KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

NEIL YOUNG Part 4 – Out Of The Blue And Into The Black

With the release of Comes A Time (1978), Neil Young’s record label (Reprise) and the legion of fans he gained with 1972’s Harvest (many of whom he lost with his more Neil Young - Comes A Timechallenging mid-‘70s albums) must have been thrilled by this return to accessible, acoustic singer-songwriter fare. In my opinion, it doesn’t have nearly as many high points as that earlier classic, but within its laidback framework there are a number of excellent songs. The soft folk/country of “Goin’ Back” starts things off, featuring a lovely acoustic guitar sound (especially during the instrumental sections) and a string section that adds a subtle dramatic quality. I like how the rhythm shifts at “Driving to the mountains high…” The song seems to have two meanings: the desire to live a simpler life as well as a return to the sound of his most successful record. “Comes A Time” is even better; an instantly hummable tune set to a bouncy country shuffle. There are great harmonies (mostly Nicolette Larson, who features prominently throughout the album) and a cool rhythmic shift at the chorus (“Oh, this old world keeps spinnin’ round…”). “Look Out For My Love” is slow, sparse & acoustic, with pretty vocal harmonies, a cool chugging feel in the second half of the chorus (“You own it, you own it now”) and a fun fiddle performance in the bridge (“It’s in your neighborhood…”). I was surprised to learn that such a quiet song was performed with Crazy Horse (guitarist Frank Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot & drummer Ralph Molina), who also provide backing for “Lotta Love.” This song became a top 10 hit the following year for Larson, and Neil’s version is just as catchy and hit-worthy. Of all the songs here, this one sounds most like a direct successor to Harvest.

[Neil Young – “Human Highway”]

“Human Highway” is a great folky song with hints of mountain music, and the acoustic guitars sound amazing. Lyrically, he seems to be singing about his critics and the fair Neil Young Photo (circa 1978)weather fans who turned on him during his musical detours (“Now my name is on the line, how could people get so unkind?”). “Already One” is another one of those instantly memorable songs, with a chorus you start singing the first time you hear it. With a haunting melody & a languid pace, this song points ahead nearly 14 years to his Harvest Moon album. The album closes with the only non-original song, “Four Strong Winds,” a folk standard written by Ian Tyson in the ‘60s and covered by many artists. It’s smooth, catchy and somehow melancholy & uplifting at the same time. I especially love the 12-string guitar sound. There are a few songs I haven’t mentioned, but none of them add much to the album even though I’m sure some fans love them. The only one that stands apart from the others is “Motorcycle Mama,” which includes a slightly raw electric guitar and a bluesy groove, as well as Larson singing lead in the verses. It’s kind of a throwaway but certainly a fun song. I don’t think Comes A Time is in the same league as Harvest, although judged on its own merits it certainly holds its own amidst his catalog. I just need to be in a particular mood for quiet acoustic country and folk that rarely shifts gears to fully embrace the album, and fortunately that mood struck a number of times this past week.

His next album, Rust Never Sleeps (1979), is credited to Neil Young & Crazy Horse even though nearly half of the songs are simply Neil performing solo. The album features all Neil Young - Rust Never Sleepnew material, much of which was recorded live in concert with crowd noise (mostly) removed. It’s bookended by “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black),” the former an acoustic version with Neil on guitar & harmonica and the latter a pummeling, full-on band version with a fuzzy guitar sound that borders on metal. These two songs were my introduction to Neil Young when I was 13, as FM radio stations were playing both on a regular basis. I was probably aware of some of his earlier material back then, but this is where I first came to know him as a “rock” singer. Both versions of this song highlight the theme of the album, about an artist needing to move forward in order to stay relevant. The references to Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten in the immediate aftermath of the punk explosion (and subsequent implosion) indicates how he must have felt as one of the dinosaur artists from the ‘60s. These might be the two most frequently played songs from this album, but there are two others that are the lynchpins of the record and stand among his best work. “Pocahontas” is acoustic but has an electric feel from the first notes (“Aurora Borealis…”). It’s sung from the perspective of Native Americans being slaughtered & driven from their land, and both the melody & story immediately stick in your head. I’m not sure how or why it becomes about “Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me” by the end, but I’d rather enjoy a great song than question the motive for his lyrics.

