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Monday, April 12, 2010

Comment of the Moment: TFA - The Greatest Lost Album of All-Time

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Time Fades Away
Reprise 45 Single - #1184

Courtesy of Side Street Records


Still getting some really great comments on UNCUT Magazine naming Neil Young's "Time Fades Away" as the #1 Great Lost album of All Time or -- as we like to say -- the "missing link" in the Ditch Trilogy.

Here's another Comment of the Moment on Time Fades Away's impact by Greg M (A Friend Of Yours) responding to Big Chief's comment about whether TFA is significant at all:
Big Chief, you make a couple really good points about the irony of how the success of Harvest paved the way for the unsuccessful releases that fueled Neil’s career about face, releases that otherwise would not have been supported by most record companies (in this respect, we should give credit where credit is due to Reprise and its executives, who really did respect Neil as an artist- there is ample evidence of their willingness to give Neil a long leash, even prior to Harvests’ mega success). I can also understand being underwhelmed by the ditch trilogy (DT), following as it did on the heels of EKTIN/ATG/Harvest. And I have no problem with your just not liking the album.

In general, I know what you mean by “highs and lows”, but for me I never accepted the premise that TFA was a lesser album, that highs can only be appreciated relative to lows, or that the TFA's of the world are something to be stomached because they somehow pave the way for more palatable projects. Don't get me wrong, I've been lambasted before in this forum for admitting that I didn't initially like the DT when it first hit. And I know what you mean about Zuma seeming to be a stellar return to form, that’s how I also saw it on many levels. But by the time Zuma came along, I was over my initial disappointment, even though it took a while, and then many more years before I really appreciated the DT for what it represents to me now. But to the extent that we do, in retrospect, hearken back to the DT, TFA should not be underestimated for the tone it set for what was to come, both in terms of OTB and TTN, as well as for everything that has followed right down to the present.

TFA is a career decision that encapsulates many of the positive attributes we use to define why we hold Neil up to the level of admiration that we do, e.g. uncompromising, stark honesty, raw feeling and emotion accompanied by anti-slick production values- “damn the torpedoes and everything that the public, record company or music press wants, this is what is relevant and worth my effort, because this is what is actually happening in my life”. Like a lot of things we take for granted, we’ve lost our sense of just how revolutionary TFA was, because its spirit became the norm and so familiar to us. No one who really gave the album a chance and listened to it closely, and considered the timing of its release in the aftermath of the success of Harvest, should really be that surprised by anything Neil ever did subsequently. Perhaps that’s the biggest argument yet for the value of re-releasing the album: maybe the FITR/PW/LWW/Greendale bashers of the world would understand anew Neil’s straight ahead approach, and contribution to artistic prerogative. All the more fascinating that Neil does not appear to hold the album in any high regard. Could mediate against many of the things I’m saying. But like Big Chief’s take, it’s my take.

None of this is to say that it isn’t o.k. to not like TFA, or that the point taken doesn’t sometimes trump the music, but in the case of TFA let’s not dismiss the music too prematurely. I can’t recommend a close listen enough. I will put “Journey Through The Past”, “Love In Mind”, and “The Bridge” alongside any heartfelt and emotional song Neil has ever written. These songs and their live performance in particular, stop me in my tracks every time. How about these lyrics?: “Fourteen junkies too weak to work. One sells diamonds for what they're worth. Down on pain street, disappointment lurks… All day presidents look out windows. All night sentries watch the moon glow. All are waiting till the time is right”. “Don’t Be Denied”, “LA”, “Last Dance”- these are kick ass songs. O.K., I admit it, “Yonder Stands The Sinner” does not make my stranded-on-an-island MP3 player, but you know, every rule needs an exception to prove it… My biggest complaint is that the album is just too damn short.

Anyways, just some more thoughts about TFA. Interesting, the more I read these comments, and the more I think about TFA, the more it all comes back to me. The more I’m transported back to the ninth grade, the more I remember how much this album meant to me. But then I remember the time a friend threatened to hit me if I sang “I will stay with you if you’ll stay with me, said the fiddler to the drum” one more time. Time to stop talking before I start repeating myself …

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

Thanks Greg M!

More on the "missing link" in the Ditch Trilogy.


