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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comment of the Moment: Poll Results for Favorite Neil Young Studio Zero's Album

Greendale Album Cover living-with-war-cover.jpg fork-in-road-cover2.jpg

Quite a reaction to the Poll: Favorite Neil Young Studio Album of 21st Century we ran earlier in the week.

For many, Greendale is their favorite release of the Zero's. For others, "more traditional acoustic" Neil releases such as Prairie Wind (2005) and Silver & Gold (2000) are preferred.

Whatever. It's all one song anyways.

When Fork in the Road came out last year, we ventured out on the critical limb praising the work and putting it in a similar category as Greendale and Living With War.

Naturally -- and gratefully -- not all agree with our opinion.

Here's a retort from Big Old Rig:
Interesting poll (thanks Thrasher), but I have to find laughable the idea that Greendale, LWW, and FITR "constitute a cohesive trilogy that may just validate Neil's early 21st century work."

Neil's "21st century work", by all accounts other than the commentators on this website, has been spotty at best. I don't see anyone in the music media or otherwise re-assessing the original, prevailing view that the three albums mentioned above were a mixed bag (at their finest) and cliched and simplistic drivel (at their worst). Any allusion to the Ditch Trilogy (a set of albums that sound timeless and nuanced themes with dark emotion), with the most recent "trilogy" (a bang-you-over-the-head, literalistic, and current-events-driven collection of songs) is an insult to the work that established Neil's greatness.

To put it more simply, if I played any of the albums in the "21st century Trilogy" to my buddies or family members, they would laugh their ass off, and not in good way.

-Big Old Rig

Thanks Big Old Rig for comment.

A couple of points. Of course, "[You] don't see anyone in the music media or otherwise re-assessing the original, prevailing view that the three albums mentioned above were a mixed bag (at their finest) and cliched and simplistic drivel (at their worst)".

Mainstream media music criticism is intellectually bankrupt and brain dead. Probably always has been. Probably always will be.

We're not trying to say that the trifecta of Greendale/LWW/FITR is on par with Tonight's The Night/Time Fades Away/On the Beach ditch trilogy. No comparison, really.

The point is that no one at the time -- or for a very long time after the fact -- recognized the thematic brilliance of the unflinching Tonight's The Night/Time Fades Away/On the Beach ditch trilogy cycle. In fact, it wasn't even critics that found a connection between the three albums. It was fans who came up with the phrase "ditch trilogy".

We're not really sure how to refer to Greendale/LWW/FITR. There is so much going on here. We'll just call it the "Be the change" cycle until we think of something else.

We challenge you Big Old Rig to listen to these 3 albums back to back and not be stunned by what's going on here. If your ears opened, your eyes and mind will be too.

As for playing for your buddies who would laugh. Of course. That's always the case with Neil's challenging work.

Lastly, we were also struck by the remark that someone made about after seeing the blockbuster film Avatar , the first lyric that popped in their head on leaving the theater was the line from Greendale: "Be A Goddess in the Planet Wars".
greendale flag
On some fundamental levels, the messages of Avatar and Greendale are very similar.

This comment sums it all up: "AVATAR: It's [director] James Cameron's Greendale.".

Be the rain.

ps - Polls are still open. Vote for Favorite Neil Young Studio Album of 21st Century. Stand and be counted.

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At 1/14/2010 11:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been a fan since the mid-70s and admittedlty haven't dug in much to Neil's post 90s studio output ... I listened to CDII a bit and saw some '07 shows and saw the '08 shows w/ FITR tunes. So granted my views are some what ill informed BUT, I'm willing to bet that with time fans (and skeptics)will come around to appreciating what Neil was doing in this current trilogy and history will judge this output favorabley. One of Neil's great aspects is that he doesn't allow his past successes to constrain his new work. Of course if we judge anything he does today by the ditch trilogy or other 60s/70s output it will seem to fall far short ... other artists facing that reality become greatest hits acts because they can't deal with the critisicm and expectations of having a set of mona lisa's in their canon and the fear that their next work won't stand up to the past ... Neil on the other hand moves forward like he doesn't care and creates and creates ... we should love him for that ... his 90s output -- Freedom, Ragged Glory, Sleeps with Angels, ect... is a testiment to his unflinching style ... I think Ragged Glory is as good as it gets ... people forget how out of favor his ditch work was, how hated it was by many fans ... people said he was washed up ... but truly he was ahead of his time ... with FITR he was also ahead of his time ... the internet video was classic, timely, activist Neil using the latest technology to get a message out, so too with LWW, the greatness is beyong just the musical dimension, he's putting hues on his life tapestry as a 20th/21st century artist, so too with the BD archives ... people keep measuring it on a music dimension, based on how much new music he releases, ect... but the perspective should be seen in a broader context... he created a new vision from which to experience his life's work, multimedia, interactive, a living breathing organism between artist and fan ... we already have a ditch trilogy, we don't necessarily need another one (although you wouldn't hear me compain if we got a new one) ... So perhaps by yearing for new output that is like his previous output we're making the same mistakes as the post-Harvest crowd and fortunatley Neil's propensity to constantly shift gears hasn't allowed him or us to get stuck in that rut ... I beleive that Neil's vision and raw talent inherent in all his work will become more apparent as the post 2000 output seasons gracefully ... beyond that Neil's always a minute away from generating another jewel of work and he often does it in long cycles come back to his old styles, returning to a past style precisely after all the clamoring has long ceased (ala Harvest Moon)... In the end, it has and will continue to make for an incredible life journey where we've all been privledged to travel with Neil ... some came before him and missed it completely, others will come after him and lament, imagining what it must have been like to buy a Neil record upon its release or see him in a 3000 person theatre breaking out acoustic classics perfectly like "A Man Needs a Maid" after a 30 year hiatus, others are here during his time and never heard of him or never got it ... we're here and we get it ... what a privledge ... we truly should savor it and judge his output within the broader context of the life of one of the great American (or Canadian) artist.

