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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Comment of the Moment: "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop" by Neil Young + Promise Of The Real

The Comment of the Moment is from "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop" by Neil Young + Promise Of The Real by (D.) Ian Kertis, who said...
I've listend to the song four or five times in the last few days and it's been growing on me.

Musically and in terms of subject matter, this project is reminding me of Fork in the Road. Neil has describe the album as an "upbeat commentary on the situation", or words to that notion, and this selection certainly bears that out. It's obviously not taking itself too seriously and I think it succeeds in being funny. I'm interested to hear what the entire album will sound like, as well as how this topical novelty number plays in that context. At the moment, I'm just happy to dig the whistling. It reminds me of the hokey-pokey: "You stick your left foot out…" At least it seems like no one is surprised that it's somewhat off the wall. That's an improvement from the past, where some posters actually seemed surprised that Neil Young follows his heart and soul, sometimes leading him into goofy and occasionally even bizarre experimental directions (A Letter Home springs to mind). I have a hunch that this will be another in a long line of Neil records destined for some maligning, but I'm optimistic that it'll be a fun record if nothing else. Taking on corporate power in America is always a guaranteed good time for all.

Sorry if I'm reposting something that's already been up, but I was researching into this album and this came up:

Plenty of embedded links as well. Neil and the Nelsons perform "Mansanto Years", the title song. It appears to be a gentle acoustic number with an interesting arrangement. Unfortunately, it doesn't' seem like they're mic'd that well, so the lyrics can be difficult to make out. As to the continued carping/harping on Daryl Hannah, from day one, I wasn't even interested in looking at Storytone in the shadow of Neil's personal life. It's a conviction of mine that you can appreciate an artist's work independent of such "real world" context and I'm sticking to that.
Thanks (D.) Ian! Have to agree with you about what could be more fun than taking on corporate power in America. game on.

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At 5/31/2015 04:19:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

This is the first Neil "project" in a long time that's really ticking me off. I've gotten used to his protesting anything and everything and then sloppily putting it on record, but the quality of this in every regard is so embarrassingly bad it's actually insulting. Unfortunately, Neil is no longer unpredictable.

This hurts me to say, but for me, Neil is speakin' out just to speak out.
I'll leave with my own little Neil protest song:

Where have you gone ole' Neil, you're not even trying
These songs of protest, well this fan he's no longer buying.
Where have you gone ole' Neil, is the muse no longer knocking?
These songs of protest, well the poor quality is simply shocking.
Where have you gone ole' Neil, do you feel you have more to say?
These songs of protest, well you seem to write them day by day.
Where have you gone ole' Neil, I used to eagerly wait your next move
These songs of protest, well missing are those words and that magic groove.
Where have you gone ole' Neil, it's late, but is it later than I know?
These songs of protest, well it's never too late, tomorrow's another show.
Where Have I gone ole' Neil, where have I gone?
These songs of protest, well tomorrow's another dawn.
Take my advice, don't listen to me

At 5/31/2015 05:17:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ TopangaDaze - We do admire your persistence.

Your comment last week really got the ball rolling for the Monsanto Years bashing.

" Neil is speakin' out just to speak out." Hmmm... and that's something different from what he's been doing all along? Isn't that the whole point?

Nice little ditty you've penned. Well played. That hops right over the rhetorical game of "Well If You Can Do Better".

So a protest song about a protest album?

Oh the irony is rich isn't it?

Who else is putting out protest albums these days, btw? Bob? Bruce? Paul?

Let us know when you find someone else with the balls to take on Big Corporations.

And take our advice -- don't listen to us, either.

peace & love

At 5/31/2015 09:28:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

There's a quote here on this site comparing Neil and Bruce. Paraphrasing, it says that Bruce's music inspires you that you too can be as great as him, whereas Neil's music makes you feel that he's no better than you are to begin with. (At least it goes something like that.)

For me, the problem is that this Monsanto stuff (at least what I've heard) is so bad that I really think I could do better (and I've never picked up a guitar and am tone deaf). I do know I could write better lyrics (as could most people) and I've never written a song before.

He's trying too hard to come up with statements. To me, Neil has always written protest music, but for the most part he didn't have to hit you over the head with it. His songs always posed questions without answers. As someone once described it, he wrote "political love songs" and that always resonated with me.
A song of thanks to Neil for what he's meant:

Your songs have meant, so much to so many
they're worth millions to me, if they're worth a penny.
Your songs were there, when I needed a friend
they filled me with wonder, which will never end.
Your songs posed questions, though you had no answers
they struck chords so deep, they turned us all into dancers.
Your songs were sung, with a voice so true
they entered our hearts, and we instantly knew.
Your songs became our songs, always close by
they brought smiles to our eyes, and allowed us to cry.
Your songs, your voice, your guitar, your soul
allowed us all, to rock and roll.