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20 Comments:

At 4/12/2010 05:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I consider Time Fades Away its own animal. Definitely a reaction to Harvest, and importantly the first live album to contain entirely new material.
To me the Ditch Trilogy includes, in order, Tonight's The Night, On The Beach and Homegrown. Or maybe you include TFA and make it a quadrilogy. All four albums certainly take country mucic to some weird places, unlike anything before. Somewhere in there Neil invented what became know as Alt. Country.

And I love Yonder Stands The Sinner. To me aside from Don't Be Denied, that's the song.

Syscrusher

 
At 4/12/2010 11:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Time Fades Away, but, for me, "Last Dance" is arrogant and condescending. The whole 'Why aren't you like me?--I don't have to get up in the morning and work so why should you unless you're stupid?' theme has never gone over well with me. But I agree the honesty is flowing beautifully throughout the lp.

By the way, there's a beautiful bootleg/pirated copy of TFA that is supposedly from a '96 digital transfer overseen by Neil's camp floating around--it sounds as good as the On The Beach and American Stars and Bars cds. Let's just say I could care less if Neil releases TFA unless it has bonus tracks, like a remastered version of the live "Last Trip To Tulsa" b-side.

 
At 4/13/2010 01:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes we can overanalyze stuff. Put simply, TFA spoke to me very directly, on a lot of different levels, at that partcular time. Maybe it has its faults musically, or structurally (I dont know, I am not an artist) but it is very real and significant to me. Although I have burned the specific songs onto a disc, I sure wish Neil would release it on CD. That's what it boils down to for me.

 
At 4/13/2010 02:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

big question:

Neil loves his work and all of his songs. Why didn't he release TFA on CD?

 
At 4/13/2010 09:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TFA, as great as it is, can’t be the world’s greatest lost album because it’s not even Neil’s greatest lost album. That, in my humble opinion, is Homegrown. And what about the “Briggs” version of TtN for more great lostness…..


Steve (from Llareggub)

 
At 4/13/2010 12:57:00 PM, Anonymous folkrockin said...

Thrasher,
I still don't get why you call it lost. It's been readily available on vinyl ever since its release.

The original vinyl release has some cool and unique things: the jacket opens to the top, it includes a poster and a lyrics sheet. And you can get it all for a few bucks.

I really don't care about a cd-re-release.

 
At 4/13/2010 01:14:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

folkrockin:

We never have called TFA "lost".

Go back to the UNCUT cover story headline linked. That's where the phrease originates.

The petition specifically call for "re-release".

I agree the vinyl version is definitive with the handwritten lyrics poster is beyond cool and something a CD will never have.

 
At 4/13/2010 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous folkrockin said...

Thrasher, thanks for your reply.

I just thought: If we're really, really lucky, TFA will be part of the next "original release" 4 LP box set. (it should be anyway)

Together with "on the beach" and "tonight's the night" (all repackaged like the original vinyl with the waterface letter, etc.) in one box set, this could become the best release ever.

 
At 4/13/2010 01:23:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher said...

folkrockin:

Yes, a ditch vinyl box set would be most awesome.

and one on Bluray, too!

 
At 4/13/2010 04:10:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

Never knew nuch about TFA til I found this site a fews years back. Wondered what all the fuss was about with a petition to release the dang thing. I read the wheat articles, comments and gripes and was still out in the dark. One day I searched the title out on the internet and wallah! I found an offer for an HDCD copy in England - only 82 lbs. OK, seeing how I paid over $100 to see Neil a few years back I ventured it wouldn't be too much to get something that I couldn't get around here, 'cept maybe a vinyl which, while that would suffice, I don't play my albums anymore.

So I order it out via paypal or visa or some other exchange vehicle, get it deliverd a few weeks later and get blown away after one take with the attitude, delivery, content and overall angnst that it conveyed to me.. and still does with each listen. I guess I was lost and now am found was blind but now can see the whole vibe over this here collection of live anguish. Has become a main play on my short list of essential rock and roll playlists. I even forgot about being on the double end of the exchange rate rather than the 1/2 of 82 lbs/$ that I thought it was gonna be. So much for my finance degree! In any event, Neil should get this out on CD. It's been long enough.

 
At 4/13/2010 04:14:00 PM, Anonymous MDB said...

Here's another question: Would "Time Fades Away" and "On the Beach" been the # 1 and #2 (or #2 and #1, depending on who you are) lost albums of all time if the latter hadn't been re-released on CD?

