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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

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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.

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’

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.

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