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Monday, October 11, 2010

My Hero – Neil Young | Culturedeluxe

A quite substantial must read tribute from Culturedeluxe | My Hero – Neil Young by Kevin Burgess:
My hero?

There was never any doubt in my mind. In a tabloid-driven world the idea of the hero seems so frivolous that the term is almost a throwaway remark embossed upon the least deserving of people for a variety of bizarre and frankly insane reasons. It’s all a part of the social decay of the modern zeitgeist I suppose. But for me, one man in modern history stands head and shoulders above all others. My hero. One Neil Percival Young. Always the troubadour, always the mutineer, often obtuse in the most pleasant of ways but ultimately, and most importantly, the one man on this entire planet who in my cynical eyes, embodies and protrudes the most primitive and primal of human ideals: soul.

Neil Young is soul personified.

More on Culturedeluxe | My Hero – Neil Young.

Also, see Neil Young You're My Hero | YouTube.


At 10/11/2010 01:34:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I like these comments by Kevin a lot. Although nothing new, they are a nice overview of the core of the artist, and a great explanation for a music that was so fundamentally different from most other music. The most telling comment for me is this: "...the people who are willing to follow the artist on his journey, are the ones who are rewarded, because he treated them to real gems, real genuine works of art, be it in the songs, be it lyrically or be it in the way he played his guitar or sang the words in that croaky and distinctive falsetto of his. What they were getting was real and honest and it’s something that can not be replicated or faked in music. You can use all the fancy tricks in the book in the studio or in a live setting, but you can never replicate the sound of a man giving his all and meaning it with every ounce he can give."

If I had to nitpick, which I don't really want to do, I'd say that the oft repeated sentiment that these early years represent Neil’s finest work still clanks with me. I can understand why he's saying this, and I can understand how people could consider this period to be their personal favorite, but I just don't get that the spirit of this early work diverges in any significant way from anything that came after it, right up to the present moment. Everything that was true of this period in terms of what informed and shaped the music, remained true of everything that came after it. Maybe it sounds different, or isn't as accessible to different people for different reasons, but in my mind the entire discography fits together as a cohesive whole, precisely for the reasons that Kevin describes so well.

You can think what you want about FITR, or any other album that wasn't a repeat of your personal favorites, but for me I will never be convinced that the single minded artistic spirit underpinning the earlier work, is not still at the center of the "lesser" works. I don’t care what work gets cited, I will always believe that regardless of the outcome, they nonetheless represent Neil “giving his all and meaning it with every ounce he can give." I don’t mean to imply that Kevin is saying anything different, I just think it is important to emphasize the point, because I think that any one part of the discography stands on even footing with any other part, even where it is not a personal favorite of any one or another of Neil fans. I do think that it is true that a good amount of Neil’s music requires people to be “willing to follow the artist on his journey”, but it has also always been true that the reward for such effort has always been part and parcel of the effort, something new which is “real and honest”. Call me crazy, but as icing on the cake, I have always been able to find something musical to appreciate as well. End of nitpicking.

A Friend Of Yours

At 10/11/2010 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

Totally agree. I think

Ragged glory>
Harvest moon>
Sleeps with angels

holds up to any 5 year period in Neil's 40+ year history ...

And just in the past few years he's put out CDII and Le Noise...


At 10/11/2010 04:17:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

Greg, it always brings me back to one key word with Neil...longevity

As I have said on numerous posts..
What other artist in the history of modern still putting out new material, is still relevant, has a fan base and a following so strong that there are several websites,appreciation societies and deciples of his music
globally appreciative?
His music transcends and inspires many artists and fans world wide.

What is this love and attraction of the man that has indelibly marked his name in the anals of rocknroll fame? what is this lure that has his fans so intrigued, so mesmorised and yet sometimes so frustrated?..but always coming back for more?

Call me obsessed, call me fanatical, I can never get enough of Neil.i've loved his music from the first time I heard it some 40 plus years ago.
Yeah, ok a "neiler", like all of us here are a different breed of animal.. but we all "get it"
..and I for one, have always found solace in my low times, found joy in happy times..i've lived his stages through his musical career like all here..not always impressed with his output, granted ( finding it hard these days to pinpoint those disappointments)!! lol..but in my eyes the man's a legend and no so called rocknroll critic is going to change my sentiments, no matter what i read or hear about him!!