“Powderfinger” is a fantastic midtempo rocker with a great melody and an absolutely killer guitar riff. It also features a couple of his most blistering yet melodic soaring guitar solos. The lyrics seem intentionally vague, about a man protecting his family from an attack or possibly a soldier at war. I would rank this up there with previous epics like “Cowgirl In The Sand” and “Cortez The Killer.” The remainder of the album doesn’t live up Neil Young Photo (circa 1979)to these high points for me, but there are a few noteworthy tracks. “Thrasher” is a relatively long story song that travels through a number of verses without a chorus. Is it about poor workers? Illegal immigrants? The younger generation taking over? Regardless, I like the music a lot, especially the sound of the 12-string guitar. “Ride My Llama” is short & sweet, with sparse stop-start guitars during the verses (“Remember the Alamo, when help was on the way?”) and fun lyrics (“I met a man from Mars, he picked up all my guitars and played me traveling songs”). Crazy Horse fans might not agree, but the two other songs with that group (“Welfare Mothers” and “Sedan Delivery”) are just silly, stomping rockers. They might be fun for the band to play, or even to see them performed in concert, but on record they don’t amount to much, especially in comparison to the much stronger material surrounding them. It’s ironic that this album is where the iconic sound of Neil Young & Crazy Horse as we still know it today coalesced, but only a couple of their songs are highlights here. Rust Never Sleeps may not be a top-to-bottom classic, but enough of its songs have stood the test of time to make it an excellent if slightly flawed listening experience.

Recorded during the same tour that produced a number of songs for Rust Never Sleeps, the 2-LP Live Rust (1979) features at least one song from every Neil Young album except On The Beach, as well as a Buffalo Springfield song and “Sugar Mountain” (which was originally a b-side and then appeared on the Decade compilation). Split between 6 acoustic and 10 electric songs (with Crazy Horse, of course), it’s a definitive live recording Neil Young - Live Rustcapturing Neil at one of his career peaks. The acoustic section, which includes “Sugar Mountain” as well as “I Am A Child,” “Comes A Time,” “After The Gold Rush” (with Neil on piano), “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” and “The Needle And The Damage Done” (which appears a little later in the set), could be seen as the template for MTV’s “Unplugged” phenomenon 10-20 years later. Crazy Horse joins in for “When You Dance I Can Really Love,” bringing a rockin’ & swingin’ swagger that rarely lets up. “The Loner” has more punch than the original and I love the twin guitar attack. “Lotta Love” has a subtle band arrangement, and the male harmonies are a nice contrast to Nicolette Larson’s on the studio version. “Sedan Delivery” breathes a little more than the original but it’s still not a favorite of mine. Then the album kicks into a higher gear with a series of guitar showcases that also allows the members of Crazy Horse to flex their individual and collective muscles. The sequence of “Powderfinger,” “Cortez The Killer,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “Like A Hurricane” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” is absolutely breathtaking. The only drawback to the version I own is that one minute of the “Cortez” guitar solo was edited out to make room for the album on a single CD (back when the maximum time for a CD was 74 minutes). It’s not a jarring omission as you’re listening to it, but knowing there’s another 60 seconds of Neil shredding away on his guitar had me wondering what I was missing. The intensity comes down for the final song, “Tonight’s The Night,” which is less ominous & claustrophobic than the studio version, and even turns into somewhat of a sing-along. I really can’t find a single fault with this album, and I would be curious to hear an extended version with additional songs that I’m sure were performed during this tour. Live Rust has quickly risen on my list of greatest live albums of all time.

