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Sunday, April 23, 2017

ALBUM COVER: Neil Young | Hitchhiker


Neil Young | Hitchhiker
Album Cover by Gary Burden | rTwerk.com
(Click photo to enlarge)

An intriguing image has been posted by Gary Burden | rTwerk.com of what appears to be a cover for the unreleased album Neil Young | Hitchhiker.

Gary Burden is Neil Young's long time art director and cover graphic artist. Also, credited is Jenice Heo, who is responsible for Art Direction, Design.

Hitchhiker includes solo, acoustic songs recorded in 1976 at the Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu, California. Writing in "Special Deluxe", Neil Young's -- second memoir -- he comments on Hitchhiker:
"I spent the night there with David and recorded nine solo acoustic songs, completing a tape I called Hitchhiker.

It was a complete piece, although I was pretty stony on it, and you can hear it in my performances. Dean Stockwell, my friend and a great actor who I later worked on Human Highway as a co-director, was with us that night, sitting in the room with me as I laid down all the songs in a row, pausing only for weed, beer, or coke. Briggs was in the control room, mixing live on his favorite console.
The song "Hitchhiker" was released on Neil Young's 2010 album Le Noise.

No other details are available at this time, so let the speculation begin.

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39 Comments:

At 4/24/2017 04:15:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

This should be a very exciting record. It's also a record where we don't really know what to expect, beyond a broad synopsis. So it is intriguing; one to eagerly anticipate.

Neil recorded acoustic songs extensively with David Briggs during the mid-seventies (with several songs being rationed out onto the next few studio albums) and it will be very interesting to see and hear which songs (and how many) are included on this compilation. It's likely there will be some surprises. Little of this material has found it's way onto bootlegs.

Neil commented in recent years that the reason Hitchhiker went unreleased for so long is that it was not "finished". Unfortunately, he decided it was necessary to "finish it" (off) in 2010 by tacking on two bland new verses and burying the song on an album that constituted the most mediocre of his career.

So this Archives release should offer a better alternative. At the opposite end of the scale.

Instead of artless songwriting dressed up in gimmicky sound effects, this record will showcase the finest of Neil's songwriting captured in a more sparse and natural production. And until then, the live 1992 versions of Hitchhiker are fine, not "unfinished" at all, capturing much of the spook and mystery that was drained off of the overblown Le Noise version.

This mid-seventies period sees Neil as a man who had worked his way into a songwriting peak, fully in the zone, magical songs coming to him as naturally as tying your shoelaces. You have to work hard to achieve that level of mastery, and you need the right people around you, too. That's not to put other periods down at all, but this record should amply showcase the heights of Neil's seventies songwriting, where he could barely put a foot wrong, artistically.

I suspect too that Neil has very fond memories of this period, and will enjoy sharing them with us.

I'm really looking forward to this one.

Scotsman.

 
At 4/24/2017 05:24:00 AM, Blogger Dom said...

Like Scotsman, I am very excited/intrigued by this.

I seem to recall Powderfinger from Chrome Dreams was recorded during the indigo sessions...I imagine this would be included, along with Hitchhiker itself obviously, but what else? Possibly some of side 1 of Rust Never Sleeps would fit the bill also, but seeing that it has been specified as a 9 song album, what else?

It also does continue to beg the question about cannibalising existing albums and how many versions of any given song there can be. This is a central question about the structure of Archives Vol 2 for me. Much more of an issue than vol 1...

Anyway, very much looking forward to this. Either standalone or part of vol 2.

Dom

 
At 4/24/2017 06:53:00 AM, Blogger kahunasunset said...

Very excited about this release.
I'm guessing
Campainger
Hitchhiker
Shots
Ride my lama
Give me strength
Pocahontas
Powderfinger
Captain Kennedy??
Lost in space??

 
At 4/24/2017 07:04:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Hitchhiker is a great Neil song.

 
At 4/24/2017 08:12:00 AM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

The acoustic Powderfinger sounds 'stoney' to be.
I also predict Evening Coconut will be on that tape.

 
At 4/24/2017 08:30:00 AM, Blogger joe lookout said...

not easy to guess considering that during that period he recorded, if I am not wrong, the never released: Homegrown, Crome DreamsI and this unexpected Hitchhiker.
If only nine songs were recorded some of them should have been quite long......
the Old Homestead was probably part of Homegrown
Has Thrashers ever been recorded in studio?
Probably by going to sugarmountain set list we can catch some acoustic songs he played live during that year. Really impossible to to guess nine songs..... peace and love.

 
At 4/24/2017 08:36:00 AM, Blogger joe lookout said...

Powederfinger was in chromedreamI

 
At 4/24/2017 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Colonel Cam said...

Sad movies maybe?

