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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Winter Wheat by John K. Samson: Heavily Influenced by Neil Young's On the Beach

John K. Samson - "Vampire Alberta Blues"
John K. Samson hails from Winnipeg and is considered a leading up and coming Canadian singer-songwriter.

As noted in a recent interview with John K. Samson's, his new album Winter Wheat is heavily influenced by Neil Young's 1974 album On the Beach, both in sound and concept. Incidentally, both albums have three songs with "Blues" in the title, including "Vampire Alberta Blues".
"I would like to say overtly and directly what I've always felt: That fossil fuel extraction is not tenable, and there's no future to it, and that once a place is destroyed, it is destroyed," Samson tells Exclaim! "You can't bring it back. I'm opposed to the pipelines and the tar sands, and I feel like I want to be direct and open about that.

"It's a broader song than I generally make, but again that was inspired by the way [Neil Young] can make these broad, painterly political songs, and also make these detailed, emotional songs. So I wanted to try that out."

Addiction to computers and mobile technology is also referenced in at least two Winter Wheat songs, "Carrie Ends the Call" and "Select All Delete." Inspired by personal experience as well as a book by Vancouver writer Michael Harris called The End of Absence, Samson addresses what he feels is a need to be more mindful of how much attention we give to our devices.

"I've had some very difficult times with screens, to the point where I've had to actually shut down a lot of my access to them," he says. "I do think it's a failure of the psychological and psychiatric world that it isn't recognized as an addiction, officially. They're always quite slow and careful and deliberate in labelling something as addiction, but the DSM-5 doesn't include it, and I think it should.

"I think it's incredibly obvious to most of us that this is an actual addiction, and there needs to be more open and forthright discussion about it. I feel like anyone who does bring it up is shouted down as a luddite.

I don't feel that way.

There are wonderful things about screens and the Internet, and it's democratized and empowered so many fields and so many people, but I do feel we have to be aware of the drawbacks and the very real erosion of some people's mental health due to these advancements."

John K. Samson - "Postdoc Blues"

Also, see other musicians influenced by Neil Young or... 50 Reasons Why Neil Young's Music Matters.

Be the Rain, Be the Change. Be the Wheat.

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At 10/30/2016 06:04:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

This is really good!. Thanks for sharing

At 10/31/2016 02:13:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Some great music posted on the site in the last few days. This and Scotsmans comments of special recordings or videos that keep him inspired through the years got me to thinking. How would everyone like to contribute some of their favorite links to Neil's music or covers of Neil tunes (i.e.:some great Pearl Jam gems) to this thread and we can see what interesting music/rare interviews etc that some of may not have ever seen or you might like to bring back into our consciousness?

This likely has been done before, but we sure do have a lot of very intelligent Neil afficianodos on this site.
I would love to hear what others may wish to offer to the group.

Let's have some fun and see what we can conjure up.

My first is from Jones Beach 1989. Neil brings old friend Ben "Long Grain" Keith on stage for a wonderful version of "For the Turnstile".
This tune was from On the Beach and Decade I believe. Neil looks like he is wearing his hat from the Freedom album.

Note in the song we hear " with pimps with Tailors, charging Forty dollars at the door".
Seems to me the earlier versions were at $10!! Inflation!! Haha
Great banjo and a relaxed Mr Young.



Murray Davidson

At 10/31/2016 03:26:00 AM, Blogger TP said...

I love this record and have been listening to it constantly over the last week. John K Samson was in Canadian band the Weakerthans and some members of that band are the musicians on this record. Love the way he throws in "good times are coming" into Vampire Alberta Blues. I think there's a reference to Motion Pictures somewhere too. His previous album Provincial is pretty good too.

At 10/31/2016 06:16:00 AM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

Here's one Murray

At 10/31/2016 07:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murray: that Jones Beach 1989 show is good. And Neil took it up a notch in Europe a few months later. Try Paris and Rotterdam from the same year. Rotterdam in particular is probably the most exciting Neil acoustic show ever. And the dreamlike version of After The Gold Rush from the "Neil Young Plays Acoustic In Paris" bootleg is definitive. I think at the age of 44, Neil Young sounded younger and more alive than ever.

