Comment of the Moment: "Landing on Water" by Neil Young - "Incredibly Underrated"
Much discussion recently by those who think that Neil Young's 1986 album Landing on Water is incredibly underrated. And less so by those who don't agree.
The Comment of the Moment is by TopangaDaze:
"Take my adviceThanks for the thoughts TopangaDaze! As you say, LOW is: "engaging, fun, pleasant, thought provoking songs touching on fear, anxiety, internal and external doubt competing with an overriding humanity through some despair." What more could you ask for in a Neil Young album?
Don't listen to me"
But, believe me when I say that Landing on Water is a good to very good to great album. I loved it when it initially came out, and it has only grown on me over the years.
I've always considered it the key central album in Neil's 80s work. It delineated and defined a significant turning point in Neil's mindset and recorded output. With it, we find Neil writing and singing catchy hook based melodic tunes while seeking public acceptance. Following the albums that came immediately before it, LOW was a solid effort finding Neil getting his feet firmly beneath him again while his head was still spinning with doubts. He was slowly escaping from his personal and professional musical mind chamber with introspective thought provoking lyrics of the time, augmented and at times dominated by overtly commercial studio synth pop production.
To me, it's the one album in Neil's career where he was truly trying to be commercial (be it seriously or as a statement of sorts). Jordan and Kootch were at the top of the 80s commercial rock/pop spectrum in '86 and they offered up the "standard" pop sound of the time, backing up and at times dominating Neil's lead.
Every song on the album has redeeming value. There are melodies, lyrics, vocals, and effects throughout that are catchy, thought provoking and curiously and endlessly interesting.
I'll never understand why people think the album is bad. It's a diverse yet cohesive work. Yes, it has a definite "dated" 80s sound to it, but again, that was largely Neil trying to be commercial, relevant and provocative, not ornery or defiant. The accompanying videos find him to be in a more sarcastic character based tone, but the album in its entirety is remarkably consistent.
Hippie Dream is an absolutely terrific song lyrically, and musically it has a boiling punch to it. But "the wooden ships--were a hippie dream, capsized in excess, if you know what I mean"...
Touch the Night combines angry screeching guitars, with a nice accompanying innocent chorus with very good vocals and matching catchy lyrics.
People on the Street, Weight of the World, Violent Side, I Got a Problem, Pressure, etc...are all engaging, fun, pleasant, thought provoking songs touching on fear, anxiety, internal and external doubt competing with an overriding humanity through some despair. The synth pop keyboard drumming dominance of the 80s is in full force, and it has always drawn me in, not away from the music.
Overall, I understand that we as fans all have our version(s) of Neil and his music that we are most closely drawn to. Clearly his 70s output is the "traditional" sound that elevated him to fame and has for the most part kept him there. His 80s work has largely been criticized and ignored, but there's value throughout, and Landing on Water is central to his "lost" decade. Neil was reaching out and finding his way back towards the mainstream, and quite successfully in my opinion.
"Take my advice
Don't listen to me"
and always remember, it's
"a victory for the heart every time the music starts
so please don't kill the machine, don't kill the machine..."
More on whether Neil Young's 1986 album Landing on Water is "incredibly underrated".