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Saturday, January 04, 2014

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young on Piano

Neil Young - ~1970

Here's the Comment of the Moment posted on Neil Young News: Some Good News and Not So Good News for Thrasher's Wheat in 2014 by (D.) Ian Kertis:
Hey, Thrasher, Thrashette, and all,

D. I. Kertis here. I'm still around.

I've just gotten around to devouring Live at the Cellar Door in the last couple of days. I especially like the piano tracks, with Cinnamon Girl and Expecting to Fly standing out. In fact, I've made a new mix using iTunes of Neil Young's piano performances, using mainly the Cellar Door and Massey Hall albums, also incorporating a couple of tracks from Dreamin' Man Live '92, Unplugged, and only one non-concert number. It's all just Neil and a keyboard. The current track list:

1. Journey Through the Past (Massey)
2. Cinnamon Girl (Cellar Door)
3. After the Goldrush (Cellar Door)
4. Flying on the Ground is Wrong (Cellar Door)
5. Love in Mind (Massey)
6. A Man Needs a Maid/Heart of Gold
7. Stringman (Unplugged)
8.See the Sky About to Rain (Cellar Door)
9. There's a World (Massey)
10. Such a Woman (Dreamin' Man Live '92)
11. Expecting to Fly (Cellar Door)
12. Soldier (Archives Vol 1. remastered mix, not edited Decade version)
13. Birds (Cellar Door)
14. Bonus: Like a Hurricane (Unplugged)

What's remarkable to me is how easy it is encompass many (admittedly not all) of Neil's biggest hits and greatest songs using these piano tracks. That's mainly because so many of the recordings release focus on After the Gold Rush- and Harvest-period material. I also strongly considered adding When God Made Me, but with the piano-and-vocal-only rule (which I know I promptly roke by including Like a Hurriance via pump organ), along with my general feeling that the song just didn't fit, kept me from doing so. (Philadelphia is not there for the same reasons and because I just honestly have never tracked down the soundtrack.)

Anyhow, not to ramble, but I felt like getting back to Neil and the music a bit what with all the other stuff flying around fast and loose in this thread. Yeah, Neil is a sociopolitical beast, but not exclusively and only occasionally has politics overridden his music in a really obvious and unsubtle way. You don't usually get more than one or two topical songs an album, if that. And I must say, though I'm an openly liberal-leaning guy, I'm very happy with that. Don't get me wrong, Neil has the right to sing anything of his choosing and I guarantee I'll give it a listen and probably juice something good out of it, but I'm of the school that prefers not to have everything constantly center on politics. There's a place for topical material and it's an artist's right to do that, but I'm just as glad that Neil writes many songs about many things and usually doesn't focus with tunnel vision on politics.

Suffice it to say that I'm happy to talk about Neil in all his facets, which is why I'm creating this post, and that I wish the best to everyone.
Thanks D.I.! Sounds like a great compilation disc for the season. Also, thanks for your concerns in original note. We'll just say that we're pretty confident that all will be fine ... in the long run. ;)

Have a fantastic new year!

Also, tonight, Saturday, Jan 4 at 9:00 PM EST, the Thrashers Wheat Radio Hour from will be streaming.

Tonight's edition will feature lots of great Neil tunes and the latest Neil Young news.

Tune in details and podcast info @ Thrashers Wheat Radio Hour.

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At 1/04/2014 09:16:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Very interesting exercise D.I., it's a whole other take on the music. I think you're right on about the steady stream of piano through the years, and this lineup would be a great listen. I've had a dream exercise myself for a long time about the piano numbers, but don't think I'll ever get to it. It would be interesting to hear all the piano pieces in chronological order through the entire discography, but I thought it would be really cool to find a friend who could play piano by ear, and make a recording of them playing just the piano parts off of every album of Neil's. No singing or other instruments, just the piano. Although they're not highly accomplished, I have always considered them to be sneaky good, poignant, and full of feeling. Neil's not known for his piano playing, but I think it's one more thing he does really well. Just a crazy idea. BTW, I'd love to hear what you did with Soldier, I can't listen to the Decade version, it has no life in it.

I also like this comment: "... I'm of the school that prefers not to have everything constantly center on politics. There's a place for topical material and it's an artist's right to do that, but I'm just as glad that Neil writes many songs about many things and usually doesn't focus with tunnel vision on politics." As carried away as I get sometimes, I'm glad it's only now and then, and think Neil strikes just the right balance. It's just that on the occasions he does get political, it's very good grist for the mill, but I agree with what you're saying. Thanks for the interesting post.

A Friend Of Yours

At 1/06/2014 09:34:00 AM, Anonymous Mary Ann said...

I feel like it is Christmas eve all over again- so excited for tonight's present.

