Monthly Archives: March 2009

Neil Young’s Albums 1966 – 1972

The first and most fertile period of Young’s musical legacy.  I have outlined the releases from this era below.  Please note what I deem to be the ESSENTIAL releases.

buffalo_springfield_buffalo_springfield-150x150 1966 – Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield: Young finally hits the big time…  Unfortunately the band wasn’t so keen on letting Young sing his own songs.  What you have is 5 songs written by Young but only 2 sang by him. 
buffalo_springfield_buffalo_springfield_again-150x150 1967 – Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield Again: This time the band let Young sing a few more songs.  Young became frustrated with the in fighting and left the band after the recording of this release.   
buffalo_springfield_last_time_around-150x150 1968 – Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around:  Young decided to reunite with the band for a short time before they completely fell apart.  He contributed only 2 songs to this record.
neil_young_neil-young-150x150 1969 – Neil Young – Neil Young: The continuation of the work that Neil was doing with Jack Nitzsche, whom he had collaborated with on some of the more complicated arrangements on the second Buffalo Springfield record.  A very strong debut, with glimpses of what was to come. 
neil_young_everybody_knows-150x150 1969 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere: The debut of Neil’s backing band Crazy Horse (formerly The Rockets).  If his debut was a polished jewel, this was a rough gem of beautiful country tinged rock n roll. ESSENTIAL
csny_deja_vu-150x150 1970 – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu: Young reunites with Stills in his new group including former members of The Hollies and The Byrds.  Other than lending the group some much needed rock n roll credibility, Neil sings only two songs on this record, one of them the wonderful “Helpless”.  
neil_young_after_the_gold_rush-150x150 1970 – Neil Young – After The Gold Rush: Originally supposed to be a soundtrack to a film that actor Dean Stockwell (best known for his role in TV show Quantum Leap) had written, when the film never happened Young released this landmark recording.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_harvest-150x150 1972 – Neil Young – Harvest: Neil had fallen in love with actress Carrie Snodgress and was stricken with serious back problems during this period.  He  was in Nashville for a performance on Johnny Cash’s variety show and decided to enlist some Nashville session players and a couple of stars that were also in town for the show (James Taylor & Linda Ronstadt) to help him record what was to become his most popular record.  Definitely more polished than his work with Crazy Horse but absolutely brilliant in its own right.  ESSENTIAL
Neil Young Archives releases from this era:
neil_young_sugar_mountain-150x150 1968 – Neil Young – Sugar Mountain: Finally released in 2008 this acoustic solo performance  captures Young doing some of his great early songs.  Some of which were usually sung by other members of Buffalo Springfield.  ESSENTIAL
neil_young_live_at_fillmore_east-150x150 1970 – Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Live At The Fillmore East: A rousing rock set from Neil and Crazy Horse while guitarist Danny Whitten was still alive, including the prerequisite 12 plus minute rendition of “Down By The River”. 
neil_young_live_at_massey_hall_1971-150x150 1971 – Neil Young – Live At Massey Hall: Another great solo acoustic show, this time in Toronto featuring some songs from his then recent albums and some peaks at wonderful tunes yet to be released. 

Check out the upcoming release of Neil’s long awaited Archives project.  Volume One 1963 – 1972 has finally gotten a solid release date of June 2nd.  See details here.

Here is a playlist I have put together featuring my favorites from this era.  I tried to stay away from the most well known tunes but also included those that appeared on the recordings of Buffalo Springfield and CSNY.  If you can not see the playlist below, please follow this link.

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Shakey – Neil Young’s Biography by Jimmy McDonough

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For the last couple of months I have had the great pleasure of reading this book and re-examining the catalog of Neil Young.  I have been a fan of Neil’s music ever since a friend turned me on to Decade (1977 career retrospective) in high school.  This book allowed me to literally dissect Neil Young’s immense body of work piece by piece, learning the background of what I was hearing.

The material is extremely interesting, or as Young would say “innaresting”.  The format in which the information and story is delivered is genius.  The book surpasses what your garden variety biography would deliver with a mish mash of chronological story telling, excerpts from interviews with Young himself, short biographies and quotes from the large cast of characters that have occupied Young’s life, all mixed in with commentary from the Author.

The book covers Neil’s life up to around 1998 including a quick but detailed history of his Grandparents and Parents lives.  Once you get to his High School days you will learn all about his influences and his early musical ventures.  Moving further on though his musical career the bulk of the book is about the music he created as a solo artist, with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Crazy Horse, and the many other incarnations of his backing groups.  Among the characters that are covered include his manager Elliot Roberts, the producer for many of his albums David Briggs, early collaborator Jack Nitzsche, and most of the members of the bands he was involved with.

My only qualm with the book is that I think Jimmy McDonough is a little heavy handed with his opinions about some of Young’s work and decisions.  Most of the time he is right and he tells Young to his face, but I do think he has some pretty high expectations.

I have always found Young to be a fascinating character, and I was surprised by some new facts.  For example before he moved to America, Young was in a group called the The Mynah Birds with Rick James (Beotch!) of all people.  They even recorded an album for Motown which sadly has never seen release.  Another strange connection was his involvement with Devo which I covered in a recent post which you can see here.   The last little tidbit I’ll offer is his involvement in the toy train industry.  In the early 1990’s Young purchased part of the Lionel toy company and eventually bought them out.  Also check out the ever eccentric Young’s newest projects on this recent post.

