Monday, July 24, 2017

Neil Young Piano Songs: 1970 - 1992

As Neil Young’s 2017 self imposed touring sabbatical continues (updated here and here), and we continue our journey into the past of the TW Archives.

In addition, we recently, we posted the sad news that there will be No Bridge School Benefit Concert in 2017 . In memory of all of the Bridge School Benefit Concerts we've attended over the years, here's a posting of our thoughts on Remembering The Warmth & Love of Bridge School Concerts .

Here’s a fan compilation of Neil Young's "Piano Songs" performed live in concert from between 1970 - 1992.

Thanks to rustie Shawn McCorkle for making this available. (Also, thanks to Richard S. for suggesting the topic on the Bridge School Benefit Concert Memories: Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Set - 1994 thread.)

Detailed info for this compilation:

00:00 Flying On The Ground Is Wrong [Dec 5, 1970 NYC]
04:41 There’s A World [Jan 21, 1971 Boston]
07:17 The Bridge [Feb 27, 1971 London]
10:57 Borrowed Tune [Jan 14, 1973 Buffalo]
15:05 Soldier [Jan 21, 1973 NYC]
18:06 A Man Needs A Maid ~ Heart Of Gold [Jan 22, 1971 Stratford]
24:14 Journey Thru The Past [Feb 23, 1971 London, BBC]
27:07 Love In Mind [Feb 23, 1971 London, BBC]
29:44 Sweet Joni [March 11, 1973 Bakersfield]
33:12 No One Seems To Know [March 5, 1976 Osaka, Japan]
35:56 Birds [May 26, 1978 early show SF]
38:19 Out Of My Mind [May 26, 1978 early show SF]
40:40 I Believe In You [March 28, 1970 Santa Monica]
43:51 Tonight’s The Night [Nov 17, 1992 Chicago]

0:48:44 Coastline [Jan 5, 1983 Santa Cruz]
0:52:25 Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me [Mar 22, 1985 Sydney]
0:56:19 Winterlong [Dec 13, 1989 Rotterdam]
1:00:15 Someday [Dec 13, 1989 Rotterdam]
1:05:55 Helpless [April 28, 1989 Tokyo]
1:11:21 Campaigner [Feb 18, 1992 NYC]
1:15:41 Love Is A Rose [May 18, 1992 Cleveland]
1:18:04 Are You Ready For The Country [May 18, 1992 Cleveland]
1:20:30 Such A Woman [Sept 21, 1992 Los Angeles]
1:24:44 Speakin’ Out [Sept 22, 1992 Los Angeles]
1:28:02 Love Art Blues [Nov 22, 1992 Minneapolis]
1:31:07 Homefires [Nov 22, 1992 Minneapolis]
1:33:47 After The Goldrush [Sept 5, 1989 NYC]

Neil Young "Piano Songs" compilation notes:
“In early 1996, longtime Rusty, Shawn “Just Riding My Llama” McCorkle, decided that he liked Neil’s piano work so much that he grabbed a bunch of his favourite performances and made a special tape full of them.

“Shawn then performed a unique tree: hundreds of branch leaders, but no defined leaves! Rather than use the regular tree format, he temporarily accepted a 100-minute blank tape from anyone and everyone who sent one, and dubbed onto it a copy of his compilation.

“After over a hundred such dubs, he suspended the distribution and turned over follow-on distribution to those who have already been served.”

The criteria also required the songs be sung with intimacy. Hence some interesting onstage dialogue has been left on. Listen to Young confessing his love on Love In Mind, where he wrote this song and the mysterious girl who inspired him. It’s a song about a rambler who connects to his girl on the phone. Much like how SMSs have become the essential relationship tool.

Then there’s the softly, softly version of the Buffalo Springfield’s Out Of My Mind, with the candy-coating pop sucre removed. Neil Young has that quality to make a public performance sound very private, just for you. His songs are touching, with a genuine melody, and his searching voice in some ways was the voice of his ’60s generation, restless, earnest and always inquiring.

The jump to Set 2 is also a mood shift. On these tracks, Young shows he can party and the piano becomes a barroom piano and you’re right there in Neil Young’s saloon. Things sober up from 9, with Such A Woman, an almost dirgelike lament. A song seldom sung and found on his Harvest Moon album.
More on Comment of the Moment: Neil Young on Piano.


  1. Great post and song listings. I have not ever read anything about the strength of Neil's piano playing, or harmonica for that matter. Known primarily as a monster guitar player, where/when did all this piano talent surface?

    It is of interest that a many guitarist also play piano, John, Paul, George(?) among the brethren of rock and roll. Of course, Dylan has played keys a lot in recent live shows - for why I don't know - it's the reason I stopped going to see him in concert.

    Anyway, the variety of Neil's tunes on the ivories always balances the albums and typically adds a great deal of interest. And a man needs a maid is certainly one of the best he's done, not so much technically, but the vibe with the vocal and the organ blows that song into the stratosphere for me.