Unfortunately, as technology has apparently improved, the enjoyment of sharing of these great vintage performances has widely declined. In the trading days (still popular less than 10 years ago), it would be great fun to receive tattered packages in the mail every few days containing new treasures to listen to. It was a rich and diverse experience: one day a concert from 1976, then 1994, then 1988. Now you have to rely on finding a soulless and generic torrent of the show you want to hear, which is simpler but much less fun. Many concert videos are partially available on youtube, but the quality is generally vastly inferior to the complete DVD versions.

So it would be extremely hard for a new fan in 2016 to track down (or become excited about) much of the music that is most worth listening to. Neil Young fans do not have anything comparable to the comprehensive database of recordings that Bob Dylan fans enjoy (dvdylan, for example).

So keep up with the recomendations as time goes by, people do pay attention even as they are calling you a lunatic ( my case, that is!).



At 10/31/2016 07:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Further off-hand thoughts:

It's a shame that many Neil fans have never watched the complete captivating video from Concord 1993, with one of the most sinister and vicious versions of Down By The River ever performed. Or Like A Hurricane from Hartford 1991 (the film of this concert is on youtube, in acceptable quality), filmed only three days after the epic Weld verson. If I wanted to fully demonstrate the soulful beauty of Crazy Horse, then this is one performance I would play.

Indeed, anything from late February 1991 represents Neil Young at his electric best; the golden years, as good as Hendrix.

And I've recommend the heart-piercing, beautifully-restrained electric version of Cortez from Winnipeg 1996 several times now, and if only one person finds a copy and enjoys it then my work here is done.

I'm not talking about moderately-good, "great for an old guy" performances. If musical Gods existed, this would be the sound of them channeling themselves through Neil Young and enriching the lives of anyone who cares to listen. Powerful stuff.


At 10/31/2016 09:33:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks for all of the suggestions folks!

Let's all down to the vaults!

Boo Happy Halloween!

At 10/31/2016 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


I was at that Concord show in 1993, and agree that it was electrifying. Probably the best Neil show I've seen. I was in the third row right in front of Neil and we were making serious eye contact the whole show. I like to think I was driving him on, but who knows?

If we're discussing Neil bootlegs, I must mention the first one I ever had, and still one of my favorites: Bottom Line, 1974.......essential listening for all Neil fans. You get a huge chunk of On The Beach, Greensleeves, the definitive version of "Pushed It Over The Edge", and lots of fun Neil rambling. A classic acoustic show.

At 10/31/2016 06:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's great Richie! And good call on Bottom Line 1974. Haven't listened to it in ages, will have to dig it out.

Here is a video of the aforementioned Down By The River from that Concord Pavillion show in 1993 (not as good quality as the DVD, but not bad):

...Anyone reading this who doesn't take a few minutes to watch this from start to finish should get their head examined. Why? Because you will be missing out on one of the most thrillingly-berserk performances of Neil Young's career. And it's very worth tracking down the DVD of the complete show, which (as Richie says) is electrifying from start to finish.


At 10/31/2016 08:43:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

At 10/31/2016 09:42:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

To be respectfully contrary, the definitive NY and CH shows all occurred before 1990. They may have taken place in 1970, or 1976, or 1978, or 1986, but all of those tours were superior to the early 90's shows. Sorry Scots! Your results may vary, and I do respect your fondness for 90's Neil/CH, they just don't soar like the earlier period(s). The early 90's introduced us to the sludgier, more droning soundscapes. Interesting and occasionally great, but just a little too different than what came before it for my "discerning" tastes.

Now, for the definitive acoustic show, it's from 1971 and is called Live on Sugar Mountain (or Young Man's Fancy, etc..). It simply doesn't get any better. Incredibly charming, witty and self deprecating version of Sugar Mountain, and essential versions of pretty much everything else. Old Man is sublime, and the various song introductions are great, better than at Massey Hall from the same tour.

"When I first wrote this song, it had 126 verses. You can imagine I had a tough time trying to figure out which 4 verses to use. This one verse was the worst of the 126, so I decided to put it in the song just to give everybody a frame of reference to show you know, what can happen..."

