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Thursday, February 02, 2017

NEW VIDEO: "My Pledge" by Neil Young



Here's a new music video of Neil Young's song "My Pledge" from the album "Peace Trail"

Jimi Hendrix, John F. Kennedy and Florence Nightingale – appear on an array of postcards.

Fascinating animation video and something new for Neil.

btw, can you spot the typo?

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50 Comments:

At 2/02/2017 08:34:00 PM, Blogger onthebeach said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2/02/2017 08:36:00 PM, Blogger onthebeach said...

meant spelled ment

 
At 2/02/2017 09:55:00 PM, Blogger Arthur said...


I "liked" it.

 
At 2/03/2017 03:10:00 AM, Blogger paddy woods said...

Great video.Nice start to my day 🖒🖒

 
At 2/03/2017 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Percival Kenneth Robert Raglan said...

I think he ment to spell it that way. Poetic license. Helps with the rhyme.

 
At 2/03/2017 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

It needs any help it can give !

 
At 2/03/2017 12:24:00 PM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

We do regret mentioning "Spot the typo".

Mainly, we did that because so many of the YT comments seemed to focus on typo and not song, lyrics or video. Incidentally, the YT comments were on "Jimmy" and not "Jimi Henndrix", btw. No one had caught the ment yet except our astute TW readers here.

But enough on typos. How about the vid and song?

A rather provocative challenge in My Pledge. And we encourage everyone to make their own pledge and abide by it. We've made a number of pledges to our TW readers over the years. We were doing pretty well until about 2008 when LWW literally broke out on this blog.

Since then things have calmed down. Most of the trolls have expired on moved on to harass folks on Facebook. And we have to say whenever it comes up about the TW suspension on FB, that it was a real blessing in retrospect.

So we say our pledge at TW is we plan to continue to separate the wheat from the chaff. Or the REAL from the Fake. Or The Truth from the Lie.

What's your pledge?

 
At 2/03/2017 01:45:00 PM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Another unmemorable half-talking song in the Garth and Kat tradition of "making it up as you go along." That's been Neil's oeuvre since that dud GREENDALE.

And this from a guy who climbed to the mountain top so many times with stuff like POWDERFINGER, BARSTOOL BLUES, ORDINARY PEOPLE, THRASHER, SAMPLE AND HOLD, WINTERLONG, BIG TIME, COUNTRY GIRL, etc. etc.

It's sad. We keep hoping he's going to break the losing streak (which is around 10 albums and counting) of half-singing half talking throwaways which are almost instantly forgotten. Try forgetting COWGIRL. You can't.....its forever etched in our brains.

 
At 2/03/2017 04:29:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Sorry have to agree with rlr783 and I'm no troll - just don't get this, I appreciate there's very few dissenting voices here but I'll politely protest at us accepting this below par nonsense -and yes it's 10 plus now. I await the strident defence of Neil and I admire all of that.

 
At 2/03/2017 09:55:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Well, I'm not trying to be strident, but it does seem to me that out of all the songs from the new album one could bag on, this is an odd choice. People bemoaning a lack of interesting, carefully constructed, and meaningful lyrics should be relatively satisfied. I'm also a little confused by the mention of "half-talking songs". Anyone remember Tired Eyes? No complaints about that one being half-spoken. And not to beat the AYP? horse to death, but Mr. Disappointment strikes me as another "talking blues" type song that works very well, along with Bandit from Greendale. Both favorites of mine.

In any event, I thought and still think this is one of the best sets of lyrics on the new album. It is meant to be from the POV of the Average Joe, so it's not flowery. But any sense that Neil is making this up as he goes along is, I think, more than anything else an illusion of style and Neil's (ever-present) disinterest in polished production. The vocal performance may have rough edges or flaws, but the ideas seem quite complete to me. I could be wrong and maybe he was entirely improv-ing this "rap" in the studio. But I don't think so.

Incidentally, in American folk music of the Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger class, there is a tradition of "half-spoken" songs, also called talking blues or even referred to as rapping. My sense is that Neil is tapping into that idea to create a voice and feeling for the first person character of this song. My larger point is, there is a precedent for this sort of thing, and given Neil's current focus on folk protest, a little bit of singspiel (German word for opera with some spoken dialogue, applied liberally here) fits right in.

 
At 2/03/2017 10:17:00 PM, Blogger mrtew said...

I've thought this song was a standout excellent and original track since I first heard the record and always noticed how amazing and meaningful it was when I listened to the album every day or so. The video is slightly cool and I'm sure glad to see Neil doing new stuff but I don't think it adds anything to the song. It kind of trivializes the slightly horrifying message the lyrics relate actually.

