Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Not many recording artists are fortunate to have a career that lasts four decades or more, and even fewer are willing to explore new musical territories after so many years. Neil Young is one of those rare artists. Throughout the 1990’s and the early part of the 21st century, he alternated between his hard rock side (often with longtime backing band Crazy Horse) and his acoustic folk-based singer-songwriter side, with a handful of minor variations in between. With Le Noise (2010) he decided to try something different, working with producer/sonic architect Daniel Lanois to shape solo performances into something darker and more mysterious than anything he had previously done. There were times when I was waiting/hoping for a band to join in, but mostly I enjoyed the unique mood conjured up by the two of them. “Walk With Me” features heavy guitar sounds, chugging along & bouncing off one another. The romantic yet simplistic lyrics didn’t make much of an impact, but this song is all about texture and setting the mood for the rest of the record. “Sign Of Love” could be a Crazy Horse song with that super heavy riff, and I love how he addresses aging with a sense of humor (“It’s a sign of love, when we both have silver hair and a little less time, but there still are roses on the vine”). The stuttering, echo-y effect on the vocals sounds like something you’d hear from Radiohead.
“Love And War” is a haunting, powerful & dark folk song with nice fingerpicked acoustic guitar that recalls Richard Thompson at his most traditionally folky. It’s one of the highlights of the album for me, featuring lyrics about the futility of war and the toll it takes on soldiers & their loved ones. “The Hitchhiker” is autobiographical, as he takes us from Toronto to California to his early fame to paranoia (and references to various “substances”) to “living in the country” to survival after living his life on the road (“I don’t know how I’m standing here living my life, I’m thankful for my children and my faithful wife”). He also references his earlier song “Like An Inca” (originally on the Trans LP), both melodically & lyrically. This brings up one of the joys of revisiting full artist catalogs & writing about them here, since I wouldn’t have made the connection between these two songs prior to spending time with that earlier album. “Angry World” has one of the nastiest guitar sounds I’ve heard from him: super raw & distorted. There’s not a lot to the song other than its attitude, and I was surprised to learn that it won the Grammy for Best Rock Song. “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is a brooding acoustic tune that stands apart from the rest of the album with stark lyrics and powerful vocals. The melody never fully grabbed me and it does go on a little too long at 7+ minutes, but I really enjoyed his acoustic guitar work. Album closer “Rumblin’” is another of his eco-conscious songs that finds him singing about our planet in a lower voice (“I feel the rumblin’ in her ground”; “When will I learn how to give back?”). The electronic textures at the beginning are a nice touch. Le Noise (a play on the producer’s last name, I believe, but also a fitting description of the guitar tone on many songs) sets itself apart from the rest of his discography, and even though only about half the songs are truly memorable, I enjoyed the one-of-a-kind ride it took me on and I’ll be revisiting it frequently.
The third & final Archives release I own is A Treasure (2011), which was recorded with a band he dubbed International Harvesters prior to the release of his traditional country album, Old Ways. Of the 12 songs included on this disc, five were previously unreleased and one was a cover version, so I was only familiar with half of the album. “Amber Jean” is upbeat, old-school country featuring fiddle and high harmonies. “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking” is a slightly bouncy acoustic tune with Neil playing the unlucky-in-love protagonist waiting for a phone call (“I can’t reach out & touch you, you’re hung up on the line, I’m your disconnected number now & you’re a private line”). His old Buffalo Springfield song “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” is the highlight of the album for me. It’s super slow & melancholy, and the melody has been stuck in my head for days (“Then I’m sorry to let you down, but you’re from…my side of town…and I’ll miss you”). It sounds like a cross between a Willie Nelson ballad and Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou.”
