Comment of the Moment: Bands of Neil Young
Neil Young & Crazy Horse - The Plenary, Melbourne Australia - 13th of March 2013
With the recent combination of news that Neil Young has cancelled tour plans for 2017 and Guitar World Magazine naming Crazy Horse as the #1 Best Backing Band of All Time, it is natural that Neil fans are a bit scattered.
So here's one Neil Young fan's reaction to all of this from Scotsman as the TW Comment of the Moment:
Classic Neil Young, I agree.And Scotsman continues down the thread...
I think the most likely explanation here is the obvious one: after two years of extensive touring with the same group, he's worn out and needs either a rest or (more conceivably) a change.
Neil wrote in Waging Heavy Peace that the long 2008/2009 tour exhausted him, not physically, but mentally:
"I am currently tired of my musical self...I have OD'd....It has happened a few times before. The last time was near the end of 2009; I finished that tour and had to stop. Too much of a good thing".
I think the same thing may well be happening here.
So hopefully there are no medical concerns other than those generally asociated with 71-year-old musicians who "ought to know better and thankfully don't" (McDonough).
So what comes next? That's the exciting question! 2016 has again been a good year for Neil musically. I think his touring with POTR has generally been solid this year, and Earth is a very rewarding album to my ears.
David Briggs on his death-bed told Neil to "put as much of himself into the music as possible". By that, he didn't mean "don't play with bands". He was in fact talking about a very distilled, intense form of musical greatness which (to my ears) has been just a little bit diluted recently with impressive but ultimately superfluous layers.
Rule #1: Alone in the spotlight, Neil Young rises to the occasion. That's why the Horse is so powerful: because they give him a rock solid platform and push him to the forefront. They put him alone onto that precipice of greatness and give him a safety net. The same is true of Neil's solo acoustic performances. Or even his shows with 'Poncho and the MGs' or the Bluenotes (a very big band who again had the ability to put Neil Young's guitar playing at the centre of an exciting but uncrowded musical picture frame).
So I'm hoping that when Neil returns to the studio or stage, refreshed and invigorated, we are going to hear some more of this distilled magic, whatever exciting form it may take. And until then, I hope he enjoys a rest and has a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
ps - ...And to demonstrate my point above, do yourself a favour and watch this particularly rich version of Ramada Inn from Melbourne 2013:
https://youtu.be/0C9eThi6w_w [see video above]
Hard to believe this was less than 4 years ago.
It demonstrates just how magical Neil still can be when he combines the right ingredients. BANG! Like a chemical reaction. It's deceptively simple, it's straightforward, everything slots together and has room to breathe.
All the emotional depth and urgency, the hard-boiled rhythmic gutsiness (Poncho is a huge part of this song's greatness), the sense of wide open wondrous space and the heart-twisting eloquent guitar solos are captured perfectly in this magnificent performance. Some of these qualities have been missing recently. It's soulful, but unike some of Neil's more recent songs, it's also profound and substantial. You can get your teeth into it. By all means, go and experience it for yourself.
...Worth remembering that Neil has spent the last 50+ years relentlessly following "The Muse". This has generally been good for his art and not so good for his relations with other people. People never know where they are with him. In the past, whole tours and bands have been abandoned at VERY short notice because Neil changed his mind and wanted to do something else. As Niko Bolas said about the Bluenotes: "they planned their life around this band that we knew was just another one of Neil's toys".Thanks as always Scotsman! And thanks for reminder on the CH video! enjoy.
Or as Poncho puts it: "Neil doesn't turn corners, he ricochets". He's also very impressionable. People consistently make the mistake of thinking that because NY wants to do something now, he will also want to do it tomorrow. But listen to Don't Take your Love Away From Me on Bluenote Cafe for a chilling and honest confession of how just how fickle he can be.
Look at Neil's touring career and you will rarely find 3 consecutive years where he has essentially done the same thing in a row. And his usual way of dealing with his instinct to shake things up is to make a sudden hard turn, one that inevitably puts a spanner in the works for other people's plans.
This is why some of us scoffed at all the "POTR are putting the Horse out of business" talk. The same was naively said about the Lost Dogs, the MGs, Pearl Jam, the Electric Band etc.
So obviously we can't rule out health concerns (I wish we could), but it seems to me that we're just seeing the continuation of a pattern that has repeated itself for several decades now. In some ways, it's reassuring.
Also worth noting that Peace Trail has already been recorded with a different band (again, for some reason, many people were surprised by this). I wouldn't take this use of a different band as any intended insult to POTR whatsover; their live versions of these songs are clearly accomplished. But it's fair to observe that a change of style was already underway long before this live cancellation.