The answer is, of course, yes. ;)

 
At 4/13/2010 07:30:00 PM, Anonymous ShittyHorse said...

I get where everyone is coming from with the re-release Time fades away but sometimes I feel it doesn't need a CD release- besides the fact that Cd's are crap, I kinda like the fact that it has never truly seen the light of day digitally. Perhaps it should remain analog. I love TFA (I own two copies of the original vinyl)partly because it just has great songs, its a live album, album,- not a studio album- maybe the first of it's kind? Also because it was the about-face, finger-wagging-in-your face follow up to Harvest. Its like Neil was upset and pissed off and wanted to rub our noses in it. This was the album that truly separated the real fans from the weekend, "Neil is Dreamy" Teenybopper fans. Plus it is truly a beautiful record in a grimy kinda way. But the best art is never polished- it is usually moody, ragged, with jagged edges. "LA" is one of my favorite Neil songs- again beautiful, scary and very clever. "don't be denied" Come on, if your from a broken home this is like an anthem- a great, great, moving song. "The Bridge", "Love in Mind"- gorgeous. "Time fades Away" is as great as anything on TTN. I feel this was the beginning of Neil really writing songs for himself and not trying to please an audience or a record company in anyway. It set the tone for what was to come which was one of Neil's greatest periods artistically as far as I'm concerned. Neil has an issue with the album- brings back some bad memories. I think it is a great statement for an artist to make-"the album is there, its not lost. I don't wanna know about it so if you want it, ya gotta work for it"
We all know that with NYA Vol. 2it will be digitally released (maybe not the same version though) but you owe it to yourself, as a music fan, hell- as a Neil fan, to buy a turntable anyway.

 
At 4/13/2010 09:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

y'know my original TFA was literally the last LP I played on the old Techniques TT before the last belt snapped a few months ago and I hope at least Don't Be Denied and some of the other aforementioned gems re-appeaar ala NYAv2 or NYORs or something - I'm still looking for a replacement/upgrade without a stupid pricetag - as the song says the bailout was not for me . . .

best,
old sound man

 
At 4/14/2010 01:03:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great comments from Syscrusher and Anon 9:15 about TFA being the first live album of all new material (I didn’t know that), and Homegrown and Briggs’ version of TTN being truly lost albums. I for one would like to hear Homegrown before anything else. I also like Shittyhorse’s comments about TFA being the first album to separate the “optimal”(my term) fan from the “weekend” fan, and “Don’t Be Denied” as an anthem for anyone from a broken home. I’ll never forget the night my mother sat me down, and told me “Son, your Daddy’s leaving home today, I think he’s gone to stay”- or words to that effect. And now you mention “Time Fades Away” being as great as anything on TTN, it definitely would not be out of place on that album.

And Anon 11:10, as far as “Last Dance” being “arrogant and condescending”, I know what you mean, but I read an article years ago (wish I had kept it) that concluded that the body of “Last Dance” is actually wishful, or faulty thinking, and that the salient lyric is actually the repetition of “Oh no, oh no." In fact, we do all have to get up and go to work- “Monday morning, Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up. Its time to go, Time to go to work.” I forget how many 'no, no, no's" the song ends with, but probably enough to negate the earlier sentiments. Anyway, it made me feel better about it.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

 
At 4/14/2010 11:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favourite Neil Young albums are After the Goldrush, Harvest, and Harvest Moon. They're brilliant! I also like his rock/rockabilly albums, but for me, his best work is his melodic folky work. I'm hoping after a few more albums, he'll hit paydirt again. Lightning can strike again, it just takes a while sometimes. Greendale recently had a gem, "bandit."

Malcolm MacPherson
www.vancouverbusinesslaw.ca

 
At 4/15/2010 01:34:00 PM, Anonymous MDB said...

Greg:

He says "No" 36 times. I counted a long time ago, and I remembered the total because three sixes is 666. I worried Neil was the Antichrist ;)

 
At 4/15/2010 08:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MDB, Ouch!

BTW, I read the Uncut article last night-which incidentally talks about Last Dance in detail, (scroll down the first page of Purple Words On A Gray Background blog). Great article, great background on TFA.

Greg M (A Friend Of Yours)

 
At 4/15/2010 11:00:00 PM, Anonymous BigChief said...