“Soul Of A Woman” is a blues shuffle, but Rufus Thibodeaux’s fiddle adds a country element. In a slightly different arrangement it wouldn’t have been out of place on his This Note’s For You album. One of my favorite songs from Re-ac-tor, “Southern Pacific,” works even better here. The train whistle sound of the fiddle and Anthony Crawford’s plucked banjo keep the song chugging along. Neil also rips a fantastic guitar solo. “Nothing Is Perfect” (“in God’s perfect plan”) is a lovely country gospel song that’s unlike anything else here. The album ends with the more rockin’ “Grey Riders,” a bouncy tune with playful piano and a raw guitar instrumental interlude after each chorus. Two songs I already knew, “Are You Ready For The Country?” and “Motor City” (with its “Who’s driving my car now?” refrain), offer few surprises but benefit from these twangier arrangements. The one cover song, “It Might Have Been,” is an old-time country shuffle that reminded me of Hank Williams’ “You Win Again.” As I mentioned in my discussion of Old Ways, I’ve been a fan of traditional country music for many years, and Neil’s take on this genre is legitimate. If country isn’t your thing, I don’t think this album will change your mind, but I really enjoyed it and consider A Treasure one of his best live albums.
When Americana (2012) was released, I read a lot of negative reviews and, like many fans, I questioned Neil’s decision to record mostly traditional folk songs that are often associated with children’s sing-alongs. Many artists release “covers” albums & collections of old folk songs, and often they indicate a lack of songwriting inspiration. It took one listen to dismiss that theory, as Neil and Crazy Horse (Billy Talbot, Frank Sampedro & Ralph Molina) offer up unique performances of these standards (on their first album together since 2003), often using lyrics that have been omitted from the more well-known kid-friendly versions. It also sounds like they had a hell of a good time in the studio. The Stephen Foster classic, “Oh Susannah,” has a cha-cha rhythm and cool group vocals when they sing the title, as well as a memorable hook at “’Cause I come from Alabama with my b-a-n-j-o on my knee.” According to the liner notes, this is based on Tim Rose’s version from the ‘60s. “Clementine,” as in “Oh my darling Clementine,” is pretty far from a children’s song, with a thunderous drumbeat, fuzzy guitar, and lyrics about a girl who drowned, narrated either by her father or boyfriend, depending on your interpretation. I loved this version the first time I played it, and it’s still a lot of fun after numerous listens.
[Neil Young – “Clementine”]
“Gallow’s Pole” is a very old song that’s been performed in various guises by Odetta (whose version was their inspiration), Leadbelly, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and many others. I love the bouncy feel and the group vocals at “hangman, hangman, slack your rope.” “Travel On” is based on a British folk song about a man who’s constantly on the move. It’s upbeat & super catchy with a great melody, and I love the vocals at, “And I feel like I’ve gotta travel on.” I previously knew “High Flyin’ Bird” via Richie Havens’ version. This one’s not as good, but it does sound like a typical midtempo Crazy Horse rocker that could easily fit on most of their records. “Wayfarin’ Stranger” stands out as the most subdued song here, and its haunting power comes from the simple & sparse arrangement. Neil based it on Burl Ives’ version of this 19th century folk song. The rest of the album has its moments, but the songs aren’t as unique as the ones I’ve already discussed. I like the swinging “sha-na-na-na-na” doo-wop arrangement of “Get A Job,” originally a #1 Pop and R&B hit for the Silhouettes in the late-‘50s. Unfortunately, the loose vocal performance doesn’t work for this type of song. Their take on “Jesus’ Chariot” (a.k.a. “She’ll Be Comin ‘Round The Mountain”) shifts from dark & foreboding to a lighter feel in each verse, and I really like the group vocals at “When she comes.” The album ends with a stomping sing-along rock version of “God Save The Queen,” which incorporates “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.” There’s nothing terribly noteworthy about it, but it does conclude the album on an upbeat, patriotic note. I’m surprised to say that Americana is one of the most enjoyable Neil Young & Crazy Horse albums, and in spite of the fact that there are no original songs, they prove themselves to still be a vital rock band, a point they confirmed on their next album.