Keep on rockin in my world Neil, keep on rockin!!

luv doc

At 10/12/2010 12:46:00 AM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

Right on, I've said it before; Neil has more soul than Motown...truly.
I also understand why people are more partial to the man's early work; its when many fans were first introduced to his work, in their youth, where all the bad memories have rusted away by the corrosion of time, leaving shiny polished good ones, where they were young, Neil was young and all were stoned. Neil was "new' then, and many believe, still had something to prove, and perhaps, his songs fit better with the over all mood of the times, but like selective memories, none of these paint the full picture, and like trying to pick one favorite song or album, is complete bullshit.
The thing is if Neil had stopped after Rust Never Sleeps, or continued doing Harvest, or even Tonight's the Night over and over again, this website wouldn't exist, we wouldn't care. We'd consider him to have (maybe) slightly more credibility today than a James Taylor or Jackson Browne, no offence to them or their fans. To understand WHY Neil has so much soul, why he is important, passionate, etc. his whole career must be looked at, all his albums examined as a singular cohesive thing. Without his 80's work his reputation for following his heart, the muse, etc. would not be so strong. Without his 90's work he wouldn't have a whole new generation of fans (like myself) who lend weight to the notion that Neil is just as important, influential, and vital now as he's ever been. The fact that he's still here and has just put out REALLY one of the best albums of his career just confirms all this and proves the man was never in it for a buck, but rather a true artist who is driven by nothing more than the art. Neil Young is the real deal, if ever there was. He wasn't kidding when he said "I don't sing for nobody" or when he pulled thousands of copies of Comes a Time because of the track listing, or when he announced his Archives project- we own Vol. 1! The fairweather fans just don't get this fact or refuse to see the bigger picture. An album like Fork in The Road is just where Neil was at last year- so into Lincvolt, that was what was on his mind so naturally those were the songs that came to him- ya can't call the man a phony nor just "calling it in"- Fork in the Road is just as valid as a Tonight's the Night- instead of death by drugs, Neil was into Green Energy. each album, as Neil says, is like another painting on the wall, its what the artist was feeling at the time. Some people don't feel the way Neil feels at specific times so maybe one work doesn't speak to them right away- but that doesn't mean its bad or invalid. Give it time, revisit them and I guarantee you may find something you hadn't before.

At 10/12/2010 07:55:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

just an observation...

Much of what has been written over time in magazines and other media reagarding Neil and his career actually pales in comparison to some of the insights, facts and tidbits, and eloquent perceptions which are transmitted through this blog. It's the difference most times of surface dwelling and the real digging in and digging it from you wheatheads that truley educates a reader. It's like traveling on the bus versus dragging behind in the carppol lane with the masses.

That is all, for now...

At 10/12/2010 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Pinto(or Flounder) said...

"Hero" is a serious word. I don't take it lightly or use it casually. The dictionary says it's:

a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal.

Do I think Neil Young is a hero? You bet your ass. Primarily because of:

1. His absolute and uncompromising refusal to alter his art for commerce or acclaim and

2. His continual growth as an artist.

I've been hard on him at times over the last few years for what I viewed as artistic laziness, tossing off half-baked ideas as fully formed musical expressions.

I was wrong.

"Le Noise" is the absolute proof that all the "experiments" like Greendale and Living with War and even Fork in the Road were essential parts of an artistic progression that is still capable of producing a life changing work of great beauty.

I've often wondered why great painters and writers can continue to produce major works into their sixties and seventies while "popular" artists seem to burn out once they've exorcised their adolescent angst.

Neil Young has endured and flourished and proves that popular music can be as great an art form as any other.

I can't wait for his next twenty years.

At 10/12/2010 09:58:00 AM, Blogger asg said...

the "truest" artist does their Art. Period. doesn't matter if anybody buys it, or even likes it...Blessed is the Artist who CAN survive on whatever their Art brings in the Marketplace...But a true Artist does their Art--no matter what...that's why *I* admire Neil...because he doesn't care what *I* think, or what *I* want him to do--although if he did ask ME, I think I'd say two words--"crazy horse"...

At 10/12/2010 12:54:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Greg M - Sony - Shitty Horse - Pinto : well said - I can't add much if anything on top of these assesments.

What an artist - what a career

'Le Noise' continues to grow and grow and grow on me - big time.

At 10/12/2010 04:29:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

it certainly is an earworm johnathan..i've just about worn out my copy in the automatically comes on with the ignition..and I lovin' le noise it makes!

At 10/12/2010 07:39:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/12/2010 07:42:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

Excellent assessment of Neil the artist, and why he is what he is.

I also agree with Greg.

Dan1 - the foursome of Freedom through SWA is truly epic and powerful.

