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Music As Explanation And Discussion

So we’ve been listening to Neil Young in the car lately, as one does. The kids seem OK with it, they like the big rock songs and his guitar skronk freakouts. They thought it was a girl singing in After The Goldrush. Anyway.

Southern Man comes on, and from the backseat my son says “Dad, what’s this song about?” Well. Trying to tread my way through it, I carefully explainedhow it is anti-racism and anti-violence and calls for slavery reparations so that two kids (11 and 8) could understand the song a bit. I also briefly explained Lynyrd Skynyrd’s response in Sweet Home Alabama… I patted myself on the back for navigating that one to their satisfaction (and mine) but man, it was quick thinking on my feet.

Then Ohio came up next. My son asks the same question. So. I carefully try to explain about the Kent State protests and what happened. As a result, both kids requested I skip the rest of that track, and I was OK with that. So we skip ahead and the next track is…

The Needle And The Damage Done. Hooboy. So of course they asked, and I explained this one, which went better because they’ve had anti-drug stuff at school already. However, no amount of explaining the song as a cautionary tale about how Young lost people close to him because of drugs helped because, at this point, Neil was a bit too heavy for them.

I get it. I do. They’re kids. Those are hefty songs, both musically and when you pay attention to the lyrics and messages. It’s a win, I think, to know that they are reminded that there’s a big world out there, and people can use music to actually say things, not just “baby baby” love songs or “let’s party” rock songs. We’ll get there, Neil, we’ll get there.

So Many Questions

So I bought this Neil Young book.

Nothing amiss there, oughta be a good read.

Then, when I got it home, I looked inside at the first page and saw this:

Yup, that’s in pen.

Alright. I have questions.

  1. Is this thing signed by Neil Young?
  2. Is he known to simply autograph with his initials?
  3. Further down the rabbit hole, could this have been signed to Rik Emmett? Am I thinking too hard about this?

Of course, surely there are other people named Rik, but there you go.

So what do you think?

Neil Young – On The Beach

Another Taranna October find…

I was stoked to find this one on CD, after quite some time thinking it ought to be easier to find in the wild than it was. Young’s first effort after Harvest finds him stripped down and in the mood to offer up pure Neil genius. I loved every track here. I want to spend more time with this one, I know it deserves it.

Overlooked Grail List Score!

During our last (most recent) Taranna trip, I scored this brilliant 2cd tribute to Neil Young. It’s chock full of cool stuff, just like the first volume one was (I have that too). Lovely!

When I went to the Grail List to update it for the Last Pogo DVD that I also found (wahoo!), I realized that this Borrowed Tunes II set was also on the list!

Double Taranna Grail List Score!!

 

NB: The list is now updated with these two items removed. Awesomeness.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live Rust

Tied closely to Rust Never Sleeps, this late-1978 live show is brilliant. Starting with a bunch of acoustic tunes, it’s not long before the band kicks in and rocks us the hell out like only Crazy Horse can.

Following After The Goldrush’s piano beauty, he says “When I get big, I’m gonna get an electric guitar…”

Later, they even shout against the rain…

The word ‘classic’ gets tossed around too easily, but this is one. Damn.

 

Look at this unreal setlist:
Sugar Mountain
I Am A Child
Comes A Time
After The Gold Rush
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)
When You Dance I Can Really Love
The Loner
The Needle And The Damage Done
Lotta Love
Sedan Delivery
Powderfinger
Cortez The Killer
Cinnamon Girl
Like A Hurricane
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)
Tonight’s The Night

Neil Young – Silver & Gold

Here’s another $3 score from Sonic Boom…

The 5th Annual Toronto Expedition Series, Part 31 (CD)

Thirty years later, here’s the sequel of sorts to After The Gold Rush. Largely acoustic, gentle Neil (as opposed to rockin’ Neil) lays out some really stellar songs about nostalgia and the past. These rootsy, country-ish tunes won’t challenge anyone. This is late night, quiet and reflective Neil.

Goddamn, his band rules: Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, “Duck” Dunn, Jim Keltner, Oscar Butterworth… and Linda Ronstadt and Emmy Lou Harris for good measure!

This one’s a keeper.

Neil Young – Living With War

Found for $3 at Sonic Boom, we’re already at #30 in the series and there’s miles yet to go…

The 5th Annual Toronto Expedition Series, Part 30 (CD)

Here’s Neil’s 2006 strident bash at George W. Bush’s Iraq war. Written in nine days after Young saw a headline about medics helping wounded soldiers, Young called it “metal folk protest music.”

As it stands now, ten years later (and with a president-elect sure to elicit another album just like this) it’s a shambling, under-cooked (and therefore awesome) effort. It’s immediate, and it’s real.