His most recent album, Psychedelic Pill (2012), is another collaboration with Crazy Horse, and it’s also a 2-CD set that’s the longest studio album of Neil’s career. With 9 songs totaling nearly 90 minutes you know there will be some extended jamming, but nothing can prepare you for the 27+ minute album opener, “Driftin’ Back.” He doesn’t break any new ground but still manages to keep things interesting. From the simple guitar strumming in the intro to the steady midtempo groove that continues through most of the song, he moves from wistful nostalgia (“Dreaming about the way you feel now when you hear my song”) to cranky old man, as he complains about the culture of downloading music (“When you hear my song now you only get five percent”). More than half the song is filled with instrumental passages that showcase his guitar work while also creating a mantra-like, hypnotic Krautrock feel. By comparison, the nearly 17-minute “Ramada Inn” seems like a concise pop song, even though it takes us on another long journey. The guitar washes over the standard Crazy Horse rhythm track, and there are wonderful vocal melodies, most notably at,” Every morning comes the sun, and they both rise into the day, holding on to what they’ve done.” This song features my favorite guitar work on the album, including some amazing melodic & soaring soloing.
“Walk Like A Giant” is aptly titled, as it’s nearly as long as “Ramada Inn” while introducing an instantly memorable whistling melody that sits atop the fuzzy groove. Also, the 4-minute outro sounds like a giant stomping & crushing the landscape. Lyrically he’s addressing the failure of his generation’s hippie dream, and musically it’s got his most raw & fiery guitar performances, at times recalling “Like A Hurricane” or his electric guitar sound on Live Rust. At 8-1/2 minutes, “She’s Always Dancing” doesn’t use its length as effectively as the other songs I’ve mentioned, with only the group harmony vocals at the start (“She wants to live without ties to bind her down…”) & the stinging lead guitar making an impact on me. He’s in a nostalgic mood again on “Twisted Road,” a slightly bouncy little song where he recalls the “first time I heard ‘Like A Rolling Stone’” and describes Bob Dylan as being “like Hank Williams chewin’ bubble gum” (can’t argue with that). He also mentions Roy (Orbison, I assume) and The Dead. “Psychedelic Pill” appears in two versions. The first has a distracting flanger effect that undermines the track, while the “Alternate Mix” is much more listenable. It’s a relatively minor song that’s short & sweet, and ends the album on a positive note. Psychedelic Pill is dominated by those three incredibly long songs, and fortunately they’re all worthy of multiple listens even though they consume a lot of time. This album is clearly geared toward his most devoted fans, since the average listener most likely wouldn’t have the patience to sit through such a long record. It’s hit-and-miss like many of his albums, but after nearly 45 years it’s amazing that he can still create such significant & timeless music.
That wraps up the Neil Young discography. Over the last 2 months I’ve revisited 45 albums, following the various twists & turns in his career, from acoustic singer/songwriter to fuzzed-out guitar hero, from troubled troubadour to country-rock hitmaker, from the underrated Geffen years to Crazy Horse ringleader, from his resurrection as grunge-era inspiration to creator of concept albums…and numerous points in between. He may have repeated himself a number of times but he’s never failed to surprise & delight, and I’m sure that will continue for as long as he’s with us. It’s hard to believe that there are still several Neil Young records I haven’t heard, and I’ve been told that there are a plethora of unreleased albums that can be found by resourceful fans. After I’ve taken a well-earned break from his music, I will seek out some of this material with fresh ears, and I may have to re-open this series to discuss those records along with anything else he releases in the future. For now, I thank you for joining me on this “journey through the past” as I finally got to delve into these albums that have been sitting on a shelf for such a long time. I hope I helped you re-ignite your passion for his music, and possibly discover something you didn’t already know. Your feedback is greatly appreciated, as one of the main purposes of this blog is to chat with other fans. Please share this series with any like-minded people, and stop by soon to find out about my next artist. Thanks again.
Love the idea of fully immersing in a discography – Neil’s on the ‘1001 albums you must hear list’ 9 times (including CSNY & Buffalo Springfield), I think I’ll borrow your approach of absorbing a few albums at a time. Looking forward to frequently checking your reviews when I get there!
