneaking up on you overtime. so don’t discount it just yet.
The album doesn’t feature the Buffalo Springfield song of that name. but the choice does reflect Young’s awareness of where he has
been. In I977. he took the unusual step of
issuing a self-compiled three-LP retrospective. Decade. which traced the first decade of his recorded work. In the late 80s. Young started to think about a similar project summing up what had gone on in the ensuing ten years. to be called - imaginatively — Decade ll.
As he thought about it. and began to delve into his stockpile of material. the project started to expand in his mind and. like Topsy. growed and growed. What he is promising is now a planned twenty-CD set under the collective title of The Neil Young Are/lives. drawing on unreleased live and studio tapes going back through all phases of his career. a Neil—fest which he describes as including everything from ‘the worst piece of shit to the best thing I ever did’. Stand by your stereos.
Neil Young and C razy Horse play at the SEC C. Glasgow on Saturday 20 July.
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hell Yong: crazy guy, cruy horse
NEIL YOUNG FEATURE
Never one to repeat a successful formula when he could do the exact opposite, Neil Young has a career characterised by diversity. Here are some of his more extreme points, and remember — he’s made at least a dozen more albums that were never released.
I Neil Young (1 $9) The elements are already in place on his debut — acoustic songs. heavier electric numbers and orchestrations by Jack Nithche. who resurfaced on Harvest — but the combination leaves this album with a flavour quite unlike any other in his canon. Six months later. Young would unveil Crazy Horse. just in time to shape the sound of the 70s.
I Tonight’s The Night (1975) Young‘s elegy to his dead friends Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry involved Crazy Horse getting shit-faced on tequila before crashing through the songs for this album in two twisted sessions. lt freaked out those who had got into Neil Young through Harvest and. frankly. even those who hadn’t. Even in amended form -— the original version included drunken mumblings between tracks - it wasn't released for two years.
I Bust lever Sleeps (1979) Written mostly before punk. but fired up by the new energy. this album had a split personality all ofits own. being divided into acoustic and electric discs. The electric side was a forerunner of grunge which would be intensiﬁed yet further on Weld. Features premieres of ‘Hey. Hey My My’. ‘Pocohontas' and ‘Powderﬁnger’. now Young standards. Smokin'.
I Trans (1983) In the 80s. Young was changing styles every week. but this really was a king-size gauntlet to throw before the fans. Fascination with the march of technology prompted him to experiment with synthesisers. drum machines and Vocoders. There was a powerful point being made about alienation in all of this. as Young’s severely mentally handicapped son Ben was then learning to communicate via electronic devices. ‘You can't understand what I'm singing on Trans. I can’t understand what my son's saying to me. Sofeel that.‘ I OII Ways (1985) Harvest Moon wasn’t actually the first revisit of Harvest territory. Young dabbled in that area in the mid-80$. but Geffen called the resulting sessions ‘too country'. His response was to go the whole Nashville hog. Honky-tonk piano, ﬁddles. Waylon Jennings . . . heck. he even adopted Reaganite politics for the occasion. Old Neil doesn't have too much time for Old Ways nowadays. claiming his original intention was distorted.
I This Nate’s For You (1988) Young went for an R&B revue feel on this one. with brass from a group he called The Bluenotes. Everyone had pronounced him mad by this point but he seemed to be having a great time. Curiously. this retro outﬁt came up with The Greatest Video Ever Made By Man Or Beast for the title track.
I head Man (19%) Young limbered up for this one with Arc. his most extreme release. which. since it- came as the third disc in a limited edition set with; Weld. doesn’t count. But where Are was composed! entirely of the feedback firestorms of song-endings; Dead Man was Young fathng around in the studio with a guitar improvising a soundtrack to Jim, Jarrnusch’s new art-movie. Equally shapeless. though. For committed fans only.
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The List 12-25 Jul 1996 11