 
At 4/24/2017 09:12:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

kahunasunset: was Shots written at this point? I'm not sure. I think that might be a couple of years too late to appear here; more likely destined for a Boarding House 1978 Performance Series. The rest of your predictions could be on the money, though.

Scotsman.

 
At 4/24/2017 10:10:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this actually gets released. Years ago we were promised several archival vinyl titles yet none were ever released. Maybe this is why Neil has taken a sabbatical this year so he can focus on some of these unreleased gems. I'm in if he's in....

 
At 4/24/2017 11:21:00 AM, Blogger sab1024 said...

I think "Don't Say You Lose, Don't Say You Win" could be one. He performed it on his 76 tour.

 
At 4/24/2017 04:12:00 PM, Blogger Andrea Lanaro said...

Maybe "Stringman" could be included.

 
At 4/24/2017 04:13:00 PM, Blogger victor said...

wow! its gonna be great!i think maybe these songs...
pocahontas,too far gone, hold back the tears,hitchhiker,will to love,powderfinger,campaigner,captain kennedy..all of those from chrome dreams.. just based on the fact that they were recorded at indigo ranch '76...song nr 9,i really don't know..

 
At 4/24/2017 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

It'd be really cool if the tape includes the sounds of drinking, smoking and snorting between the songs...

 
At 4/24/2017 05:22:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Another little clue, like one in a trail of breadcrumbs being scattered to lead us home.

I like the cover photo. I think it's too much to speculate very much about which songs would be included. One assumes the original incarnation of Hitchhiker will be included, but who's to say what else? A lot of things were recorded around this period, some of which dripped out later on and some did not. I've always wondered where "Lost in Space", my favorite Hawks and Doves cut, came from--as I've never read much about it in any of the main Neil sources. But if I remember correctly, the sleeve said side one of H&D was recorded in 1974-75, so that wouldn't quite be from this session if the original notes are accurate.

On a tangentially related note, I've always liked the Le Noise album myself. I'll concede that the final new verses of Hitchhiker are relatively bland and don't make much impact, but the album has a whole gels for me. I think I've mentioned in the past how I look at Daniel Lanois's arrangements as an integral part of the recording, rather than just padding for underdeveloped songs. Fairly recently, I was watching the interviews with Neil and Daniel, and Neil mentions bringing Angry World--for instance--to the studio as an unfinished song. He said he actually had reservations about presenting it to the producer in that form, which lends some credence to the scotsman's thoughts about the writing process for this record. But the final result, from the artist's point of view, is that Lanois took the raw elements and made a complete piece of work from it. And I'm inclined to agree. Not that it's near the best thing Neil Young has ever written, but for me, it leaves its mark: from the relentless looped backing vocals expressing a contest between love and hate, to Neil's sardonic frustration as he spits "And no doubt everything will go as planned"--every syllable drenched in passion.

So, yeah, for me, the overall impression of Le Noise is not one of mediocrity. Recently listening reveals that, on balance, the album has its ups and downs--like many. And just as with many Neil albums, this one seems almost to be a living, breathing organism of some kind. It pulsates at times with energy and vitality--which, honestly, is more than can be said for a few albums.

As far as Hitchhiker's "unfinished" status, the fact that Neil later adapted parts of it into Like an Inca (Island in the Sun/Trans) suggests that his statements are in earnest to the degree that he thought it was unfinished/not ready at that time.

 
At 4/24/2017 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Lost in space was recorded on september 1977 and captain kennedy on december 1976. Hitchiker song was recorded on august 11, 1976. This is , probably, the real recording date of the album....ciao..stefano

 
At 4/24/2017 05:36:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

...I would imagine that Lost In Space will show up on the unreleased Oceanside/Countryside album.

 
At 4/24/2017 05:55:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I think that track list could include hitchiiker, give me strenght, sad movies, lotta love, pocahontas, hold back the tears, powderfinger, look out for my love and possibly two tracks on piano like stringman and no one seems to know...alternative track list ( if you think about a session with a guitar only) could include ride my llama ( remember that neil and crazy horse recorded an electric version for zuma album back in may 1975) and whatever song you could imagine of that time...

 
At 4/24/2017 07:19:00 PM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

In Special Deluxe, Neil comments on playing Hitchhiker for Bob Dylan, and Bob replies "well, that's an honest song".

An honest song.

And that is the real reason the song Hitchhiker went unreleased for years. Not because it was unfinished, but because it WAS finished and it was so chillingly autobiographical. Even in 2010, the song softened with the passing of time, Neil felt compelled to water it down with two verses that tried to resolve the unresolvable, to exorcise the ghosts living in the song.

Why is great art so rare? Partly because stripping oneself naked before the crowd is always going to be acutely uncomfortable. It's hard to do. Especially so when recounting (confessing) a detailed and extensive history of illegal drug use. And when the artist also has a young family, young children, you can fully understand why a song like this would be kept locked away.