 
At 2/03/2017 10:36:00 PM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Ian, I'm at a disadvantage commenting on your thoughtful post because I don't own this album, I've just heard this one video that was posted here and confirmed my fears that its more of Neil on a losing streak.

After having bought everything Neil released for 40 years (in 3 formats, even ARC) I quit buying his new stuff after suffering through LE NOISE. That was the great (?) Daniel Lanois producing, which amounted to him adding sound effects for 40 seconds at the end of every mediocre song. Sheesh! Briggs was rolling over in his grave.

Neil always made "raw and sloppy" work because the songs were there and the listener could literally ride on the edge of the abyss along with Neil, wondering if it might all fall apart. Which it did sometimes (I'm not a fan of TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT), but usually didn't (VAMPIRE BLUES, DON'T BE DENIED for example).

Imagine my happiness at the first listen last year of BLUENOTE CAFE. A true musical god at the height of his powers. Unfortunately his output now resembles Ali getting humbled by Larry Holmes. It makes me sad.

Maybe the songs will come back, who knows? But selfishly I just wish in the meantime he'd concentrate completely on the Archives II which has the potential to be something very very special.

 
At 2/03/2017 11:02:00 PM, Blogger onthebeach said...

I want to make it clear that i wasn't knocking the song when I mentioned the typo...I was just answering the question. I dig the song myself...I removed the first comment which was the same because I went back to watch it and saw meant was spelled correctly like two lines later and I thought i was seeing things!

 
At 2/04/2017 10:13:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

I like Peace Trail in general, and I like My Pledge. It's got a dreamy atmosphere and a good sound to it. It plays by it's own rules. It's full of character. It's honest. It's got personality.

^None of these are bad qualities.

The video is nice enough and quite clever, but do Neil's songs ever really benefit from music videos? I'm not convinced. The whole idea is to use your mind and create your own mental imagery.

Actually, the one case where I think music videos worked really well is Americana.

Scotsman.

 
At 2/04/2017 10:25:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

I hope on Neil's next project, he will sit down with a guitar (piano? Banjo? Bag-pipes?) and write. And write. And then write some more.

Write 20 verses for the same song, if he can, getting deeper and deeper. Even if it seems unnatural at first (this is an illusion; spiritual practises like meditation also seem very unnatural at first).

I want to see him stretch that songwriting muscle, give it a proper workout, rather than taking the easy route.

To my perception, the weakness of songs like Show Me isn't the basic concept; it's a good tune. The problem is that he's used the first few half-baked verses that popped into his head and then called it a day; the song arrives still-born.

My proposed solution to this is not to edit more, post-humously. We know that isn't usually productive. Instead, the way forward is simple: just go and write more in the first place! Write pages and pages. Get into the flow, but stay there longer than usual. Then pick the best bits. What's the worst that can happen?

This method works. It's also why Waging Heavy Peace is written so well compared to much of his then-recent songwriting; by necessity, in order to write a full-sized book, you have to write a lot! And the more you write in a sustained period, the more likely you are to get through to the really good stuff.


Scotsman.

 
At 2/04/2017 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Keith Burris said...

I think Ian thoughtfully nailed it.

 
At 2/04/2017 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Thrasher Wheat said...

@ rlr783 - thanks for comments. But you're seriously out of bounds on GREENDALE ... at least in these here parts of town... or are you walking the Devil's Sidewalk???

@ Ian - you're never too strident in these here parts of town, at least by our reckoning. (btw, congrats on latest TW COTM)

As usual, you get it. Obviously, if the lyrics are really meaningful, you put to use like this in a video. IOW, to creatively highlight their mening and significance. You won't see Fuckin Up lyrics put to use this way.

We understand and hear your pledge Ian. Others remain silent in their pledges. Why might that be?

Your transparency is appreciated.

@ mrtew - very interesting that you feel the approach trivializes the message. Please elaborate in all seriousness. We find it focuses us to their meanings.

@ onthebeach - no worries.

@ Scotsman - good point on Americana videos. The Shepard Fairey imagery is rather striking.

@ Keith - good to see you. Been awhile. come back again someday soon.

 
At 2/04/2017 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

Each album he puts out is meant to do something. If it doesn't inspire, you're not doing it right.

For me, I think "Peace Trail" is meant to be blasted through the speakers while driving in my car through the Dakotas on my way to protest the destruction of our environment & first nation peeps. Just keep you're eyes peeled and stash in safe place in case you get pulled over.

Right now, I'm listening to his "Letter Home" which I just think is a gorgeous manipulation of sound waves.

 
At 2/04/2017 01:11:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I am so grateful that Neil Young has never cared what anyone thinks of his art. If he was to pay any attention to anything his fans suggest we would have never heard his best work. How can anyone assume to know what is best for Neil Young. Many here believe they know what Neil needs to do with his music, but I think what they really are saying is what "they" want from Neil Young.