I'll add to that that Mirrorball and Broken Arrow are also fantastic albums - Broken Arrow in particular, as the capper of a triad of Crazy Horse albums in the 90's, is brilliant:

Ragged Glory into
Sleeps with Angels into
Broken Arrow

collectively form an intense artistic masterpiece.

And I'd also go as far as to say that his 2000-2010 output is EQUAL to his 1970's material in terms of quality and artistic integrity.

Less accessible, for certain, which makes it even better IMO, in some ways. He's literally creating new artforms. While you could say he debatably "created" grunge with Crazy Horse in the 70's, the fact that he "created" Folk Metal is not even debatable. The past 10 years have been a revelatory creative arc for Neil.

Greendale, LWW and FITR all fit into an excellent triad for me as well.

He calls Le Noise Folk Metal, and I can see that, but it is an altogether different creature that I find I can't REALLY compare with anything he's ever done, even while it references back to prior greatness. (The Peaceful Valley Boulevard / Pocahontas connection, for instance)

Which only serves to underscore that his ideas are as fresh, real, relevant and creative as they have ever been.

Whether one finds something personally appealing or not is not at issue in my mind.

In fact, I find his entire discography appealing at different times for different reasons, in this flowing, organic way... and sometimes have a hard time listening to the same albums that maybe appealed to me at other times, depending on my state of mind.

This tendency to challenge the listener goes back as far as Tonight's the Night.

We're talking 40 years of challenging, inspired, emotive brilliance.

His first 4 albums were just warm-ups for the truly brilliant stuff to come.

They're awesome, they're beautiful and inspiring, but they don't have the effect on people that eventually Neil would become known for.

And that's what excites me. I love to be challenged by the oddness and creativity of something. And Neil is a RELENTLESS artist, and infinite wellspring of inspiration to me FOR THAT REASON.

At 10/12/2010 07:45:00 PM, Blogger Tweck9 said...

And let's not forget his folky acoustic output.

Silver and Gold sends shivers through my being, it's such a fantastic album, and it stands alone in this island of folk metal, grunge and other weirdness... probably his first to be so stripped down and pretty since Comes a Time.

In fact, I'm waiting for two things from Neil right now, which he probably won't produce, because he's so maddeningly, beautifully impossible to predict.

Another solo acoustic record like S&G, and another album with Crazy Horse.

At 10/12/2010 08:35:00 PM, Blogger ShittyHorse said...

The same man who wrote Sugar Mountain wrote Cocaine Eyes. The same guy who put out Arc released Harvest Moon shortly after. The same dude who put out This Note's for you put out Le Noise. The same guy who wrote Piece of Crap wrote Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing. The same guy who put out Tonight's the Night put out Trans. The very same guy who wrote Broken Arrow and Expecting to Fly wrote Music Arcade..

The mind boggles...

At 10/12/2010 11:10:00 PM, Blogger Melanie Young said...

"But the true fans, the people who are willing to follow the artist on his journey, are the ones who are rewarded, because he treated them to real gems, real genuine works of art, be it in the songs, be it lyrically or be it in the way he played his guitar or sang the words in that croaky and distinctive falsetto of his. What they were getting was real and honest and it’s something that can not be replicated or faked in music. You can use all the fancy tricks in the book in the studio or in a live setting, but you can never replicate the sound of a man giving his all and meaning it with every ounce he can give. [...] I feel his music rather than listen to it [...]"

Beautiful. Couldn't have said this better myself.

I follow Neil because I am thrilled by all of the sides of himself that he shows to us through his music. I can't think of anyone else who can scare me to death with "Revolution Blues," and then sweep me off of my feet with "Harvest Moon," my favorite NY song and album. To me, of all modern musicians and songwriters he is the one who most embodies this quote from Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself":

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

This is true of each and every one of us. Neil recognizes this, and this sense of contradiction is one of the constants throughout his career. He expresses himself however he feels he needs to at the moment, whether it's with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, layers of loud electric feedback, or simple chords on the piano or organ. He's used orchestras, and he's used electronica. No two albums are ever the same. If he played the same kind of music all the time - if every record was another Harvest or After The Gold Rush redux - we'd get sick of him, as we surely know he'd get sick of himself.

I know I'm not the same person all the time - I am fluid and change moment by moment, day by day. The older I get, the more I recognize and embrace this, and I thank Neil for continually reminding me of it.

At 10/13/2010 08:35:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Melanie!

Nice Walt Whitman quote. I'll need to check the poem out sometime...


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