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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Comment of the Moment: Sleeps with Angels - "It's like a room full of mirrors"

Sleeps With Angels: Neil Young, Crazy Horse
Preview Tracks

The Comment of the Moment is from the Complex Sessions videos regarding Neil Young & Crazy Horse's album Sleeps with Angels by Unknown:
Sleeps with Angels was the first Neil Young album that I bought myself as a teenager, and I still consider it as one of the best (if not *the* best) that Neil has ever created. I always thought it was quite undervalued in Neil's catalogue. Everything on this album seems to be in its place, nothing seems to be random. It's like a room full of mirrors, with references to so many things.

Of course, there's the obvious reference to Kurt Cobain's death and suicide note, that appears to have been a trigger for Neil to fall into Tonight's The Night - like dark mood. To which you find a reference in the black CD/LP label.

Musically it's some of the finest tracks that Crazy Horse has ever recorded. Not the easy forward-rocking Ragged Glory and also not the pot-induced one-song Broken Arrow, and not the convincing minimalism of Greendale, but a very versatile collection of songs where each song transports a different mood, but which at the same time does not fall apart, they still manage to come across as one album.

The album is also very interesting structurally. Blue Eden seems to be the dark center of the album. It picks up the theme from Change Your Mind ('embracing, distorting, supporting, ...') and musically leads to Safeway Cart. And references Driveby ('you feel invincible, it's just a part of life'). From there one (going backwards and forwards) songs somewhat mirror each other. Western Hero and Train of Love are the same song with different lyrics. Trans Am and Driveby have a very similar 'feel' to me. My Heart and A Dream That Can Last are the beginning and ending of the album that feel a little bit like child's songs/lullabies that wrap the enclosed darkness in peaceful tunes.

In all this well-produced darkness, Piece of Crap stands out as a .. well, piece of crap. But what a great rocker that is... and it nicely captures the feeling of that mystical generation X. Probably the best punk rock song ever done by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Only years after I bought it, I figured out that the picture on the inside of the CD which on first sight did not really reveal much except pixel mess (maybe a building and a road?) was a picture of Neil in sunglasses.

One oddity that I remember was that the CD came with an additional sheet of paper with all the lyrics translated into german (at least here in Germany.. would be interesting to find out if there have been translations to other languages as well?). Certainly useless (lyrics like this can hardly be translated), but at the same time supports the general theme of a 'concept album'. Obviously somebody found the lyrics so important that they needed to be translated for the audience. I have never ever bought an album with translated lyrics.

I am very much looking forward to the new Neil Young and Crazy Horse material. Sleeps with angels gets me in the right mood.

Thanks Unknown!

More on The Complex Sessions directed by Jonathan Demme.

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At 2/08/2012 07:24:00 PM, Blogger Raincheck said...

I love Sleeps With Angels. It was not even close to my first Neil Young album - I'm too old for that. But I loved the Horse of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere - Danny Whitten was special and that Horse was versatile. And on Zuma, minus Danny, they rocked, but they flashed their country side too. For a long time after thta, especially live, it felt like Neil used the Horse like a sledgehammer. I love it when CH rocks, but for a while that was all they did - loud and sometimes clumsy.
Sleeps was a beautiful thing, Neil and Horse back to the original vibe. They could play at different speeds and different volumes and it was just a beautiful whole. I'm hoping Neil goes there again this year.

At 2/08/2012 11:42:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

I know what you mean Raincheck there are many facets of the horse and as I've said before, it seems to have a lot to do with Neil's mood.
the different Era's of Crazy horse are evident on each album from everybody knows this is nowhere to live rust to sleeps with angels...I too am looking forward to the 2012 sound with Neil holding loosely on the reigns..should be an interesting ride!


At 2/09/2012 12:50:00 PM, Blogger Slacker said...

For me too, my introduction to the great one, still love listening to it from time to time. Such great songs, the first 6 songs just soar. Finally found it on vinyl, was a good day :)

At 2/13/2012 04:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very nice "comment of the moment"..

At 2/14/2012 08:50:00 AM, Anonymous Keith Burris said...

I too have been listening to "Sleeps with Angels" again. It really IS a great record. Deep and true.

Two new records with Neil and Crazy Horse seems too good to be true. Some of us thought we'd never hear them united again in their or our lifetimes. Manna from heaven!!

-- Grateful, hoping; waiting


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