Neil Young has always done exactly what moves him. His fan base who have supported him throughout his career have given him that creative freedom he continues to follow. Take it or leave it, that is "your" right, but Neil Young will continue to challenge with his music and that is exactly what I have always expected from him. Thank God Neil doesn't care what we think.

Peace.

 
At 2/04/2017 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature on the Run said...

My pledge is to protest, protest, protest the keystone pipeline, the deregulation of stewardship, safeguards and protections that keep our water, air, and soil from being polluted, and a woman's right to healthcare and family planning options.



 
At 2/04/2017 01:32:00 PM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Dan Swan, everyone knows that Neil doesn't care what we think. That's always been one of the reasons we love him. But I maintain that since at least FORK IN THE ROAD he has stopped even caring what HE thinks about the stuff he's putting out. He's given himself a pass. Maybe that's well deserved given what he has accomplished over the decades, but it doesn't make it good.

Yeah, I admit that I spent a few years there saying "It's Neil, it must be good, right?" But then it dawned on me that there were more great songs on a minor effort like HAWKS AND DOVES then all the stuff he has been phoning in the past 10-15 years.... including actually going into a phone booth and recording an album.

 
At 2/04/2017 03:10:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...


@rlr783
You have every right to make that assumption.

I would like to think that any artist would only do what they feel serves their creativity.
But that is only my assumption of corse.


 
At 2/04/2017 04:51:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

What would Briggs say about NY's last 10 albums?

 
At 2/04/2017 05:18:00 PM, Blogger Mikkelrev said...

About his way of singing: Have you listened to Three Angels from New Morning (1970) by Dylan?

 
At 2/04/2017 10:10:00 PM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Tom, I can only speculate how things would be different if Briggs was still alive, but I suspect that he was the only person on Earth who could say "NO" to Neil about a song and actually have Neil consider it.

That doesn't mean to say that it would have changed a thing. George Martin always said about the WHITE ALBUM, "there was one terrific record in there." But he WAS the producer and it came out as a double album anyway....Number 9, Number 9. Number 9.

But I say, about the last 10 albums, "there's probably one terrific record in there, maybe."

 
At 2/04/2017 11:39:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@onthebeach: Don't worry, I wasn't referring to your comments (which I think had already been deleted), but to a couple of other posts that seemed, to me, overly critical.

@rlr783-- Have you actually been able to listen to this or the other recent albums in full? Even if you don't want to pay for it, it may be worth trying to hear just to form a fair opinion. But I do see where you're coming from. I much enjoyed the Bluenote Cafe, too, but to be honest, is it because those are really great songs or show Neil at his sharpest, most effective songwriting? To me, the appeal of that record is more that he had the right band for that set of songs and the live performances really jump to life. Bluenote Cafe, for me, is much more about the atmosphere and purely musical aspects than about the words or song-smithing. Ain't it the Truth is a lot of fun; Don't Take Your Love Away and Bad News Comes to Town have real emotional thrust. But I still wouldn't categorize these as absolute top tier NY. I just say this because the Bluenotes period seems like an unusual point of reference for classic or vintage Neil. Personally, there are several songs from the last ten-fifteen years that I think stand up proudly beside anything from the Bluenotes.

Le Noise is actually one of my favorite records post-2000, although it's perhaps not coincidental that my favorite track, Love and War, possesses minimal sonic distortion. Even Fork in the Road had Light a Candle to redeem its excesses. More recently, Storytone has at least three songs--Plastic Flowers, Say Hello to Chicago, and Tumbleweed--that have absolutely resonated with me. Much of this is clearly in the ear of the beholder, but I must say that for this beholder, Neil continues to churn out enough hits to compensate for the misses. It's early days yet on Peace Trail, but for my money, it's a positive improvement from Monsanto Years, not least because I think Neil has improved the balance between topical/political subject matter and genuine human concerns. In other words, this set of songs seems to focus more on people than Monsanto Years, which was mostly a straight-up protest record. It made its point, but the songs do sometimes risk getting lost in the album's heavy-handed rhetorical--and, dare I say it, even polemical--content. I'm pleased that with Peace Trail, Neil seems to be moving back a bit toward consistently writing about these issues through the lens of the people impacted, the human experience.


 
At 2/04/2017 11:48:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@Thrasher--Thanks for the COTM nod. Always glad to help get conversation flowing.