It dates itself, but it also doesn’t.*

 

* When this happens, it’s always sad commentary. As we well know, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Shut Up And Kiss Me Downtown

Man, the radio at work is full of things to notice.

Today, they played a song called Shut Up And Kiss Me, which I had to look up…

… it turns out it’s by Mary Chapin Carpenter, from her 1994 album Stones In The Road.

The riff sounded really familiar… so familiar…

 

Yup, it was Neil Young’s Downtown! But wait…

…that song, released in 1995, was recorded with members of Pearl Jam for the Mirrorball album, and was even nominated for Best Rock Song at the 1996 Grammys!

So,,, if Mary Chapin Carpenter released hers in 1994, and Neil’s was 1995… um, Neil, what’s up?

 

Am I the only one hearing similarities in the riff, here? Drop a comment!

vs

Neil Young – Special Deluxe: A Memoir Of Life And Cars

Neil Young – Special Deluxe: A Memoir Of Life And Cars

Sharp-eyed KMA Readers will recall that I tried to read Neil’s last book, Waging Heavy Peace, and gave up long before the end was even in sight. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I am a fan of some of his music, so it ought to have at least held my interest long enough to finish the damn thing and not been so frustrating and dull. Nope.

Well, as if that book wasn’t bad enough, here’s another one. Purportedly, this one’s about his love of cars, dogs, and, oh yeah, reminiscences along the way. Well, just like the last book, I started out with the best of intentions of reading the whole thing… but this time I was less forgiving. I very quickly found myself skipping sections, then a chapter, then larger chunks until I ultimately realized it hardly mattered. That was when I set the book down. So Neil likes cars, and dogs (at least it lives up to its dust jacket promises), he had great people fixing unreliable cars for him, and he once found himself in a circle jerk. Pretty heady stuff.

Neil’s Dad was a famous writer, of course. By virtue of this, and of his family being friends with lots of other writers, Neil says (in the introduction) that he figures that this means he ought to be able to do it too. No, Neil, that’s not how that works. My Dad studied advanced chemistry and calculus and was a teacher for over 40 years. Several of our family friends were also teachers that long. That doesn’t mean, because I grew up around them, that I know how to do what they do. Get real.

Forget these rambling, bloated ‘memoirs.’ Neil’s talent, as should be obvious, is in writing songs. And even then, depending on the tune (or even entire album), they are by turns compelling, classic, overwrought, weird, indifferent, and pure crap. With a discography spanning a career as long as his, all of that is probable, nigh on inevitable. But these books, I swear.

I’m really happy for those who think these things are great, that these pages hold deep insights into their hero. Personally, I wouldn’t get quite so excited about any it. And therein lies my real frustration with these books – he’s had such a fascinating life, and these things don’t come close to telling the story like they ought to and it’s sad. There, I said it. Good on him for trying, for using his own words and framing how he chooses, and for doing something instead of nothing. I just don’t think I’m his target audience.

That said, if he keeps this up because he figures he’s on some kind of roll, his next book ought to be about how he loves guitars (duh) and bewbs. I would read that one. Get on it, Neil, it’s time to sew up this trilogy in the making. Les Pauls and bewbs. Go!

I’m so glad I signed this book out of the library instead of actually buying it.

Grail List Additions: Aaron Edition

Hey folks, I’ve come across information about a few more CDs that would make me very very happy, but I cannot seem to find them online at all, or for crazy high prices. So, I’ll be adding these to the official Grail Search Master List.

Blue Rodeo – Live in Stratford January 13*, 2006 (2CD Instant Live)
Various – Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute To Neil Young
Various – Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute To Neil Young 2

* the January 14, 2006 show is available from the band’s web page, and I will have that one soon. It’s the show on the 13th that I need.

 

Christmas 2014, Pt. 2

We spend the holidays at our parental units’ places, so we try to do Christmas a little early at our house. We chose yesterday morning to start the festivities!

And now it’s time to talk about my lovely gifts from my lovely wife!

First up, some fantabulous music.

neil and br

Yes, that’s the deluxe 2CD edition of the newest Neil Young album, Storytone! It looks awesome. The first CD contains 10 songs, some done with a 92 piece orchestra, choir, some with a 6o piece orchestra, and three with a big band. The second CD is those some 10 songs done solo by Neil. Gonna be AWESOME! I’ve really enjoyed how creative Neil has gotten with his releases, in the last few years. This one stands a good chance of being freaking fantastic.