Hawks & Doves (1980) seems like a forgotten album, probably because it doesn’t include any radio hits and was not available on CD until 2003. The first couple of times I Neil Young - Hawks & Dovesplayed it this week I thought it was merely pleasant with only a few songs making any kind of impression. After the 4th or 5th listen I finally started to get into it. The harmonica at the beginning of “Little Wing” (not the Hendrix song) is huge and washes over the listener. There’s a sad feel permeating the song (“Little wing don’t fly away when the summer turns to fall”) that makes it an interesting choice to start things off. Most of the remaining highlights come during the second half of the album (aka. Side 2). “Stayin’ Power” includes barroom piano, lovely fiddle and a light jazzy beat. The choruses are a little too simplistic but I really like the music, which has bounce & swing after a number of quieter songs that I’ll briefly discuss below. “Coastline” moves along with a country-swing feel similar to the previous song, but has its own charms like the hook where the music stops during “We don’t back down from no trouble, we do get up in the mornin’.” It’s one of those rare short songs that could’ve benefitted from being fleshed out a little more. The final three songs are linked musically & thematically, referencing the plight of blue-collar workers amidst traditional country music. “Union Man” tricks the listener into thinking it’s a pro-union song with “I’m proud to be a union man,” then turns things around with “I pay my dues ahead of time, when the benefits come I’m last in line.” The same theme pops up in “Comin’ Apart At Every Nail” with lines like “The workin’ man’s in for a hell of a fight.” I like the fiddle-heavy country arrangement, and the harmony vocals in the chorus sung by Hillary O’Brien and longtime collaborator Ben Keith.

[Neil Young – “Comin’ Apart At Every Nail”]

“Hawks & Doves” is a country-rock hybrid with a great guitar sound (twangy yet aggressive). Lyrically, it’s patriotic and anti-establishment in equal measure (“Ready to go, Neil Young Photo (circa 1980)willin’ to stay and pay”), and the harmonized refrain of “USA, USAyyy” could either be a rallying cry or a pointed criticism. Of the three songs I haven’t discussed, “The Old Homestead” is noteworthy for the appearance of The Band’s Levon Helm on drums and Neil’s old cohort Tim Drummond on bass, both of whom add some subtle syncopation to the slow, steady beat. The eerie sound of a musical saw is a strange inclusion, which over the 7-1/2 minute running time gives it a feel of an old b-movie. I can’t say I love this song, but it’s certainly an interesting oddity in his catalog. The other songs feature some nice acoustic guitar work and they’re at least pleasant, but they’re also easily forgotten. I’m not sure how I would rate this album. I can’t say for sure that I would include anything here if I were putting together a compilation of Neil’s work, but that doesn’t take away from this relatively low-key but still highly listenable album.

There’s something about the production of Re-ac-tor (1981) that makes the album so Neil Young - Re-ac-torhard to embrace. Teaming up again with Crazy Horse, the slightly sterile sheen and less nuanced performances meant that it took a number of listens this week before a handful of songs finally made an impression. “Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze” features a number of subtle tempo & rhythmic shifts and a hint of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the guitar interplay. With such a ridiculous chorus (“Come on down for a pleasure cruise, plenty of women, plenty of booze”) it’s obviously not meant to be serious, and Neil’s excellent guitar solo helped me to appreciate this minor but fun song. The chugging, boogie-woogie piano shuffle “Get Back On It” comes and goes in a flash (just over 2 minutes), leaving behind some Clapton-esque blues guitar and a great driving rhythm, as well as simple lyrics about a truck driver heading out on the road. The high point of the album is “Southern Pacific,” which chugs along like a freight train through mountains, tunnels and other terrain as it mirrors the lyrics. It seems to be both about the railroad itself and an employee being let go after years of service (“I put in my time, now I’m left to roll down the long decline”).

The twin guitars in “Motor City” sound like a cross between Lynyrd Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy playing a steady country-rock beat. It’s a statement about the US auto industry that bemoans the invasion of foreign automakers (“Who’s driving my car now?”). Album closer “Shots” is an excellent propulsive shuffle (driven by triplets on the snare drum) with fuzzy Neil Young Photo (circa 1981)rhythm guitar & lead guitar squalls that tackles the plight of immigrants crossing the border. I wonder if it’s an older song since it has more heft than the bulk of this album, even if it’s not quite on the level of his previous epic tracks. A couple of the remaining songs are too simplistic and one-dimensional to spend any time discussing, but “T-Bone” gets special mention as one of the most tedious songs you’ll ever hear. It’s over 9 minutes of foot-stomping swamp-rock with the phrases “Got mashed potatoes” and “Ain’t got no T-Bone” repeated ad infinitum. In some ways it’s charming in its stupidity, but I can’t imagine ever being in the mood to listen to it. Re-ac-tor is fairly inessential, but since a couple of the songs I mentioned would probably be worthy of inclusion on my hypothetical Neil Young compilation, it’s not without merit.