@The Scotsman, As a writer (of fiction), I hear what you are saying. One has to genuinely push oneself sometimes to be productive. It's sort of like breaking through the pain barrier in exercise. At its best, creative expression is exhilarating and liberating, but it's also a hard day's work tapping those internal reserves to their fullest potential. There's both the element of craft and, perhaps even more exhausting, the emotional and psychological effort, for lack of a better term, pouring your heart out. Like life itself, all of this can be simultaneously fun and wearying.

And about the video, I'd agree that it's nice enough in itself, but doesn't particularly open up new doors that the song itself doesn't already present. It came as sort of a surprise, actually, that Neil is back to doing videos with this one. Some of my favorite videos are the ones that rely heavily on studio footage. Storytone had a good series of videos from the orchestra recording sessions. It's cool to get a look in at the process that way, and sometimes more effective than a series of swirly computer graphics. "I used to dig Picasso..." etc.

 
At 2/05/2017 12:08:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

But I say, about the last 10 albums, "there's probably one terrific record in there, maybe." - NO THERE ISN'T

Just because ole Neil doesn't care about what the fans thinks then the music must be good? Really.'open up new doors' I read all this eyebrow stuff about Neil here and I have to laugh I know I'm alone.

By the way what's happened to PONY (pono) & TRAP ?

 
At 2/05/2017 04:43:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

rlr783:

It's worth mentioning that it gets more difficult the more you do it! Like mining for gold; the more gold you dig up, the harder you have to work to find whatever is left. Neil trying out some more unusual ideas (e.g the record booth) is part of that struggle.

Yes, some of his more modern records are out-gunned by his earlier works. But that's to be expected. He's made a lot of records, and inspiration is hard to come by. What exactly has someone who has been making records for 50 years got left to say? So I think he deseves considerable credit for continuing to create, continuing to build things, even if not every album is a major work. It's harder than it sounds.

And I also think you have to get through making the more minor albums in order to hit the jackpot with the occasional masterwork. Even in the late-eighties/early nineties (one of my favourite periods) not every album was a huge artistic success. So while I am also not particularly impressed by the very insubstantial songwriting on Le Noise and Fork In The Road, I'm glad he made them, if only so he could get onto more substantial works.

(And yes, there HAVE been recent substantial songs; if not complete albums).

Scotsman

 
At 2/05/2017 04:52:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

I do think that a slight adaptation to his songwriting method (the "write more" approach I outline above) could significantly improve the quality of his writing with only a small amount of added effort.

Some will (quite rightly) say: what do you know about songwriting, who do you think you are? Etc etc etc. But my reply is: what are you scared of? Because the great thing about the approach I describe is that it is has no downsides whatsoever, and plenty of potential upside.

If you don't like the extended version of your songwriting, you can always go back to the bare-bones version. Nothing is lost. Instead of writing three verses, write ten verses and pick the three best ones. Or keep all ten!

This isn't about editing more or thinking more; it's about writing more in a sustained period. Neil has done this in the fairly-recent past (Greendale, Waging Heavy Peace, parts of Peace Trail) to very powerful effect. He just doesn't do it often enough, in my opinion. Too often, he settles on the first couple of verses before the song has even had chance to come alive.

Another great example would be an epic like Sixty To Zero, a lengthy piece (written in one evening) which was artfully trimmed down into the razor-sharp Crime In The City. Nothing wrong with editing stuff out; the important part is writing it in the first place.


Scotsman.

 
At 2/05/2017 11:27:00 AM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Andy wrote:
"Just because ole Neil doesn't care about what the fans thinks then the music must be good? Really.'open up new doors' I read all this eyebrow stuff about Neil here and I have to laugh I know I'm alone.
By the way what's happened to PONY (pono) & TRAP ?"


I'm sorry Andy, I simply can't comment on this because I have absolutely no idea what it means.

 
At 2/05/2017 11:40:00 AM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Ian wrote:
"Bluenote Cafe, for me, is much more about the atmosphere and purely musical aspects than about the words or song-smithing. Ain't it the Truth is a lot of fun; Don't Take Your Love Away and Bad News Comes to Town have real emotional thrust. But I still wouldn't categorize these as absolute top tier NY."

Well Ian its certainly true that the album THIS NOTE'S FOR YOU is flat and lifeless, especially in comparison to the live "Blue Notes" shows. But you seem to have forgotten that this section of Neil's career produced ORDINARY PEOPLE and more than a few of the people reading this would place it as Neil's greatest single song (I would).

BLUENOSE CAFE was an album that I waited 25 years to hear, and I was not disappointed. So, yes, I do put it in the top tier, and with the exception of the TRANS band (with Palmer on bass) I think it was his best band.

 
At 2/05/2017 11:57:00 AM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Scotsman wrote:
"It's worth mentioning that it gets more difficult the more you do it! Like mining for gold; the more gold you dig up, the harder you have to work to find whatever is left."