And yep, that second one is the new Blue Rodeo release,  Christmas album. But Aaron, you say, you hate Christmas music! Generaly, yes. But I do love Blue Rodeo. Love love love Blue Rodeo. So they might get a pass, we’ll see! 🙂 My lovely wife said she feels like she oughta make this a tradition, knowing my feeling on Christmas music as she does. As you’ll likely recall, last year, she got me the brilliant Wynton Marsalis Christmas album (which came packed with Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, but we won’t talk about that). I do love me some Wynton Marsalis. And this year, Blue Rodeo… When I balked at the idea, she said not to worry, she’d try to make it only artists I can stand. Oh dear. What will Christmas 2015 hold? I can only begin to imagine! Anyway yeah! I got new Blue Rodeo!

Of course, you can expect reviews of both of these sets, in these pages, as soon as I’ve played them enough to feel like I’ve got a handle on them.

Neil Young – A Letter Home

Let me first say a huge thank you to my lovely wife and our gorgeous children for this wonderful Father’s Day gift. Cheers!

Also, Happy Canada Day, everyone!

I am very excited about this album. First, I am a Neil Young fan. Second, the concept of it is very, very cool. You probably all know the story anyway, but that link’ll provide more, if you need it. Also, I stated in my Lazaretto review a few days ago that it was a Jack White sort of Father’s Day, and it truly was!

A Letter Home Intro is touching, just stilted enough to be real. If it’s scripted, it’s good acting.

Musically, this whole album is beautiful. There’s something about the simple guitar and vocal (and occasional harmonica, piano or whistling) arrangements, paired with the machine in which these songs were recorded, that makes it haunting and aching and very much like listening to old 78s. Which was the intended effect, of course. It’s brilliant, like a time capsule.

I’ll just list the songs (and their original artists) to give you a sense of how huge this whole thing is. Any one of these songs stands alone, strong and evocative. Taken together… you’d better be sitting down.

Changes (Phil Ochs)
Girl From The North Country (Bob Dylan)
Needle Of Death (Bert Jansch)
Early Morning Rain (Gordon Lightfoot)
Crazy (Willie Nelson)
Reason To Believe (Tim Hardin) [w. extra shout-out to Neil’s mom]
On The Road Again (Willie Nelson)*
If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot)
Since I Met You Baby (Ivory Joe Hunter)
My Hometown (Bruce Springsteen)
I Wonder If I Care As Much (The Everly Brothers)*

Honestly, my only complaint about this record is that it’s too damn short. I could listen to him play like this for hours.

Thank you, Neil and Jack. This is a superb record. Another contender for Aaron’s Best of 2014 already, (and it’s only June). I simply cannot recommend it enough. Seriously. Go buy this. It’s gorgeous.

* Jack White appears on vocals and piano.

Happy Happy Father’s Day To ME

Recently, I was waffling about whether or not to buy the recent Led Zeppelin re-issues. I even put up a friggin’ poll about it.  I have also been keeping my eye on several other new releases (Jack White, Neil Young, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes, that new Off! record that came out a while back , amongst several others) in the pipeline recently, so it’s a tough time for me. When it rains, it pours.

As you’ll no doubt recall, I was instructed by my lovely wife to not buy anything for myself, because Father’s Day was approaching (yesterday), and my birthday will be in July. If I tell her things I like, she can use that as a shopping list so my buying things now would eliminate her opportunities, etc etc. Telling her there’s no end to the list of music I want and she only needs ask me does not help. Around major events like this, I’m summarily prevented from music purchase. Aw, man!

This all requires an incredible amount of restraint (as you can imagine, since you’re reading this blog). My reflex is to pick up the album I’m after! I’m sure you understand. But I have been good. Discplined, even! I have not bought any of the albums I would otherwise have considered, and this deserves commendation (surely).

And then! Yesterday was Father’s Day.

Our son made me a beautiful card, our daughter gave me a wonderful two-year-old daughter hug, and in the gift was two CDs that have me vibrating with excitement!

Neil Young – A Letter Home

Jack White – Lazaretto

So! It really was a Jack White (and Jack White-related) Father’s Day for me! Sweetness. I am very, very excited. And of course I will be reviewing both of these albums in the coming days. I need to hear them properly and digest them, and I also need to finish the Beasties series…

Now, the Lazaretto I’d been eyeing on vinyl, because it is an awesome and beautiful thing [From Wiki: “The limited-edition “Ultra” LP features hidden songs, secret grooves, and holograms that materialize when the record is being played.”] Oh baby. And my lovely wife, bless her heart, did a pre-order on Amazon for this gift a while back, and she swears up and down she did not see a vinyl option for the album when she placed the pre-order. It was CD only, as she saw it. So, CD it is, and it’s gonna kick some serious ass around here. I may still go looking for the vinyl at some point, for the collectibility of it, but I can hear the whole damn thing RIGHT NOW and this all fills me with glee.

And the Neil Young is going to be so great. Of course it is. If you clicked that link for it, above, you’ll know why this is a sweet, sweet disc. Not to mention I’m a big fan anyway, so it was already a shoe-in.