Over the course of these five albums he covered a lot of the same musical ground we’ve come to expect from him, with a few minor twists thrown in. This era wasn’t nearly as consistent as the last two batches of albums I revisited, but that’s not harsh criticism as it’s hard to keep up that kind of pace. After this period he signed to a new label and confounded fans & critics alike with a number of albums that flitted from one style to another. I can’t say I’m familiar with the bulk of the music contained on those records, so I’m really looking forward to spending a lot of time with them. I can’t imagine they’re all bad, and I’m eager to uncover some surprising gems.

36 comments on “NEIL YOUNG Part 4 – Out Of The Blue And Into The Black

  1. Lewis Johnston
    February 9, 2013

    A good summary of what I regard as one of Young’s more inconsistent phases. The only studio album that is satisfying as a whole is “Comes A Time” it is a pretty unified album throughout both musically and lyrically. Of course in typical Young fashion there is always something put in to surprise the listener, “Motorcycle Mama” being a case in point. On a personal note it is a nice album to play late at night as it is very relaxing. Indeed for that reason I never have it on in the car. Like you I was very surprised to hear Crazy Horse do acoustic songs on the album, in all fairness they do a good job too. I do have mixed views on “Rust Never Sleeps” often I think it would have worked better with some of the dafter songs left out. I am sure he had better to offer than that. Despite it’s shortcomings there is some really good music on there and it does have some songs on it that have become classics. The album also showed that Young was still forward looking and trying to stay ahead of his contemporaries. Indeed that is one of the aspects of him as an artist I enjoy the most, he does try to push the envelope, he does not always get it right. But when he does get it right the results are most satisfying. The live album that followed “Live Rust” is far better,as well as being a great summary of his music up to that point, it is also a fine live album,one of the best in my view. Something that I do listen to very often as he and the Horse really do rock out on it.

    His last two albums before departing for Geffen cab be summed as follows one is pretty good and the other is pretty awful. The good one is “Hawks And Doves” I find it to actually be a pretty enjoyable listen, quite a good country album and very much overlooked. On the other hand the less said about “re.ac.tor” the better. An awful confusing mess of an album, it was almost as if Young could not be bothered at this point, apart from “Shots” of course but as you pointed out that seems to be a much older song, if it is not then it was the only classic he wrote for those sessions.

    This was a period when the listener was being tested, that is for sure. Not that the music was bad, mostly it was pretty good overall, but for me the standard of the albums was not as good as his earlier work. I look forward to your take on the “Geffen Years” another period where the record buying public and the casual fans amongst them would be sorely tested.

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    • Hi Lewis, and thanks for your comments. As usual we’re pretty much in agreement on what we like & dislike about these albums. I’m curious if you consider Comes A Time to be on the same level as the great albums that preceded it. Although it’s a consistent listen and probably the best overall record in this batch, I wish it had a little more dynamics. The next time I play it, I’ll be sure to make it late at night to see how itfeels. I have no doubt that you’re correct about that.

      I seem to remember that a lot of my friends really love Rust Never Sleeps, which is why I was surprised by how inconsistent it was. Maybe it’s the fact that the good songs are REALLY good that makes some people overlook the flaws throughout the rest of the album. Live Rust is a much better representation of that era, and I really hope there’s an expanded edition released at some point.

      I get the sense that I have a little more patience for Re-ac-tor than you do, but maybe I would’ve had the same reaction if I was a fan back then. It must have been pretty divisive among his followers. With that said, I did like some of the songs a lot, but the overall feel of the album didn’t work for me. Hawks & Doves is an interesting album that I enjoyed, but I can understand why it’s been overlooked. Based on what I’ve read about it, a lot of people saw it as pro right-wing at the start of the Reagan era, but it doesn’t sound that way to me. Maybe it was the redneck vibe of a lot of the songs that turned people off. I’m just glad I delved into it and finally know these songs.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend. I haven’t started on the Geffen albums yet, but will do so in the next day or two. Looking forward to chatting about them soon.