Thanks. We have a mutual appreciation going on, since I’m really impressed by your approach to the 1001 albums list. I got that book as a gift a couple of years ago and it was inspiring. I owned a lot of those records already, or in some cases I owned something else by a featured artist, but there were plenty of artists/albums I had previously overlooked which I started looking into. My problem is that I don’t want to hear just the suggested albums but most/all of that artist’s work, since often I don’t agree with the suggested albums when it’s an artist I know really well. I look forward to your write-ups on Neil’s albums, among many others.
“When you hear my song now you only get five percent”
Neil Young has often talked about some revolutionary idea which will allow downloads of high-quality music. Is there anything to this? Anywhere one can read up on the technical stuff?
Have you ever done a test to determine how high the MP3 bitrate has to be before you hear no difference to a CD?
Phillip, I don’t know the technical specs, but I know a lot of audiophiles who complain about anything other than lossless digital files, which of course take up a lot space. Although there’s probably a bit rate between 320mbps and lossless where the average listener wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and a CD, I’m guessing at some point lossless will be the format of choice when the cost of storage gets to a certain level.
When I bought my first hard drive to rip my CD collection, back in 2005, it was a 320GB drive that cost about $250. Now you can get a 2TB drive, more than 6 times that capacity, for close to $100. In a couple of years hard drive storage will be so affordable that you’ll be able to keep all your music in lossless format & still have room to spare. It may take a while longer for that to apply to video, though.
I agree that disks are cheap so the question arises: Why not go lossless and not worry? 320 kb/s is only a factor of 4 or so smaller than the original, and the difference between that and lossless compression like FLAC is of course less. I still see two reasons not to go this route. First, many systems want MP3s. Second, things like the Brennan JB7 are still not large enough to hold 1000 CDs uncompressed, and of course some people have more. (It is not clear whether an external disk on the JB7 has full functionality.)
I am somewhat sceptical about claims made by self-professed audiophiles, especially since some are demonstrably not true. (I’m a physicist by training so maybe I notice this more readily than others.) There is a website which claims that freezing CDs and thawing them out improves the sound quality. One claim which I have often heard—colouring the rand of a CD with a felt-tip marker (preferably green) improves the sound quality—demonstrably goes back to an April Fool’s joke. (A journalist made this up and included it in a satirical article which mentioned some real audiophile practices. Nevertheless, many people swear by it.)
Audiophiles are generally not the types to believe in other types of woo, so this common behaviour is a bit puzzling. I think it has its basis in the fact that one can vastly improve the sound quality of a system with simple tricks like proper speaker placement, damping the turntable, using a better needle etc, so some people believe that simple tricks will improve CD quality as well. Still, if they really are audiophiles, they shouldn’t claim to hear a difference when there is none. If the difference can’t be demonstrated in a double-blind test, it is either non-existent or at least not important.
My guess is that Young’s ideas are not based on reality, but I would like to know more. In any case, by the time anything concrete shows up, one could just store one-to-one copies of CDs on disk (not even FLAC would be necessary).
By the way, world-class violinists cannot, in a double-blind test, tell the difference between a violin from Stradivari or Guaneri and a good modern instrument costing just a fraction of the price.
Phillip, you make some great points (as always). I don’t know much about those Brennan players, but based on the ads I’ve seen and a few brief discussions I’ve read, those players are not as impressive as their price would imply. Also, as someone who has between 8,000 & 9,000 albums (that’s titles, not discs, so adding in multiple disc sets it has to be close to 10,000), I would need a hard drive/player capable of storing that much lossless music and Brennan clearly can’t do that yet. I have a feeling most people who care so much about digital music sound quality will have large collections that require ample storage space. I also don’t want to fill up a hard drive but instead leave myself with plenty of room to expand. My collection (which took me well over two years to rip and now I just add to it as new titles come in) takes up around 700GB, so my 2TB hard drive should be sufficient for a long time…unless MP3 bit rates go up.