My huge thanks to my family, especially my lovely wife. I’VE GOT NEW MUSICS!!

SLCR #197: Neil Young w/Diana Krall (January 17, 2014)

“Should I get tickets to Neil Young?”

This was a trick question; not in how it was asked, but that it was asked at all. I asked it of my coworkers for whom shopping is something of a lifestyle. It’s their favourite hobby. You might wonder how they can afford this, and if you did, I would point out that “returning things” is their second favourite. At any rate, I knew they’d say “yes,” and sometimes I need a push.

I don’t usually need a push when it comes to concert tickets. This may sound hypocritical coming from someone who has so much stuff, but I would much rather have experiences than things. However, this was not a particularly cheap experience – the two tickets were going to run us around $375 once you got the taxes and fees in there. And my history with Neil Young is relatively limited. Of course, I know he’s a Canadian legend and I’ve heard most of his more famous songs, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought “man, you know what I could really stand to listen to right now? Some Neil Young.” But whatever, it’s only money, I can always make more. And besides, Neil is, in fact, not young, so who knows how many more chances I’ll get to see him? He also had Diana Krall as his opening act, and she’s a pretty big star in her own right. Plus, the show was in the Conexus Arts Centre, a smaller concert venue (holds 2,000 or thereabouts) and not at a big hockey rink. And finally, this tour was for a good cause.

Yeah, so about that cause. This concert was one of four that were held across Canada to raise funds for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, which is locked in perpetual legal fights against the federal government and the oil companies which aim to expand tar sands development, some of which could impact the band’s traditional land and could have serious environmental consequences. Young took no payment for the shows, and the Honour The Treaties tour raised over $500,000 for the band’s legal fund.

However, two of the shows took place in Regina and Calgary, major cities in oil-rich (and, let’s be honest here, highly racist) provinces. This led to the concerts stirring up a giant mess of controversy, which was compounded by Young in several interviews where he did things like comparing the mine sites to Hiroshima after the atomic bomb hit. Newspapers were filled with angry editorials and letters. These were accompanied by shocking exposés (?) that revealed that the alleged environmentalist Young sometimes flies on private planes and that his tour buses were left running during the Calgary show, despite being empty. Also, Neil Young is a rock star, which apparently invalidates his opinions on any other subject.

I can’t imagine anyone giving a damn about my opinion on such things, but I can’t imagine you giving a damn about whether or not I thought a concert was any good and here you are, so:

  • No matter how much oil is still in the ground, it’s a finite amount, so the priority really should be finding/improving alternate sources of energy.
  • If you’re going to tell other people what to do, don’t be surprised when they hold you to those standards.
  • If you’re going to tell other people what to do, don’t be surprised when they find reasons to not like you.
  • If you don’t want to honour treaties, then you’d best renegotiate them instead of just doing whatever you feel like.
  • One person (or group of people) using wasteful transportation methods is a small problem; treaty rights, the environment, how much energy we (as a society) use, where this energy comes from, and what are the consequences – those are all big problems.
  • Small problems have a funny way of distracting people from big problems.
  • I really just wanted to hear Heart of Gold.

Enough politicizing.

We got to the Conexus Arts Centre about a half-hour before the show began. I didn’t get tickets right when they went on sale, so we missed out on the two seats at the end of the fabled Row L for Legroom. Not that I would have paid that much anyway – I choked a bit on the $375 and that only got us into the cheap seats. Based on the seating chart on venue’s online ticketing system, I went for the two seats at the end of Row R, as it appeared to stand for Room, Leg. No such luck. Instead, we stood (and sat, and stood, and sat – that’s what happens if you take the aisle seats and show up early).

We had initially tried to avoid that whole scene, thinking we could wait in the lobby until the show started. However, there was an unannounced opening act of sorts. From the lobby, we could hear someone talking so we took our seats. A Native man with a guitar – if he said his name, we missed it – was talking about the drive from the north to the show. He then brought out someone who I assume was a Chief – again, I didn’t catch the name, but as soon as he walked out on stage, every First Nations person in the audience immediately stood up, followed by about two-thirds of the white people in attendance who were much more tentative about it.

I should note that despite the racial makeup of the province, this might be the first show I’ve ever attended where a significant percentage of the audience was First Nations. Many of them were wearing “Got Land? Thank an Indian” hoodies in support of a local student who was (briefly) banned from wearing the hoodie to school. I suspect we’ll see some of those next month when A Tribe Called Red is at The Exchange.

Anyway, the man who I thought was a Chief spoke in a language I did not understand. I assume he was opening the evening with a prayer, because when he finished speaking, there was no applause – he just walked off and everyone sat back down. The guy with the guitar came back and sang a song which he dedicated to water. Then he left, at which point they dimmed the lights, closed the doors, and began the show in earnest.