Oh boy Scot, I sure do agree with you! Neil has nothing to be ashamed of after a spectacular run of 35-40 years of turning out incredible music. Few artists can maintain a stretch that long with that much output.

But on the other hand might Neil now be taking advantage of us by turning out substandard "sort of" songs knowing we will still try to convince ourselves they are worthy?

I hope not. And I don't think that's true, but it has been a thought during the past decade.

My true fear (and I do believe this one) is that Neil is tarnishing a great career with one sub-standard album after another. It brings to mind Willie Mays embarrassing himself in the 1973 World Series.

[Note to Scot: If you are in the UK, Willie Mays was one of the 5 greatest American baseball players of all time. In his last season he spent the entire World Series constantly falling down. It made every baseball fan in America sad.]

 
At 2/05/2017 01:50:00 PM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Pony & Trap is rhyming slang

 
At 2/05/2017 11:59:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@rlr783,

Ordinary People is a landmark song, and I can see where its mythic status arises from. Personally, I could not go so far as to call it his single greatest song. Then again, I don't have your experience with the Bluenotes. I originally heard Ordinary People on CDII (2007), then sought out live recordings. I'm told the released studio version doesn't stack up to live recordings, but that just makes me wonder about the recording (and sound quality) chosen for Bluenote Cafe. I actually prefer the CDII recording for the ordering of the verses, but going on past postings, that's a controversial position in itself. In any event, I have to say that, while I very much enjoy CDII as an album, it has increasingly come to be defined for me by No Hidden Path, its other epic. If someone asked for a great Neil Young song from the last ten years, that's one of the first I would mention, along with Love and War.

Incidentally, "Bluenose Cafe" is a great typo/auto-correct. Not mocking--I laugh at my own goofs, too, if they're especially good.

 
At 2/06/2017 12:09:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Andy, by the way I'm now tempted to put together one album (10-12 songs) from the last ten years, just to take you up on the challenge. If we're going strictly with the last ten years, that would take us from Chrome Dreams II ('07) through Peace Trail. Not counting Archives releases, just to be clear. I'm also reluctant to include songs released during this period, but that we know were written a time ago. Among the contenders:

-No Hidden Path
-Love and War
-Walk with Me
-Plastic Flowers
-Say Hello to Chicago
-Tumbleweed
-Walk Like a Giant
-Light a Candle
-If I Don't Know

I enjoy making mixes, so this is nothing new for me. I think the bigger issue would not be finding enough tracks, but putting together one cohesive collection that doesn't leave the listener with auditory whiplash.

 
At 2/06/2017 12:33:00 AM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Ian, I'm thinking of opening up a chain of Bluenose Cafes!

Here's the OP history as best as I can piece it together. Neil went on 2 tours with the BlueNotes in '88, winter and summer. OP didn't make an appearance until the 2nd leg in August, when I first heard it and was blown away by it. My local reviewer called it "Patch of Ground People" and that's what I called it for a couple of years.

Then in '90 or '91 (still all pre-internet) ROCK N ROLL COWBOY, a legendary 4 disc bootleg came out and it had OP from an audience recording at Jones Beach, NY 8/27/88. It might have been the best sounding audience recording I've ever heard (I usually turn my nose up at audience recordings because of the sound quality) and that version became the definitive version for all Rusties. Everyone who heard and loved OP, which was all of us, were referring to the Jones Beach version.

So when CDII came out it was a bit jarring to hear the verses switched up because we were all used to it starting "In a dusty town the clock struck high noon....."

I have no proof of this, but I suspect that the CDII version was recorded in the studio after the first leg of the BN tour and before the 2nd leg when OP was finally played live and thats when Neil decided to switch the verses around. The version of OP which is on BLUENOTES CAFE was recorded in Bristol Connecticut on 8/23/88, 4 days before Jone Beach.

And BTW, I have never, before or since, heard a crowd react to a song that they had never heard before like they did that night he played OP. 15,000 folks went berserk.

 
At 2/06/2017 12:35:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Afterthought, re: "My true fear (and I do believe this one) is that Neil is tarnishing a great career with one sub-standard album after another. It brings to mind Willie Mays embarrassing himself in the 1973 World Series."

I do think this line of thinking can involve projecting one's own feelings onto the artist (Neil, in this case). Embarrassment is something felt only inside the person. Like any sort of sympathy pain, being embarrassed "for" someone is a product of one's own mind/brain, projected onto one's perception of the other person's actions. Empathy, to the degree to which it is humanely possible is an important and commendable quality. The ability to consider or imagine what someone else may be thinking/feeling, or what you/I would think and feel in a comparable situation, is invaluable. I prefer to call that compassion, as opposed to empathy or sympathy. But that shouldn't slip into imagining that we know what someone else is thinking or feeling, nor into a more condescending form of pity.