Scotsman.

 
At 4/24/2017 09:38:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Does anyone have citations/sources for these recording dates of Lost in Space? I'm curious because I don't remember it any of the books or interviews I've encountered. Not that I've read all there is to read on NY--not by a long shot. But I always remember those H&D songs being dated from '74. And to me, there are twinkles of On the Beach in those songs, Capt. Kennedy excepted.

I agree that Oceanside/Countryside is a good possibility. It had occurred to me that Lost in Space could certainly be an "ocean" song.

 
At 4/24/2017 09:42:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 4/24/2017 09:48:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Scotsman--Good points, well-expressed. It's quite possible that "unfinished" in this case is a euphemism for the artist not feeling ready to publish the work. Although, he was okay performing it concert a few times, if memory serves. Also quite possible Neil did/does find the lack of resolution disturbing or unsatisfying, and that is part of what "unfinished" means.

 
At 4/25/2017 12:05:00 AM, Blogger Lone Red Rider said...

Ride My Llama
Pocahontas
Powderfinger
Captain Kennedy
Campaigner
Hitchhiker
Hold Back The Tears
Stringman
Too Far Gone
Will to Love

 
At 4/25/2017 12:30:00 AM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Neil says in "Shakey" that he recorded "Lost in Space" in Florida at Triad during the solo "Comes a Time" sessions in 1977. As for the rest of side one of "Hawks & Doves," "Captain Kennedy" came from Indigo circa 1976, "Little Wing" and "Old Homestead" were from the various "Homegrown" sessions circa 1974 (also confirmed in "Shakey" and by the album credits, which show recording dates for that side as 1974-77 at Quadrifonic in Nashville, Village Recorders in LA, Indigo and Triad.) As for the "Hitchhiker" tracklist, I suspect Lone Red Rider is pretty close, based on what we know about the Indigo sessions from "Shakey" and elsewhere.

 
At 4/25/2017 02:20:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

Babbo, thanks for the information and corrections. There's a lot of information in Shakey. I've read it all the way through once, and evidently it's possible I've forgotten some things along the way. There's such a wealth of information on Neil's long career that it's damn easy to lose track of stuff.

 
At 4/25/2017 05:18:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

I agree with Ian Kertis that Le Noise is a fantastic album. I totally disagree with the naysayers. Neil rocks it, alone, with some help from Lanois. And the solo live performances from this same period were incredible. Neil rocks Cinnamon Girl electric alone and kills it. But the album really does work for me. I would take that over many albums from the 80's. I also like Chrome Dreams 2. It is far from my favorite but it has some good songs on it. I am eager to hear what this album has in store for us. Alan in Seattle

 
At 4/25/2017 05:22:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Ian: I'm the same with the seventies. Neil was writing so much at this point that it is very hard to keep up, especially when so much of it is unreleased (even on bootleg). Exactly when songs were written and first recorded is largely unknown. Lots of semi-informal recording sessions rather than defined "we're here to record an album" ones.

It all blurs together into one extended and messy creative period. Archives 2 will be a real treasure trove!

Scotsman.

 
At 4/25/2017 06:08:00 AM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Alan: just because someone does not like an album does not make them a "naysayer". That is someone who habitually criticises anything for the sake of it, in a non-constructive manner. I remember a while back when you were casting aspersions on Bob Dylan's ability in modern times. "Neil's doing more than he is". Does make you a naysayer? Clearly not.

You mentioned Chrome Dreams 2. I'm inclined to think this is the best of Neil's albums 2005-2011, the most rewarding. The songwriting is of very mixed quality, some blandness, but there's enough good songs to make it work. It's good fun. And the performances and production are generally great. Unfortunately, like Hitchhiker on Le Noise, Box Car is watered down with a uninspired posthumous verse, and an arrangement that is nice enough but loses much of the song's spook. Archives 3 will likely provide an alternative (in 2033).

As for Le Noise, I just can't hear what is good about it. To my ears. The songwriting is unremarkable, the sound quality is poor ("decidedly inferior" in Neil's words/Waging Heavy Peace), the song arrangements degenerative from previous works. The performances are okay, nothing to write home about. The production is basically the anti-Briggs method; take minimum-viable songwriting and dress it up with cute sounds. Anything to create the illusion there is some substance there, something genuinely deep and moving. The acoustic songs are okay, and as always Neil should get much credit for attempting something new.

But it's the flimsiness of the songs that's the real weaknesses, the patched-up hole in the ship's hull. I like minimalistic lyrics, but they also have to be good. That's the difference. For me. That's not implying anyone else has to feel the same way.

I agree that some of the live shows were good, though I much prefer his electric guitar within the boundaries of a band mix. Take a fish out of it's pond and it will die.

