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Friday, September 30, 2011

Neil Young: Best of the Last 25 Years


The past 25 years of Neil Young's career have been even more varied than the initial phase of his career, as he continues to veer and swerve across the genres in his own unique rule breaking anti-fashion style.

From the blog The Unfinished Line: Neil Young: Best of the Last 25 Years:
I've been listening to Neil Young quite a bit lately, mostly focusing on the later part of his career.

I love his early stuff, and most folks prefer classic albums like "Harvest" and "Rust Never Sleeps". But he's remained incredibly prolific over the last quarter century, and his late-era catalogue is definitely worth exploring. While there are missteps, he's mostly been on a long string of inspiration that seems a bit taken for granted. I've compiled my favorite tracks of the last 25 years, one per album (excluding all live releases apart from the MTV unplugged collection). Selections from Neil Young solo albums are here alongside recordings with Crazy Horse and CSNY.

These are my personal favorites from each album, and they are all songs that I feel deserve a wider recognition as being some of the best work of his amazing career.

From 1986's "Hippie Dream" up to 2010's "Love and War", it's an interesting list of some essential Neil Young tracks.

Check out the blog The Unfinished Line: Neil Young: Best of the Last 25 Years.

Thanks Christian!

We've always been partial to "Ordinary People", the hard working but unemployed people. But that's just us...

So how about you? What would you have added? Or subtracted?

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At 9/30/2011 07:36:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

I think he's been re-working a lot of his old material & themes the last 25 years, too. "Box Car" is one of those masterpieces. I liked his banjo work on the CDII but I would like to see the earlier version released, too.

I think the songs from Chrome Dreams II "No Hidden Path" and "Spirit Road" "The Way" fall into that category of masterpiece.

I loved the songs he wrote for Greendale, LWW, Prairie Wind, FITR, and LeNoise (although I wasn't much of a fan of Dan's stuff or the work he did.)

It's just amazing what he's got goin on in his head.

At 9/30/2011 10:18:00 AM, Blogger Old Black said...

The one Crazy Horse song on "Are You Passionate?" - Goin' Home, stands out above all others on that album (although the live versions are better than the LP's version).

Some hard decisions to make on some of those albums, no doubt.

At 9/30/2011 11:28:00 AM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

I can't remember which one, but there's a little beauty on AYP that would have made it to the top pop 50 had it been covered by a R&B or Soul artist.

I love that story about Nicolette finding "Lotta Love" on the floor of his car and she turned around and made it a hit!

It just sort of flows out of him so fast, he doesn't have time to think about what he wants to write, you know?

At 9/30/2011 11:44:00 AM, Anonymous MNOTR said...

I can definitely hear that dude from Mumford or Avetts or Gillian Welch doing "Red Sun." It has a very a pretty melody and nice lyrics:

When the red sun sets
on the railroad town,
And the bars begin to laugh
with a happy sound,
I'll still be here
right by your side,
There'll not be anyone
in my heart but you.

And the dreams that you're having,
they won't let you down,
If you just follow on
'cause you know
where you're bound,
The well will be flowing
and the words will come fast,
When the one who is coming
arrives here at last

On the grassy hills
of the railroad town,
Where we cut through the fences
and over the crown,
Where wind was blowing
right through your hair,
I dreamt that my Momma
and Daddy were there

And the dreams that you're having,
they won't let you down,
If you just follow on
'cause you know
where you're bound,
The well will be flowing
and the words will come fast,
When the one who is coming
arrives here at last

When the red sun sets
on the railroad town,
And bars begin to laugh
with the happy sound,
I'll still be here
right by your side,
There'll not be another
in my heart but you

At 9/30/2011 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, but I would probably pick a different song from each album - go figure. eg. ragged glory - over and over; greendale - fall'n from above etc...

no point having everyone list, cause every list would differ, which is what makes Neil so great....

I bet each song on Le Noise would get somebody's pick......blah blah

At 9/30/2011 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

I compiled a list for a friend of all the songs from every album that I thought were "essential" listening, and came up with at least two and three and sometimes more from each album. I'd be hard pressed to come up with one per. I agree that Neils latter career does not take a back seat to his "early" years, although I can see why some might think that.

It's pointless to argue over opinions as to what are the best songs, it's all so relative. For instance, just a cursory look at this posts sample "best of" list raised "This Town" as Broken Arrows standout. I hardly know where to begin to counter that one. A nice song yes, but next to Music Arcade, Slipped Away, or even Big Time? The guitar work alone on these songs... Loose Change has some of Neils most original guitar lead ever, and is a dirge to the passing of David Briggs, hardly uninspired. I thought the album was a little loose at first glance, but as usual subsequent listens brought the gems and the genius to the surface.

See what I mean? It's like pulling on a string.

A Friend Of Yours

At 9/30/2011 03:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see why so many people talk about Neil having career "missteps". I don't dislike any of his albums...I think they're all distinctively Neil Young and they're all unique. Sure, some are stronger than others, and there's one in particular that I tend to steer clear of (Fork In The Road).