Thanks Thrasher for letting me vent.

Good times are coming, I hear it every where I go.....

At 6/01/2015 02:17:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

If you wanna feel the old Neil, go watch Helpless from The Last Waltz, with the Band. It don't get much better...

At 6/01/2015 07:30:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

Ain't Got No Monsanto
Ain't Got No GMO
But I'm sure the new album will sound better on my PONO

At 6/01/2015 08:57:00 AM, Blogger Seamus Mc Donnell said...

It certainly will!

At 6/01/2015 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

I purchased the deluxe version yesterday.It says you can't download to mobile devices But I tried.It worked.I put it to my sdcard and extracted the file to my Pono. Big Box and Rock Starbucks sound awesome to my ears.Each purchase you can download up to 3 times. Thanks Warner & Neil/Potr.
Can't wait to hear what the live shows bring for these Monsanto tracks.

At 6/01/2015 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Jason Smith said...


I believe you nailed it when you say....

"He's trying too hard to come up with statements. To me, Neil has always written protest music, but for the most part he didn't have to hit you over the head with it. His songs always posed questions without answers. As someone once described it, he wrote "political love songs" and that always resonated with me."

I am not sure why Thrasher has to lump anyone who criticizes into the bashing camp, I thought your comments were thoughtful and creative. Neil's music used to invite you to think now it attempts to tell you how to think.

Neil is convinced that a song can't change the world and he is right. However, a well placed speech, poem, song etc. can get someone to start thinking and that is the beginning of change.

Jason Smith

At 6/01/2015 04:24:00 PM, Blogger Jason Smith said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6/01/2015 06:56:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks Jason.
Actually, we do like the phrase "political love songs" that TopangaDaze coined.
And Neil seems to be having fun in the video.

At 6/01/2015 07:31:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The critic Piero Scaruffi sums up Neil better than anybody in my view:

"Neil Young constitutes with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen the great triad of 'moral' voices of American popular music. As is the case with the other two, Young's art is, first and foremost, a fusion of music and words that identifies with his era's zeitgeist. Unlike the others, though, Young is unique in targeting the inner chaos of the individual that followed the outer chaos of society.

While Dylan 'transfers' his era's events into a metaphysical universe, and Springsteen relates the epic sense of ordinary life, Young carries out a more complex psychological operation that, basically, bridges the idealism of the hippy communes and the neuroses of the urban population.

His voice, his lyrics, his melodies and his guitar style compose a message of suffering and redemption that, at its best, transcends in hallucination, mystical vision, philosophical enlightenment, while still grounded in a context that is fundamentally a hell on earth.

Each of Neil Young's albums had relished in some kind of internal consistency. While Young might change dramatically from album to album, within the same album he was able to impersonate one cohesive and profound persona from beginning to ending.

The various aspects of Young's career (the bucolic folk-singer, the liberal militant, the post-hippie moralist, the apocalyptic guru, the universal pessimist, the melancholy loner, the alienated rocker) are merely stages of a long calvary, which is both individual and collective.

Young did to the lyrical song what Dylan did to the protest song: just like Dylan wed the emphasis of Whitman's poetry and the optimism of Kennedy's era with the themes of public life, Young wed Emerson's humanism and the pessimism of the post-Kennedy era with the themes of private life.

On top of this, Young invented the distorted, cacophonous, nightmarish style of guitar playing that would influence the grunge generation. Young is also unique in his schizophrenia, which runs at several levels. First and foremost, one has to deal with the live/studio dichotomy of his career.

Charged with the sonic equivalent of a nuclear reaction, the "live" Young albums seem to come from a different artist, a musical terrorist, a true punk. Within the studio album, one has to deal with another dichotomy: the pretty, linear, smooth country-inspired ballad, and the ugly, noisy, acid-inspired jam. These two modes rarely coexist: they alternate, they compete for control of Young's career (and mind?), each studio album being dominated by either of the two."

At 6/01/2015 09:18:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

1) Not sure I'd describe the overall tone of the album as "upbeat," though a few of the songs are kinda catchy, like Star Bucks and Working Man.