I think the next few albums (Americana through to Peace Trail) have been a step up in every way. Not necessarily top-quality Young, the hardcore powerful stuff like Hold Back The Tears or Hurricane or Days That Used To Be or Thrasher or Change Your Mind or Sun Green; but still good with flashes of real genius. That doesn't make me a naysayer, I just think Le Noise doesn't really demonstrate any of Neil's ability in the way those other albums do, or his best work does.


Scotsman.

 
At 4/25/2017 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

If we go with the August '76 date and assume he plays 9 of his newest unreleased songs then the track list might be something like this:
Hitchhiker
One Way Ride
Stringman
Too Far Gone
Sad Movies
Evening Coconut
Bite The Bullet
Campaigner
Hold Back The Tears


But I have Hitchhiker being written in 1975 at the same time as Cortez The Killer. This opens up the possibilities for a more interesting track list. If I could give him a 9 song set it might go like:

Hitchhiker
Cortez The Killer
Lookout For My Love
Powderfinger
Ride My Llama
Sedan Delivery
Country Home
Evening Coconut
Campaigner

 
At 4/25/2017 12:51:00 PM, Blogger Llamajacket said...

Le noise is a great album. Peaceful valley Boulevard. https://youtu.be/EclE8Qir9-8
Take a moment and revisit that gem.

 
At 4/25/2017 01:06:00 PM, Blogger Soldier Steve said...

Wasn't Le Noise intended to be recorded with Crazy Horse? I remember an interview and Neil saying they weren't ready or been playing for awhile in 2010.

 
At 4/25/2017 02:40:00 PM, OpenID wallacekq said...

I think Le Noise is the best/last really good Neil album. Although I haven't gotten Peace Trail yet. It just works for my ears??

 
At 4/25/2017 02:47:00 PM, OpenID flyingscotzman said...

Llama: Fair point, and I think that Peaceful Valley is the best new song on Le Noise. Had Neil pursued his original plan of a mainly acoustic album, it could well have been better. But one good song doesn't make a great album.

For every Peaceful Valley Boulevard on Le Noise, there is a Sign Of Love (a song so insubstantial that Neil recycled it less than a year later), an Angry World and a Walk With Me (an unimaginative and bland remake of the more personality-filled Don't Take Your Love Away From Me) to water it down. Are these really great songs, or great performances? I'm not convinced. I've heard too much. Such rich and multi-layered works as Will To Love, Love And Only Love, Sedan Delivery, Star Of Bethlehem etc show what he is truly capable of when fully engaged.

The difference between Will To Love or Grandpa's Interview and most of Le Noise? Any amateur could have written most of Le Noise. ONLY Neil Young could have made the other two. That's why they are so special. Because they demonstrate his full (and very rare) ability in a way that Le Noise does not really hint at.

Scotsman.

 
At 4/25/2017 04:03:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Peaceful Valley Boulevard is fantastic & it was awesome to hear live before Le Noise was released. It's a bit too long I think & could have done without the polar bear nonsense verse at the end.....still a great song.....time-travelling Neil

 
At 4/25/2017 06:26:00 PM, Blogger RICK said...

Looks like Gary Burden has taken down the post with the cover?

 
At 4/26/2017 12:22:00 AM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis said...

@Rick, I like to think they're just "teasing" us by briefly leaking things... I hope.

This item does fit with the earlier word that Neil was due to set some time aside for Archives II. If I had to surmise, Hitchhiker looks to be part of that package. Hopefully, it's a sign that Neil's sabbatical from public appearances doesn't mean productivity has ceased. Put it this way: I'm not saying we should expect Archives II within the next 18 months (that would be dangerous talk, given the precedent here); but at the other end of the spectrum, maybe it'll be less than 18 *years*.

 
At 4/26/2017 03:33:00 AM, Blogger steve black said...

All these unreleased gems...but the archives does have a finite release date. Due to:Typical duration of legal copyright protection:
Normal protection provided by the Berne Convention is: Sound Recordings,
50 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was created, or,
if the work is released within that time: 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the work was first released.
This is why Pink Floyd have recently released archives material starting in 1965. (They sneakily released a limited run CD of 1965 material in 2015 so as to retain copyright for the later dated boxset in 2016) Correct me if I'm wrong. So in 2022 Archives vol 2 will be out.
Until then, 'Eat a Peach'.

 
At 4/26/2017 02:13:00 PM, Blogger Arthur said...


I like "The Old Homestead".... a lot.

I feel "the pull" in so many ways.

 
At 4/26/2017 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hello the definitive track list

Powderfinger
Hold back the tears
Human Highway
Hitchhiker
Ride my llama
Lookout for my love
Lotta love
Fontainebleau
campaigner

No stringman and no one seems to know cause piano songs. No captian kennedy cause was recorded later in the year. No wiil to love cause was recorded on may 24 1976. Ciao Stefano

 

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