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Neil Young Buyers Guide

Neil Young’s catalogue is an eclectic mix of styles, sounds and moods, which has changed drastically over the last 40 years. Embracing rock, country, metal folk, grunge and plain old noise in his own unique songwriting way, his career has delivered many awesome highpoints.

Essential Albums

Decade (1977)
Neil Young

For the beginner, Decade is the place to start, bringing together the best of his Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young and solo material. At time of release it also included several new tracks along with hand scrawled sleevenotes by Young who’d compiled it. There are a couple of Buffalo Springfield gems, Out Of My Mind and Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, missing (both are on iTunes) and there’s no Country Girl (also on iTunes) from C,S,N&Y but the rest of it still stands up as a pre-punk collection with the focus on the heavier end of Young’s canon. The opening cut, Buffalo Springfield’s Down To The Wire hails from their unreleased Stampede album, Long May You Run may be the only good thing to come from his time with the ill-fated Stills-Young Band, and the previously unavailable Campaigner is yet another melancholy stab at Richard Nixon. An excellent collection.

TRACKLIST:
Buffalo Springfield: Down To The Wire, Burned, Mr Soul, Broken Arrow, Expecting To Fly, I Am A Child. C,S,N&Y: Helpless, Ohio. Neil Young: Sugar Mountain, The Loner, The Old Laughing Lady, Cinnamon Girl, Down By The River, Cowgirl In The Sand, I Believe In You, After The Goldrush, Southern Man, Soldier, Old Man, A Man Needs A Maid, Harvest, Heart Of Gold, Star Of Bethlehem, The Needle And The Damage Done, Tonight’s The Night (Part 1), Tired Eyes, Walk On, For The Turnstiles, Winterlong, Deep Forbidden Lake, Like A Hurricane, Love Is A Rose, Cortez The Killer, Campaigner. Still-Young Band: Long May You Run

Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse

A benchmark release, best remembered for its trio of genre-defining fuzzed up guitar salvos, the short and sweet Cinnamon Girl and two epic journeys into riffland, Down By The River and Cowgirl In The Sand, both coming in at over nine minutes long and defining one of the key benchmarks of Young’s sound over the years. In between there are gentle multi harmonies embroidering distorted country rock and almost Velvet-like folk drone on Running Dry on a set of epic tales of dramatic and in some cases disturbing proportions.

TRACKLIST:
Cinnamon Girl, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Round And Round (It Won’t Be Long), Down By The River, The Losing End (When You’re On), Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockers), Cowgirl In The Sand

After The Goldrush (1970)
Neil Young

The breakthrough singer/songwriter set mixes haunted balladry with jaunty strumming, aching, broken-hearted love songs. Then a couple of upbeat rock nuggets in the swaggering When You Dance I Can Really Love and the momentous anti-Klu Klux Klan diatribe Southern Man, which incensed Lynyrd Skynyrd to pen Sweet Home Alabama as a response. But it’s the downbeat Don’t Let It Bring You Down and Only Love Can Break Your Heart that are the striking moments on a classic album of brooding intensity. Young was fast becoming an international role model, his laidback moodiness on the gatefold sleeve perfectly placing him as the thinker.

TRACKLIST:
Tell Me Why, After The Goldrush, Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Southern Man, Till The Morning Comes, Oh, Lonesome Me, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Birds, When You Dance I Can Really Love, I Believe In You, Cripple Creek Ferry

Harvest (1972)
Neil Young

A number one album on both sides of the Atlantic, with his biggest track Heart Of Gold stage centre. Harvest casts Young’s net wider and includes two gorgeously-overblown Jack Nitzsche -arranged orchestral work outs, amid the country-tinged ballads. Opener, Out On The Weekend with its echoey bass drum sets the tone for stand outs like Old Man and the title track. The sentiments of Southern Man are revisited on Alabama before the climactic Words, with its haunting piano and Young’s guitar straining to riff dangerously. The seemingly endless wait between After The Goldrush further enhanced the Young legend and the rear of the sleeve shot of The Stray Gators jamming in the barn, confirmed the myth of endless wood shedding and an idyllic lifestyle.

