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Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Comment of the Moment: "No Hidden Path" - The Best Post-1970s Neil Young Song? + Rock in Rio, Madrid, 2008

Yesterday, we posted the statement "No Hidden Path" as being one the best post-1970s Neil Young songs.

Lots of commentary, which we'll get to in a moment.

But first, Exhibit A above. For all of those who are beseeching the release of Trunk Show, here's a taste in the meantime.

Neil Young's "No Hidden Path" at Rock in Rio, Madrid in 2008.

This performance is *only* 28 minutes... Totally pro-shot video. Excellent audio & angles.

Like a snowflake, Neil doesn't play this song the same way twice.

The Comment of the Moment is from "No Hidden Path": The Best Post-1970s Neil Young Song? by Barry:
to be honest thrasher... i would go as far to say as that i rate No Hidden Path as one of the best Neil songs of all time.... including the 70's work !

after hearing it on the CDII album from the very first time the hooks were sunk and i was slowly slowly pulled into the textures and layers of sound, imagery, phrasing of the lyrics... it all felt to me like it just worked into my skin and stayed there.

it was captivating.

then after attending the 2 gigs at London Hammersmith Odeon back in 2008(ish) the 2nd half of the sets that followed the solo rarities 1st half brought out the Electric Band.... the interplay between Ben and Neil on the 20 odd minute version took my away to somewhere very weird... it was deep and spiritual and stands the test of time as the moment that i can still vividly remember physically and mentally connecting with.... sounds weird i know but it was a deep moment.

i love no hidden path.... stands the test of time for sure.... i could wax lyrical for hours and bore everyone but right now.... this moment this hour... it is my most cherished Neil song since the 70s.

there is a caveat of course.... tomorrow my favourite post 70s NY might be Shots, the day after One of these Days, next week it will be Bandit... in a month it might be all of Le Noise again... its hard to call when there is just so much great great music from last 20 years, if you care to open your ears and mind and let it in !

But No Hidden Path is very very special.

Also, see "No Hidden Path": The Best Post-1970s Neil Young Song? . More on Rock In Rio Madrid, Spain Concert Reviews: 6/27/08.

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At 3/08/2016 10:25:00 PM, Blogger Arthur Stone said...

I've got an uncanny feeling, and I don't feel uncanny very often, that the yet to come!

Tell 'em Willie's boys are here!

The surf is UP!

At 3/08/2016 11:16:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Man, that's a lot of sound coming out of one guitar, the electric counterpart to the acoustic "Natural Beauty", maybe. I don't put the CDII version up there with my favorite studio recordings, but I put this concert version right up at the top. Would've loved to have been there for this one.

I'd be interested to hear more about "No Hidden Path" being somehow about Briggs, and have to go back and check that out. Interesting to me, because a few years back I wrote a thumbnail analysis of CDII as thematically (to me) the most "spiritual" album in all of Neil's discography. I was listening to "Shining Light" one time, and something clicked for me that made every song on the album fit together, some in not so direct ways and others in obvious ways, e.g. "Spirit Road"- as direct a metaphor for the Spirit that indwells the human Soul as any I've heard in song form. "The Way", too:

So many lost highways
That used to lead home
But now they seem used up and gone
They sure had the magic
When they were first found

But not this road
This road has never been closed
It's still brand new

As human beings, we walk a lot of roads in the attempt to set ourselves free, but there's only one road, the "spirit road" within, that leads to true peace and freedom. Not sure who, or what, the generalized "we" refers to, but they're there to help the weary among us "get back on the highway". It may be "too late for general Custer, too late late for Robert E. Lee", but it's never too late for any of us, all it takes is to "change your mind".

Just my take, of course, but if this resonates with anyone out there, I'd be interested in what "No Hidden Path" means to you, and how it could possibly fit thematically with what occurs to me. Unless it really is more about Briggs, in which case I'm more than interested to hear that drawn out.

Whatta ya think, Scotzman?

A Friend Of Yours

At 3/09/2016 06:28:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Thrasher: That's a fun performance. Like Greg says, listen to just how awesome Neil's guitar tone and sounds when truly given room to breathe. It's refreshing and breath-taking.

Here's an old quote (1994) by David Briggs who expresses this very clearly:

"It has been my experience, like the rules of physics, that no two bodies can occupy the same spot at the same time. When you start putting sound together, there is always going to be something dominant and everybody else is going to fall off of it".

This is what I feel has been missing from the electric songs live in 2015. Nothing really feels truly dominant. There are too many guitars, too many instruments, all unintentionally clashing with each other in that central space. And as such, the nuances and eloquence of Neil's playing get buried. The result is a lively, energetic but overly cramped sound. Like being stuck in an elevator on a hot day.

But back in 2008, this version of No Hidden Path gets it right. Every little nuance of the sound comes through, every pick scrape or touch of the strings. The guitar playing moves us because its given the space to do so. THIS is why we listen to Neil Young!

Greg: Thanks for sharing your observations. When Neil talks about his missing friend in NHP, I do think the most likely candidate is Mr Briggs. In both of Neil's books, it becomes very clear just how much he still misses Briggs, 20 years after his death. Waging Heavy Peace is particularly dedicated to him. Neil talks about how all his best albums were made with Briggs, and how Briggs was constantly being thought of during the recording of Psych Pill. If at times on Chrome Dreams 2 Neil asks the question "can I still do this?", then Psychedelic Pill provides the affirmative answer (at least in part).