I paraphrased that quote as I haven't listened to the show in well over a year, but again, it's foundationally great. Sorry if the quote is a little off...

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 11/01/2016 02:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Topanga: Have you watched the 1991 Hartford show linked to above? If that doesn't soar (check out Cortez, Hurricane, Powderfinger, Love To Burn as top class examples), then I'm not a Scotsman.

(...Well, you know what I mean...)

Bearing in mind I'm coming at this from the perspective primarily of a lead-guitar maniac, not a folkie (though of course I love his acoustic music, too). And as a showcase of his very best electric lead guitar playing, 1991 is more melodic and eloquent than anything he's done before or since. It's one of the only tours where he truly sounds in complete and sublime control of his instrument, and his soloing is surprisingly complex and sophisticated. He sounds like a fully-fledged kick-ass lead guitar player, not a singer/songwriter who also plays some guitar.

It's also one of the most fun tours to watch, energetic and visually expressive.

1991 has a reputation (thanks to Arc!) for extended grungy noise, but really the noise sections were very restricted compared to 1996 and onwards (e.g 2001, where I can understand and agree with the criticism). Average song length in 1991 was still well under 10 minutes; and most of that was extended soloing or singing, not industrial noise.


At 11/01/2016 03:39:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


You are right about the 1971 Young Man Fancy's show. That too was one of my first, and most beloved Neil bootlegs. Neil is so on top of his game during this period and his confidence comes shining through on the tape. Plus, it's a treat to hear the Harvest classics in their initial stages, and without the audience going nuts when Neil starts the tunes.

Now, as far as eras of Crazy Horse go, I'm kinda with both you and Scotsman on this one. My personal four favorite years of the Horse are 1970, 1976, 1991, and 1996. You can't go wrong with any Horse shows from those years. If forced, I'd say '76 is my favorite. Neil and the boys were high as kites, but not so where it got sloppy. The acoustic sets were loose, sublime affairs, and because Poncho was still finding his way, Neil REALLY elevated his soloing, maybe his best ever.

Other Horse eras that were higher quality for me were 1978, the 1984 Catalyst shows, the 2001 Warfield shows, and 2012/13 tour. I thought they were great on that last tour, though I do agree the long endings were getting too long.

At 11/01/2016 06:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, both 1976 and 1991 are top-class. 1976 is more mellow; the dreamy stoned hippie. 1991 is hard rock.

For my tastes, I prefer the get-down-to-business intensity of 1991, but 1976 is close behind.

It was pointed out to me about 10 years ago by a friendly collector in Germany that many people don't realise the power of 1991 because they haven't listened to enough of it. It tends to get overlooked or glossed over. At that time, the 1991 shows were among the hardest to collect, because the setlist was the same every night. People listened to one gig and that was enough. And so the same couple of (mediocre) shows tended to circulate at the expense of the good stuff.

But hidden behind this humble appearance are some real treasures. For me, the beautifully performed and brutally-intense versions of Hurricane and Cortez from February-March 1991 have never been matched. The setlist (heard in the context of its time, when many of the best songs were very new) is flawless. Under Briggs' guidance, Neil's guitar playing was almost classical in sophisication. The pacing is superb. The Horse's musicianship was at it's peak, at least until that point. And Neil was using a sublime, seething guitar tone that has rarely been returned to since.

Anyway, I hope someone reading this will go and watch Hartford 1991 (or listen to another quality show from the same time period) and enjoy it as much as I have. Don't bother with the soundboards on Concert Vault, they are mostly poor quality and missing instruments from the mix. And most of the videos on youtube are equally poor. Stick with the Hartford video until you can get a couple of good quality audience tapes/bootlegs instead.


At 11/01/2016 08:24:00 AM, Blogger SONY said...

@ Tom - that RUST DEVO video is AWESOME, that might be the best video I have ever seen of Neil, what a riot. Thanks for posting that.

At 11/01/2016 11:40:00 AM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Good thoughts all around Richie and Scots.