      Best…
      Rich

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      • Lewis Johnston
        February 9, 2013

        Certainly “Comes A Time” is not on a par with his previous work but out of all the albums discussed here it is certainly amongst the most consistent as far as the studio albums go. It is not so much that I hate “re.ac.tor” I just feel that there must have been better quality sings recorded, than what ended up being selected. I forgot to mention “ Southern Pacific” that is another classic track from that album. The cream of the crop from this period has to be “Live Rust” a killer live album indeed. Indeed if “Southern Pacific” and “Shots” were on Rust Never Sleeps instead of “Sedan Delivery” and ““Welfare Mothers” that would have been a vast improvement. Having said that one of he reasons I have been a fan for so long is that he does love to test his audience. Long may he run.

        Cheers.

        Lewis.

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      • It’s always fun to wonder how an album would improve if certain songs were swapped out for others, but like you said, Neil loves to test his audience’s patience. That’s one of the things that makes him so intriguing. We can always choose our favorite songs and assemble them any way we please, but his choices (good & bad) are all deliberate and I tend to prefer it that way.

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  2. mikeladano
    February 9, 2013

    I love Live Rust. What a great album. Re-ac-tor threw me for a loop and I never fully embraced it. As you said, there’s something about it that makes it hard to embrace.

    I remember a customer coming into my store and asking for “Rust”. I didn’t know whether she wanted Rust Never Sleeps, Live Rust, or even the band called Rusty. I sold her Rust Never Sleeps. Figured it was a good gamble 🙂

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    • Mike, as a big metal fan, would you agree that some of the guitar sounds he made during this era, especially on Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust, wouldn’t be out of place on a metal album? There must be a reason why the grunge-era bands, who mostly loved pre-hair-metal heavy metal, embraced Neil as a godfather. I’m glad we’re in agreement about Live Rust. Definitely an amazing live album. Did you ever see that customer again? When I recommended something to a customer, I always assumed they liked it when they didn’t return it, and I don’t think anyone ever returned an album I suggested.

      Rich

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      • mikeladano
        February 9, 2013

        Oh I fully agree. Not all metal has to be Yngwie J Malmsteen. I like a good, dirty, greasy guitar too. Neil Young really put that style on the radio. You can hear a lot of his influence on Blue Rodeo albums from Lost Together forwards too.

        I don’t recall if I ever saw that customer again. I would hope that, even if I got the album wrong, they liked it so much they wanted to keep it! That happened before, in the past.

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      • I still have Blue Rodeo on my list of artists to further explore soon. I think I mentioned to you that I’ve owned Lost Together and Casino for years, and when I recently revisited them I really enjoyed both. I seem to remember you recommending Five Days In July as a good next purchase, so I added it to my Amazon wish list. I have no doubt that there will be lots of Neil influence on their records. To my ears, no band has been more influenced by Neil than The Jayhawks, without sounding like copyists.

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      • Phillip Helbig
        February 11, 2013

        Put me down as someone who also agrees with every point of your review of Live Rust. A good mixture of very acoustic and very electric. (Where do you get that except with Jethro Tull, such as Aqualung (the album) or “Aqualung” (the song) or, really, almost any Tull album?) Very heavy metal. (Can’t resist remembering Tull beating Metallica out of the grammy and the subsequent ad from the record company praising the flute as a (heavy) metal instrument.) This is the guitar sound which is better than all the rest, as good as the Rickenbacker jangle, the howling Gilmour solo, the Angus Young riff, the Flamenco strum, Heart’s intro to “Crazy on You” on the Adamas etc are. To be sure, others have had similar sounds (going back to Clapton with Mayall, at least), but it stands out here more. Probably my favourite album to play while driving fast (with the added bonus that it is quite long so I don’t have to change the CD too soon). I’d like to hear Iron Maiden covering “Cinnamon Girl”.

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      • Phillip, you crack me up. I love how you tied in my Neil Young heavy metal reference with Jethro Tull and eventually brought everything together with a great suggestion of Maiden covering “Cinnamon Girl.” I can imagine what their 3-guitar lineup would bring to that song. I also appreciate your undying love for Tull. Did we ever discuss Ian’s Thick As A Brick 2? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that album, and the fact it was released as a solo album. I really like it, although it would’ve been even better with Barre’s contributions.

        I’m glad we’re in agreement about Live Rust. I wonder why an expanded version of that has never come out. I hope he considers it for an upcoming Archives release.

