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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Comment of the Moment: POTR & CSNY

Neil Young + Promise of the Real
Camden, NJ - July 16, 2015
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Regarding our latest Comment of the Moment, a couple of quick points.

First, it's comments like these that keep us going here at TW. It really is inspiring to know and be part of such a dynamic community. Neil fans/rusties are simply the best folks on earth.

Second, we still find it somewhat mind boggling that with Neil Young -- after 45+ years of making music with awesome musicians -- we could possibly be debating whether his newest and latest band The Promise Of The Real is one of his best ever. But, hey, welcome to Neil World!

So, on to our Comment of the Moment on the post The Monsanto Years: Going Where No Musician Has Gone Before where we highlighted an in-depth review and analysis of Neil Young and The Promise Of The Real's album "The Monsanto Years" (2015) from Alan's Album Archives. In the review, Alan makes the observation that maybe CSNY would have been a better choice for the material than POTR.

Naturally, there was some disagreement with that premise. :)

And, graciously, the reviewer Alan Pattinson took the time to drop by and politely explain and elaborate.
Hello! I'm the original reviewer over at Alan's Album Archives and have just discovered Thrasher's Wheat has very kindly linked to my post!

Thank you for all the comments.

I must admit that no I haven't seen Promise Of The Real live and yes I could well believe that they would change my mind, the way that so many other Neil Young live bands have in the past - goodness knows enough have done that over the years! Until they release a record of the tour though (and goodness knows if they ever will or not - I can never guess which tours Neil will choose to turn into live albums!) I'm trying to limit my reviews to just the records, as those are what we all have access to as a document of each Neil Young era - I've seen Neil in concert far less than most of you probably have (He doesn't tour the UK that often for a start!) so my comparing tours would be a bit unfair, simply because there's so many I haven't heard (or have only heard on muffled bootlegs!) At least the records are an even playing field that everyone who reads my site in any era will get to know.

If you've come to my site straight to this review you might not know that I am, first and foremost, a CSN/Y fan rather than a purist Neil Young fan. I respect all sides of Neil's art and love almost all of it (though Greendale is a struggle!) but CSNY are a natural reference point to me as a sign of what a great band ought to be, truthful and righteous and courageous. I have always felt that this band have so much more to give the world, even if they haven't given it for a while, and I long for a last great CSNY record that I fear might not come now given recent rifts between Neil and Crosby, so that's more what I was trying to say. It does make perfect sense for Neil to record an album about modern problems with a modern band, but as a CSNY fan I think quite a few Neil Young albums would be better as CSNY ones! While clearly CSN had their best days behind them a long time ago, they still make some wonderful music together and apart to my ears: I loved 'After The Storm' and the CPR albums and Nash's 'Songs For Survivors' even more than some of the Neil Young albums of the past twenty years. Though I'm closer in age to 'Promise Of The Real' (I'm 33!) for me their songs are still relevant to my times too, of all eras.

No disrespect meant to The Promise of The Real - of all Neil's bands they have the most potential to be the 'next' CSNY and if Neil won't go back to the mothership I hope he stays with them as I agree, they are the sound of the future and what Neil needs now. But why have a second CSNY when the first is still there, with all the original members still alive and still making (occasionally) great music? I know to many fans they're an anachronism and their standing has undoubtedly slipped, but to me we need CSNY more than we ever have and even a diluted CSNY still have more power than most bands I think, even Promise Of The Real for me (though again if they ever do a live album I reserve the right to change my mind!)

And yes Paul - 'bemusement' is a better word than 'angry' now I think about it. I might go back and change that now! I meant 'angry' compared to the even mellower Neil Young albums of recent years ('Storytone' and 'A Letter Home' are the definition of mellow!) rather than 'Ohio' or even 'Rockin' In The Free World'. Neil sounds more resigned to doing his duty by making these points now than thinking that a song 'can change the world'.

Anyway, I love nothing more than discussing points with fellow fans - thankyou for taking the time to read my work and thankyou to Thresher's Wheat for including it! A peaceful Neil Young-filled day to you all! 8>)

At 9/09/2015 01:19:00 PM, Blogger The Zuma Band said...