I have never listened to Diana Krall. Apart from the fact that one time, she was a jerk to a friend of Mika’s, I had always assumed that I would think “wow, that was very well done and not my thing at all.” Sometimes I am right about things. She played some piano and sang some songs. No band, just her. She told a few stories and seemed kind of nervous when she talked. I was not familiar with the Fats Waller song Your Feet’s Too Big but it was a delight. She also sang Don’t Fence Me In, a song which has forever been ruined for me because I first heard it on the old Air Farce radio show and their lyrics – “give me fish, lots of fish, and a great big jug of beer / don’t piss me off” – have always stuck with me for God-knows-what reason. These are the extent of my thoughts on Diana Krall.

I do have thoughts about the people who can’t show up on time for things and make entire rows of people stand up to accommodate them. You know what those thoughts are. Furthermore, I have thoughts about the crabby lady who told the latecomers to wait until between songs to take their seats. Those thoughts consist primarily of high-fives.

I also have thoughts about people who hang out in the lobby, open the doors, look to see if Neil Young is playing yet, leave, and repeat this action every five minutes. These thoughts are like high-fives, only with a closed hand. So they’re more like a fist-bump, but instead of hitting the other person’s fist, you go for their face or balls.

We hung out in the lobby during intermission until, again, we could hear someone on stage. We came back to watch a drum circle, but this time we were smart enough to lean against a wall and not even bother with the sit-stand-sit-stand routine.

Finally, Neil Young took the stage. Again, no band – just him, two pianos, and a multitude of guitars. He told stories about both pianos and some of the guitars. Everything has a history.

I had always understood Young to be kind of, well, a cantankerous old grouch. I don’t know if this is a commonly held opinion or just something I picked up somewhere. Instead, he was quite funny and seemed very laid-back and even a little self-deprecating. I was surprised at how likable he came across. And despite the cause he was promoting, there was no sermonizing during the show.

Young is 68. I know this from Wikipedia, as much as anyone can know anything that comes from Wikipedia. Despite his age, when Neil Young sings, he still sounds just like Neil Young, for better or worse – you decide which. Mika said she knew about half the songs he played; I did not. I can come up with a longer list of songs he didn’t play: Harvest Moon, Hey Hey My My, Rockin’ in the Free World, The Needle and the Damage Done, Cinnamon Girl. Luckily, Young is popular enough that someone out in the vast internets filled in a setlist of questionable accuracy for the less-informed of us:

  • From Hank to Hendrix
  • On the Way Home (Buffalo Springfield)
  • Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  • Love in Mind
  • Mellow My Mind
  • Are You Ready for the Country
  • Someday
  • Changes (Phil Ochs)
  • Harvest
  • Old Man
  • A Man Needs a Maid
  • Ohio
  • Southern Man
  • Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield)
  • Pocahontas
  • Four Strong Winds (Ian & Sylvia)
  • Heart of Gold

Encore:

  • Comes a Time
  • Long May You Run

I will say that I had absolutely no idea what to make of A Man Needs a Maid. But the rest of the show was pretty great – very simple and stripped down. Just a guy, some songs, a few stories, and a completely devoted audience. I suppose you might have to expect that, given the ticket prices. Young got a standing ovation just for showing up. People yelled “thank you!” and “we love you!” and hooted and hollered for every song, especially the hits. It’s a bit weird to greet Ohio with screams of delight. Maybe people don’t know the words?

As for the effectiveness of the concert at getting his message across… well, he got people talking, so that’s good. There’s more shouting than talking and not enough listening, but that was pretty much a given. If nothing else, the environmental message gave us a big laugh when we were leaving the parking lot and found ourselves behind a giant Hummer.

UPCOMING SHOWS

  • A Tribe Called Red (Tuesday, February 18)
  • Mounties w/Rich Aucoin (Friday, March 28)
  • Ben Folds & Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (Wednesday, May 21)
  • Regina Folk Festival (Friday, August 8 to Sunday, August 10)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

I was beyond happy to find a pristine used copy of this (currently) new Neil Young & Crazy Horse record in Toronto my most recent excursion there with Mike. I’m a big fan of Neil’s, and this has been on my Want list since it was released. I even bugged Airmiles a couple of times to add Neil’s work to their rewards offerings (to no avail, so far).

Psychedelic Pill is a sprawling bloody masterpiece. It’s further proof (as if we needed any) that these guys are gonna do whatever the fuck they wanna do, in their own good time, and we will all thank them for it immediately. There’s a sound, a feel… you know what I’m talking about. I’m not even gonna try to describe it, it just IS. These guys have it, and it feels like home.