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      • Phillip Helbig
        February 12, 2013

        I think TAAB2 appeared in some comments. I like it, it is better than expected but not quite as good as the original TAAB (but, then, what is?)? I saw Ian and band (consisting of, apart from Ian, 2 current Tull members as well as non-Tull guitarist and drummer and an additional singer/actor (something really novel)) performing it last May or so and will be seeing them again this May.

        It is unclear what the status of Barre in Tull is right now. Ian has said several times that Tull, despite all the lineup changes, would always include Barre. Allegedly, the reason for releasing it under his name is that the audience is well behaved whereas appearing as Tull attracts a few people who stand at the front and scream “play Aqualung” during the quiet bits (or, actually, all the time, though one can hear them especially well during the quiet bits), even if he is booked as “Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson”. There might be something to this, but I think Ian might be exaggerating this. (He also says he always plays “Aqualung” since it might be someone’s first time at a show and said punter would be disappointed if “Aqualung” weren’t played. I don’t think that is a real problem, though.) On the other hand, this is just for concerts, so Tull could have recorded the album but have Ian and band tour it. On the other hand, it probably makes more sense to have the same people on the album and on the tour.

        Perhaps Ian would like Martin to come back to England more often than Martin, spending time in Canada, would like. I don’t know. Martin Barre is out playing Jethro Tull songs (allegedly some Ian doesn’t like to play as well” with the band A New Day (I think including some ex- and/or current Tull members as well); I’ll catch them at Cropredy. (To get back to your favourite band, Planty has been a surprise guest at Cropredy a few times (he and Dave Pegg go way back) and at least in those years attended the festival as a regular punter as well, standing out in the field with the rest of us.)

        Yes, I like Barre, but Florian Opahle is certainly good enough on guitar. He’s played with Ian Anderson before. A few years ago, I saw him with Ian’s “Christmas songs” tour (the same band as now but with a different drummer—I think this drummer has been playing with Richard Thompson in the past few years as well). Florian Opahle is much younger than the other members of the band—and most of the audience. After his solo spot, Ian joked that Florian hoped that such displays of prowess would garner him more groupies. Then he glanced at the audience and added “It’s OK—he likes older women!”

        Saw Wishbone Ash (Powell’s version) last week. I’ll probably go to a few smaller concerts before Ian in May and Rush and Iron Maiden (and, for my wife mainly, Bon Jovi) in June. Picked up 4 Maiden albums yesterday: Somewhere in Time, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Brave New World and A Matter of Life and Death. I need just 3 more to bring me up to all 11 Dickinson albums. Actually, all 3 were in stock, but I decided 4 was enough for one day and I need to decide which version of The Final Frontier I want to buy. By the way, have I mentioned Maiden UniteD and Thomas Zwijsen? Saw the former recently with the latter as the opening act. Highly recommended to all Maiden fans (and even to non-Maiden fans). Thomas has most of his stuff on YouTube, but do buy the CD to support this great musician. Can there be anything better than Maiden UniteD’s (silly name, I know) version of “Only the Good Die Young”? (Not that the rest of their 2 CDs is not good.) I’m looking forward to hearing the original, which I haven’t heard yet.

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      • Phillip, you’re probably right that we’ve discussed TAAB2 already, but I couldn’t recall that conversation. As always you made some great points, and you brought up an interesting comment from Ian regarding the different audiences for Tull and his solo shows. I think he’s a bit paranoid about that, but I suppose after 40+ years of hearing people shouting “Aqualung” throughout the set, he’s earned the right to do what he can to avoid that.

        I agree with you about Ian’s current band. They’re certainly very talented musicians, and I love Opahle’s guitar work on TAAB2, but there’s a certain bite that Barre usually provides that was absent on that album (of course, that could be Ian’s choice, so in no way am I disparaging Opahle’s abilities.

        Nice to hear that you’ve been seeing some good shows, and have others coming up as well. I would have to be dragged kicking & screaming to a Bon Jovi gig, so I give you credit for subjecting yourself to that. Haha. Those Maiden albums you got are all fantastic, especially the first two you mentioned. As much as I really enjoy the albums they’ve released since Dickinson rejoined the band, I think they could use an editor to tighten up the records and make them easier to digest. As a prog-rock fan I’m all for long songs and extended concept albums, but Maiden’s long songs often become too repetitive, and an 8-minute song would be much better if it was cut down to 5 minutes. But that’s just my humble opinion. A lot of people love that about them, and I certainly like those albums a whole lot, but I don’t think they’re quite in the same league as the original 7 or 8 albums from the Di’Anno and Dickinson lineups.