Trying to judge Neil's works in isolation from all this psychological stuff, I really don't think he's in any "doddering old man" kind of phase as yet. He's not in his 20s or 30s anymore with the fire of youth and unfulfilled desires and dreams in his belly, but that's part of life. Besides which, I don't think anything's likely to tarnish the legacy of the classic era. Those vintage songs aren't going anywhere in people's minds. To be completely honest, how much attention do these new releases even get outside of the devoted fan community? People are going to remember the songs from the '60s and '70s much longer than they remember anything he's doing today--unless, of course, any of today's albums end up aging into classics when they've been around long enough to be fully digested and looked back on.

That's a possibility I'm not dismissing out of hand, but even if not, After the Goldrush, Cowgirl in the Sand, Heart of Gold, Sugar Mountain, Old Man, Thrasher, Out of the Blue/Into the Black, etc., are not going anywhere as long as the old fans keep playing and passing them on.

 
At 2/06/2017 12:49:00 AM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Ian wrote: "Trying to judge Neil's works in isolation from all this psychological stuff, I really don't think he's in any "doddering old man" kind of phase as yet. He's not in his 20s or 30s anymore with the fire of youth and unfulfilled desires and dreams in his belly, but that's part of life."

All you have to do is go see Neil live and you'll realize what a vital artist he still is. That's why I have hope. But it doesn't change the fact that everything recorded after SILVER AND GOLD stinks.

 
At 2/06/2017 12:54:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

rlr, I just saw your reply after posting my last comment. Thanks for the review of the facts. So it sounds like I had the reverse experience of some others who, to be fair, have been around and listening to Neil for longer than I have. I'm sure I'm one of the younger ones around here, so the original Bluenotes shows are little outside of my firsthand frame of reference. You guys were shaken up by something different from what you'd eve heard, and I was probably equally jarred by the live recordings with the original verse order. I do remember an acoustic guitar/harmonica live cut of OP, which was very interesting but that could have been one of the very few (or only) times Neil did it that way. Again, can't remember the name/location of the show but I found the recording online.

Also, not debating that the song touched/touches lots of people. To be clear, I like it. It's worthy of recognition within Neil's body of work. But stuff resonates differently with different folks, and calling it his single greatest song is, for me, saying a mouthful.

As I recall from reading "Shakey", David Briggs didn't have many nice things to say about OP, which is somewhat ironic considering how Briggs is otherwise looked at as an arbiter of quality by so many fans who also love OP. Is this one where folk agree Briggs may actually have been wrong? If so, you rarely hear criticism of David Briggs among NY fan circles, making the difference of opinion worth noting.



 
At 2/06/2017 05:13:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

David Briggs also considered every other project he didn't produce to be inferior, so Ordinary People was the rule, rather than the exception! :-)

Briggs was known for being quite a gentle and caring man (as well as passionate and opinionated), but alcohol and drugs could (and did) interfere with that from time to time. The thing is not to agree with all his out-spoken opinions, but to recognise the huge influence he had over Neil's work.

In Briggs' words: "If I'm in control, I motivate Neil like nobody else in the world".

Some fans are uncomfortable with Briggs, because they can't relate at all to someone who could be so direct and critical to their hero. They forget that Neil LiKES people like that. People in postitions of power are used to their circle sucking up to them. So when the opposite happens, it's a breath of fresh air.

His real talent was knowing how to produce Neil in away that pushed him into recordng his best music. Briggs didn't produce all of Neil's best records; but he did produce most of them, and his influence is there on all the best ones (even those made since his death). Even Ordinary People is very Briggs-esque in the intense and hard-hitting way it is performed. And the drop off in quality control between Briggs' last Crazy Horse record and the first one without him is notable.

That sense of quality control is something that has been lacking sometimes in recent years. I think it was Jimmy McDononugh who put it memorably as "like cheap chinese parts on a Lionel train". I think in some ways that Neil has become so obsessed with the red herring of audio resolution that he has forgotten there are other types of "Quality" that deserve greater attention. The Monsanto Years doesn't suffer at all from audio resolution; it suffers from (occasionally) half-baked songwriting and band arrangements that are the audio equivalent of wet cardboard. Easy problems to fix; but only if the desire is there to do so.

David Briggs would have fixed these issues. That was his ability, to cut through the nonsense and focus on what mattered. Unfortunately no one else has come along who can take his place. Although Poncho Sampedro seems to inspire Neil in much the same way, as a band member rather than a producer.