Thanks for providing context for your perspective. I'm totally in the NY camp. Though I do appreciate what CSN, and later &Y, brought to music, I've always felt that in many ways they (CSN) sat on and squandered their own musical legacy and talents, while Neil Young continued his impulsive, erratic, and always determined explorations. I think they peaked in the early 70s and just coasted down hill since. There is no way they can physically reach the peaks that their wonderful harmonies could then. I wouldn't expect that of any musician 40 years later, and after all the years of drugs and drink even less so. Crosby is just lucky to be alive, thanks to Neil Young. I see why you would like them to do the Monsanto material with NY, but, aside from the brouhaha with Crosby, NY has to feel he's "been there, done that" with the LWW material, and so he has moved on. In doing so he is being completely true to form.

"Greendale", btw, is one of my favorite albums, but for very personal reasons. We all hear and experience through our own subjective filters.

At 9/09/2015 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Alan Pattinson said...

Zuma Band - thanks for your reply!

There's a part of me that agrees with you: CSN have never fulfilled their potential and yes I absolutely see why Neil might not want to work with them again and isn't 'going back to Woodstock for a while'. (Rust Never Sleeps, and all that). I totally get where you're coming from and might even be tempted to dig out 'Greendale' again to see what I missed! But I still think the old machine just needs a bit of wd40 and a service and it can still deliver. I can still hear so much potential for CSN, maybe even CSN/Y if Neil's in the right mood at the right time. Perhaps I've been blinded by half-returns to form too much or a bit of hippie hope, but I still think that they're proven geniuses - flawed and diluted geniuses maybe but still geniuses. The Promise of the real are only a promise so far after one album maybe? Anyway, you've hit the nail on the head - we are all looking for our own things. I write my reviews so fans can see another perspective - I'd never claim to be 'right' on something as subjective as music. Neil will do what he wants anyway, no matter what any of us want! Anyway good fun talking to you!

As for Stills his voice has certainly gone but the guitar playing is still there. That together with Crosby and Nash's voices are still a winning combination for me - but hey I'll probably be saying the same thing about Promise Of The Real if they last long enough! I do hear a lot of fans moaning about Nash's smugness which I've never really seen, but all I can say is if I still sounded that good I'd be pretty smug too! 8>)

At 9/09/2015 07:34:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...


Thanks for sharing your views re: CSN/Y, etc. I think most of us here tend to have a Neil "arrogance" and look down slightly on CSN. In our world, Neil's the seeker, the doubter, the nitroglycerin laced restless ball of energy that needs to bounce from star to star. Sure he's wildly erratic, but he's almost always curiously interesting whether we like what he's doing or not.

CSN on the other hand have always seemed fairly content within their musical family tree and don't really try to challenge themselves or their audience in too many ways. At times I've wished Neil was a little more like CSN in that desire to please fans, but overall, Neil's boundary pushing has kept us engaged as a fan base, though regrettably we're getting smaller in numbers.

CSN doesn't seem to foster as many fanatical fans, but they probably have many more casual fans than Neil does. They still have the overall name recognition, and most of the world still primarily knows Neil through CSN, so their legacies will always be linked. Also, I still think they'll do something together again down the road when Neil realizes a few things, though I'm not sure what those "things" are...

"Leave us Helpless, Helpless, Helpless"

At 9/09/2015 07:49:00 PM, Blogger Alan Pattinson said...

Topanga - Well said! I do wish CSN were a little more like Neil sometimes too, as well as vice versa, although they do still surprise me more than some other bands of their generation (Stills' rap song on 'Looking Forward' for instance, or the CPR albums, or Nash's 'Liar's Nightmare' in recent years); there just hasn't been enough for a full album of their stuff and they need their stuff to appeal to so many people whereas Neil sells enough copies not to care. There's just something about those harmonies and having three voices going in three directions but all saying the same thing in harmony that works so well for me, trebling the impact a 'normal' writer would have when they all get together and are on it at the same time. Even Neil only seems to explore each of his characters one by one these days which is a shame - I long for him to do another 'Freedom' so we can hear so many sides of him all at once. I do hope they do something together again one day - I'd hate for their legacy to end with 'Looking Forward', although I could live with the 'CSNY '74' box as a postscript! Thanks for chatting! 8>)

At 9/09/2015 10:58:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

All well balanced comments.

CSN legacy? So that's as below:

CSN -debut
Deja Vu
Wind On The Water (CN)

The cupboard is bare.I hear Nash promoting his song writing - where's the evidence?