        So what’s the deal with Maiden UniteD? Are they a tribute band or do they write their own songs? That is a ridiculous name, but if the music’s good that’s all that matters.

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      • Phillip Helbig
        February 13, 2013

        Check out this page and this page. All of the musicians play in other bands: the bassist in a traditional Maiden tribute band, the singer in Threshold, the guitarist in Within Temptation etc. They play just Iron Maiden songs, but a) acoustically and b) in somewhat different arrangements, often (but not always) in a much slower tempo. Piano is quite prominent, so it’s not just an unplugged version of the songs. Sounds a bit cheesy, but is surprisingly good. Thomas Zwijsen plays his own arrangements of Maiden songs on classical guitar. In general, I don’t like cover versions, but good cover versions—usually with a radically different arrangement—are sometimes good and perhaps even better than the original in some respects (Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” comes to mind).

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      • They sound really interesting…much more so than a standard tribute band. I will check them out when I have some free time. Thanks for posting those links.

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  3. Altamont
    February 9, 2013

    I think that the “Marlon Brando Pocahontas and Me” reference is due to the fact that Marlon Brando was known (among many other things) as an advocate for the rights of Native Americans and alternately a harsh critic of their treatment by the U.S. government. When he won the Oscar for Best Actor for “The Godfather” in 1973, Brando sent a “representative” named Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache woman, to “refuse” the award and admonish the Academy for their treatment of Native Americans in the movies. A very late 60’s/early 70’s thing to do. I think that after that incident, they changed the rule that you had to show up in person for your award; that is if you wanted it.

    I think that “Thrasher” is his take on the modernization/mechanization/ science/technology/”progress” (the thrasher) vs. nature debate. They could have used it for the soundtrack of “Into the Wild”?! – “burned my credit card for fuel, headed out to where the pavement turns to sand”. It’s like his “Where Do the Children Play”, by Cat Stevens, among other songs with this theme.

    The lyrics are Dylanesque, somewhat stream of consciousness; even the harmonica has more of a Dylan tone than the typical Neil Young style. I’m not a lyrics person, so I’ll leave it to the Neil Young scholars to sort out what each specific reference means, but lines like “the aimless blade of science slashed the pearly gates” I think sum up the theme.

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    • Thanks for the input, Al-tamont. I can’t believe I hadn’t made that Marlon Brando/Sacheen Littlefeather connection, since I remember hearing about it when it happened (I think I was 7 at the time), and I recently read an article about Littlefeather in Entertainment Weekly. Now that you’ve brought it to my attention, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re spot-on, and it helps me to appreciate the song (which I already loved) even more. Thanks for that.

      That’s a great call, comparing “Thrasher” to Cat’s “Where Do The Children Play.” I know you always say you’re not a lyrics person, but you obviously make some astute observations and I really appreciate them.

      Best wishes,
      Rich

      Like

  4. waynelaw
    February 9, 2013

    Love “Live Rust”!!! The L.P is worn out but still rockin’..just like me! anyway good point about Neil starting the whole unplugged thing.

    Like

    • Thanks, Wayne. Nice to hear from another fan of Live Rust. If I ever come across an inexpensive copy of the LP I will pick it up, just to get that extra 60 seconds of the “Cortez” solo. I will also hope for an expanded CD edition at some point.

      Like

  5. Every Record Tells A Story
    February 11, 2013

    Nice job. I’m feeling a little sorry for you – as you are about to listen to Neil’s ’80’s records. This is one time when they really *are* as bad as you have heard. But it’ll be interesting to see if you agree.

    Like

    • Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed this post. As for his ’80s Geffen records, I’m already on my second trip through those five albums and they’re not as bad as their reputations. The listener certainly has to keep an open mind, and in the case of “Old Ways” he/she has to really appreciate traditional country music. Based on my initial impressions (after not having played these in years), there are a number of excellent songs during this era. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on them when I write my next post, even if you completely disagree with my assessments.

