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Saturday, December 03, 2016

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Statement on Standing Rock

Telluride, Colorado, October 1, 2016
Photo by thrasher
(Click photo to enlarge)

There has been a large amount of discussion around Neil Young's Statement on Standing Rock.

The Comment of the Moment is from Ian:
I know it's been said before, but I will reiterate that Neil, Bruce, and others have always been this way [righteous indignation].

It puzzles me that anyone would think they were "going off the deep end" now. After the Goldrush, for instance, is a blatantly environmentalist song. And Neil was, for years, strongly associated with CSN, the Three Hippie Kings of left-leaning protest folk.

Shortly before voting, I watched a video of Bruce rallying for Clinton in Philadelphia, PA. Bruce delivered a spoken word rap of sorts, backed with his acoustic, which was a drop-dead accurate recreation of the "talking blues" form used by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

The point being, Neil, Bruce, and their confederates represent another generation of a very rich, enduring tradition of politically conscious music. This started long before it was possible for folk singers to get mega-rich doing it; nowadays, it's been pretty heavily commercialized (like seemingly everything) and there's a massive, powerful industry based on old rock stars alone (hello, Desert Trip!).

The commercialization has its pros and cons, but that's not the subject here. Neil Young has always maintained he doesn't sing for coke.

I'm talking about a certain artistic (and sometimes political) spirit that has been color, for decades, the work of Neil, Bruce, and others. The purity of the music is that the artist doesn't hold back from expressing what he thinks and feels. This is the man who wrote Ohio and Southern Man, and the entire albums Greendale Living with War, right?

That's why I must admit I'm a little bemused that anyone should get indignant now. A heart of gold can't be silent when it feels injustice--who would have thought?

A Metamorphic Rocker
Thanks Ian for your "Metamorphic Rocker" musings. Always appreciated.

We've long since resigned ourselves to the fact that Neil fans seem to go critical no matter what Neil Young does or does not do. Short of time travel back to the 1970's, there is nothing that will bring near unanimous appreciation and praise. Fortunately -- for Neil's sake and ours -- he doesn't listen or care. And that's OK.

More on Neil Young's Statement on Standing Rock and the righteous indignation of Singing Truth To Power.

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At 12/03/2016 06:13:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

You could say Neil 'went off the deep end' with Landing On The Water, Trans, Everybodys Rockin', Are You Passionate & Fork now it's a permanent state. The 70s just happen to be his halcyon period...fact no discussion. Of course he's always been politically active but Ohio & Southern Man just happen to be GREAT songs - where the message was enhanced by the song not bogged down in slogans. I no longer buy his records so you can all feel free to disagree and pretend the music is still ain't.

At 12/03/2016 06:17:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

Interesting comment(s) Ian.

I think most people posting here are supportive and understanding of Neil's right to speak his mind while following his muse topically and politically. Of course there are one or two "hateful admirers" that I won't mention by name, but I understand where they're coming from too.

Personally, my only real "complaints" with Neil's recent topical efforts are that they seem to be a little too forced and the songs aren't fully formed. I understand and applaud his desire and need for immediacy, but song ideas and song sketches need to be nurtured (even for Neil, at least to some extent).

Now, whatever I may think about Neil's recent songwriting skills, my biggest issue is with the sound quality and production value of his current work(s). If he wants immediacy, he should just sing and play guitar (or piano, etc..) and record it. Please, stop with the auto-tune and vocal loops and background layers. For example, his upcoming song "My Pledge" is a decent song lyrically, but it's over produced and not expertly so.

That's the strange dichotomy I hear in Neil's recent work: he wants immediacy, but at the same time he tinkers around too much with distractions that seem to detract from his undeniable heartfelt authenticity...

Still, I'm thankful he's still sharing his creativity with us and I am looking forward to Peace Trail. "My Pledge" to all is I will always listen and care.

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 12/04/2016 04:14:00 AM, Blogger caroleann said...