At 1/14/2010 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Opps forgot to sign that,

At 1/14/2010 02:27:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

That was well written Dan..had that DI flavour about it..but I think would sum up a lot of people's sentiments.

Personally,I don't think it's ever worth categorising Neil when you walk into your local "Record/Cd/ Dvd" store these days and ya want to check out the past library of Neil's albums over the last 40 or so years...just what section of the store do you look?...Country, Rock.
Rockerbilly , grunge ,romantic,now hip hop..Geez his covered the whole Gamut!!

Funnyly, his fans can be his worst critics!

I'm continually "rediscovering" Neil's music..just ask my car CD player!!


At 1/14/2010 02:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher -- you raise a good point. My buddies would probably laugh if I put on any of the Ditch Trilogy as well. Especially when Neil's voice breaks on "Mellow My Mind." I love that song, though.

Anyways, I voted for "Silver and Gold", an album that I've always really enjoyed.

-Big Old Rig

At 1/14/2010 03:08:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Good response, Thrasher. I must learn to be as diplomatic as you are. You raise better points than I.

A lot of people I know also wouldn't be able to listen to TTN at all (though I absolutely love it). ( I haven't had the pleasure of hearing TFA, unfortunately). Zuma too... crazy vocals on there.

OTB has more palatable vocals overall. I think it's Neil's vocal style that gets in the way for a lot of people.

I was actually mentally comparing the vocals on FITR to TTN and Zuma the other night (ducks, dodges flying debris).

There's a big similarity in vocal stylings between the three albums. Not quite as wonderfully chaotic and all over the place as TTN or Zuma, but that unhinged, nigh anti-melodic yowling is present in a lot of places, and I just love it. Throw the vocals on LWW into that category too.

Most of his 00's output seems to otherwise have pretty straight up, melodic, controlled vocals that sound relatively pretty.

I don't know what I'm getting at, except, I agree. And yes, music journalists are by-and-large mind-numbed idiots and ego-elevators.

And hey, funny Mellow my Mind comes up... I just learned it last week. That song is sooooooo wonderful, and tons of fun to play.

At 1/14/2010 04:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Something you may want to keep an eye out for, if you're interested (I'm sure some of the TW readers will be, for sure).

As some of you may be aware, Peter Gabriel is releasing a covers album next month entitled "Scratch My Back", which features a cover of Neil's "Philadelphia".

The idea of the project is that the artist who he covers will in turn vover one of his songs (as in "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours")

Peter will be releasing the first of the "song swaps" on iTunes soon, it seems:

So the Neil cover may be coming soon! Anybody any thoughts on what Neil could cover? A rockin' "Red Rain"? A mournful "I Grieve", with organ? I'm quite excited by the thought of it to be honest!

Anyway, thought I'd let you all know...


Davie from Scotland

At 1/14/2010 05:19:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

Thanks Dan. Great comment.

B.O.R. - yes, S&G.

Thanks Mellow my Mind Matt. M4

Davie - sounds like a great project. can't wait to hear

At 1/14/2010 10:19:00 PM, Anonymous Almost Fit said...

How about "Bitch Trilogy"? :-)

At 1/15/2010 09:40:00 AM, Anonymous SONY said...

regardless of any poll results, favorites, etc,etc,etc.......

After a few rounds with the archives music (not the video screens) I have drawn only one conclusion.


'nuff said

At 1/15/2010 10:45:00 AM, Blogger andrea1bianco said...

I agree enough with Thrasher.Greendale, LWW e FIR seem in some way connetted.Silver & Gold and Prairie Wind are interchangeable. Personally I prefer Silver & Gold to PW. AYP stands alone.

Andrea."So tired"

At 1/15/2010 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew, you haven`t hear TFA? I wonder if you are aware that the songs are individually available on youtube, from the original vinyl? Apologies if I`m stating the obvious but I wouldn`t want anyone to go without hearing this great live album! I don`t have the album but the songs sound amazing through my external laptop speakers. To be played loud!

Check it out:


At 1/16/2010 06:10:00 AM, Anonymous Thos said...

Doc - where's the hip-hop in Neil's output!?


At 1/17/2010 02:20:00 AM, Blogger doc said...

Well, he can't do any hip-hop at the moment, because.......



At 1/18/2010 03:24:00 PM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Ha ha! AlmostFit: The Bitch Trilogy! That's awesome. We should totally call it that.

It fits. It really does. Neil's written lots of bitchy songs over the years of course, but the overall frequency of it in GD/LWW/FITR is quite high.

Thanks Jill, for the link to the youtubes of TFA - I'll give it a listen!


At 1/19/2010 09:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No prob Matt. Happy listening!



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