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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Comment of the Moment: Silver & Gold: A Track By Track Commentary by Neil Young

Silver & Gold by Neil Young - 2000
(Back Cover)

As Neil Young's 2017 sabbatical continues, we've been plowing deep into the Thrasher's Wheat Archives Vaults.

Our recent post on Silver & Gold: A Track By Track Commentary by Neil Young generated a treasure chest of comments from our dear readers. Here's the Comment of the Moment by Giles M:
There are 3 tracks on Looking Forward that have the same band as the Silver and Gold band and I think they were recorded at the same sessions but with backing vocals added by CSN.

Its not the same band who contribute to the CSN tracks on Looking Forward. They are not CSNY tracks although the backing vocals on slowpoke and Looking Forward by Nash and Crosby make a great contribution.

I imagine at the time Neil just emailed them the tracks and said use these for your CSNY album. I think if you combine Slowpoke, Looking Forward and Out of Control to Silver and Gold you have arguably Neil's best solo acoustic album.

The DVD of Silver and Gold is my favorite Neil Young DVD. He is just at the top of his game, his songwriting, his voice and guitar play are just untouchable. At the time reviews for Silver and Gold were luke warm. It shows just how good he was through the 90's that when Silver and Gold landed it did not receive a huge fanfare and was perceived as somewhat his normal standard. Imagine if he released something of that standard now.

Listening back you can really appreciate how good he was and how he managed to remain so good well into his 50's. In that period his songs seemed so focused on love, family, friendship and the vulnerabilities of life. The past 10 years he has struggled to capture that as succinctly as he once did.

Also, I think its very rare that Neil gets both the songs and the production perfectly aligned as he does on Silver and Gold. He did this throughout the 70's and then hit the groove again of synchronizing good songs with complimentary production in the 90's.

Since say 2009's Fork in the Road he has struggled to get in flow with complimentary production. He has tried different things in the studio i.e. Le Noise, Storytone, A Letter Home and Earth which have not somewhat consistently complimented his songwriting prowess with supportive production.

An example to give would be 'Walk with Me'. It is a brilliant song, one of his best. Listen to it done with Pearl Jam at the end of the Pearl Jam film but I think on Le Noise the absence of a rhythm section coupled with the use of echo chambers and distortion lets it down. When I listen to it I find myself turning it down as opposed to turning it up.

Thanks for comment Giles. Nice to have you onboard and hope to see you drop by again sometime.

Maybe we'll revisit Looking Forward sometime? Let us know any other Neil Young obscurities that folks might be interested in revisiting.

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At 3/17/2017 05:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure I recall an interview from around the time of Silver & Gold where Neil said that he had a stack of songs recorded for his solo album. When he was approached about doing a CSNY album he offered them the choice of songs from the pile and said they could pick what they wanted. The songs that appear on Looking Forward are the ones that were chosen.

At 3/17/2017 05:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a different subject completely, and apologies if this has been mentioned repeatedly already, but I see that the Official Release Series Discs 5-8 has appeared on Amazon as a CD release in May.

Is Time Fades Away officially coming to CD???

At 3/17/2017 07:36:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

all I know is the performance of Philadelphia on the Silver & Gold DVD brings me to tears every time I put it on.....I can't help it.......magical song.....

"when we were boys and girls and the secrets came unfurled...."

At 3/17/2017 12:36:00 PM, Blogger onthebeach said...

I've always wondered, is that Neil (short hair and beard, circa 1998-99) on the back of Silver & Gold?

At 3/17/2017 02:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3/18/2017 03:27:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

A departed friend of mine taught me the phrase, "There's no accounting for taste." Its so true. Whats perfection to some is ho hum to others. I like this album. But I love his latest 5 albums more. I love Le Noise More. I love Old Black and all the rest too. But to me, Neil Young is still vital. In fact, he is more vital, in terms of his cutting social insight, now more than ever. He visited the DAPL pipeline project. He is an Environmentalist Warrior. And he still has the ability to blow it up live and in the studio. I count myself lucky for each new release, whether Blue note cafe or whatever. More high resolution Neil Young killing it. I bought 5 vinyl NY records in the last 6 months: The Ditch Trilogy, Who's Gonna Stand Up single (+Live version with Crazy Horse), and Peace Trail. Yes, as some Neil Young aficionados point out, his latest album is Fu*%ing INCREDIBLE. Don't get so caught up in the past you can't enjoy the present. I have seen him play live 18 or 19 times now since '88. One of the very best was last Oct 3rd with Promise of the Real in Boise. Another one of the best was a year earlier, same band in Seattle. The fact that this Immensely talented and interesting musician is still tearing his heart open with pen and paper, crying out for Mother Earth, standing up for human rights, talking about Love, and killing it with Old Black and assorted instruments… leaves me with a great feeling of joy in my heart. The world is a pretty messed up place, with Trump and Global Warming and endless wars, defunding of Meals on Wheels… election rigging. Bernie getting screwed by the DNC in a rigged primary. But, we still have Neil Young! Thank the Gods! The great gig in the sky is later. Long Live Neil Young! -Alan in Seattle.