In 30 years 3-4 songs!

Neil will never record again with them (not only because of the Hannah stance) but because he doesn't need them - only needed them around 1970. 4 Way Street was their prime.

At 9/10/2015 12:38:00 AM, Blogger Alan Pattinson said...

Andy - I'm beginning to get the feeling I'm a lone voice on this site but I do have to stick up for some of the CSN canon! The run of records Stills had from his debut record through to the Manassas debut right up to 'Stills' in 1975 is unbeaten for me as a writer and performer. Crosby and Nash have been patchier but their early solo and joint work is impressive too (agree with you re Wind On The Water), and even more recently the trio album 'After The Storm' and the CPR albums could hold their own with Neil's from the same period I thought. Or maybe that's just me.

The problem is that Neil has always released so much quality material that you can overlook the odd bad song that doesn't quite work and appreciate it as breaking new ground. CSN release so little that they don't have that same luxury and do seem more afraid to stretch themselves, which is a problem when you have less showcases to prove what you can really do. I do wish they'd done more, together or apart, though Stills' 'Man Alive' record was the only one I thought was really bad. Neil got lucky with Reprise sticking by him and giving him more freedom - I wonder what might have happened if he'd stuck with Atlantic and been sacked before the end of the doom trilogy?! I would have been very interested to see where CSN's legacy might have gone if they'd ever finished their 'covers' album with Rick Rubin too, but sadly we will probably never know! Anyway, always interesting to speculate and debate these things! 8>)
Thanks again Alan, TopangaDaze, and everyone else for engaging on the topic and keeping it REAL!

much love,
the thrashers

"It's a bad day to do nothin'!" or "Right side of left - right side of wrong!"

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At 9/10/2015 11:09:00 AM, Blogger Alan Pattinson said...

Just wanted to second that Rusties are the best folks on Earth. CSN fans are a close second though! 8>)

At 9/10/2015 11:24:00 AM, Blogger The Zuma Band said...

We all know we're just "pissin' in the wind" anyways!

At 9/10/2015 01:06:00 PM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

I think Promise Of The Real seem exciting to some at the moment just because they are the current backing band. I think they basically got very lucky. Their playing is perfectly competent but nothing outrageously exciting. True, Neil seems inspired by them, but that inspiration hasn't translated into particularly great performances.

In 5 years time, when novelty value has worn off, the most noteworthy thing about these recent shows, musically-speaking, will be the length of them. For a 69-year-old to be playing shows of this length and energy is quite remarkable. The quality of the performances themselves, however, whilst far from terrible, hasn't been particularly special. I've been listening to some of the early-to-mid nineties shows recently, and what is immediately apparent is how much Neil's guitar playing has suffered in this latest line-up. For instance, go and listen to any one (your choice) of the 50-odd versions of Cortez The Killer from 1991. You will be overwhelmed by the sheer, un-restrained hypnotic beauty of the guitar playing. Nothing I've heard so far this year has come remotely close.

Despite all this, I think POTR were an acceptable (if unremarkable) choice for The Monsanto Years.


At 9/10/2015 02:10:00 PM, Blogger dickie said...

Well said, Scotsman, I agree. These recent shows were fun to watch, mainly because Neil was obviously having such a good time. "Hold Back the Tears" was unexpected, vocally a bit of a strech, but still good, as were "Out On The Weekend" and "Don't Be Denied". But all of them were more impressive as choices than as performances. The energy of POTR is great, fun to watch, but they're still more of a backing band than Crazy Horse was in their best days (well, yeah, 1969, 1970).

At 9/10/2015 03:59:00 PM, Blogger Dan1 said...