At 1/06/2014 12:36:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look up the bootleg 1970-1992 Piano Songs, it's great.

Disc 1
Track 101. Flying On The Ground Is Wrong [Dec 5, 1970 NYC] (6.9MB)
Track 102. There’s A World [Jan 21, 1971 Boston] (3.5MB)
Track 103. The Bridge [Feb 27, 1971 London] (5.2MB)
Track 104. Borrowed Tune [Jan 14, 1973 Buffalo] (5.7MB)
Track 105 .Soldier [Jan 21, 1973 NYC] (4.1MB)
Track 106. A Man Needs A Maid > Heart Of Gold [both Jan 22, 1971 Stratford] (8.4MB)
Track 107. Journey Thru The Past (3.9MB)
Track 108. Love In Mind [both Feb 23, 1971 London, BBC] (3.7MB)
Track 109. Sweet Joni [March 11, 1973 Bakersfield] (4.8MB)
Track 110. No One Seems To Know [March 5, 1976 Osaka, Japan] (3.8MB)
Track 111. Birds (3.3MB)
Track 112. Out Of My Mind [both May 26, 1978 early show San Francisco] (3.2MB)
Track 113. I Believe In You [March 28, 1970 Santa Monica] (4.4MB)
Track 114. Tonight’s The Night [Nov 17, 1992 Chicago] (6.9MB)

Disc 2
Track 201. Coastline [Jan 5, 1983 Santa Cruz] (5.1MB)
Track 202. Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me [March 22, 1985 Sydney] (5.4MB)
Track 203. Winterlong (5.6MB)
Track 204. Someday [both Dec 13, 1989 Rotterdam] (7.8MB)
Track 205. Helpless [April 28, 1989 Tokyo] (7.5MB)
Track 206. Campaigner [Feb 18, 1992 NYC] (6.0MB)
Track 207. Love Is A Rose (3.5MB)
Track 208. Are You Ready For The Country [both May 18, 1992 Cleveland] (3.4MB)
Track 209. Such A Woman [Sept 21, 1992 Los Angeles] (5.8MB)
Track 210. Speakin’ Out [Sept 22, 1992 Los Angeles] (4.6MB)
Track 211. Love Art Blues (4.3MB)
Track 212. Homefires [both Nov 22, 1992 Minneapolis] (3.8MB)
Track 213. After The Goldrush [Sept 5, 1989 NYC] (6.2MB)

There's one called Banjo Songs too.

At 1/07/2014 12:22:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Hi, Greg, and thanks for your friendly comment. Funny you should mention finding a friend who plays piano. Although I don't (took some lessons as a kid and would like to relearn at some point, though), I have a pianist friend. He's never listened to much Neil Young but likes music a great deal in general (after all, he plays and sings) and I have a mind to use my Neil Young piano compilation, with a few tweaks to include some hits or favorites of mine, to give him a little Introduction to Neil Young package. It occurred to me after I'd already started gathering the piano tracks that this would be a cool way to introduce a friend who really likes the piano to Neil Young. I think the piano sometimes puts Neil's songs in a gentler, more nuanced light. Expecting to Fly on Cellar Door is a shining example to my mind, and the Man Needs a Maid/Heart of Gold suite is an alternative look at those two famous songs that I find fascinating. (I also may actually prefer the "unfinished" lyrics for A Man Needs a Maid.) In general, I'm a fan of acoustic solo Neil (or electric solo Neil in the case of Le Noise) and much of his softer, gentler music, as I admire him firstly as a songwriter and artist, so these Archives Performance releases have been full of treasures for me. People complain about overlap of song choices, but if it were bootlegs, they would (and probably already have) scrambled for these recordings. They're all interesting to me.

As far as how I'd adapt my current playlist for my pianist friend, I'm afraid Stringman and There's a World might have to go the way of the dodos. The weird thing is that if you combine all these piano tracks, you get some of the big hits but you also get some offbeat obscure tracks that I'm not sure are the best first taste of Neil. One track I'd like to sub in would be the brilliant Tell Me Why, whether the studio or a live version. And of course, I have my own offbeat obscure titles that I find to have tremendous merit and to say quite a bit about Neil Young as an artist. I'm thinking particularly of A Dream that Can Last from Sleeps with Angels. I like the whole album and have been in love with that song since I first heard it. Others up for consideration would be When God Made Me, as well as The Way from Chrome Dreams II (another unusual favorite of mine; I find to exceed Prairie Wind in several regards).

At 1/07/2014 12:26:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Additional, just noticed what you said, Greg, about Solider. I didn't' "do" much with it myself. It's just the mix that was on Archives I, which is unedited--where the Decade version removed some of Neil's piano improv--and sounds much, much clearer and stronger due to restoration and superior audio fidelity. Sorry I overlooked that before.


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