At 3/18/2017 06:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan: the thing about great music is that it stands the test of time. This transcends individual taste and gets down to the nitty-gritty of what is truly strong enough to survive.

So when you say "don't get so caught up in the past that you can't enjoy the present", that's a very true point. At the same time, the great thing about music in particular is that the terms "past" and "present" really have no value; they don't matter. That's the point of recording it, to give it some permanence. If the music is good then it will endure. John Coltrane died decades ago; his music lives on. David Briggs died 20 years ago; Neil writes of still missing him every day.

Play the 1991 version of Like A Hurricane or the studio version of Rockin' In The Free World to a 15-year-old school kid today and he will get it. Or the Bluenote Cafe take of Crime In The City. Doesn't matter that it was recorded before he was born. I know - that kid was me not all that many years ago. The same accounts for the enduring popularity amongst college students of Bob Dylan's 60's records, when so many others have faded away.

Is the same true of tracks like Sign Of Love, Walk With Me, Angry World? Will this be considered a great record in 30 years time, inspiring young and old alike? Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I think there's some novelty value involved, something that is "great because it's Neil Young". There's some unique sounds on it, for sure, but the songwriting simply isn't deep enough to stand the test of time. My opinion.

The Monsanto Years is a lot better. I really think Neil was onto something with that record, thematically. Like you, I'm something of an environmentalist myself. But still, the recording is a mess. Sonically it's like wet cardboard, flat and poorly arranged, distant-sounding no matter how loud you crank it. Lyrics that fail to consistently inspire. My guess is half the people here (hardcore Neil Young fans) haven't even listened to it fully in a few months. I'm probably one of the few who has. And it's only been out two years.

They've been too busy playing Greendale or Sleeps With Angels or Bob Dylan 1966. Records that are so rewarding and life-changing they'll probably still be played in another 50 years. The fact that they are decades old is irrelevant.


At 3/18/2017 08:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just been giving Le Noise a listen, to check I wasn't being unfair on it.

I wasn't. It's like listening to a sham fortune teller's reading: "This year something good will happen to you". "You will meet an interesting stranger and he will bring you something". "Something will happen, sometime".

We talked about Landing On Water recently, and yes, it is a superior album to Le Noise. By far. Because at least it has personality and colour to it, some artful songwriting, rather than the unrelenting blandness featured here (except on the exhumed Hitchhiker and the passable acoustic tunes).

"I feel your love, I feel your strong love". "Someone can save you". "I feel something in the air". Not exactly going out on a limb or getting to the heart of the matter, is it?

Here's some lyrics that are actually good, to reset your barometer of the level Neil Young is capable of:

It has often been my dream
To live with one who wasn't there
Like an ocean fish who swam upstream
Through nets, by hooks, and hungry bears.
When the water grew less deep
My fins were aching from the strain
I'm swimming in my sleep
I know I can't go back again.

Now THAT is awesome songwriting! Or this more straightforward lyric from Sliver And Gold (briefly veering back on topic):

I used to have a treasure chest
Got so heavy that I had to rest
I let it slip away from me
Didn't need it anyway
So I let it slip away

I don't care
if the sun don't shine
And the rain keeps pouring
down on me and mine
'Cause our kind of love
never seems to get old
It's better than silver and gold.

Straightforward enough. And yet, In just a handful of lines, Neil captures more magic than he does in the entirety of Le Noise.

Can he still write with this power? Of course! There's glimpses of it as recently as last year's Peace Trail. But don't bother looking for it on Le Noise. To use a metaphor, it's an insult to a master chef to flatter him when he serves up only heavily-salted junk food.


At 3/18/2017 11:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't decide if you're being deliberately provocative or not but I find myself disagreeing with the more and more of your comments.

Keep up the good work, it gets the blood flowing!

At 3/18/2017 12:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a rule, I've found that the people who get themselves most worked up about my comments are those who secretly agree with me but feel bad about acknowledging it.

Let me know what exactly is getting your blood flowing, and perhaps we can narrow the disagreement between us.


At 3/20/2017 09:14:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Some hyperbole here me thinks !


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