At 9/30/2011 03:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but it's defnintely not a misstep. Each album is a stepping stone to another, new musical realm.

At 9/30/2011 04:29:00 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

YES! Finally I find other Neil Young fans who are not just nostalgic of the 66-79 era!! I'm a huge fan of the second half of his career and some of my fav. Neil Young albums include Sleeping with Angels, Living with War, Chrome Dreams II and Le Noise. The only three albums I dislike are American Dream, This Note and Are You Passionate and as the writer says, it doesn't mean there aren't any gems in them!

Among the songs that really stand out for me that have not been mentioned, I can think of Mideast Vacations, Rocking in the Free World, Over and Over, Such a Woman, Harvest Moon, A Dream That Can Last, THE WHOLE FUCKING DEADMAN SND!!!!, Slip Away, Spirit Road, No Hidden Path, Ordinary People, Cough Up the Bucks, Walk With Me, Hitchhiker, Rumblin, etc...

Long live Neil!

At 9/30/2011 05:15:00 PM, Anonymous aRF said...

Long live Neil, indeed.

As a fan who goes back to the Buffulo Springfield days, who got bored with "after the gold rush" and "harvest", discoed through the ditch days and came back with "Sleeps With Angels" - I really appreciate this tour of the "best of the last 25 years". It's what I've been listening to and living with - without all the nostalgia for something that will never least as it once was.

At 9/30/2011 06:33:00 PM, Blogger Mike Thomas said...

Neil Young: Best of the Last 25 Years

1. Mideast Vacation (“Life”, 1987)

2. Long Walk Home (“Life”, 1987)

3. “Coupe de Ville” (“This Note’s For You”, 1988)

4. Feel Your Love (“American Dream”, 1988)

5. Cocaine Eyes (“Eldorado” EP, 1989)

6. Rockin' in the Free World “Freedom”, 1989)

7. Fuckin' Up ("Ragged Glory" 1990)

8. Crime in The City (Sixty To Zero Part I) (“Weld”, 1991)

9. Natural Beauty (“Harvest Moon” 1992)

10. Philadelphia (“Philadelphia” soundtrack, 1993)

10. Transformer Man (“Unplugged”, 1993)

11. My Heart (“Sleeps With Angels”, 1994)

12. Change Your Mind ("The Complex Sessions”, 1994)

13. I’m the Ocean (“Mirrorball”, 1995)

14. Slip Away (“Broken Arrow”, 1996)

15. Red Sun (“Silver & Gold”, 2000)

16. Goin' Home (“Are You Passionate?”, 2002)

17. Bandit (“Greendale”, 2003)

18. Be the Rain (“Greendale”, 2003)

19. When God Made Me (“Prairie Wind”, 2005)

20. Restless Consumer (“Living With War”, 2006)

21. No Hidden Path (“Chrome Dreams II”, 2007)

22. Ordinary People (“Chrome Dreams II”, 2007)

23. Living With War ("Deja Vu Live," 2008)

24. Light A Candle (“Fork in the Road”, 2009)

25. Peaceful Valley Sunday r (“Le Noise”, 2010)

At 10/01/2011 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher said...

@MNOTR - Yes, Red Sun definitely under-rated classic.

@Greg M - for some reason Broken Arrow at the time of release wasn't quite working for us. But now, it is just so essential. Slipped Away blows us away.

@Alex - welcome! The Dean Man soundtrack is definitely out there in unclaimed territory.

@Mike T - great list. good exercise.

At 10/01/2011 10:55:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

Alex, you're in the right place. The Dead Man soundtrack is a masterpiece. Sleeps with Angels is mind-altering. I don't think anyone here would disagree with where you're coming from. When I first found Thrasher's Wheat, I knew I'd finally come home. Before that, the world was a lonely nightmare of people who'd given up on or turned against Neil for being a nonconformist long ago.

At 10/01/2011 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Matthew Lintzenich said...

MNOTR, thanks for posting the Red Sun lyrics. I was listening to that album recently, and it is one hauntingly beautiful album. It sizzles with this beautiful interplay of true love and the lingering notion of loss, its heart beating from some dark place where light filters in through the dust of a lifetime of experiences. AHHH, that's it, I'm throwin' it on right noww!!!!!!

At 10/01/2011 01:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Greendale' is the best album for the last 25 years.

At 10/01/2011 05:33:00 PM, Anonymous alex said...

I was on Robert Christgau's website and he mostly has great reviews of Neil's albums but STRANGELY, he gave a "DUDS" rating to Dead Man and Live at Massey Hall. Which is so amazing to me because I think of those 2 as some of the best work Neil's done. Live at Massey Hall is perhaps the disc I would recommend as THE Neil Young album you need to own, along with After the Gold Rush.

As for Dead Man, it's just such a good, strange and innovative album. Not only was it a really great weird move Neil did, but it also inspired a whole bunch of great guitar players, especially Dylan Carlson from Earth. For those who don't know Earth, check them out. They came out of Washington state in the 90s as a drone band and came back in the mid 00's as a very Dead-Man/western band on albums like Hex, Hibernaculum, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull and Angels of Darkness, Demons of Lights 1. Hell. they even have a song called Old Black!

