Whatever happened to... “Toast” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse?
The other day we posted a reader poll on 2013: What Will Neil Young Bring This Year?
The poll results showed some surprising and not so surprising results.
Probably the only one or two we'd wager on would be the Alchemy 2012 Live tour release. Maybe we'll finally see Trunk Show?
That said, some other interesting possibilities.
Which brings us to a recent note from Mark "spook_the_horse" on the semi-legendary lost release “Toast” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
So. Whatever happened to…….Thanks Mark! Never "Spook the Horse"!
Every once in a while, generally at times when I’m sitting at the computer, working and writing, I’ll be listening to random records and my mind will, invariably, start to wander. I’ll pull a Neil Young record off the shelf, often one that I’ve not listened to in a while and, all too often, get lost in a personal world of memories and thoughts that often relate solely to that record or just a single song.
Today, with a crisp covering of the softest snow lying on the ground, coupled with wonderful bursts of watery sunshine and with curious thoughts of lost loves playing in the back of my mind, I took a trip towards “Winterlong” ~ I’m nothing other than obvious and predictable…..
Yesterday, as I was sitting at the desk, gazing out of the window in the vain hope of some wintery inspiration, I decided to reach for “Are You Passionate”….and that, in turn, lead me to wondering (once again) about the fabled, mythical album entitled “Toast”.
As “Goin’ Home” faded away and the back sleeve of the record showed that piece of paper with “Gateway of Love” writ large upon it, I wondered, more and more, if there will ever be a time that this record, this oft-discussed yet still largely-mysterious record, will ever see the light of day….
With Crazy Horse making some incredible music in the past 12 months, on stage and also, of course, on record (I’d argue ‘til I was blue in the face, that both “Americana” and “Psychedelic Pill” rate as two of Neil Young’s very finest discs, period, with or without the Horse) it feels as though right now is perhaps the perfect opportunity by which to unleash “Toast” on the world. That’s the perfect opportunity to me of course….nothing appears to be so straightforward and simple in Neil Young World…..
On paper though, it does feel as though the timing could be ideal ~ sales of both the new Crazy Horse albums are on the wane, we still don’t know what Camp Young has in store (if anything) for the “Alchemy” shows from the North American tour of last year ~ teasing the Rust List is all very well Archives Guy but people will get tired of that pretty quickly ~ so to keep the pot bubbling along nicely, an Archive series release of a record often discussed in hushed, learned tones would seem like a good way to keep NYCH product out there.
I’ve lost count of how many years ago it was that, pre-Bridge, Neil Young was said to have been listening to the finished version of “Toast” in one of his old car outside the LincVolt garage (someone on the staff there coughed that one) ~ maybe four or five years ago? That would seem about right as Neil Young discussed the release of the record with “Rolling Stone” in 2008……
“Toast is done. It's an amazing listening experience. It was recorded in 5.1. It's a mind blowing record, and I don't think it's a commercial record, but it's great rock and roll, very moody, kind of jazzy. It was recorded in the same place where Coltrane was recorded, so there's a lot of heavy stuff in there. All of the live ambience for everything was all recorded, so the whole thing has got a massive sound about it. I want to have a premier of it that's in a large art gallery with speakers in all four corners of the room, and huge speakers and really spend some time on the acoustics of the room, so you could have two or three hundred people in there that are in the middle of the sweet spot listening to this thing all around. So you came to a real listening experience that you wouldn't be able to get in any other location than right there.”
We are all well aware that we listen to a man who’s restlessness and creative energies in recent years have meant that barely one project can be finished before he goes whizzing right along to a new one, sometimes to the detriment of all the projects concerned. But, in 2008, by Neil Young’s own admission, “Toast” was ready to go.
It must be assumed (rightly or wrongly) that what has stopped “Toast” in the five years that have followed is indeed that same restless outlook and continuing quest for something I suspect we can’t quite see in the same way that the feted musician can.
