Album Review of the Moment: "Neil's uber-country phase" - A Treasure
The Album Review of the Moment is on A Treasure - Neil Young & The International Harvesters by D. I. Kertis:
Up front let me admit that country Neil, and I mean hardcore country Neil, isn't my favorite incarnation.
'Old Ways' remains one of my least-played Neil Young albums. That said, I do often enjoy the sound of country *music*; it's the lyrics that bother me, more often than not. That's why 'Nothing is Perfect' is my least favorite track here. It has all the lyrical subtlety of a jackhammer, which is a bit odd coming from Neil--especially on a religiously related theme. The only thing I really enjoy about that one is how Neil redefines what it means to 'stand by your man.' The rest of it I feel I could get by inviting myself to dinner at a southern Baptist pastor's house. Sorry, I'm a Northern Man. I really have nothing against Mr. Christ. It's some of the Christians I find stifling and frustrating.
'Let Your Fingers do the Walking' is mostly whimsical good fun. However, the opening verse leaves a somewhat sour taste in my mouth: 'Back in the days of covered wagons/a man had his way/whether talkin' to a woman/ or crossing the USA.' I know, given his sentiments expressed in other songs--including some here--that Neil almost certainly doesn't mean anything by this, and it may just be that he embraced the undercurrent of misogyny I detect as part of the genre exercise, but the whole '19th century cowboy' mentality still holds back some of this stuff for me. I guess I'm just not a good old boy.
'Bound for Glory', though, is a great track I never appreciated before. The chords and story are totally Neil, in spite of the heavy country arrangement. I found this song, for lack of a better word, a revelation. I particularly like the line, 'fireflies buzzing around her head, like candles in the fog'. The story, moreover, is just what I like to hear: two people discovering themselves and their world, going against conventional values to find the right thing.
'Motor City' fit in better with the boneheaded Crazy Horse material it originally appeared alongside, but I at least dig the guitar. 'Southern Pacific' is a very nice alternative to the original, with perhaps the more effective arrangement of the two, featuring racing fiddles and banjos. It plays like an audial storm of sorts. I'm sure I'll also revisit 'Grey Riders' a good bit--very interesting one, which along with Amber Jean, I cannot imagine why they didn't make it to the original 'Old Ways' album.
Did I mention that 'Are you Ready for the Country?' chugs along *very* nicely here? Yes, it does. I especially enjoyed (I believe) Pig Robbins' jangling piano parts, and Ben Keith's unmatched slide guitar augmentation, which graces many of the tracks. 'Flying on the Ground', the other revived classic, is also a very well re-imagined version of the Buffalo Springfield track. Am I wrong, or was this another track originally handed off to Richie Furay? I wonder if Neil included this track in light of the Buffalo Springfield reunion?
Anyway, this album is overall a nice look at Neil's uber-country phase, in spite of my small liberal feminist hang-ups. It's also an important piece in the puzzle of Neil's career history, and goes some way to filling the gaps. Did anyone else notice, btw, that this is PS #9? So now we have #0, 1, 2,3, 9, and 12. That means there are two PS volumes between 'Treasure' and 'Dreamin' Man'. and five volumes that fit somewhere between 'Massey Hall' and 'Treasure.'
The distant camera is starting to pull back, and the picture is getting (a little) less fuzzy...
Thanks -- as always -- D.I.! Good to see again ... less fuzzy...
More reviews of A Treasure - Neil Young & The International Harvesters.
Also, a tribute to the late Ben Keith.