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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Underplayed Vinyl: Neil Young

I do requests, apparently.

Some guy wrote me: "I was thinking about how cool it would be if you did a feature like Gordon highlighting an album a month that you may love (and who knows, only have on vinyl)." At first, I was resistant to the idea; I mean, Gordon already does a fine regular piece. Then I thought, "Maybe it should be "Albums in my vinyl collection that I used to play a lot, but haven't played in a while,' which would be quite a mouthful as a title."

Thus was born "Underplayed Vinyl". Oh, yeah, I decided the once a month would fall on the birthday of the artist, or at least a member of the group. And maybe I'd look at more than one disc.

First up, Neil Percival Young, who turns 61 today, and his first album, cleverly titled Neil Young. OK, that's a little cheeky, but after being in a band as contentious as Buffalo Springfield apparently was, maybe an eponymous title was called for.

Confession time: I learned about the existence of this album through Three Dog Night. "The Loner" appears on their first album, the one with "One" on it. I had already purchased Neil's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and "After the Goldrush", and quite possibly "Harvest". I noted the "The Loner" did not appear on any of them, and so I hunted this album down, bought it, and played it.

Was I disappointed.

After hearing the instantly accessible subsequent LPs, I was rather confounded by this moody, low-keyed album. Even "The Loner", which TDN really rocked, sounded strange. But then repeated listens brought out the stark, fragile beauty of the album. "The Old Laughing Lady", while possibly done better live a quarter century later, caught my ear, as did the lengthy last tune, "Last Trip to Tulsa". Then "I've Been waiting for You." Eventually, the whole aural pastiche started making sense to me, and I grew to appreciate this album all the more. Still, it would have fared better in my collection's playlist had I heard it before albums 2 and 3, and possibly 4.

By 1981, I was used to following Neil wherever his muse took him. Still, I'm not sure what to think when I heard It was raw. It was rough. It was intentionally distorted at times. I liked it immediately, especially "Opera Star". I thought the lyrically minimalist, grunge-inspiring "T-Bone" was especially a hoot. The aural assaults, and his use of synthesizers (horrors!) were tempered by some short sweet tunes.

I started reading the reviews, which, as I recall, were pretty brutal. I began to wonder if maybe my tastes had gone south.

Then I thought, "The heck with it," and played it all the more, as loudly as possible.
These are the answers to Lefty's Friday Three Questions for November 10th, which I attempted to post at 4:30 pm Friday, but couldn't because of some techno-glitch:

1. I was born in Binghamton, NY, spent my first 18 years there, plus for a few months in 1977. I've lived in Albany since 1979, or 27 years. Albany's more my home, in part because the highway construction has altered Binghamton to where it's no longer second nature to get to places.

2. Islands: Manhattan, Long, Barbados, probably others.
Grand Canyon: not yet.
The desert: seemingly so, but I'm not remembering specifics.
The two oceans: yes.
Outside N Am? no.

3. I have no idea. The sunset RIGHT now is pretty spectacular.

Lefty is also looking for opinionated people for the 2nd Annual Brownies Award Open Nominations, which has NOTHING to do with food, despite the misleading, and yummy-looking, photo.


Anonymous said...

Yes!! What you said...pastiche, love that word. But the slow unveiling of the 'pastiche' of several of Neil Young albums were always like finding a little christmas present hidden and forgotten under the tree until you went to throw the tree out on New Year's day and voila, there's the little present everyone forgot. r-e-a-c-t-o-r was like that. The more I listened the more I played it. Tonight's the Night? Same.

liverust said...

neil young is ? neil young his own man he does what he want's when he want's & that's why i love him'it's a roller coaster ride you never been this way before but you know it's gonna be interesting,the tracks most people hate i love motorcycle mama classic off comes a time,t-bone,everybody's rockin
i love it because it stuck 2 finger up to geffen records.
geffen said he wasn't commercial enough was neils birthday yesterday 61 i say to him keep doin what your doin
makes my life interesting trying guess where he's goin next

don't spook the horse

Anonymous said...