Usually I include a playlist with each of my music book reviews and I fully intend to do so for this one as well.  Actually it will be more like 3-4 playlists, each covering a different era of his recording career.

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (DVD)

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Rust Never Sleeps (DVD)

The live concert video featuring a performance from the 1978 Rust Never Sleeps Tour.  Originally released in 1979 and reissued by Sanctuary on DVD in 2002.  I’ve never really enjoyed live concert films very much, but I regard this one as a gem with its classic set list, bizarre interludes, and odd stage props.  Neil really went all out on the concept for these shows in 78′ as his usual humorous between song banter is replaced by weird rock music and pop culture references.  One of the most striking things about the film/tour is the inclusion of the “Road Eyes”, which were glowing eyed jawa looking creatures who took over the stage hand/roadie duties during the performance.  Another interesting inclusion is the PA announcements that take place during the intermission, which after awhile you may or may not realize are from the overblown festival Woodstock (an event that Young played at as part of CSNY).  Even after all the osbscure references, costuming, and odd set design… at the films core is a rock solid performance from Young and the Horse.

A little known fact about the title for the film and album of the same name is that its a direct quote from the lead singer of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh (aka Booji Boy).  Neil first heard Mark say this during filming of the feature Human Highway; a film project that Neil worked on in the late 70s and early 80s that featured the actors Dennis Hoffman & Dean Stockwell and also the members of Devo.

Enjoy the performance of one of my favorite Neil Young songs from the show below.  Beware if you are short on patience… its a long jam.

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The Clash – Westway To The World

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The Clash – Westway To The World

This documentary was released in 2000 before Joe Strummers death on December 22nd 2002.  The movie is a pretty dry re-telling of the bands history straight from interviews specially filmed for this documentary from each of the bands members. Included in the movie is a treasure trove of live footage of the band from before the first record all the way up to their last performance.  You will get a smattering of short clips of interviews from other characters from the bands past, but the interview footage is mostly from the main group members.  I definitely think that the documentary would have benefited from the inclusion of  interviews from a wider variety of people, but I guess it is what it is.  Even though the documentary comes off a little plain, I would say its a must see for big Clash fans.  If you one of those…  check it out by renting it, buying it, or just watch it on Youtube. Directed by Don Letts, the British bedreaded DJ from The Clash’s early days playing at the early London punk club The Roxy.  Bonus features include hard to find minidoc/concert film about there shows in Madison Square Garden in 1981 Clash On Broadway.

Other Clash related film projects that are worth mentioning:

The Punk Rock Movie – 1978

Rude Boy – 1980

Joe Strummer – The Future Is Unwritten – 2006 (I’ll post on this one soon)

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Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad

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Our Band Could Be Your Life:  Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981 -1991 by Michael Azerrad

Published in 2001, Michael Azerrad’s 3rd Rock book chronicles the early histories of 13 original American Indie rock/Hardcore bands.  Including the following:

Black Flag
The Minutemen
Mission of Burma
Minor Threat
Husker Du
The Replacements
Sonic Youth
Butthole Surfers
Big Black
Dinosaur Jr.
Fugazi
Mudhoney & Sub Pop Records
Beat Happening
 

Azerrad deftly puts together each of the bands histories, explaining their background, how they laid the ground work for today’s network of independent labels and venues, and explained how they influenced the world around them.   He makes careful note to qualify his decisions to cover only certain bands and out of those band to focus on their independent releases.  For example, he limits his coverage of The Replacements (one of my favorite bands) up to just after the release of Pleased To Meet Me.  One obvious omission from the book is R.E.M., having come into existence around the time the book is covering and being on independent label IRS.  Azerrad explains that he purposely did not include R.E.M. since they were one of the first Indie groups to sign to a major label and become hugely popular.  The title of the book is taken from a song by the Minutemen.

Check out some of my favorite tracks from the bands below.

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You’re Gonna Miss Me – A Film About Roky Erickson

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You’re Gonna Miss Me – A Film About Roky Erickson

Roky Erickson was the lead singer of the late 60’s psychedelic rock band the 13th Floor Elevators.  He has always been a bit of an enigma for Rock N Roll fans as he disappeared from the scene after a few full length records.  As drugs were extremely prevalent in the psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco,  Roky started to get a little out of control and eventually got thrown into an institution after getting in trouble with the law for drugs one too many times.  He eventually got released and started making music again as a solo artist.  By this time he had increasing mental issues and he was getting back into drugs.  He eventually gave up music altogether and put himself under his Mothers care.

The movie documents his life, his music and the legal battle that his brother instigated to to wrest him away from his Mother’s care so he could help Roky get into a healthier lifestyle.

Here is the films trailer.

I was surprised a how instantly enjoyable and impressive Roky’s music was both in the Elevators and his solo stuff.  I found his story to be very interesting and I immediately started rooting for him.  The film does a fair job at telling his story with archival footage and interviews with characters from his past and other musicians that are fans. I would say what the film does best is featuring his music from over the years. Check some of my favorite tracks out below.

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