"I no longer buy his records...and feel free disagree and pretend the music's still strong" (Andy)

Well..Glasgow, Belfast, Dublin, Leeds, London, Boise, Salt Lake City and Del Sol Casino in Tucson (in June and October 2016) proved to me that the music is stronger than its ever been.

'Feel free to disagree'

At 12/04/2016 10:00:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Topanga D. - Yes, the auto-tune and loops are distinctly against Neil's well known "authenticity". That said, he's trying something different. Why not? And isn't that sort of what he's been doing all along? Doing things different with all of the varied results?

@ caroleann - We think that Andy is saying is that he would like Neil to be more commercial, audience friendly and accessible.

Agree on the 2016 tour. There's your evidence of relevancy. Neil's real masterpiece has been the live performance. The studio has rarely if ever captured his true essence.

So did you make all of those dates?! Cool.

'Feel free to disagree'

At 12/04/2016 08:18:00 PM, Blogger Fort Mac said...
Eh !

At 12/05/2016 03:48:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Still loving Neil Young's artistic creations and thrilled he is still doing it. I gave $50 to the Standing Rock Sioux to fight DAPL. Thrasher is next on my list. Thanks for always being there and doing it for real. -Alan

At 12/05/2016 07:53:00 AM, Blogger Llamajacket said...

Are You Passionate is such a beautiful album.

At 12/05/2016 01:15:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thanks as ever for the spotlight, Thrasher.

I should clarify for everyone that my comment, when originally posted, was specifically replying to a comment by another user (who hasn't appeared on this thread yet) about Neil (and Bruce Springsteen and others) going "off the deep end" for being involved in environmentalism and other "left-wing" causes. My point was purely that Neil has always been politically and socially engaged. The context of my comments had nothing to do with the relative quality of songs during any given career period. The other poster seemed genuinely indignant and confused by Neil's activism. To give further context to what I was responding to, the poster had repeatedly used "elitist" and "socialist" as political snarl words. My point there was solely that, regardless of your personal politics, Neil's leanings and level of involvement are not new, and it's just... unobservant to think all of that is an issue now but wasn't evident before. In other words, mine was a very specific rather than general response to criticism.

Topanga, I definitely didn't have your posts in mind with my comments. Your critiques are clearly thoughtful and nuanced, so I appreciate your contributions very much. You are one of those who is good at striking a middle ground: not fawning over everything Neil spits out, but at the same time, clearly not rejecting new works outright by way of unfavorable comparison with the classics. I always feel it's not completely fair to ask the new works to immediately have the same impact as the classics that we all have plenty of attachment to. I'm not disputing that the '70s will be seen as the Golden Era of Neil, nor that that decade probably did bring forth his longest, most notable succession of excellent works. It's just that we can't fairly expect each new song to live up to all that history right off the bat. It may be that we won't really know where the more recent works can stand in Neil's oeuvre until they've gone through the same aging and fermentation, so to speak, that has been granted Heart of Gold and Cowgirl--until we can appraise them, not as new new additions but as pieces that have settled in beside the rest of Neil's works for--though I don't really like this word very much--posterity. Essentially, I feel there is a degree to which special veneration of early, classic albums is justified, and a degree to which it occurs because rose-tinted sentiment. Sentiment that is, by the way, completely understandable, but nonetheless worth bearing in mind. I don't know, and won't presume to know, exactly where the balance lies (or should lie) between worthy veneration and emotional attachment. That's a much harder question to answer and really beyond the scope of this comment right now.

So I think I'll leave the pontificating there for now. I'm glad, by the way, that my new signature works. It's something I've used before on the interwebs from time to time and seemed worth reviving.

~A metamorphic rocker

At 12/05/2016 08:45:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@A metamorphic rocker - sorry about the lack of context on comment. And thanks for setting the record straight.

Likewise, we have no idea where the balance lies between worthy veneration and emotional attachment. With Neil, it seems that TW is all wrapped around the axle on both sides of the equation. Which makes for some enjoyable concerts.

We always enjoy the pontifications so keep on pontificating in the free world!


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