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Saturday, June 06, 2015

Comment of the Moment: The 10 Best Neil Young Deep Cuts + TONIGHT: Thrasher's Wheat Radio

Neil Young
Swedish TV Interview - 2005

Earlier in the week, we posted The 10 Best Neil Young Deep Cuts | Rolling Stone which generated a fair amount of comments on the blog, which we found pleasantly surprising.

Lots of passion for favorite deep cuts which in turn drew attention to the fact that Neil's catalog is actually a big, giant set of deep cuts. Yes, there is filler and 2nd tier tunes here and there, but there are so many songs that would be the richest vein in any mountain, as you can see below.

The Comment of the Moment is from The 10 Best Neil Young Deep Cuts | Rolling Stone by (D.) Ian Kertis, who said...
First of all, let me just chime in that Thrasher is a brilliant song, and it's a good choice for the number one spot in that, at least for me personally, it's somewhat unexpected.

Otherwise, though, the list is a little narrow. Considering just how much of Neil there is out there, it's a little "On the Beach"-heavy for my tastes. And I like that album a lot: it may be my favorite of the Ditch trilogy. But Vampire Blues? I do love the title song (would argue for it over Motion Pictures-- not that we're arguing) and I understand Ambulance Blues being there. I'm generally a deep cuts kind of guy and as Topanga pointed out, our definition of Neil Young's deep cuts is probably different than most people's; apart from Rockin' in the Free world and Harvest Moon, the only two post-1980 songs on Greatest HIts, the stuff most people are aware of is over thirty years old. So there's a whole slew of stuff I'd like to see given a little more attention, but I'm not surprised that it's not happening. Here are some of mine, no particular order. I'm especially intrigued with the idea of rounding up great deep cuts from the last fifteen-twenty years. This list is focused on the recent years, but trying to hit each decade:

Slip Away
Music Arcade
Words (Between the Lines of Age)
The Great Divide
Touch the Night
Violent Side
Love and War
Are You Passionate?
She's a Healer
Mr. Disappointment
For the Love of Man
Two old Friends
When God Made Me
Without Rings
Payola Blues
Light a Candle
No Hidden Path
The Way
Safeway Cart

Almost the entire Sleeps with Angels album, which I regard as a wholly brilliant piece of work, might as well be on my list. but I have to give special mention to A Dream that Can Last, one of the greatest album closers ever and a beautiful and uplifting song that I've taken inspiration from any number of times. There's nothing else like that I know of in Neil's catalogue (except for My Heart, its sister that bookends the other end of the album) and it constitutes a master stroke. The whole motley assortment of musical ideas going on--Ralph Molina's monotonous ball-and-chain, heavy footstep drumbeat, the gliding and sometimes giddily dancing tack piano, and intermittent flourishes of the second piano, ranging from an ominous, discordant rumble to coloratura skipping across the melody, completely coalesces.

It might sound like a mess on paper, but when I hear them, these seemingly disparate elements produce a profoundly unified whole of music and an astonishing image of the struggle between despair and hope.
Thanks Ian! That's 2 Comment of the Moments in the past couple of weeks. Wanna go for a trifecta, triple crown?!

More coverage, discussion and analysis tonight on Thrasher's Wheat Radio on Wbkm Dot Org, at 9:00PM ET.

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At 6/06/2015 07:52:00 AM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

On The Beach songs should no longer be considered deep cuts.

Now that it's available on CD I meet plenty of people who are familiar with it.

At 6/06/2015 10:53:00 AM, Blogger Genghis Kon said...

I have always loved two of the previously unreleased songs from Decade to no end: Winterlong and Deep Forbidden Lake. I'm surprised neither of those made any lists.

At 6/07/2015 02:15:00 AM, Blogger The Loner said...

A good list. I agree on the Sleeps With Angels part. A little to heavy on Are You Passionate for my taste.

At 6/10/2015 02:20:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@The Loner--

Fair enough. I'm intrigued by that record (AYP?), especially when separated from the specter of Let's Roll. Which is itself a significant song in Neil's catalogue, but lacks appeal for me at multiple levels and there are times one just doesn't want to hear a 9/11 song. I've said before, the title track strikes me as a much subtler and perhaps more genuinely powerful response to such catastrophic events ("A world that never stops/turning on me/turning on you"). But after all these years of listening, most of the rest of the album is very vibrant and conceptually cohesive to my ears. It has its issues; the songs are long and kind of sluggish at time, and you have to be okay with the Booker T. sound, but Mr. Disappointment, Two Old Friends, She's a Healer, and the title song are particularly enduring for me and I find the call and response section of Differently quite clever and fun. I love the grunge-soul amalgam that I hear throughout the album, but particularly on She's a Healer. The arrangements seem more sculpted and precise than on many of Neil's other albums, mostly abandoning the exhilaratingly sloppy and heavy-handed Crazy Horse sound we know and love, in favor of the funky professionalism and squeaky-cleannesss of Booker and the MGs. This results in some very textured-sounding songs, in my opinion. I can see how all of this precision and clean sound make for an artistic departure that doesn't appeal to everyone, but I think it's a really interesting album myself. I mentioned once before, but I sometimes use an alternate track sequence for this album and have grown to prefer it many respects. I got it by following the picture of the notecards on the back cover of the CD. Reading them horizontally, and excluding the deleted "Gateway of Love", you get:

1. When I Hold You in my Arms
2. She's A Healer
3. You're My Girl
4. Differently
5. Be with You
6. Mr. Disappointment
7. Two old Friends
8. Goin' Home
9. Let's Roll
10. Are You Passionate?
12. Quit (Don't Say You Love Me)

The first and last songs in this line-up, in particular, make so much sense as bookends (same intimate setting, conversations between lovers, similar arrangements with the female backing vocals and long, dreamy fades) that I'm almost convinced this must haven been considered as a running order at some point. It's not perfect, particularly having tracks 3-5 as variations on the same riff back-to-back, but there are moments when it just flows for me. At first, She's Healer as track two seemed bizarre to me, but to my ears it works as an overture/introduction to the album at least as well as a finale. I'd recommend that Neil Heads try the album in this order, especially if you had trouble getting into it before. I know changing the way the album starts made it much more engaging to me, as I didn't think "You're My Girl" made for a compelling opener.

And thanks for the acknowledgment, Thrash!


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