As for your points about audiophiles making claims they can’t really back up, I’m in complete agreement. I also think if you’re constantly spending time comparing various versions of the same album you’re wasting time that could be spent actually, you know, enjoying music. Life’s too short to worry about hearing every little micro-nuance. Of course, I have my own obsessions, so I don’t want to come across as being critical. As long as they enjoy that process, more power to them. I never heard about that violinist double-blind test. VERY interesting.
As for Neil Young, I know he’s held off releasing certain titles for a long time because he wants them released in the best possible format, but I disagree with his reasoning. Instead of withholding music from your fans for years, give it to them in the best available format at the time and inform them that you might reissue it in the future (which every artist does anyway). I know he’s enamored of high-res audio, which Blu-Ray now allows, but how many fans have the proper set-up to appreciate the sonic differences?
I don’t claim to be an expert. Far from it. I’m just a fan who wants to hear as much music in my lifetime as possible. Sound quality is important to me, but as long as it’s listenable I’m happy.
Le Noise came as quite a surprise when I first heard it, not because of the production but because it is actually a good album that is not acoustic. I did miss a band backing him on those songs for the first two or three listens, but after that it seemed to be quite natural in the context of the album. Certainly it was quite a move forward and as I recall it did divide the fanbase somewhat. A Treasure I like a lot as I really wanted to see him live with International Harvesters, being a big fan of his Old Ways album, the idea really appealed to me. The album really gives you the feel of what these shows were like. On the basis of what I have heard on this album and other recordings it was pretty worthwhile. Americana was a very pleasant surprise indeed, being from Scotland myself it was fascinating to hear “The Darker” versions of American Folk songs. I was taken with it on the first listen and as you pointed out here they sounded like they were having a ball recording it. I only wish they did the Pistols “God Save The Queen” as well. That would have been pretty funny, they could have made it a hidden track. The latest release Psychedelic Pill is a great album, the length may be daunting for a lot of people out there. It must be noted unlike his other “long” albums the quality of the material does justify the length. Certainly when I listen to it, it does not seem to drag like Greendale for example. Just when one thought Young was starting to flag, he comes out with a brace of good albums. I just wonder what he will do next.
Well done on this blog, getting through the sheer volume of Young’s work is quite an achievement. I take my hat off to you sir.
Lewis, thanks for coming along on this journey through Neil’s back catalog with me. It was an immensely enjoyable excursion, but also exhausting. I actually needed a couple of weeks to catch my breath, which is why I wrote those two “Compilation Or Catalog?” posts before moving on to another artist’s discography. I was nervous about spending time with Psychedelic Pill simply because of the length of the songs (and the overall album). Once I gave it a few spins, though, the quality of the songwriting & performances shone through. I’m not sure how he could make 20-26 minute songs seem shorter than some of his 10-minute versions from his lesser live albums. Neil & Crazy Horse were clearly in an inspired state of mind during the recording of that album and Americana. I hope he continues the collaboration with them for a while longer, just to see where they go next. Whatever he chooses to do, we know it’ll be interesting and worth spending time with.
Thanks again for all your feedback and encouragement. It means a lot to me.
All my best…
I guess I can put in a brief review of Neil’s concert in Cologne last Friday.
Opening act was Octa Logue from Darmstadt so, relatively speaking, a local band. Probably the biggest crowd they’ve ever played, unless they’ve played a relatively big festival somewhere. After having recently been tortured by A.C. Angry twice recently (opening for Michael Schenker and Saxon; by the way, I went to both out of curiosity. I think Schenker might be worth checking out in more detail, but Saxon was not my cup of tea—since discovering Iron Maiden, I thought I might have missed some other good heavy metal; maybe so, but it ain’t Saxon), I dreaded another unknown (to me, though I had heard the name) opening act, but they were actually quite good. Reminded me a bit of early Pink Floyd, though not in a derivative sense. The announced begin was 19:30. Octa Logue started at 19:45 and played until 20:20. (This was in an arena of maybe 20,000 seats.) OK. Then came a pause of 40 minutes. However, nothing actually happened. Octa Logue had a minimal stage setup and it was gone in 5 minutes. Neil’s stuff was already there. The stage was occupied by some (presumably) roadies in white coats and others in day-glo vests pretending to be arguing. Neil, it wasn’t funny. It was like a Cub Scout pack trying to imitate the Marx Brothers at a campfire and failing to realize what actually made the Marx Brothers funny. In other words, imitating them in an artificial way without any understanding (search the internet for “cargo-cult science” to see what I mean). Thus, I was seriously annoyed by 21:00. (Fortunately, I had a reserved seat.)
