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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Crazy Horse: #1 Best Backing Band of All Time | Guitar World

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
"Ragged Glory" Tour 1991
As everyone knows, Crazy Horse has been Neil Young's primary band from the get go.

Now comes word from Guitar World that Crazy Horse is considered to be the #1 "Best Backing Band of All Time".

Guitar World writes that members of good backing bands must have the following 3 attributes:

• Humility.
• Natural talent and/or undeniable skill.
• Personality.

From Guitar World by Damian Fanelli:
Crazy Horse: #1

From 1969’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere all that way up through the excellent Psychedelic Pill from 2012, the partnership between Neil Young and Crazy Horse stands as one of the most prolific in rock lore.

While the band has gone through its share of incarnations through the years, the drum-tight rhythm section of Billy Talbot and Ralph Molina has been intact since the Sixties, and guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro has been a steady fixture since 1975’s Zuma.

In the realm of backing bands, Crazy Horse are far from the tightest act around, drifting lazily but deliberately between tempos with the occasional burst of cacophonous noise thrown in for good measure. But Young has never tapped them for metronome-like precision; he always comes back to them because, in the purest musical sense, they complete each other.

“I don’t think of my guitar solos as guitar solos,” said Young in a classic Guitar World interview, “because when we play, we’re like a big band jamming and taking long rides together.”

And so Crazy Horse stand atop the heap of backing bands for an unparalleled ability to elevate their frontman to new heights, never hesitating to take a leap out of the pocket when the music calls for it. Assuming their signature stance, huddled tightly around Molina's drum set, you get the undeniable impression that they're in another world entirely, journeying through strange landscapes with no particular destination in mind.

Neil Young said it himself: “I can’t do this with anyone else.”
Also, see other great backing bands of all time at Guitar World by Damian Fanelli.

More on Crazy Horse -- whom Bill Graham once called "the 3rd Best Garage Band in the World".

And how about Crazy Horse being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame someday soon?

Also, see Remembering Danny Whitten: 1943 - 1972.

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At 12/05/2016 09:50:00 AM, Blogger rustedbugs said...

Got my vote for the RR hall of fame!!!!

At 12/05/2016 10:17:00 AM, Blogger mrtew said...

Too bad Neil doesn't use them more. In fact I'd like every album he does to be a Crazy Horse album!

At 12/05/2016 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I would never call Crazy Horse Neil Young's backing band, Neil is the lead guitarist in Crazy Horse, together they are one.

At 12/05/2016 11:22:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ brendan - yes, we'd agree that's a better way to look at the situation.

Actually if you go back to the GW article, you'll see what they're trying to do with the 10 bands that they identify. A little bit of a shoehorn approach. We considered some of our wording and weren't exactly thrilled.

But hey, everyone knows this is a fake news site anyway.

At 12/05/2016 01:23:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@John Tewks--

You see, for me personally, I just wouldn't want every album to be the same. You need to keep things fresh, which Neil usually does, whether or not his latest excursion is to your (or my) liking. At the time of Psychedelic Pill, I speculated that Neil could release a new Crazy Horse album in that mold every eighteen months and lots of people would be happy for a while. I'm actually curious how long it would take for people to notice the repetition and get restless for something else. But just like he doesn't want to stay "in the middle of the road" by recording Harvest again and again, I don't think Neil wants to do the Crazy Horse sound over and over again, not without a healthy amount of time in between to do other stuff. He's just not apt to repeat his successes at the expense of trying something new.

On the other hand, Sleeps with Angels showed that a Crazy Horse album can sound different from what we might expect and still work very well. So hopefully there's some life in the Old Gray Mare yet.

At 12/05/2016 01:44:00 PM, Blogger Mr Henry said...

No argument from me on this one, and I've been very fortunate to see and hear 8 of the top 10. The Blue Caps and The Funk Brothers were a bit before my time, but also a huge fan of their recorded work. And I love that "Lotta Lovin'" is included as the clip for Gene Vincent--I used to sing that one to my kids all the time when they were young and we were out riding that long lonesome highway.

Would be interesting to see which bands were runners up and honorable mention (maybe that's in there also, only had a quick skim of the article and plan to dwell more a bit later). I would include Nick Cave's band The Bad Seeds right up there for starters.

At 12/05/2016 04:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil's been blessed with several excellent backing bands. They all deserve huge praise.

The Intermational Harvesters were a great country backing band. The Bluenotes were a great blues band. The Shocking Pinks were a great rockabilly band. And yes, for electric rock, Crazy Horse are clearly "top of the heap" (in his words). They all excelled at their own particular niche.

The problems start occurring when he tries to play the Crazy Horse-style songs with other bands. The only time this ever truly succeeds with other bands is when Poncho is kept on rhythm guitar (unlike the other Horse members, he doesn't get spooked by other musicians and therfore is quite versatile).

That's why the Friends And Relatives band and The Trans Band generally aren't considered to be amongst Neil's best electric bands. Without either Poncho's chest-punching guitar or Billy's rumbling bass, the chemistry simply isn't there and Neil's lead guitar consistently fails to soar. Jack of all trades; Master of none.

Also for that reason I consider the highpoint of the POTR era to be the acoustic or electric rock-folk songs: they are much more comparable to the Stray Gators than Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse are hugely soulful, but they also have a hard-boiled, battle-scarred grittiness that other bands have consistently failed to emulate.


At 12/05/2016 05:37:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Crazy Horse with Nils Lofgren on their debut were a fine band and I don't wanna talk about it

At 12/05/2016 05:39:00 PM, Blogger wsanjose01 said...

did he really call Psychedelic Pill excellent? lol I see you in the crowd during Rockin in the Free World Farm Aid 2016 in your TW tie dye.

At 9/16/2019 04:10:00 PM, Blogger DREman said...

I think the 1978 Crazy Horse Album titled "Crazy Moon" was excellent. Neil had no vocals on the album, but his electric guitar is obvious and stellar. If you have never heard it, you'll be amazed and thrilled that you checked them out now:

I've always wondered why Neil did not play this Crazy Horse song called "New Orleans" for the Hurricane Katrina fundraiser, rather than "Walkin' to New Orleans"...


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