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Monday, December 01, 2008

The Essential Neil Young

Sometimes folks ask us about where to start with Neil Young and his music?

Of course, that's a tough one. A logical place to start is the 1977 triple LP album Decade. The 34-song set traces Neil Young's growth from Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to Crazy Horse to his Harvest band, the Stray Gators. The definitive retrospective of Young's career. Unreleased tracks and hits--Springfield's "Mr. Soul," CSNY's "Ohio," and Young's "Cinnamon Girl," "Heart of Gold," and the plaintively beautiful "Campaigner".

But here's our five essential Neil Young albums:

#1 Rust Never Sleeps Album Cover Rust Never Sleeps (reviews) - Listen to MP3 clips

#2 everybody knows this is nowhere cover Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (reviews) - Listen to MP3 clips

#3 Tonight's The Night Album Cover Tonight's The Night (reviews) - Listen to MP3 clips

#4 on_the_beach.jpg On The Beach (reviews) - Listen to MP3 clips

#5 after the goldrush cover After The Goldrush (reviews) - Listen to MP3 clips

Again, we'd recommend Decade over Neil Young's Greatest Hits but this can be an easier access point for some with 16 selections spanning his entire career since 1969.

Then there is Neil Young's best selling album Harvest (reviews). This has the #1 hit single Heart of Gold which was a defining moment in Young's career.

Also, see the most up to date statistics on top 5 Neil Young albums (as compiled by

Also, see the most up to date statistics on top 50 MP3 Neil Young downloads (as compiled by

Shakey Bio Cover
For books, the essential read the biography Shakey by Jimmy McDonough. Read excerpts of "Shakey" Biography.

For films, the essential viewing is Neil Young's Heart of Gold Film (reviews). Academy-award winning director Jonathan Demme beautifully captures Rock & Roll Hall of Fame legend, Neil Young as he prepares and presents the performance of a lifetime with the help of his wife Pegi and friends country star Emmylou Harris, steel guitarist Ben Keith and more at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.

Another essential Neil Young film, is -- of course -- Rust Never Sleeps (reviews). Neil Young's 1978 concert tour, documented in this acclaimed two-hour film that was directed by Young himself (using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey), is a treat for the singer-songwriter's fans. The concept of the show is high (for Young, anyway), if rather odd: roadies (here called "Road Eyes") decked out like the Tusken Raiders from Star Wars, stage announcements from the original Woodstock during set changes, and giant amps, microphones, and so on for an "Incredible Shrinking Man" effect. Of course, it's the music that counts, and there's plenty of that, what with nearly 20 songs (including two versions of "Hey Hey, My My," his nod to the punk movement), acoustic and electric (with longtime companions Crazy Horse), dating back to his Buffalo Springfield days ("I Am a Child") and continuing through popular solo numbers like "Cinnamon Girl" and the extended "Like a Hurricane." DVD bonus material includes photos and song lyrics. --Sam Graham

Read excerpts of books on Neil Young's guitar style and sound:

The Guitar Styles of Neil Young

Neil Young Guitar Anthology

Neil Young Complete Music (Vol.1 , 1966-1969)

Neil Young Complete Music 1969-1973

Neil Young Complete 1974-1979 (Neil Young Complete, 1974-1979)

Neil Young: Anthology Easy Guitar

Also see tabs and chords for songs in the book Neil Young Guitar Anthology and The Guitar Styles of Neil Young

Then of course there is the elusively mythical Neil Young Archives. Essential? Only time will tell.

Neil Young Archives Cover Art
Zoom & Pan Art

Authors pick favorite Young albums
By Tim Shellberg - Times Correspondent | Posted: Sunday, May 23, 2010 12:00 am

Readers of "Neil Young: Long May You Run" have plenty of musical selections from the book's subject matter to choose from when selecting companion listening material to go along with the new book.

Young has released 46 albums in his own right over the course of his four decades-plus solo career, plus another dozen as part of Buffalo Springfield and as one quarter of Crosby, Stills Nash and Young.

When pressed, "Run" authors Gary Graff and Dan Durchholz offered their selections of "desert island" Young discs.

Gary Graff:

"Decade" (two disc compilation, 1977: "I will take one cheap out. That's more fair than the (multi-disc) ‘Archive' set (released in 2009)."

"Ragged Glory" (1990): "You can say a lot of great things about (1975's) ‘Tonight's the Night,' but 'Ragged Glory' is the fullest realized Crazy Horse album of all of them."

"Unplugged" (1993): " 'Ragged Glory' gives you the (rock) side, ‘Unplugged' would give me the (acoustic) side, and ‘Decade' would give me my capability to have the greatest hits."

Dan Durchholz

"Rust Never Sleeps" (1979): "This was the album that showed me that Neil Young was not merely going to fade away with the rest of his peers that came up in that second wave of rock stars. He was acknowledging growing older and, at the same time, he was name-checking Johnny Rotten."

"Tonight's The Night": "When it came out, nobody had any idea what the heck he was up to. And I like that aspect of his career. He's willing to vex his entire listenership no matter the cost, if that's what feels right to him."

"Ragged Glory": "That record showed he wasn't going to go quietly into the night. He rocked as hard as he ever did on that record and, again, it's a Neil Young that's growing older, but still proving that he has what it takes."

More in Thrasher's Neil Young Store.

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Labels: , , ,


At 1/14/2009 05:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Will To Love' is not on Decade, only on American Stars n Bars.


At 1/14/2009 08:55:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Muhammed! We stand corrected.

At 8/29/2013 07:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except Trans, all Neil albuns are essentials

At 9/20/2013 06:20:00 PM, Anonymous Steamy said...

My preferred is here:

At 3/02/2022 08:48:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

The essentials based on frequency of listening, in chron order:
Buffalo Springfield;Everybody Knows;Ditch Trilogy;Zuma;Unreleased songs on Decade; Rust Never Sleeps; Freedom;Ragged Glory;Lviing with War (in the beginning); Barn.

Songs I frequently listened to on meh LPs: Expecting to fly; Helpless, Country Girl; On the Way home (4way st), Are you Ready for the Country,Long May You Run;Will to Love; Comes a Time; Little Wing; Capt. Kennedy;Shots;Long Walk Home;Coup De Ville; The Ocean; Music Arcade; Going Home; Be the Rain; Hitchhiker; Ordinary People;Think of Me.

This based on listening, frequency. not on a critical assessment.


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