They had the traditional oversized Fender amplifier dummies as stage props (presumably with real (Fender?) amps inside), covered with dummy flight cases. Before they started (after the annoying skit was over), these were slowly hoisted while “A Day in the Life” (the Beatles version, not Neil’s cover) played. Bizarre.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, when they finally got around to playing, were in fine form: the volume was actually perfect, the sound was technically quite good (in the same arena a bit more than a month ago, Rush played a great concert with bad sound), musically they were very tight and Neil’s voice sounded exactly like it does on Live Rust. The general sound was also very much Live Rust, though only a few songs from that album were played. I wasn’t familiar with most of the songs, but will probably check out more in the future. The only real disappointment was “Cinnamon Girl”, which I really like (I’m still waiting for Maiden to cover it) but this didn’t have the punch of the Live Rust version.
I liked “Walk Like a Giant”, but the noise ending you refer to above as 4 minutes was drawn out to about 10. A bit too much, like Roger Waters throwing potatoes at a gong.
There was an upright piano on stage, though Neil played only one song on it. This was accompanied by a pantomime of a woman with a guitar case. He played a few acoustic numbers, but was mainly in riffing mode, both he and the other guitarist always playing Les Pauls. On the other side of the stage, there was someone who appeared to be looking at a Macbook and not doing much else. No idea what his job was. The programme mentions a “teleprompter operator”; maybe that was he. I bought a programme for EUR 10, which I suppose is a reasonable price, but except for the dramatis personae at the back, it consists only of photographs of the band on stage. Not the best programme.
There was a backdrop and two screens on either side of the stage. These used back projection (one could see the beams), rather than (presumably) plasma screens which I think are more common now. (Those of Rush were really high-definition; usually, when the screen itself is on the screen, one can see the pixels, but not with Rush.) However, the images were often not much bigger than the real-life versions on stage. Some film and sound effects made a convincing rain storm, but I though the extended “let’s see if we can stop this rain” recording
(some of which is heard on Live Rust was a bit cheezy.
The encore consisted of a few country numbers. Not my cup of tea (or should I say “jug of moonshine”?), but fortunately there were none in the main set. The main set lasted two hours, until 23:00, and the encore from about 23:05 to about 23:20.
Having gone mainly out of curiosity, it was better than I thought.
Here’s a set list from the internet:
Lanxess Arena, Köln, Germany
w/ Crazy Horse
01. Love And Only Love
03. Psychedelic Pill
04. Walk Like A Giant
05. Hole In The Sky
06. Red Sun
07. Heart Of Gold
08. Blowin’ In The Wind
09. Singer Without A Song
10. Ramada Inn
11. Cinnamon Girl
12. Sedan Delivery
13. Mr. Soul
14. Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
15. Surfer Joe And Moe The Sleaze
16. Roll Another Number
17. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Tour: 2013 Alchemy Tour with Crazy Horse – Europe
Band: Crazy Horse, Line Up 3
Neil Young – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica
Frank Sampedro – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
Billy Talbot – bass, vocals
Ralph Molina – drums, vocals
(From http://www.bad-news-beat.org/2013neil-young-set-list-2013-07-12-lanxess-arena-koln-germany ).