Re: Ordinary People. To my ears, Studio version and Jones Beach > Bluenote Cafe. The guitar playing is more exciting on the studio version and Jones Beach versions; there's more a sense of a build up in intensity. But I love Bluenote Cafe in general, and am very glad it eventually got released.

Scotsman.

 
At 2/06/2017 07:19:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Scotsman, Thanks for providing some perspective. What I'm getting at could be encapsulated in the question: had Briggs lived, would Ordinary People have surfaced on CDII? There's no way of knowing; any number of things could have gone differently. But the point is to think about these things in a more nuanced way: bringing back Briggs wouldn't necessarily cure all the ills of the world, or even of Neil.

If I have mixed feelings about Briggs, it's because, as you said, he tended to dislike anything he didn't produce. Which admittedly strikes me as rather egotistical, as does the quote about motivating Neil. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but even if everything Briggs said is true, it's not a virtue to talk about how great you are. Egotism and narcissism are pet peeves of mine. Of course, you'd be naive to think Neil Young isn't capable of being overly self-centered, but if I seem prepared to forgive that, it's probably because through his songs and words, Neil has shown that he's self-reflective enough to at least sometimes be aware of his own flaws. It's really not fair, but as far as I know, Briggs didn't have the opportunity to redeem himself in this way. All I can really tell of him comes from reading quotes in other people's books, especially McDonough, and it's not fair to judge the man on that alone.

I also recall reading, probably in Shakey, that Briggs devised the final track sequence for Sleeps with Angels--and for that alone I respect him. That album flows incredibly and is simply monumental in Neil's career. As for Broken Arrow, I like a few of the songs (Loose Change, Drift Away, Music Arcada; Let's Think About Livin' is solid), but I do think it suffers from a lack of high quality songs that can actually hang together to form an album. On the other hand, Sleeps with Angels is unique from every other Crazy Horse album and, for me anyway, almost anything would suffer in comparison. It is noteworthy that the Horse has been less often used in the post-Briggs era, and it could very well be that without Briggs, it's harder for Neil to find his direction/focus with that particular band.

As a final thought, I have to wonder if part of the reason Briggs reputedly motivated Neil so powerfully was that he could get so far under Neil's skin. As in, "Damn it, I want to give you something you can't tear to shreds!" I have to say that based on what I've heard of Briggs, no matter how good he was I, like many, would have found him difficult to work with. For me personally, it's not so much the criticism in itself. As you say, honest feedback is important to the creative process. It's the inability or refusal to couch it in a constructive way that would bug me, not to mention the whole "obnoxiously high opinion of yourself" vibe I've already covered. But who's to say that doesn't reflect my own flaws?

It's not that Briggs wasn't right about a lot of things; undoubtedly some of Neil's best work came out of their collaborations. But the admission, however tacit, that Briggs was capable of getting it wrong is refreshing.

 
At 2/06/2017 08:54:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Ian,

I'd check out this interview with Briggs from 1977. There aren't many recordings of him, so this is quite good. You'll see a different side to him, perhaps less caricatured than what you have read elsewhere.

https://youtu.be/njHaA9-u7hU

I think the bottom line is that Briggs was a strong personailty, and he had the rock 'n' roll attitude. When you are making rock n roll records, those attributes tend to provoke exactly the sort of chemical reaction required to create magic. And of course, Briggs's greatest fan is Neil himself, who dedicates much of Waging Heavy Peace to him in the most reverential of ways. As Neil notes in the book, although Briggs has gone, he feels it is imoportant that his spirt lives on. He also notes that he hasn't always lived up the Brigg's standards since ("I have failed to do that in some instances").

"Briggs and I made my best records - the transcendent ones....we somehow knew the way".

Reading that, there should be no doubt that the "missing friend who's counsel I can never replace" in No Hidden Path refers to David Briggs.


Scotsman.

 
At 2/06/2017 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Shakey said...

I'm with TW on Greendale. Still one of my favorite albums. Listen to it on a regular basis. I never understand how ppl don't like that album. I love almost every song and like the rest

 
At 2/06/2017 04:21:00 PM, Blogger TOM said...

BRIGGS:

1968 - Neil Young
1969 - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
1970 - After the Gold Rush
1974 - On the Beach
1975 - Tonight's the Night
1975 - Zuma
1977 - American Stars 'N Bars
1978 - Comes a Time
1979 - Rust Never Sleeps
1979 - Live Rust
1981 - Re-ac-tor
1982 - Trans
1985 - Old Ways
1987 - Life
1990 - Ragged Glory
1991 - Weld
1993 - Unplugged
1994 - Sleeps with Angels

 
At 2/06/2017 09:54:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Scotsman, Thanks for the link. I will save this.