2) Monsanto Years is not a gentle acoustic number on the actual album, they just did it that way in Hawaii (since there was no place to plug in). Lyrics are here:

3) If you separate Neil's personal life from his music, you're missing out on a lot of meaning (Homegrown/TTN/OTB being the classic examples, though there's certainly much more).

At 6/02/2015 09:37:00 AM, Blogger marc goertz said...

For me very often ...and ...- also now - Neil s latest work is Briljant!!
how can you not like "A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop" ????

even the people from Starbucks like it - the 'musical' part of the song...not the message....; they respond to my 'provocative' mail...

What do you mean man with : Where have you gone ole' Neil??????

it s a wonderful song , and he is not 'bitter' look at the fun they having ....
What a message , it s like This note's for You.....

Have you seen - Who s gonna stand up ? in the Tonight show with The Roots??

Its not anymore on you tube or internet but i recorded it Thank God

Wow what a performance!! Talking about -Upbeat- !!!!

I thought in 2004 after - be the rain- it can t get any better....but Neil is always better and he is not finished yet.....

Maybe it s all one song...

Do you remember ?

Oh, this country
sure looks good to me
But these fences are
comin' apart at every nail.

At 6/02/2015 11:32:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

I've criticized this Monsanto "music" but I've never said that Neil is bitter. Actually, I think that's the problem. Most of his great/good music has come from a place of relative darkness, despair, melancholy, fear, doubt, etc...

On this new stuff, he found his most recent topical statement, and musically he's just goofing around. He latched on to the Starbuck's angle because they're a popular company and he wanted to get some publicity. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if he's invested in Starbuck's. I could be wrong, but that's how I feel. He's become very predictably calculating and not surprisingly his sales have virtually disappeared. (He'd tell you that's the farthest thing from his mind, but he wouldn't be telling the truth--in my opinion.)
Oh Starbuck's and Monsanto, Neil is against you
you must be quaking, what will you do?
Just wait till tomorrow, and you'll be fine
Neil will have moved on, focused on another line...

I really do support Neil and encourage him to do whatever he pleases. He's earned that right, and again, I'll always pay attention. I've now listened to this Starbuck's song 5 times and I do find myself humming the melody periodically...

At 6/02/2015 03:13:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I find the Promise of the Real to be a quality garage band - better musically than Crazy Horse really...

I see this whole Monsanto Years excursion as based on his new life with Darryl, and as a reach out to the Millenials with the Nelson brothers and Promise of the Real.

I love the dirge that is the title track (building up to a classic crescendo), and Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop is a very catchy ditty that you can tell is angling, indeed craving, for broader popularity.

Can't wait to hear the rest of it - but when I watch the video of Neil jamming with POTR on Down by the River I can only think - well, if I'm doing anything remotely like this when I'm pushing 70, then I've got it made!

Keep on Rockin in the (GMO) Free World!

At 6/02/2015 06:22:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

I've heard of Monsanto, but can someone please tell me who or what Monsaaaaahntow is? I know Neil's always had fairly "unique" phrasing, but this just sounds so off.

At 6/02/2015 07:18:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Thrasher. Thanks to all for responses.

To clarify on a couple of points, Neil Young's music is inspired by his life. All I'm saying is that I don't prefer a strictly biographical approach to criticism. We who've read Shakey, Waging Heavy Peace, know something of the stories behind the songs, but I'd argue that just the fact that this stuff happened to him isn't what makes it compelling. It's that sometimes the same things have happened to us, and we can relate, albeit each in his or her own way, to the thoughts and feelings he's relaying in his words and music. For me at any rate, it's not the biographical minutia that bring the pleasure. On the Beach is a great example: do I need to know what was going on in the writer's life to grasp the human truth(s)?

I just think it's a pity to look at Storytone only as the "Daryl" album. You could be missing something beautiful because you're caught up in something that you can't control. I'd like to think that Plastic Flowers" and Tumbleweed, two of my favorites, would resonate with me just as much were I completely unaware of the circumstances in the artist's life that inspired the songs at the more concrete level. Even if there are specific experiences without which he wouldn't have written those songs, we don't have to share in those precise experiences to understand and appreciate them. It seems limiting of scope to evaluate an artist's work purely within a biographical frame of reference. A great deal of what is interesting or compelling in the work of an artist like Neil Young, is the same basic material we can find in our own lives. As Neil said, "I'm not different from anyone else". I know that Bruce Berry was a roadie and friend of Neil Young, but it's not as though "Tonight's the Night" should mean zilch to me if I didn't know that.