Phillip, that is a fantastic (and very thorough) review. I’ve always hated the wait between opening act & main attraction, which is usually unnecessarily long. In this case, it sounds like Octa Logue’s set didn’t result in Neil’s equipment needing to be moved around or tweaked in any way. I feel like a reasonable amount of time is 10-15 minutes, which is enough to empty the bladder, buy some food &/or drink and settle into your seat (or standing spot). Anything beyond that is overkill. I’m happy to hear that you had reserved seats.
I’m not surprised to hear that Neil still sounds like he did 30+ years ago. That’s one of the benefits, I suppose, of having a voice that’s not technically good but brilliantly expressive. He really does sound the same all these years later. Not many artists can say that.
Hmm, Maiden doing “Cinnamon Girl.” That’s a really good idea. They’ve always covered interesting tracks so if you ever have the opportunity to meet the guys you should suggest that.
Your comments always make me laugh. This time it was “like Roger Waters throwing potatoes at a gong” that had me laughing the hardest (with the “jug of moonshine?” reference not far behind). Thanks for that. Looks like it was a good set list from Neil. Nothing terribly surprising but a lot of great songs in 2+ hours.
As for your ongoing quest to find a metal band that compares to Maiden, I have to say that they’re pretty much the pinnacle for that style. As someone who also got into them later in life, I’ve also searched for artists who would impact me the same way & continue to come up empty-handed. There are some very good newer bands who used Maiden as a template for their sound (like Iced Earth and Symphony X), so they may be a good place for you to continue your search.
Thanks again for the Neil concert review. Great job.
I think that Neil Young is actually one of the grandfathers of melodic metal. Think of his extended solo on the Live Rust “Like a Hurricane”, the riffing on “Cinnamon Girl” etc. But me meet Maiden? You’ll have to introduce me sometime. (By the way, in another blog I’m still waiting for your answer to whether Justin Bieber is a better drummer than you are.)
I’m not sure which one it is in, but there actually is a film of Roger Waters throwing potatoes (raw, not cooked) at a gong back in the early days of the Floyd. (Early Floyd is sometimes good, but sometimes too avant garde and at other times too “cute” (some of the Barrett stuff); Octa Logue (no idea what the name means) managed to find the good middle ground.
I have a little book in which I write down bands to check out. I probably have a couple of hundred in there. Based on experience, maybe 5–10 per cent will result in me buying something. Both of Iced Earth and Symphony X are on that list.
There are many bands whose earlier albums are the best. Probably true of most bands. The Moody Blues, Kansas, the list goes on and on. Most of my favourite bands (the Beatles, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Rush) peak somewhere in the middle, though the early and late stuff is still quite good and better than the best of some other bands. Now that I’ve listened to more Maiden, I actually think their best albums are the last four. I don’t know of any other band for which that is the case. Not that the early ones are bad; the first three with Bruce are, rightly, classics. (Most people see the next 4 with Bruce, the two “progressive” and the two “stripped down”, as a step down, but to me they aren’t that much different. I also expected, based on recommendations, that the two “progressive” ones (Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son would be my favourites, though now it looks like they are the least favourite, though still quite good.) The earlier Maiden might have more individuality in the songs, and there are some really great ones there, but the later stuff is more complex and I can listen to the songs over and over without getting bored.
Sorry I missed your inquiry at another blog regarding my drumming. Based on what I saw of Bieber’s performance behind the kit on Letterman I have to believe I’m a better drummer than him. Of course, I would hope that’s the case, as I’ve been playing since 1975 and that’s my one musical talent. Bieber definitely has better hair than mine (certainly more of it) and he can do the pop idol thing better than I ever could, so we’ll call it even (just don’t compare our bank accounts).
Not sure I agree about the 4 recent Maiden albums being their best, but they do hold up extremely well against their acknowledged classics, which is something that’s rare for artists who have been around as long as they have & returned with a particular lineup after a number of years. My favorite era is between Piece Of Mind and Fear Of The Dark, but other than the Blaze Bayley era (which I used to own but didn’t care for so I unloaded them) I think all of their albums are excellent and essential listening.
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