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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Neil Young's "Blackness"

rick james
Rick James of The Mynah Birds, aka The "Super Freak"

Well, in one of those cosmic convergences that we so seem to love, comes yet another.

Earlier in the week you may recall that we blogged on the question of Neil Young's "Canadianness". Has Neil become a southern man, as in had he gone "American" and lost his touch with his Canadian roots? It's an interesting question that a few folks made some semi-provocative arguments for and against.

Well, here's another interesting perspective regarding Neil's "Blackness" from San Francisco Bay Guardian by Kandia Crazy Horse:
Somehow, pre-Web and locked away in the wilds with limited resources, I discovered my favorite bit of rock trivia: Neil Young was in a band with Rick James signed to Motown for a seven-year deal, the Mynah Birds. Young's engagements with psych, punk, and grunge are well-documented — even if most shirk the challenge of unpacking his electro output — but the lurking presence of the funk in his aesthetic is often ignored.

Now, I ain't saying ole Neil could come down to my former hood and swing with a Chocolate City go-go outfit (maybe he could trouble the funk?), but on "Go Ahead and Cry," the ringing of his unleashed 1970s guitar sound is already evident. The sublime meeting of Young's thang with "The Sound of Young America" makes one lament how differently (black) rock history might have looked had the Mynah Birds triumphed at Hitsville.

My view is that Young couldn't have written some of his best songs, like "Cinnamon Girl" and "Mr. Soul," plus freakery I dig such as "Sea of Madness," without that brief spell at Motown. (It's interesting to imagine former auto-line worker Berry Gordy and car enthusiast Young rapping by chance). In a weird way, the shades of Young that appeared on the pop stage and relentlessly morphed between "Clancy" and "When You Dance I Can Really Love" seem to coexist with turn-of-the-'70s Motown mavericks who also flirted with polemics, space rock, and soul yodeling: Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Kendricks.

More on Kandia Crazy Horse's blog.

Also, see more on Rick James and Neil Young.

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At 7/24/2009 12:18:00 AM, Blogger Josh said...

Thank You for this post because it made me youtube the Mynah birds. For some reason I had not done this yet. Wow is all I need to say!

At 7/24/2009 08:24:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Wow, I didn't know these recordings even existed! I wonder why we don't get any Mynah Birds songs on the Archives.

Someone commenting on that youtube video says they possess 6 Mynah Birds tracks and are looking for more. Would sure be interesting to see them released in some form or other.

At 7/24/2009 10:20:00 AM, Blogger Josh said...

I believe I read somewhere (probably here) that Archives contained no Mynah Birds was a result of copyright issues

At 7/24/2009 11:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eddie Vedder called Neil's music "Mountain Funk" at the R&R Hall of Fame in 95(?). Since then I've thought that was the perfect description of all his music in some strange way or another.

At 7/24/2009 12:52:00 PM, Blogger John said...

There's at least 9 Mynah Birds tracks featuring Neil Young floating around the web, 2 are from a single they recorded for Motown and the other 7 are demo recordings (I think). Disappointed that they didn't make it onto the Archives but they're not really Neil Young songs, part of his past and musical education for sure but I'm not certain they fit with what is on the Archives box.

At 7/24/2009 01:34:00 PM, Blogger designschicago said...

I've often wondered, at the height of hip-hop digital sampling, why none of the rappers glommed onto some of the great Neil riffs: HHMM & SM, in particular.


At 7/25/2009 07:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's 2 or 3 songs on a Motown singles collection released a couple of years ago.

At 7/25/2009 07:41:00 AM, Blogger stuartm456 said...

I read somewhere that some Mynah Birds tracks will soon be available as downloadable content for the Archives.


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