I always want to be a CSNY cheerleader because of how they moved me in the 70s but for the most part I've always felt CSN were a bad fit with Y. Yes they made some amazing music together, Ohio, ect ... and they were once total badasses but it seems to me that Neil's songs were always best played with simplicity and CSN were detractive, not additive, to Neil's songs. Way too indulgent with them singing on his songs, way too much ego ... some of the Neil songs w CSNY on the archives is almost painful to listen to. I think Steven was a genius and super talent unfortunately cut short by the rock n roll lifestyle, Crosby was just a super cool cat, Nash was fine ... CSN together had great harmony nothing but respect for them, they maybe look old and washed up sometimes if stacked up to Neil but stacked up to their peers they're inline to better ... but Neil was always sticking out like a sore thumb w/ CSNY partially because he wasn't caught up in the fame and partly because he worked faithfully for the muse to this day ... I always thought he reunited w CSNY more as a favor of friendship (help fill their empty coffers) than serious music collaboration ... w/ POTR I have avoided watching or listening to the recordings for the most part waiting to see them live but whats most important is the stage chemistry and how excited Neil seems ... after so many of his compadres have passed on this group has totally energized him ... what a huge gift ... the thought of CSN instead of POTR is seriously painful ... the collaboration w POTR seems like a huge gift, and hopefully will evolve ... hard to imagine anything but great things can come of it ... if you would have told me 3hr+ sets w 20+ songs and listed the set lists a few years ago I wouldn't have believed it ...

At 9/10/2015 07:05:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...


I have personally seen Neil with EVERY incarnation of "backup" bands and these guys mesh perfectly,
as good or better than ANY of them.

This dismissive attitude is nostalgia for the "good old days"

Saw Neil and the REAL DEAL at Red Rocks and Jones Beach (and have tix for the LA show)

Finally, NY's response to the lads says everything you need to know about the fit.

At 9/11/2015 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Other than Neil Young's material, I have never had much use for CSN. I am a huge fan of Neil's but I haven't bought the Live 74 CSNY box set due to lack of interest. Their last few albums have been awful. As usual, the best tracks are the NY tracks, but the background harmonies ruin it for me. So I am that guy who would say, "Who Cares if Neil ever plays with Crosby again.?" I know a really nice guy in the Medical field who worked on Cros and says the guy is the biggest Prick he ever met. I missed the Living with War tour (I regret!) because I thought NY was just touring with CSN. Had I known they would perform LWW, I would have been there. That is one fantastic album. Neil still writes great music. He is vital. He is powerful. He is talented. He is… Young. I am thrilled to be seeing the tour in Seattle 10/4/15. Sorry if I let you down with my remarks on CSN. "There's no accounting for taste." And if I had to judge Neil Young from just the last 5 years of material, I would be glad to have his albums in my collection. I would trade most of the 80's for any other Neil Young era, including today's. I am glad he didn't bring out the tired dinosaurs for this tour. Alan in Seattle

At 9/12/2015 07:12:00 PM, Blogger Alan Pattinson said...

Clearly I'm losing the battle to win over the hearts and minds of Neil Young fans with my CSN propaganda! Ah well, each to their own.

One thing we do seem to be in agreement over though is Neil's attack on Monsanto. I've just been sent a 'petition' to stop Amazon selling a Monsanto-manufactured weedkiller deemed illegal by the World Health Organisation. So for everyone who agreed with the sentiments of the record and hasn't signed it yet here's the link: Let CSN-ners and Rusties stand shoulder to shoulder in our attack on corrupt multi-million pound corporations and ask not what you can for your country but what you can do for your planet! 8>)

At 9/12/2015 09:32:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...


Good post, though in a strange way it got me thinking more about the song "Cortez" than anything else. I know this isn't conventional wisdom, but to me, musically speaking "Cortez" is amongst the most generic sounding electric songs Neil ever released. There's no hook or signature melody; it's virtually the only Neil classic electric song that isn't immediately recognizable. Sure it's a slow burn, but it never really goes anywhere until that first great lyric "he came dancing across the water" is spit out. Lyrically it's one of the best songs he ever wrote, but the guitar work isn't uniquely interesting or inspiring.

Neil's great electric songs are almost always immediately recognizable: Cinnamon Girl, Down by the River, Hey Hey My My, Like a Hurricane, Powderfinger, Rockin' in the Free World, etc. As soon as the first notes are heard on those songs, you know it's Neil and you know the song.

Whenever I hear "Cortez" in concert, I always find myself saying "I guess it's Cortez" or something like that. The song lacks the immediacy of his greatest electric songs. I like the song, don't get me wrong, but it's more due to the lyrics than the guitar playing. The playing is fine, maybe even technically better than most of his stuff, but it doesn't have that signature Neil melodic sense.

Not sure why I felt the need to rant about one of Neil's greatest songs, but I did, and as Forrest Gump once said, "that's all I have to say about that".

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 9/13/2015 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@Alan - No competition, of course. how about a tie? Or just lump us all together under CSNY?!