In the past, I've written many times (maybe more than I can remember) about my changing feelings for Neil/CH over time. For me, the line of demarcation began in 1991 with the Weld tour. I saw the show at the Capitol Center in Maryland and liked it, but left the venue without much to say to my friends about it. We quickly started talking about other things, only returning to the specifics of the show a few times. Again, it was a good show and we enjoyed it, but there wasn't the feeling of enthusiasm that so often follows Neil's great shows.

For full disclosure, my memories of the show/tour and era are tainted by three memories, two very minor and one more profound.

First, the show was far from being sold out. Granted, this shouldn't detract from the music, but I think most would agree that it takes away from the overall vibe. The arena was maybe 60%-75% filled and it was disappointing looking around the cavernous arena, especially as my seats were right on the edge of where the empty seats began.

Second, my friend literally got thrown out of the concert for recording it! Security was crazy, and my buddy was handled a little roughly, but not nearly as badly as his tape recorder. It was confiscated and crushed. Okay, all in all not a huge deal, but it was quite a jarring event, especially as the chorus of Love and Only Love rang throughout the arena. Sadly ironic as thoughts of war surrounded us and my hero's singing about love (distortingly loud) as a cop wields his baton all too gleefully.

Third, and most meaningful to me, the Weld concert tape was the soundtrack of my life as my mother was dying from cancer. I had that tape in my Nissan Sentra cassette player (the same car I first heard the incredible Bronco Bowl bootleg in '89) throughout 1992, primarily the early months leading up to my mothers passing in early April. I vividly remember driving away from the hospital where I first learned of my mothers diagnosis. Stoically I got in my car and drove away towards the highway. Neil and CH were loudly crashing through my speakers as a few miles quickly passed. Then, the uncontrollable tears started welling up in my eyes and they were soon flowing down my cheeks. Overcome with sadness, fear and doubt, I pulled the car over to the shoulder. For what seemed like an eternity, there I sat, letting the emotions flow as I knew I couldn't fight them. "There's still crime in the city, said the cop on the beat" and my mind instantly contorted the lyrics into my own mini drama about the difficult times I knew my family and I would soon be facing. "The answer my friend is blowing in the wind" and it certainly was...

Well, our love of Neil's music brings us all to this site, and we all share our own unique perspectives. Sometimes, music is just there to be enjoyed and savored without thought or true emotion. Other times, music cuts to and through our souls, subtly and freely helping us face certain realities. Neil's voice, lyrics and guitar unlock my emotional vault like no other, and his '91 tour with Crazy Horse followed by Weld (and soon Harvest Moon as well) were the bookends which documented and somehow supported my struggles with the ultimate realities of life and death.

"Sometimes it's distorted, not easy to see"

I'm writing this because it's becoming clear to me that my thoughts about the Weld era Neil & CH are forever entwined with a difficult time in my life. Music isn't just music, and sometimes it shapes and elevates our thoughts while other times we bring emotional thought baggage into the music which alters the way we hear it. Weld to me was the beginning to the end of a certain sound from Neil & CH, but also the end to a major chapter in my life. Looking back, it was great music and without question stands the test of time brilliantly.

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 11/01/2016 12:31:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an amazing heartfelt piece of writing, Topanga. Thank you very much for sharing that. I'm sure we can all relate to what you are saying: I know I can. Everything you said spoke to me and my own experiences.

And I'm sorry if my banging on about those concerts brought up any bad memories; as I'm sure you know, it certainly wasn't intended.

As always, a pleasure to hear from you on this blog. Bravo!


At 11/01/2016 01:26:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Thanks Scots. Your recent (and older) thoughts about the Ragged Glory/Weld concerts hold much interest for me. Music, and talking about music really should elicit strong responses and emotions, and it's clear how artistically reverential you are of those shows and era.

Interestingly, your posts have continually led me back to re-visit music I always knew well, but with a renewed open mind.

Now, as I wrote about a little while ago, I'm still mildly concerned that my recent "Sleeps with Angels" listening experience may have forever tainted it. For the first time ever, I was "bothered" by Neil's vocals.

You wrote back that I should listen again in a more suitable environment (paraphrasing), and I'm sure you're right, but if you're wrong......a significant album in my life will have lost a little bit of its magic, and I'm not yet ready to face that reality.