TRACKLIST:
Out On The Weekend, Harvest, A Man Needs A Maid, Heart Of Gold, Are You Ready For The Country, Old Man, There’s A World, Alabama, The Needle And The Damage Done, Words (Between The Lines Of Age)

Tonight’s The Night (1975)
Neil Young

With Crazy Horse now led by Nils Lofgren, Young and co were in an edgy, depressive state mourning the death of guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Road weary after an extensive tour to support Harvest, the late night recording sessions became a home from the real world. The resultant album is distorted, bluesy, immediate and completely enthralling. This is a band on the verge of self-destruction, playing live and, for the most part, completely blasted. Amazingly, in all its cracked and emotive glory, this is a masterpiece, an awesome snapshot of a group of friends in turmoil set in a world even more desperate.

TRACKLIST:
Tonight’s The Night, Speakin’ Out, World On A String, Borrowed Tune, Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, Mellow My Mind, Roll Another Number (For The Road), Albuquerque, New Mama, Lookout Joe, Tired Eyes, Tonight’s The Night (Part II)

Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse

The Godfather of punk slaps his offspring with a farreaching set that’s part live, part acoustic but mainly rock friendly. He compares Johnny Rotten to Elvis on the anthemic My, My, Hey, Hey (Out Of The Blue), which Is also delivered as (Into The Black) as the album’s deconstructed grunge-guitar-led closer. In between he touches on the plight of Native Americans on Pocahontas and delivers a brief biog on the signature song Thrashers, while Crazy Horse power up proceedings on Powderfinger and the feedback-riddled, punkinfluenced Sedan Delivery. Strangely constructed and with a variety of Young staples on display as ever, it hangs together magnificently.

TRACKLIST:
My, My, Hey, Hey (Out Of The Blue), Thrashers, Ride My llama, Pocahontas, Sail Away, Powderfinger, Welfare Mothers, Sedan Delivery, My, My, Hey, Hey (Into The Black)

 

Expand Your Collection

On The Beach (1974)
Neil Young

An introverted trawl from Young’s post-Danny Whitten overdose days, On The Beach is something of an overlooked gem. With a couple of The Band, Graham Nash and David Crosby providing the backing, leaving Young to be fully acidic in his assaults on his wife, Carrie Snodgrass, the Nixon administration, the hippie dream, the disposable nature of fame and indeed his own shortcomings. The moodiness swings with an almost choppy funk feel in places, mixed with some simplistic country flair and the inevitable rock muscle when needed. For what was dismissed as an introspective and morose album, it is, in retrospect a glorious and moving experience.

TRACKLIST:
Walk On, See The Sky About To Rain, Revolution Blues, For The Turnstiles, Vampire Blues, On The Beach, Motion Pictures, Ambulance Blues

Ragged Glory (1990)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Ragged Glory was a cathartic explosion marking Young’s return from his ‘80s wilderness years. Ragged Glory was rumoured to have been recorded in a barn on Young’s ranch with the band’s wracked emotion driven by a good sprinkling of horse manure. Whatever the story, the mood is uncompromising and rocky with a couple of ten minute plus tracks and an eco anthem powered by scrawly feedback closing the show. Half garage band, half grunge icons, with plenty of solo’s as Young re-examines his past and methodically studies the demise of what the ‘60s stood for. Ragged Glory completely re-established his importance and still sounds as strident today.

TRACKLIST:
Country Home, White Line, F*!//in’ Up, Over And Over, Love To Burn, Farmer John, Mansion On The Hill, Days That Used To Be, Love And Only Love, Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)

 

For The Die-Hard Fan

Again (1967)
Buffalo Springfield

The second album of groundbreaking pop psychedeliameets- revamped country includes three essential Young cuts. Mr Soul makes a fair stab at the music business over a Stonesy garage groove, Expecting To Fly uses Jack Nitzche’s strings and Broken Arrow takes the Nitzsche formula on a groundbreaking trip through sounds and styles, cut up like a Pet Sounds or Sgt Pepper out-take. Elsewhere, with Buffalo Springfield, Young’s key tracks include Flying On The Ground Is Wrong, Burned and Out Of My Mind from their first selftitled set, any compilation including those six cuts is well worth checking out.