Take a look at the packaging. 2 CDs, a double album. 9 songs total. If this frightens or deters you, it’s OK. You weren’t likely the target audience anyway. Let me give you an example…

Album opener, Drifting Back, clocks in at 27:37. Do you think they were aiming this at the radio? Hahaha no. The typical Neil acoustic intro quickly bleeds into a great big long full band jam-out. It feels like a practice session of a band of brilliance. But don’t be fooled, there is nothing haphazard about this. The rules are loosely defined and the song just sort of… becomes. Unfolds unapologetically. Stretches its legs. For half an hour. I love it.

The rest of the album, sprawl as it does, follows suit. No matter whether the song is three minutes (the excellent Twisted Road) or another 15+ minute jaunt (key album track Ramada Inn, with its haunting wrench of a tale), you’re in for one helluva ride replete with rock solid songs and guitar solos galore. And if that isn’t enough…

For The Love Of Man is a sweet slow song, very reminiscent of those old 50s tunes. You know the ones. Of course you do. And for For The Love Of Neil Young & Crazy Horse, you must do nothing else but go get yourself a copy of this album post-haste. Let it wash over you, and rejoice.

You need this.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Americana

I was thrilled to find this (and their other newest release, Psychedelic Pill) on our recent record shopping excursion to Toronto. I love Neil Young’s music. Every weird turn he takes (and there have been many), I can dig it. I’ve learned that he’s an acquired taste for many, but I must have been an easy sell, ‘cos whether it’s just him and an acoustic guitar, or full-on guitar solo freak-outs with Crazy Horse, I’m right there. Some might ask me why (and it’s OK, I understand he’s not for everybody), and all I can say is that no matter which way he goes next, we know that the music will be done with style, understanding and that sense that this was just the way it was supposed to be. It fits. It feels like home.

Americana takes a bunch of old folk and standard tunes and gives them the treatment only Crazy Horse in full flight could muster. This record is incredible. You know the songs, you know the words, and yet they’re nothing like they were when you sang them as a kid. The track list is here. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean… a lot of those tunes are very familiar indeed. But I’ll bet you never imagined them as full-on rock tracks. Well, lucky for us, these guys did!

This thing stomps and rocks and, yes, sounds like many other Crazy Horse records already passed. But that’s its charm, that’s its strength, that’s why this completely works. Neil Young has decided to salute the tradition from which he rose, and he chose to do it loudly, with nods to old garage rock, and with much distorted guitar. To hell with convention and the expectations of others. At this point, he’s firmly above all that. Americana is unashamedly what it was meant to be. It’s bloody fantastic.

Neil Young – Waging Heavy Peace

Look, I love Neil Young’s music. Every weird twist and turn it takes, I’m there. So when this book came out, it was a natural to read it. And now I will do you a favour.  

This is all you need to know: 

Neil Young loves his wife and is proud of his kids. He has a very clear-eyed, gentle and loving look at the world, the past and the people around him. Even the people who tried to screw him over or sue him. He doesn’t hide his past drug use. He has had contact with countless people, the names of many of whom we now know to be famous. Everything bad or challenging that happens to him in his life, he chalks it up to Life. His Dad was a famous writer, and Neil learned from him. 

He is inventing a new high quality audio system to replace MP3 and really wants someone to buy it and make it accessible for everyone. He is inventing an alternative energy car and really wants someone to buy it and make it accessible for everyone. There are many pages of advertising his inventions. 

He really likes old cars. He really, really likes old guitars. And he really, really, really likes model trains. 

Now you’ve read the book. 

Look, I only made it to page 289. All of the above played on repeat over and over, all through those pages. There are 497 pages in this book, and I have full confidence that those same things will repeat for the other 208 pages too. 

And why did I stop at page 289? Because I was completely tired of the repetition. And because it was at that point in the book where he left his private beachfront Hawaiian property and went shopping at Costco. And listed everything he saw and bought at Costco. I stopped because I do not give a shit about Neil Young going to Costco. It was the final straw. What a waste of paper. 

I got this out of the library, hoping it would be so much more. It was not. I’m sorry if you spent money buying this. Stick with his records, and books other people have written about him.

Neil Young – Neil And The Shocking Pinks: Everybody’s Rockin’

1983, Geffen Records XGHS 4013

Happy day! I got me some Neil Young vinyl!

I’m sure most Neil Young fans give this one a miss, maybe don’t even know it exists… You know the type, they want him to play Old Man, Harvest Moon and Cinnamon Girl until he finally falls over dead. Well, that’s one type of fan, the Hits Fan. Another type of fan picks an album or three that they like from his humungous discography and then judges all of his albums based on those few records. Call them the Fair Weather Fans. There are the people who like everything, and I mean everything the man ever did. They bought the Archives box set, and in fact they probably had most of it in bootleg already anyway. The Super Fans. And then there’s the people who flat out hate Neil Young’s stuff. There’s no help for them.