Certainly not life and death, but historically I've always found more layers of depth upon repeated listening to Neil's music. This really was one of the few times I found something that began to diminish the overall affect.

Thanks again for your thoughts and I'm glad you appreciated my personal Weld era memories. It felt good writing it and especially good knowing that part or all of it resonated with you.

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 11/01/2016 02:18:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Topanga D - thanks for sharing the memories of 1991 RG/WELD tour.

We were there also at the Capitol Center concert. Like you, we have some specific memories as well which many, many share from the same tour.

Most folks recall the opening acts Sonic Youth & Social Distortion, some not so fondly. As much of a noisefest the openers were, little did many realize the(or worst) was yet to come. A side note we learned long thereafter was that opener was originally planned to be Nirvana. Now that would have really been something. But Nirvana had bigger and better things to do than be an opener so they pulled out at last moment.

Then there was the volume level. I think we did some damage that night that still rings 25+ years later. We were down front near one of the stacks. Great view, but extremely loud. The good news we never knew the venue wasn't full?!

The WELD video is a fun memory because the video & album had a few takes from the Capitol Center concert so if you look real close you can see the backs of our heads. :)

Lastly, it's heart warming to hear that the soundtrack provided solace during a time of need.

Odd how Neil's music impacts folks, eh...

At 11/01/2016 02:56:00 PM, Blogger wsanjose01 said...

also attended Concord 93 Booker T warm up

At 11/01/2016 03:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maryland 1991 and Concord 1993 are two of my favourite gigs, so from my perspective you guys were lucky!

Re: volume, I do think the excess volume at some Neil shows often back-fires. It tends to merge all the instruments together into a big fuzzy mess. Often it is more enjoyable to listen back to the recording and actually hear it a bit more clearly; the finer details become more audible. I even found this with the electric songs at O2 Arena this year, where the guitars were starting to distort and mush together on the louder songs.

Thanks Topanga, Richie, Thrasher; really enjoyed reading your comments today. All the best!


At 11/01/2016 03:38:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

Detroit 1991

FIERCE "Crime in the City"

"Wish I never put the hose down,
wish I never got oooooold..."

At 11/02/2016 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Paul Dionne said...

There is some very great writing and direction posted in this thread. Thank you all -

I very much like what Flying Scotsman and Topanga Daze are putting down; 1976 was incredible - I was lucky to see a show in 1976, the Boston Music Hall show - I will absolutely never forget it - one of the formative experiences of my life. The classical edition of Neil and Crazy Horse - it's great to point out the very great playing of Neil in lyrical focus in his guitar playing.

What I find surprising is the dissing of the later tours, and the noise would start, the incredible long drawn out pieces that were sheer noise. That to me is the 3rd power of neil, the triumvirate piece of his puzzle - songs (lyrics), guitar and sheer sheets of noise.

This is an incredibly powerful version of Cortez, with Pearl Jam (not a big fan of Pearl Jam), but it is Jack Irons after all, and the end is sheer total acopalypse:

paul dionne

At 11/02/2016 11:25:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Paul - so nice to see you drop by! Glad you enjoyed the thread.

Since we're big fans of PJ, we'll check out the YT suggested.

Feel free to drop by anytime with a link. :)

ps - say hi to all the rusties over on FB.

At 11/02/2016 05:25:00 PM, Blogger Paul Dionne said...

Ha, Thrasher, I consider myself a rustie of the world, not just a FB rustie:-)

Do you have my email, I believe I owe you some money, as I recently acquired one of Geoff's thrasher's shirts, while on Caravan. Meleya is now the proud owner.

paul dionne

At 11/02/2016 11:16:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

Excellent! Didn't know John had a new album out. It's worth noting that Samson was a one-time member of Winnepeg thrash-punkers Propaghandi, who have stayed the most eloquent and uncompromising voice of progressive politics in music of the past 20 years.

At 11/03/2016 09:26:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Paul - Global Rustie! Aren't we all?!

Great to hear Meleya is flying the flag. No worries. Enjoy.

Only payment is to keep spreading the Global Rustie freak flag of love.

@Keith - we didn't know that pedigree. good to know. thanks.


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