This whole 25yrs article made me think about Sleeps with Angels and I took out my bootleg of the Bridge School show where Crazy Horse plays a lot of that material. My Heart live : WOW.

At 10/01/2011 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Johnny B said...

"Hippie Dream" is a great song, and Landing on Water is a great album, I don't care what people say.

At 10/02/2011 05:02:00 AM, Blogger Jill said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10/02/2011 05:14:00 AM, Blogger Jill said...

I agree with a lot Christian`s choices although it is never easy to compile a list where Neil is concerned, and I find my favourites change over time anyway. I`m glad he mentioned `When your Lonely Heart Breaks`, such a really beautiful song and an all-time fave of mine. Personally I would have gone for `Love to Burn` from RG, for Neil`s guitar solos if nothing else.

SWA is without doubt a masterpiece, and I agree that `Change your Mind` is brilliant, but`Safeway Cart` is one that really grabs my attention every time I play it. Actually that whole album is amazing. `Prime of Life` is another of my faves.

`Goin` Home` yes, I see as the highlight of AYP, but it stands apart from the other songs being a CH rocker. From the rest of that album I would go for `She`s a Healer`. Or maybe `Mr Disappointment`.

I would go gor `Falling off the Face of the Earth` from PW, although `The Painter` is also a lovely song . I well remember hearing that album for the first time and being move to tears with the sheer beauty and emotion of it.

Picking up on what MNOTR said about the songs flowing out of him so fast, that really is behind such a lot of what Neil has done in the past and still is doing (`don`t mess with the muse man!`) …he has so much creativity pouring through him that he has to write and record albums quickly and move on, he cannot spend too long on any one project or with any one band for too long. He has no choice but to keep up with the flow of creative energy and inspiration in order to keep it relevant and to keep it real for himself. I know this has all been said before but it`s the weekend folks so please excuse me rambling.

At 10/02/2011 08:40:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

'All I need is a a song of love
A song of love to sing for you'

-Distant Camera/Neil Young.

that covers the last 25 years for me.

At 10/02/2011 01:21:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature Rock'n'Rumblin until the Break of Day said...

" ...but STRANGELY, he gave a "DUDS" rating to Dead Man and Live at Massey Hall.."

Okay, Alex; that's where I would draw the line between a fan and believer.

You and I believe in Neil's music. We need his music to get us through the day sometimes because it rings some sort of truth or validation for us.

We are enlightened, transformed, validated. We become better human beings.

Robert is just a fan. Somebody who is fanatical. Anybody can be a fan. But not many really believe in this guys music. I mean, really really believe that at the heart of every lyric he writes is a note that stirs something old and beautiful inside.

At 10/02/2011 01:42:00 PM, Anonymous alex said...

@Johnny B
Totally agree with you, Landing on Water is a cool album, quite a sound. It's almost like Neil though, how can I use this new-wave/80s pop sound and turn it into this weird surreal thing. And the band... wow.

I think the cold reaction to people like Neil doing Dead Man and Trans or Lou Reed doing Metal Machine Music or David Bowie doing Tin Machine has to do with people having a hard time letting go of the way they wanna see their favorite artists.

At 10/02/2011 06:08:00 PM, Blogger Christian Gerard said...

Hey all, thanks for the nice comments, and for taking the time to read the blog post!

I've been reading the comments, quite interesting to see which tracks others might pick. In some of those situations, its just a matter of what you prefer when you are sitting down to write.

If i wrote that post today it would probably look a bit different for some albums. Like perhaps "Eldorado" on Freedom instead of "Crime in the City". That's the thing with Neil.. So many amazing tunes, and of course when it comes to lists there are no wrong answers.

I really love all the "Silver and Gold" admiration here. That album, for me, is perhaps the move overlooked of his career.

- Christian

At 10/02/2011 08:09:00 PM, Blogger Johnny B said...

In defense of Christgau's Dead Man review, as someone who's been a fan of his writing and a faithful reader since 1974, I will say that while I can't know for sure- his "Dud" and symbol ratings are frustratingly opaque sometimes- I have a feeling that he felt it was messy and self-indulgent, and he has always shown little patience for that sort of thing through the years. Otherwise, as a glance at the other reviews he's done of Neil's catalog, he's been a mostly staunch supporter, even of some of his lesser albums. Generally he doesn't even bother to review records that he doesn't like at all.

At 10/02/2011 08:10:00 PM, Blogger Johnny B said... if Christgau needed me to defend him, I meant to add... :-)

At 10/02/2011 09:05:00 PM, Anonymous Mother Nature on the Run said...

Neil nailed that soundtrack for that movie. He absolutely captured the very essence of Fin de siècle using William Blake's poem & Jarmusch's dark tale of life after death. Whether he knew what he was doing, I doubt it. He just let go -- responding to the visual images projected on the screen which was pretty much a symbolic homage to a great poet and poem. If that doesn't spell MASTERPIECE, i don't know what does!!


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