      Like

      • Every Record Tells A Story
        February 11, 2013

        Looking forward to it. Good to hear afresh…

        Like

      • Thanks. I always like to keep an open mind, even with albums/artists I’ve previously dismissed. Sometimes you can discover great music that way, although more often than not you think to yourself, “wow, I still hate this.”

        Like

  6. Brian
    March 15, 2013

    we seem to have very similar views on Neil Young albums and songs Rich. I don’t see much to disagree with you anywhere. Glad to see so much love for “Powderfinger” too. It’s my favorite track on “Rust” and one of my fave Neil tracks period. You don’t ever hear it on classic rock radio anymore either.

    Like

    • Glad to hear that we’re on the same page regarding Neil’s music. You probably have much more of an affinity for ’90s grunge bands like Pearl Jam, so I’ll be curious to hear what you think of Mirror Ball. We may not agree on that one. Yep, “Powderfinger” is a monster song, and I’m not surprised that classic rock radio ignores it. They’ve basically boiled every artist down to 5 songs, and that one didn’t make the cut. Possibly a slight exaggeration…but only slight.

      Like

  7. Heavy Metal Overload
    March 16, 2013

    Just to let you know, I’ve been silently reading through all this posts and sometimes coming back for another read so I can listen to more tracks. I have to say, with your selected tunes you are doing a great job of selling this stuff to me. I thoroughly enjoyed “Powderfinger” here and liked the boogie of “Southern Pacific” too. The opening chug of that reminded me of Blackfoot’s Train Train. Someone should release your hypothetical compilation!

    Like

    • Thanks, HMO. I really appreciate you reading these posts, as well as your encouraging comments. When it comes to the songs I choose for each post, I don’t want to overwhelm readers with too many options, and I try to avoid posting songs that the majority of fans would know. Usually it’s a song from each album that made a particular impression on me, and should be regarded as highly as some of their more popular songs.

      It’s been a long time since I made a single-artist compilation, but when I was younger one of my favorite hobbies was compiling my own best-of collections on cassette, like many of us did. With 90-100 minutes to work with, I could usually go beyond the most popular songs, and that’s the kind of collection I like to buy when I’m first discovering an artist via a compilation. Maybe one of these days I’ll add a feature at the end of each series where I list a hypothetical best-of and let my readers debate my choices. That’ll happen if/when I find some more free time. As it is, I barely have time to put together one post per week.

      Thanks again. Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      Like

      • Heavy Metal Overload
        March 17, 2013

        I like you reasoning for the track selection. I often find greatest hits/best of compilations to be a bit empty somehow. Sometimes they are even misleading, only giving you one facet of an artist’s style. When I’m wanting to hear a new artist I often just try to research the most well-regarded studio album and start with that. I usually find it a more satisfying introduction and that was how I eventually got into bands like BÖC and Thin Lizzy after initially being put off by disappointing compilations. So it’s great to hear these lesser heard NY tracks here.

        Hope you’re having a great weekend too! I hear where you’re coming from with the 1 post a week. I struggle with time for posting too!

        Like

      • I’m usually not a best-of guy, but occasionally there are artists whose discographies are either too vast to jump right into or too spotty to warrant my normal “completist” mentality. There are, of course, more people for whom compilations are their only exposure to particular artists, which is why a lot of thought should go into the choice of songs, and the sequencing. We’re in the minority, where we want to hear everything by an artist we like, so like you I tend to choose the most highly-regarded albums first and then work my way through the catalog from there.

        Like

  8. Pingback: KamerTunesBlog Year In Review 2013 | KamerTunesBlog

  9. DanicaPiche
    July 20, 2015

    Loving this! *sigh* I’m still on “Human Highway”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. DanicaPiche
    July 21, 2015

    I really like the addition of Nicolette Larson. I’m also going to have to find Rust Never Sleeps again. Great overview, Rich.

    Like

    • Thanks, Danica. I agree that Larson’s voice added something special to his music. Don’t you love how his style changes so drastically from album to album (and sometimes within a particular album), yet they’re all clearly the work of Neil Young? He is one of a kind.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. DanicaPiche
    July 24, 2015

    Yes, he truly is an amazing talent. I knew this before, but not the depth and breadth. It’s such a pleasure to explore this series. Thanks for that, Rich.

    Like

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