I agree that's almost certainly who Neil refers to in No Hidden Path. Hey, the best, most productive relationships aren't always the easiest. But I do think the notion, espoused by some, that anything postdating Silver and Gold simply stinks is way too broad and inaccurate. CDII is one that, for me, certainly is transcendent. I actually rate it ahead of Prairie Wind, which I know some would not agree with. Le Noise, for all its drawbacks (only eight songs, not all of which are equally substantial) has tremendous highs (Walk with Me, Love and War, Peaceful Valley, Rumblin', Angry World, and Hitchhiker) and I personally quite enjoy the sonic lunacy. Likewise Americana and Psychedelic Pill have definite moments, and for me, Storytone is one of the most complete and effective albums in some time.

Also, thanks to Tom for the rundown of Briggs-produced/co-produced albums. An impressive resume. For my taste, Stars 'n' Bars is middling with some outstanding numbers; Re-Act-Or is mostly mashed potato without the t-bone; and Trans was a project with a lot of potential that came out so-so. I've never been able to get into Old Ways, either. Honestly I find Landing on Water more vital, in that it tries some new things with interesting results. There are hits (Violent Side, Hippie Dream, Touch the Night, Pressure, I Got a Problem) and misses (Weight of the World, Bad News Beat, Hard Luck Stories). Overall, another of those unpopular records I hesitate to throw out altogether. I think Neil himself has the best assessment I've come across on LOW: it was an experiment in which some parts worked and others didn't.

 
At 2/06/2017 10:45:00 PM, Blogger rlr783 said...

Ian, You rank Neil's albums from best to worst and everything from AYP on sits at the bottom joined by EVERYBODY'S ROCKIN just to keep them company.

Yeah, TRANS ain't great but Oh My God, SAMPLE AND HOLD is a monster.

Yeah, OLD WAYS ain't great but wait, MISFITS, freakin' MISFITS! How'd that get on there? Awesome!

Yeah, LOW ain't great except for the fact that VIOLENT SIDE (especially when played with the Horse) is an utter masterpiece.

Yeah, REACTOR ain't great except for the fact that SHOTS is about as potent and formidable a song as you're gonna hear.

I could go on, but you get the point. You really think that RUMBLIN' (which I maintain is not really a song at all, just something else) and JOHNNY MAGIC compare with those?

OK, just for the sake of argument lets say GREENDALE is the best he's done since 2000. It's bad, but at least its epic in scope. Now where are you gonna rank it? With ZUMA and RNS in the top 10? Nope. With TIME FADES AWAY and HARVEST MOON in the top 20? Nope. With MIRROR BALL and THIS NOTE'S FOR YOU in the top 30. Still no.

So I'll be kind and put GREENDALE at around 35 (just after LUCKY 13). And that's the best of a sad lot since the turn of the century.

I'm off to revel in MISFITS for a bit and picture Neil "shootin Elephantine!"

 
At 2/07/2017 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Peacelover Doc said...

Everyone likes what they like and I'm good with that. I think Greendale is a great album & Be the Rain is fantastic. I also dig Psychedelic Pill & like every song on the album. I don't care if anyone else likes them or hates them I like them.

 
At 2/07/2017 09:13:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@rlr783,

First, I'll clarify that I said nothing about Johnny Magic. Although if you want my opinion, it's aged better than some of the other stuff on FITR.

I actually like Trans; just wish it had been a fully realized electronic album, like Neil describes, with the other songs finding homes elsewhere. Conjoining Trans and Island in the Sun makes for a wonky listening experience, but Computer Age, Transformer Man, and Sample and Hold are among my favorites, and I'll defend the re-recording of Mr. Soul as a bold experiment.

I've never seen what's so awful about Everybody's Rockin', either. Sure, it's kind of lightweight from NY, but damned if Kinda Fonda Wanda and Payola don't get a smile from me.

All that aside, as Peacelover Doc said, it's a matter of personal taste. I've never performed the exercise of ranking Neil's 37 (or however many) albums. Sounds like an unenviable proposition. Your rankings are yours, but not necessarily anyone else's. I still maintain that CDII is, for me, a mostly transcendent album experience, and I have always liked Le Noise. Recent listening to a few tracks has, in fact, confirmed that feeling, perhaps because I tend to look at the Lanois sound as an integral part of the composition and shape of those songs, rather than just padding.

Peace

 
At 2/10/2017 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Jose Escoda said...

i like PEACE TRAIL,
the vidéo is nice et simple but i prefer le vynil....,actually....The whole idea is to use mind and create your own mental imagery.
including actually going into phone booth and recording an album .......
..thanks Neil Young Keep doing this! and keep on rockin'!

Thanks Trasher's Wheat

 

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