The sound and the tone, maybe they don’t fit with what Neil Young wants to hear anymore. The oft-quoted “dark” feel….is it that? Or is it the inner-self looking back once too often on previous works that may have had an impact on any potential release?
However, much retro-focus appears to have been employed with the book projects and the assorted, numerous Crazy Horse sessions that yielded those two marvellous records last year ~ “Waging Heavy Peace” and the two albums unashamedly (inevitably) look backwards rather than forwards, so retrospective thoughts and ideas aren’t too troubling it would seem.
So perhaps “Toast” was very much then and “Psychedelic Pill” is very much now.
But (there’s always a “but” right?) the majority of Crazy Horse live sets in 2012 showed a distinct and swift regression to both the early 1990’s and the late 1970’s in terms of both the set lists and, to a degree, the stage appearance (for reasons known only, once again, to Neil Young and his fellow workers ~ perhaps it actually means nothing at all, it was just for fun and its another little curveball thrown out there to make us read more in to something than is actually there).
Maybe the songs on “Toast” don’t fit with anything anymore, perhaps too downbeat and too dark for where the muse is taking their author now. But you could argue that one listen to “Ramada Inn” would suggest that, while not overtly on the dark side, the song possesses an unrestrained air and clouds of downbeat melancholy pervade every single second of the song which, from what little we know of the tracks that may feature on it, are surely the staples of “Toast”?
Who knows what Neil Young and the band have been and will be doing in the four month spell of downtime between the end of “Alchemy” in North America and picking it up again for the Australia and New Zealand shows that come along in a couple of months. There are a host of ongoing projects (not least Archives 2) to attend to (presumably after a post-tour vacation) but where does “Toast” figure in all that? Does it figure at all? Sadly, I’m inclined to wager a hefty, downbeat “no”.
The interest in the record, both through the core fan base and the media, would be high (look at how much was made of the 2008 online statements and quotes regarding the impending arrival of a “lost” Neil Young record). “Toast” would certainly shift some units and, as mentioned earlier, it would undoubtedly keep the focus of attention on this most marvellous of bands, the ultimate vehicle for conveying Neil Young’s sound and groove.
Because of the mystique that has grown and grown and which now envelops this 12-13 year old record like a darkened shroud, column inches will certainly be plentiful. However, would that bother Neil Young? Again, I’d wager a hefty “no” (though it would, presumably, be of greater interest to Reprise Records).
But is that enough to let the album loose? Honestly, again, no, of course it isn’t.
There are core reasons why, five years on from those numerous quotes to the media from Neil Young, “Toast” languishes in the vaults at Broken Arrow Ranch. Reasons that we won’t ever know. Could there be just one fundamental reason why it remains on the shelf? One that goes above and beyond even the sheer bloody-mindedness of this relentless, project-hopping musician? Maybe…..maybe…..
The guessing games will go on and on….but there seems to be every chance that another live Neil Young & Crazy Horse album will come along in the next few months ~ one that re-treads the old ground covered by “Weld” and “Live Rust”, whilst (presumably) updating things a little with the choice, killer cuts from the “Psychedelic Pill” record.
Do we need yet another live Neil Young & Crazy Horse album, even when the playing from the 2012 Alchemy shows (nee The Past, The Present & The Future tour) was as stellar as it was from time to time last year?
It could be argued that any Neil Young & Crazy Horse record is a “wanted” item for fans, but I’d contend that, right now, unless we had a third new studio album from Neil Young & Crazy Horse (one that maybe married/utilised some of the recorded material that was made before “Le Noise” ~ the Crazy Horse version of “Hitchhiker” is reported to be one of the very finest cuts they have ever laid down), I would be far happier to finally have “Toast” see the light of day, some 13 years after recording, than to see a fifth (or sixth, depending on what you count) NYCH live record.
“It's got everything that the best Crazy Horse albums have had” Neil Young said once about “Toast”.
It would be remiss not to ask for the evidence to, finally, be forthcoming…..
(Thanks Stacey B.!)