Monday, January 16, 2006

Neil Young

Time for a diversion and my first non-Argyle posting.

The other day a mate asked me what the best Neil Young album was. As ever I didn’t really give a straight answer.

Why not?

Well over the years he has been incredibly prolific and has always ploughed his own furrow. Although best known for his acoustic guitar and harmonica stuff he has also spread himself fairly widely and experimented with many differing styles along the way. Most famously in a rock style, mostly with the backing band Crazy Horse, but sometimes encompassing blues and more besides.

My favourite album has to be Rust Never Sleeps which I remember buying as a result of a day trip to the Isle Of Wight, We went past a record shop and my Dad offered to buy me an album. This was a very rare occurrence in those days and as a schoolboy I greedily added it to my nascent collection (Led Zep IV, Sgt Pepper, Help, Heroes, Relics, Tubular Bells, Wings At The Speed Of Sound being the others as I recall). We were staying in Portchester, near Portsmouth, with relatives and I eagerly put it on their record player when we got back. I wasn’t disappointed and it remains my favourite to this day with one side of nicely mellow acoustic stuff and one side of the most raucous rock (with Crazy Horse, natch) imaginable. The album also contains my 2 favourite Neil young songs: Thrasher and Powderfinger.

I wouldn’t recommend that one though. The heavy side is not to every one’s taste and could well be far too “rocky” for some.

I wouldn’t choose any of his more experimental works, either. They are, to put it mildly, very uneven in quality. He may have been going for yonks but he has singularly lacked a quality control department along the way.

Recently I have got Prairie Wind which shows him in refective mood following the death of his father, a famous Canadian ice hockey commentator, and his own recovery from life-threatening illness. Very much in the acoustic mode I’d strongly recommend this album but it is far too recent to be considered the best. Nostalgia hasn’t yet had a chance to work it’s magic. In the press reviews the album was acclaimed as the third in a trilogy starting with Harvest in the ‘70s and continuing with Harvest Moon in the ‘90s. Both of these are excellent, too,

I’d go way back to the early ‘70s for the best one, though, and would recommend After The Goldrush. So old it’s probably very cheap to buy and nicely mixing the electric and acoustic stuff. Some wonderful songs and some beautiful lyrics.

What more could you want?