skip the note and go directly to vote for the anti war anthem
'Ain't Going Back Again' - Peace Machine (
Recently Neil Youngs LIVING WITH WAR section of Neil placed my song Ain't going back again in the new arrivals section.
you can go directly to listen to it via myspace at
'Ain't Going Back Again' - Peace Machine
You can also go to
and under new arrivals you will find the listing about half way down.
I am hoping we can get as many people as possible to have a listen to this song by way of Neil Young's page so he can see the message a number of us combat veterans are trying to send out to the world.
As always, thank you for all the kind words of support I have been a recipient of over the past years. I will always consider it a privilege and an honor to work for Peace for the people.

Support the Truth

Anonymous said...

From Friday's Wall Street Journal:

"HE'S BEEN TALKING about doing something like it for more than a decade. Now Neil Young is beginning his long-planned project to release all of his live recordings on CD.

On Tuesday, Reprise Records is putting out "Live at the Fillmore East," a selection of six songs Mr. Young recorded with his long-time backing band Crazy Horse during a two-night stand in March 1970 at the famed New York club. The never-released recordings include three songs from Mr. Young's first album with Crazy Horse, which had come out a few months earlier.

"Live at the Fillmore East" is a small taste of what's to come, according to a representative for Mr. Young. Another single CD may come out in February, and a boxed set, covering approximately the first decade of Mr. Young's career and culled from at least two labels and Mr. Young's own archives, is scheduled to hit stores next year. The set will include the tracks from this CD, along with a book that amounts to a "day-by-day diary" including posters, photographs and other documents and memorabilia.

Some fans have expressed disappointment that the first release from Mr. Young's archives amounts to only six songs. But two tracks from the set run well over 10 minutes each; Mr. Young's rendition of his well-known girlfriend-shooting song, "Down by the River," is punctuated by two guitar solos that wail for a combined eight minutes."

Anonymous said...

November 13, 2006

CRITICS' CHOICE: NEW CDS; A Fresh Blast of Yesteryear's Raw, Slobby Sound

Neil Young and Crazy Horse

''Live at the Fillmore East: March 6 & 7, 1970'' (Reprise)

Neil Young has been talking about releasing material from his archives for about 15 years. He makes a plan, sets a date, then cancels and replans, as he finds more recordings and as CD-packaging formats change. Tomorrow we will get our first glimpse of his hidden library, a single-disc live recording of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, recorded about a year and half after they got together and recorded their first album, ''Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.'' It is blaring, primitive and in parts very, very good.

This band featured the guitarist Danny Whitten, who died in 1972; the drummer Ralph Molina; the bassist Billy Talbot; and Jack Nitzsche on electric piano. The rhythm section (except for Mr. Nitzsche) had only basic skills. The band was constructed for open-ended songs with a boom-boom-prap beat at a slouchy medium tempo -- does any popular rock band play this slowly anymore? -- and acres of Mr. Young's soloing. (He had just found his true sound through a combination of the right guitar and the right amplifier, his tremolo bar imitating his trembly voice, the low-end roar counterbalancing that vulnerability.) But despite the slobby phrasing, the obdurate needling quality of Mr. Young's straight eighth notes and the weird effect of a casual delivery at high volume, this music has a serene and direct purpose.

More than half the tracks are concise tunes, less than four minutes, including ''Winterlong,'' ''Wonderin' '' and ''Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown.'' But they're just palate cleansers. The real action is in the long songs -- a 12-minute ''Down By the River,'' in particular, and a 14-minute ''Cowgirl in the Sand'' -- in which the band works within the dimensions of its gigantic, rolling, spacious sound. The record is a blast, but it's also possibly the first stage in an entirely new way of understanding what Neil Young has done with his life.

Next in the archival series will be another single-disc live recording, again from the early '70s, due in early 2007. It will be followed (in the fall) by the first of several box sets, an eight-disc compilation covering 1963 to 1971, made up of all kinds of tracks, released, unreleased and live. BEN RATLIFF