As to whether Neil is getting more topical, he clearly is deeply passionate about environmental causes and has been singing about that for some time (Here we are in the Years, After the Goldrush, Natural Anthem). Since the advent of global climate change in our cultural consciousness, there has been a new movement in which he seems to have grown steadily more immersed. On the whole, Neil's been carrying on a legacy of social consciousness and outspokenness since the days of CSNY and even before, so there's no sea change in regards to his political involvement as far as I can see. Moreover, his last few albums have been largely inward-gazing. Storytone had one overtly political song, and apart from that was much more about love and relationships. A Letter Home was deeply personal with limited commentary. Psychedelic Pill is another largely people-focused album (the only embedded social commentary seems to be on mp3s). Even Americana is not a protest record. I'd argue that Fork in the Road was the last album with a mainly political trajectory, and before that Living with War and Greendale. So it's really been a while since we've had an album that was topical or focused on direct commentary on issues in our society. It's also worth noting that in between Psychedelic Pill and Storytone, we had two years without an album of original songs, which again, makes his recent spirt of activity seem to make more sense: two years, by NY standards, is a long time for things to build up.

At 6/02/2015 08:01:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Unknown - great quote by critic Piero Scaruffi. Thanks! Yes, it sums up Neil pretty well. We've read his full analysis of Neil's career and must say it was pretty definitive when it was written back in the 90's or so. Need to revisit it sometime.

@Babbo B. - good points. For most of Neil's songs (if not all of them), his personal life is embedded in his music. Not expecting a change going forward.

@ TopangaDaze - Good points on his best music & darkness, despair, etc...

And if the guy is now happy and the music is not as good, isn't that OK? Wouldn't you hope for him to be happy at this stage of his life?

Also, you really think this is for publicity?? That would be a change but we're not buying it. It's too late for him to sell out as he's admitted.

And nice to hear you're humming along :)...

@ James - Yes, POTR is definitely a quality garage band. Now better musically than Crazy Horse ? Let's have a tour or 2 1st before having that discussion.

"if I'm doing anything remotely like this when I'm pushing 70, then I've got it made!" exactly.

@ (D.) Ian - And thank you again for the original comment and this followup.

And good to see you again. It's been awhile.

Good stuff. Maybe another Comment of the Moment?! Seems worthy.

At 6/03/2015 09:09:00 AM, Blogger La Johnson said...

The record last 25 minutes supporting the view that this is a passing phase for ole Neil, I found the video to be rather false with some of the laughter looking manufactured. We're still living with War who cares about Starbucks ? The recent photos of Neil with his new lady and with his baseball cap on backwards look ridiculous - he's almost 70. I've love make a fool of a man but never thought Neil would fall for those words. Crosby has no apologised for his remarks hoping to salvage one last ride on the CSNY band wagon - I see CSN are playing on QM2 Cunard and Atlantic Crossing. As everyone points out 'it's Neil' etc etc the bottom line is that the songs are not good enough anymore.

At 6/03/2015 10:51:00 AM, Blogger nick said...

@La Johnson: The album's running time will likely be 50-60 minutes. The time listed on Amazon must be a typo.

Despite some clunky lyrics, I think this is Neil's best collection of songs in ages, full of great melodies. My favourite is People Want To Hear About Love.

At 6/03/2015 01:30:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Just yesterday burned a CD of audio rips from the making-of documentary and the running time was 51 minutes. It was my first listen to the tracks in correct running order (according to Amazon), interesting how the first four are more generically themed politically/environmentally, followed by the four Monsanto-specific songs, and closing with what may be Neil's best new tune in a while, "If I Don't Know" (there's a great acoustic version of that one by him and Stills on the recording that's circulating from Stephen's autism benefit).

At 6/03/2015 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

It's also on YouTube, of course:

At 6/03/2015 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Is there a link to watch the making of, Babbo?

At 6/03/2015 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

No public links that I'm aware of, sorry. Looks like it will be the DVD in the CD/DVD version of the album, based on the Amazon description.

At 6/04/2015 08:47:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

there's a common theme here over the years.. WAR>>INJUSTICE,>>BIG PHARMA,>>BANKING>>,MOTHER EARTH>>>MONSANTO>>>>There's more to the picture, than....This has been brewing for awhile. You gotta be a little devious to play this game

At 6/05/2015 01:42:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

A CSNY tour would have been a hell of a lot nicer than this crap


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