TRACKLIST:
Mr Soul, A Child’s Claim To Fame, Everydays, Expecting To Fly, Bluebird, Hung Upside Down, Sad Memory, Good Time Boy, Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman, Broken Arrow

Déjà Vu (1970)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The supergroup collaboration with each corner of this troubled alliance taking centre stage for a couple of songs each. Young trades caustic guitar licks with Stills and David Crosby on the latter’s Almost Cut My Hair. There’s more of the same on the subsequent half-live album Four Way Street – with two golden moments here. Firstly, Helpless, with its four part harmonies and Young’s pained lead telling tales of his youth. Then the evocative three part Country Girl with its orchestral overtones and gloriously pompous production, an emotional roller coaster of epic proportions on an album that was a global top seller.

TRACKLIST:
Carry On, Teach Your Children, Helpless, Woodstock, Déjà Vu, Our House 4+20, Country Girl, Everybody I Love You

Neil Young (1968)
Neil Young

The trippy debut, produced and arranged with Jack Nitzsche slips and slides from mild country meandering, to jangly psyche-pop and back to fuzzy garageland. Amid the excitement there’s some restrained rhythmic moments, swathes of strings and Young’s moody piano on some standout tracks including The Loner, I’ve Loved Her So Long, Here We Are In The Years and The Old Laughing Lady. The set is rounded off by a surreal, soul-searching strum through The Last Trip To Tulsa, an angsty story that’s either nonsense or genius.

TRACKLIST:
The Emperor Of Wyoming, The Loner, If I Could Have Her Tonight, I’ve Been Waiting For You, The Old Laughing Lady, String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill, Here We Are In The Years, What Did You Do To My Life, I’ve Loved Her So Long, The Last Trip To Tulsa

Sleeps With Angels (1994)
Neil Young

With a title track rumoured to be about the late Kurt Cobain (whose suicide note contained the line ‘It’s better to burn out than to fade away’ from Young’s My, My, Hey, Hey), this is another overlooked Young classic. Riddled with dark and often vague lyrics, the set is linked with a repeated backing, fitting two different songs and a further song referencing one of those song’s lyrics. Musically it swings from fuzz guitar to tinny bar room piano, the former being central to the lengthy Change Your Mind, which falls half way through the set and has the same choppy guitar rhythm as Cowgirl. Brought together with eco-friendly out-pouring and a nod to the world seen through an abandoned shopping cart, Sleeps With Angels remains an unexplained moment in time.

TRACKLIST:
My Heart, Prime Of Life, Driveby, Sleeps With Angels, Western Hero, Change Your Mind, Blue Eden. Safeway Cart, Train Of Love, Trans Am, Piece Of Crap, A Dream That Can Last

Live At Massey Hall (2007)
Neil Young

Part of the upcoming archive series, this unique album captures an intimate soiree with Young live and acoustic in 1971. Prior to the release of Harvest it includes early drafts and the tales behind Old Man, There’s A World, The Needle And The Damage Done and the A Man Needs A Maid/Heart Of Gold Suite, a lengthy almost musical-paced piece in the style of Broken Arrow but without the huge production. Elsewhere there’s a fantastic unreleased song from the Goldrush period, Bad Fog Of Loneliness and also a version of See The Sky About To Rain, which turned up in 1973 covered by The Byrds and in ’74 on Young’s On The Beach. The audience response is celebratory and the whole thing feels like a peak into Young’s life, when everything he touched turned to gold.

TRACKLIST:
On The Way Home, Tell Me Why, Old Man, Journey Through The Past, Helpless, Love In Mind, A Man Needs A Maid/Heart Of Gold Suite, Cowgirl In The Sand, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, There’s A World, Bad Fog Of Loneliness, The Needle And The Damage Done, Ohio, See The Sky About To Rain, Down By The River, Dance Dance Dance, I Am A Child

 

Dave Henderson

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