Everybody’s Rockin’ will appeal to just about anybody. Seriously. Think Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Big Bopper, Elvis… You may not choose to listen to that stuff, but you wouldn’t say you hated it when it was on. And that’s what this record is. Rockabilly. Sock hop stuff. The 12-bar blues done up with a room effect and that Carl Perkins Sun Records shuffle. It’s really quite fun.

And definitely a departure for Neil. And I say good on him. I like it when artists branch out, try new (er, old) things. Besides, this is just paying homage to his roots anyway. He’s probably been playing this stuff long before people got nuts about his music. The perennial Early Days Of Rock And Roll sound. Straight from your juke box while you share a root beer float with that special girl you promised her Dad you’d have home by ten.

I really enjoyed this. It’s an old-time 50’s party record. From 1983.

Tracks:

Side A: Betty Lou’s Got A New Pair Of Shoes; Rainin’ In My Heart; Payola Blues; Wonderin’; Kinda Fonda Wanda

Side B: Jellyroll Man; Bright Lights, Big City; Cry, Cry, Cry; Mystery Train; Everybody’s Rockin’

A Trip To The Big Smoke

Back from a fairly successful trip to Toronto this past Saturday. Hadn’t been down to the city for a couple of years, so I was suitably overwhelmed by the ridiculously packed 401 and Yorkdale, and the cacophony of cultures, sights, sounds and smells in the downtown area. Been in the sticks too long, I guess. But it was also good to get the city under our feet again, see what was new.

Hit Sonic Boom, of course, and scored some gems there, and got a couple of cool discs in the basement at BMV. Made a trip along College to Soundscapes, a shop which was new to me (oops, there goes my street cred!). It’s lovely. They’ve got a great selection, very tasteful and completist. I’d go back there especially when there was something harder to find I wanted, chances are they’d have it.

And my musics haul from this trip? Here’s a list (reviews forthcoming for some of them)…

Rollins Band – Nice (advance promo cd with epk footage)
Jack Johnson – Wasting Time (promo single)
Paddy Casey – Addicted To Company Pt. 1 (remember him?!)
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Acme Plus
Lee Ranaldo with Dave Dyment – New Life After Fire (for Tom Thompson)
Pavement – Quarantine The Past (hits collection)
Tribute – Everything Is Ending Here – A Tribute To Pavement
Tribute – Borrowed Tunes – A Tribute To Neil Young

I also have the new Gord Downie (The Grand Bounce), so I think I might do a series like I did for the Hip, listen to all 3 of his solo efforts in sequence…

Get ready, more is coming shortly!

Neil Young is Spiderman!

Oh, you think I’m kidding, but check this out:

http://www.cbc.ca/arts/music/story/2008/05/11/young-spider.html?ref=rss

Cool!

A Neil Young Kinda Day

It seems to be happening to me a lot, lately, where I’ll get an artist’s songs in my head and I’ll be hearing them all day long. I apparently have a jukebox in my brain that can easily go from song to song without missing a beat or a note anywhere, playing every song from recall as clear as if it were actually on the stereo. 

This is pretty a cool skill, actually, because I can get away with ‘listening’ to my favourite music anywhere, anytime, without the aid of a radio (or an iPod, if I was cool enough to have one, which so far I apparently am not). But I can even hear loud and obnoxious tunes in places that demand silence, like the library or funeral homes or most workplaces (unless they’re playing those shite Lite FM stations). So maybe this is actually my secret Super Power. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure how I’d use this power to thwart evil, although I could probably bore any foe to death with useless music trivia I seem to have memorized over the years. My kryptonite equivalent could be Céline Dion or any of that other shite “music” these pansy-ass workplace radio stations foist on those too weak to change the channel.

So, today’s artist was Neil Young. I’ve been singing and humming along to a lot of Mr. Young’s catalogue today especially, it seems, the older stuff. So I made my own disc, to match the songs I’d been hearing. Same as I did with the Who songs a little while back.

Yes, I am a geek. You love it.

Now, Neil Young is not for everybody. My lovely wife, for example, has until recently done her best to avoid his music. She has nothing against his talent as a writer or musician. It’s his voice that drives her nuts. Can’t stand it. But not too long ago, sweetheart that she is, she asked me to make a CD for the car so she could try to figure out, during her long daily commute, what all the fuss was about. Of course, in my excitement about the project I went overboard and made an MP3 disc off all his albums from my collection, giving her over 200 songs to chew on. I’m pretty sure she made a couple of stabs at that mountain of amazing tunes and it now languishes in the visor holder in the car. Too much too soon, perhaps. Overload. But it was so hard to stop picking songs!