I agree Chrome Dreams 2 is a spiritually-themed album. Perhaps we are talking about the spirit of Neil Young's work, the "way" to fulfilment and artistic renewal, about staying inspired, keeping the edge, feeling alive in general. David Briggs is synonymous with all these themes, so it's only natural he should crop up in one of the album's better songs.


At 3/09/2016 06:41:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...


...Jimmy McDonough should get a mention for bringing Briggs into the limelight in his book Shakey, without any sugar-coating.

As a bonus it's also the best Neil Young biography to date. The reason Neil tried to block the book's publication is because of its uncomfortable accuracy, not the opposite.


At 3/09/2016 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Raincheck said...

Moments like this are what make Neil's music magic, whether it is 1971 or 2008. For me Neil is at his best when he creates these dreamlike states, when he eschews literalness for Impressionism. He can do it electric on Down by the River or Hurricane or Hidden Path and he can do it acoustic on things like Razor Love.

When Neil goes topical the reason he loses me is not the topics themselves, it is because he tends to go literal lyrically. Most message music, by anyone, is about as subtle as a sledgehammer. I live for those moments when we all go out of consciousness with Neil and take that ride.

At 3/09/2016 12:04:00 PM, Blogger Barry Cameron said...

cheers Thrasher.... I'm hoping for another special something moment to get me into the zone when I go to see the Big Man again in Paris on 23rd of June.

If there is defo new music coming... lets hope he starts rolling them out LIVE & LOUD on the forthcoming EURO tour.

Not too sure about what the French crowd will be like atmosphere wise but I will have to try and not compare them to the Glasgow mob who ALWAYS take the atmosphere up a notch or two. Always.

I still can't believe he is doing these big electric, live & loud and as always unpredictable shows at 70 years old - quite remarkable when you really think about it.

Anyway... Is it just me or is anyone else getting excited about keeping an eye on Sugar Mountain over April? Purely to see how those set lists are shaping up in the Southern states tour dates, before they hit Europe.

Barry Cameron (aka another Scotsman)

At 3/09/2016 01:14:00 PM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

I was quite impressed with the setlist Neil did at the private gig in January, because it played to the band's strengths. Mainly acoustic and Gretsch, just a few Crazy Horse-type songs on Old Black.

I think where POTR really excel is the acoustic-based songs, and the laid-back electric country-rock songs. Out On The Weekend, Time Fades Away, Words etc all sound great. Even Cowgirl and Cortez take off when one of the guitarists shows some restraint and gives the others room to play.

It's only on the heavier electric songs (Love And Only Love etc) that they start to sound like a second-rate pub band. Besides, you can't do Love And Only Love without Poncho: YOU SIMPLY CAN'T! Fool-hardy to even try.



At 3/09/2016 01:48:00 PM, Blogger Keith E. said...

Wow. Long term loss of short term memory? I THOUGHT I was as big a fan as anyone here, this one got by me somehow. Spectacular Neil. Here's a nine-minute version with The Horse:

Keep on Rockin'

At 3/09/2016 09:48:00 PM, Blogger Pocahontas said...

Mesmerizing. I think we can all agree this time: Neil playing from the heart never disappoints. Thanks for sharing Thrasher.

At 3/10/2016 02:24:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Thanks for posting this, Thrasher. I've marked it to come back to when I have time. I think your nomination of "No Hidden Path" is an inspired choice. I've said before, quite recently, that I think CDII is generally a strong album, and "No Hidden Path" is a tremendous part of the for me. Interestingly, the first few times I heard it, I thought it was kind of meandering and all the soloing didn't seem justified by the strength of the basic song. However, once I stopped thinking about it too much and let the sound (and the sand) wash over me, it clicked for me. Of all of Neil's songs, this is the one I liken to raga, the Hindustani classical music form. If you don't know what you're looking/listening for, it can seem tuneless and aimless, but if you just close your eyes for a while and slow down your brain's incessant desire to get somewhere NOW, it may speak to you. The recording also reminds me of a raga because, first of all, Neil starts out with that tremendous hook that opens the song, and then during the guitar breaks, he seems to be improvising around the recurring motif, just like each performance of a raga is improvised around a set of scales on the sitar, always coming back to the recurring motif that acts as a sort of hook in pop/rock terms.

The short version is, there isn't a moment of the 14:31 seconds of No Hidden Path on CDII that I would change. I'm glad to see/hear the song being highlighted here.

At 3/10/2016 03:58:00 PM, Blogger Jorge Villaescusa said...

I was there in Madrid , it was awesome , special, something of another world !! If you have the opportunity , watch the whole show in Madrid broadcasted by Spanish television. One of the best concerts ever , high audio and image quality.
Looking forward to seeing Neil again in Madrid next summer !!

At 3/12/2016 04:10:00 PM, Blogger Chris C said...

Agree, one of the very best. I saw this live at the Manchester Appollo along with my folks and wife to be. I managed to finish my wedding speech to my wife with those 3 words, seemed to sum things up pretty well and still does. Goosebumps every time. Thank you Neil. It means a lot, to a lot.
Chris C, Sheffield, England.


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