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Friday, July 20, 2012

A Perfect Summer Soundtrack: Ragged Glory


So what makes for a perfect soundtrack for a hot Summer?

Well, apparently Neil Young's 1990 release Ragged Glory defines the sound of summer according to a Crawdaddy! article by Andres Jauregui:
For me, there are a few qualifications that an album has to meet in order to be considered a viable summer rock album. Its most definitive characteristic should be a predominance of guitar, preferably electric. Add to that a steadiness that’s predisposed to the open road, rolled down windows or peeled back ragtops, in my imagination, if not in fortunate reality. Picture me and a dog with a bandanna around its neck cruising down a traffic-free PCH or LIE, and you’re halfway there.

Based on its steady beat and Neil’s undeniable guitar work, this album’s potential as a summer soundtrack rode high on the first listen. But there were a few things beyond that foundation that truly established it for me. One was its sense of freedom: Good ‘ol ‘Merican open-aired, big-sky freedom. The other was its scope. Unlike beach read albums that only come out for fun in the sun, Ragged Glory had weight behind it. Its liberation comes with a little baggage, and sage reflection tempers its golden reminiscences. The former made Ragged Glory my stand-up stand-in of last summer; the latter led me to consider it a classic.

We've listened to "Over & Over", over and over ever since Greil Marcus raved on the song's uniqueness.

A comment by Old Black:
"I love 'Over and Over' but I'm not getting at all what he says about the song 'turning over'. I don't agree. The solos (and I love 'em) are not particularly exploratory as in, say, 'Love and Only Love' or 'No Hidden Path'. Neil is playing his 'new' goldtop, outfitted with the B-7 Bigsby and the Firebird pickup. What he does on 'Over and Over' is combined switching between the P-90 (neck pickup) and the firebird (bridge pickup), combined with changing tone by switching through the whizzer settings to adjust the volume(s) and tone pots on the 5E3. So, what you get are phrases that are pretty much the same but sound tonally different. Neil is also moving to different positions, so that the solo phrases are played at one moment in an open G position and at the next up on the neck but on the E-A-D strings (such as the riff that opens the song at the 10th and 12 frets on the E and A strings.

It's a great song (G-C-D repeated, with some slight variation in the measures in the chorus)and it really drives - an excellent example of simplicity as the framework for rocking out and a great format for the Horse. But the guy in the interview is making it out to be something its not. And you know Neil would call all that bullshit. But its not exploratory as a solo (as he is trying to make the point) like some of the other songs on the Ragged Glory - especially 'Love and Only Love' and 'Love to Burn'.

The thing about Ragged Glory is that it is all one song. Country Home is in G, White Line is in Em, Over and Over is in G, Love to Burn is in Em, Mansion on a Hill is in G, Natural Anthem is in G. G and Em are basically the same scale. Love to Burn and Love and Only Love are basically the same chord progressions. (F*&king Up is in D or Dm.) My point is that the approach to the leads are going to be very similar in all of these songs. Neil is poking around throughout the album on the same song. That's what I think is so cool. He is exploring his leads by changing tones using only volume and tone (which is just selectively dumping frequencies to ground).

I would love to see someone who really gets into the structure of the music and tone to evaluate Neil's playing. Larry Cragg is probably the most informed.

Old Black

Neil Young - F!#*in Up (Video)

More on Ragged Glory - Neil Young Albums In Order Reviews by e2f.


At 7/20/2012 10:38:00 PM, Anonymous TheRealDOD said...

tudIHave this on my Touch always...It just sounds good all year.But then I've been biased and a big fan since '67.Of course the MP3 can't compare to my original vinyl.

At 7/20/2012 11:26:00 PM, Blogger Paul Lieberman said...

I used to have a band and when they'd get me going on my Neil repertoire we'd play every song on Ragged Glory. These are really fun songs to play, and I think that's probably what Neil had in mind when he wrote them.


At 7/21/2012 09:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ragged Glory is a spectacular album. They nailed it in every way possible.

(I'd like to see NY & CH nail it again.)

-Big Old Rig

At 7/22/2012 08:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They had Briggs for Ragged Glory...of course it turned out nicely...there's even that shot of Briggs included in the album packaging...damn he was great and is missed

At 7/23/2012 02:48:00 PM, Blogger Old Black said...

I've probably listened to Ragged Glory a thousand times (probably more) and for me, it holds together and "lives" better than any other Neil album. Period. It just keeps coming at you. There is a great sense of joy in the songs - not fluffy songs but songs played with abandonment of four guys in a room just gettin' it.

One of my greatest Neil Young/Crazy Horse moments is in the second solo of "Love and Only Love" when Ralph and Billy begin to speed up and the song just drives into another gear. They drive Neil and you just wanna jump up and yell, "Thank you, God!"


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