To resolve the T.F.A. dilemna, as Neil's first four albums were re-mastered and re-released in vinyl and C.D., wouldn't it be a timely decision at this point to release the 'Ditch Trilogy' in like manner? It could be packaged in a triple L.P,C.D. box set titled 'The Ditch Trilogy' respectivly. Include the original liner notes and all, right down to the glitter that was included in the first pressings of T.T.N. These recordings demand to be owned as a set together, like a chapter in a novel, to fully appreciate and understand their place in Neils body of work. I highly doubt that it will happen, but wouldn't it be great if there were footage of the T.F.A. concerts included in the Archives Vol.2? Now that just might help to change my mind about an otherwise less than stellar recording. How about some video to accompany the T.T.N. era? Thats whats really missing here. We are fortunate to have the audio from these performances, however, this was an era prior to Neil having cameras documenting his every move as he did later in his career. It seems there is very little footage prior to 1976, except for the Harvest stuff which I am grateful for.I know I'm getting a little off track here, but I was really disappointed when I found that the 'Vol#1 Archives' didn't include any live footage of Whitten era Crazy Horse! Something to think about, however, is the fact that with all of the information that is so readily available today via internet and such has inadvertantly over exposed Neil to his fans to the point that he has sacrificed a great deal of his mystique. Neil has been an artist who obviously has been aware that when you talk about 'mystique', you no longer have it. Dylan had it as did Lennon to a degree, however, Neil built his entire career around it and he knew how to make it work for him. The 'lonely, stoner hippy' personna that charactorised his image was the result of his fans perception of him based more on the lyrics of his songs than the reality of who he really is. Although he claims that he never even tried heroin, I know of people whom to this day believe he's a junky based on misinterpetation of the 'drug' lyrics of certain songs. "I love you baby can I have some more"? as if the addict in question is knocking on Neils cellar door for some more dope. I've seen the needle and the damage done and believe me, no artist could possibly be as creative and enjoy the longevity and success of a career in anything as Neil has while enslaved to hard drugs ( see Curt Cobain).Anyhow, gotta go ... I'm ramblin now!

 
At 4/16/2010 03:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point about the internet BigChief but I think in Neil`s case he will never lose his `mystique` because it`s in his very nature. Because of the way he`s run his career on his own terms, the way he instinctively knows which way to go next despite all the head-scratching, and often dismay, from his fans. You`re expecting this and he gives you that, because that`s what he wants and needs to do and not because he thinks it will sell or will be a good career move.

This applies to the re-release of TFA (which I doubt will ever happen), just as much as to the undervalued and underated FITR.

Jill

 
At 4/18/2010 12:23:00 AM, Anonymous Mr Henry said...

There's a wonderful article in Saturday's Boston Globe about the great Sonny Rollins, written in anticipation of Sonny's 80th Birthday Concert at Symphony Hall. Quotes are like pearls of wisdom from a unique and wonderful artist:

"I am a link to the golden age. I used to feel very obligated to represent all of my deparated peers. I thought, I've got to sound good not just for me but for Monk and all the guys that I'm associated with. Eventually that feeling started to fade away. But I'm always in the company of my departed friends. I think about them; I dream about certain cats I was close to. I channel them, if that word is still in vogue now."

"I'm afraid to say I'm trying to attain Buddhahood, because Tiger Woods has made that unpopular."

"I don't care about landmarks and foolishness. I am a musician very much into everyday activities. I practice everyday. I compose. I am in the middle of my career in my mind."

"...that I hope will demonstrate a culmination of my career up to this point."

"I am a stream-of-consciousness player. That's what I do; that's what I am."

"Interpretations in my style are so loose and so freewheeling that in essence they can become a new song, even though it's the same song. The experience is completely new the whole time. I couldn't improvise the same way if I wanted to."

"I never thought anything was as important as understanding what I needed to do as an artist. You can't care about how the public reacts. It's not something you can contemplate and anticipate. I try to get close to my inner self, and I know that will be OK. When I know I'm playing well, I know that everyone else feels that way."

Well said Mr. Rollins, and much thanks to Siddhartha Mitter for a superb article and interview. I can hardly wait for Sunday night's concert and another Dharma lesson from the master. Parallels with Neil are evident throughout...it's all one song. Namaste.......

 

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