So with this experience in mind, I decided to pare down, to pick only the songs I had heard today in my head. Turns out, from looking at the track list, that today my brain was mostly pulling from the AWESOME, absolutely must-own double record compilation Decade. Sweet! Then, to make things interesting, I made the disc as close as I could to the more recent hits disc, which I don’t actually own (I have most of those songs already anyway). It’s just a slightly different order to what I’m used to but most of the essential stuff is here, with my disc favouring the songs Joni Mitchell dubbed ‘the Prairie Lope.’ So awesome.

Today was overcast and grey, hovering somewhere just above 0C, with desultory snow from a few days ago lying around on the ground. Winter seems unable to decide if it wants to move in for good yet, instead just hanging around on the porch with its bag at its feet, smoking cigarettes. And in my head, it was a Neil Young kinda day, it seems.

Sure as hell, that’s alright by me.
 

Track Listing:
01 Down By The River
02 Cowgirl In The Sand
03 Cinnamon Girl
04 Helpless
05 After The Goldrush
06 Harvest
07 Southern Man
08 Ohio
09 The Needle And The Damage Done
10 Old Man
11 Heart Of Gold
12 Like A Hurricane
13 Winterlong
14 Tonight’s The Night (Pt.1)
15 Hey Hey
16 Harvest Moon
17 Long May You Run

Neil Young – Harvest

Love him or hate him, Neil Young rocks. Even when he’s not rocking, per se.

The man has this uncanny song-writing ability that shines through on just about everything he does (certain recent short-shelf-life politcal-tinted rant albums excluded). He welcomes you in, teaches you a lot about life, and then leaves it up to you what you’ll choose to do with his wisdom.

Joni Mitchell said (I think it was in The Last Waltz?) that Neil Young was the master of something I recall her calling the Prairie Lope. She’s right. That’s the perfect description for the sound on this album, Young’s Nashville-aimed masterpiece. It lopes. It saunters. It has a goal, but goals don’t mean that much, sometimes, when life gets in the way.

The musicianship on Harvest is completely brilliant. It twangs, it’s bluesy, it wants to relax yet it’s yearning throughout. There’s a pull, some unnamed thing that won’t let the man rest. And we, the listeners, are so much the better for his coming back and telling us the tale when he can.

The year this record was released it went Number One across America, which says something about just how powerful these songs really are, that they overtook the (usual) utter shit that sits atop popular music charts. It is a fine, fine example of how much one artist can pour of themselves into a record. Just look at the track list, below, and you’ll know what I mean. Admit it – you know most of those songs already. Exactly! Heck, he even got James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt to come over and sing backup on Heart Of Gold. Ah, the 70’s!

I say this a lot in these pages, but you really should own this record. If you don’t already, that is.
 

Track Listing:
01 Out On The Weekend
02 Harvest
03 A Man Needs A Maid
04 Heart Of Gold
05 Are You Ready For The Country?
06 Old Man
07 There’s A World
08 Alabama
09 The Needle And The Damage Done
10 Words (Between the Lines Of Age)

Neil Young – Ragged Glory

Around here, there seems no middle ground when it comes to Neil Young. People either love his music or they hate it. In a recent, informal survey of co-workers, I’ve yet to meet someone who’s responded with ambivalence. For an artist this far into an incredible career, I’d take that as a compliment, were I him. There’s passion on both sides of the fence. If people just shrugged, it’d be all over, man.

I think it was in one of Dave Bidini’s books, about how the Rheostatics tell everything about what kind of person you are (or whether you’re worthy of hanging out with at all) based upon which Neil Young record is your favourite. I think about that often when I play this, my favourite Neil Young record. Not that I worry about being judged by the Rheostatics. I mean, like I care. Nor do I judge other people like that (most of the time). But that idea stuck in my head anyway. So there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are great Neil songs on every one of his records (now, I don’t think Decade would count in these “favourite album” considerations, despite how awesome it is. We’re talking albums here, not compilations). I am aware that Neil Young fans are rabid, loyal and vocal. That’s cool. Anybody reading this will have their own thoughts and opinions, their own adamantly-held belief that some different record than this one is his best or their favourite, and that’s cool too. He’s done a ton of great stuff, no argument from me.

But for my money, Ragged Glory is solid gold from start to finish. The whole thing has heart and soul, piss and vinegar, strength and love. It’s edgy and cantankerous and it can spit forty feet. The guitars are huge and the songs chug along in that way that only he and Crazy Horse can muster. Meandering solos, fuzz and twang, it’s all here. Try it in a good stereo, at top volume… it kicks ass.

This is not just an album, it’s a tour de force.

rhymeallnight.com/

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