@flyingscotzman - Nothing wrong with luck. As they say, timing can be everything.

Agree, that historically, there will be quite an assessment of this phase of the NY career. But disagree this is "novelty".

Now we haven't compared '91 CH CTK and '15 POTR CTK, but sounds like an interesting exercise. Now granted the CTK version we heard in Camden this summer, seemed pretty sublime. But hey, that was just awhile back. Our recollection of '91 -- besides the incredible volume - was sheer intensity & ferocity as Iraq War #1 raged.

This summer was definitely more mellow and joyous. maybe it's us but we think we like happy Neil more than angry Neil.

@dickie - Funny, but if we have to go back to 1969, 1970 to make comparisons, than POTR must be doing pretty OK.

@ Dan1 - No apologies on being a CSNY cheerleader.

Hope you're catching some West Coast shows. The stage chemistry is a joy to behold.

Likewise, neither would we have expected 3hr+ sets w 25+ song sets at this stage.

@ TOM - Yes, there's nostalgia for the "days that used to be". But tonight's the night. Recall Neil saying something like "New is always preferred" when referring to releasing music.

@ Alan in Seattle - Let's see how a live POTR album sounds and be the judge.

Hope you can catch some West Coast shows and bring us a report?!

@ Alan - no apologies necessary and all in good fun. We admire your spirit here and hope to see you again soon.

Thanks on petition link.

Look at Monsanto on the run in the 21st century...

@TopangaDaze - Thanks for interesting observations on CTK.

At 12/28/2015 01:56:00 AM, Blogger David T. said...

I agree with Alan. CSN is wrongly overlooked and ignored, in a weird way. I just saw them twice in the last year, C&N sound amazing and Stills played some of the best guitar I've ever seen (as good as Clapton easily, in his own way). To say they are just old is too ignore their legacy, best captured in the CSN 1992 Box. I wouldn't hold my breathe for a reunion but I wish Neil would treat them with a little more respect. He wasn't even on half of Deja Vu, the biggest selling album he has been on to-date. CSN + NY are largely separate legacies but I think CSN could add a lot to his new music. Stills is the best guitar player he's ever played with and C&N are the best vocalists this side of Simon and Garfunkel. CSNY 1974, to me, is further proof.

At 5/25/2016 10:22:00 PM, Blogger Cecilia said...

David, you say it perfectly (sorry if my English is weird, I speak Spanish). I started to listen to them in 1970 and never acquired the liking of Neil, and always thought that he never cared for the group, except for Stills, who he seems to be quite fond in spite of all the on/off stage fighting. I do understand he is great and he goes places nobody else goes, but, imo, many, many times, he should´ve stayed home instead of travelling. But I´m not trying to win anybody here, just came looking for an article on the Light up the blues show and thought that it was funny how perspective works. I always thought Neil´s ruined CSN and used them as a step every time he needed them. As for saving Crosby´s life... well, that´s kind of a stretch, I would say Phil Collins could claim that too. I read Shaggy and Neil´s auto-books and honestly, still dont get him. He seems like a very nice guy on interviews, but I find his music off. I´m glad there are lots of people who disagree with me, he helps many charities. Love is the lock and laughter the key to my heart, might be that! Cecilia

At 5/26/2016 06:28:00 AM, Blogger Cecilia said...

I was looking for articles on the Light up the blues show and ran into this column. I became a fan of CSN in 1970 and (forgive my weird English, I speak Spanish), for me, Young ruined the band. I know he is great and a wonderful songwriter, but I agree with David he never took seriously the work of the others (specially Nash, he seems to be quite fond of Stills in spite of the on/off stage fighting) and never cared about being a part of the group even in the fleeting moments he was a part. I like a couple of his songs, so I tried to listen to his records (I had a boyfriend who adored him) and read Shaggy and a couple of books he wrote, and honestly. I still dont get him or his ideas. He comes as a nice guy in the interviews, and I´m glad there are lots of people who disagree with me, since he does many charity work. But the idea that he is a genious because he went to places where nobody else does... well, many, many times I thought he should´ve never gone there and stayed home instead of traveling. But I know this is just my point of view and I´m not here to win people to my side. Being a CSN fan was out of fashion very soon, even if they records (together and solo) were great; critics didnt forgive their mistakes but took Young´s as "fearless experiments". Nonsense IMO.Love! Cecilia


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