  2. Wonderful compilation put together there by Mr McCorkle, very well done. Thanks for the thread, Thrasher. (Btw, I used to post here as Richie Cruz, now going by a different handle)

    Look at that list......for a lot of guys, that would be a successful career, for Neil it's just a few of his many classics. Like I said in a previous post, I love Neil's piano sound, and it comes out gloriously on that set of songs you posted. And let's not forget some of Neil's great piano songs post-92......songs like "Philadelphia", "My Heart", and one of my personal faves, the beautiful "It's A Dream" off of Prairie Wins.

    Two more things, first, how was it that "No One Seems To Know" never got an official release? What a great little song, a definite long lost gem.

    And 2nd, and slightly off topic, but all of you should hear the "Got It Made" that's on the CSNY box set. The studio version on American Dream was as blah as the rest of the album, but this is a cool live version featuring Stephen on piano, and Crosby/Nash singing backup......MUCH better than the official version. Like Neil, Stephen was great when he played a little piano. Remember Stills on the "Love-Art Blues" off the 1974 tour? Great honkytonk sound on the keys.

  3. And stills piano on only love can break your heart on same tour

  4. Also it might of have been just nash on got it made

  5. @ SONY - good question on where did all this piano talent surface?

    Certainly this is documented somewhere but we believe that like guitar, Neil is self taught on piano.

    So he never formally learned about what he wasn't supposed to do.

    @Richie C! - good to know. And thanks again for great suggestion.

    This was quite a memory b/c we were on that original tape tree that Shawn "Ride My Llama" put together back in the mid-90's on rust. In fact we probably have that 100 minute cassette somewhere too. Those were the days.

    It is quite a list even tho it only goes to 1992. And someone has probably made a Vol #2 by now as well.

    "No One Seems To Know" ... an appropriate title and answer to your question.

    @TOM - good suggestions for Vol # of Piano Songs.

  6. Yeah, a great list, in confirmation of something I was always aware of. Like Sony says, "... the variety of Neil's tunes on the ivories always balances the albums and typically adds a great deal of interest." The thing that always amazed me was the artlessness of it, similar in spirit and execution to something like Picasso's Don Quixote- short, rudimentary lines, almost non-nonchalantly executed that paint such a beautiful, recognizable, and poignant picture. I think it's the same result he always achieves, despite the lack of trained, technically perfect musical skill, e.g. the vibes on Will To Love. Give Neil an instrument, let him put his heart into it, and I'll take whatever the level of proficiency, the same as I'll take the masters. Agree about A Man Needs A Maid, especially the medley with Heart Of Gold. I've long had the idea of putting something similar together: one continuous, chronological, career spanning, performance of all the piano pieces only- no vocal, no other instruments, just the piano parts in isolation. I'm not a technical person though, so it's always been just an idea. Any takers out there???

    A Friend Of Yours

  7. Off-Topic, but hopefully interesting:

    I was watching Larry Johnson's 1994 Sleeps With Angels documentary (not to be confused with The Complex Sessions), and there is a great scene of Young sitting in the studio, shuffling piles of paper, busy working on the lyrics for the album. He comments:

    "Every line makes sense with every other line, but together they don't add up to give the right picture I want. You can take any line in the song and put it near any other line....(trails off)....This is like a message from someone, that I got, but it was like a bad fax (laughs)".

    Notice the willingness of Neil to persist with this "bad fax"; to take this precious and promising strand of inspiration and turn it into something, to do it justice. He clearly doesn't want to give up on the song: he knows there's magic in there waiting to be uncovered. THAT is how magical albums like Sleeps With Angels get made, very much against the conventional "wisdom" that everything has to come super-easy or else it is not worth bothering with.


  8. Stringman
    Flying On The Ground Is Wrong (live)
    Philadelphia (live versions)

    Some of my particular favourites from his piano repertoire (though I enjoy most of them). Neil is a wonderful piano player, and it fits many of his songs like a glove. The piano sound on the ballads is sparse, melodic, dream-like and above all....haunting.

    That is why a song like Philadelphia works. Because it gets right beneath your skin and makes you feel something very richly, very deeply. He takes a few sparse verses and a tentative meolody and uses it as a vehicle for an immense amount of feeling. And the hypnotic piano playing is a big part of that. The piano is a very different instrument to guitar, and many piano songs simply wouldn't work on guitar (and sometimes vice-versa).

    An example of a traditionally guitar-based song that works even better on piano? Winterlong (Rotterdam 1989).


  9. As far as a guitar song that I like on piano is "Helpless". I think the loneliness of the song works better with the simple sound of the piano. The first time I saw Neil was on the solo acoustic tour in 1989, and he did "Helpless" on piano, and I really dug it.

    Another one i like that for from the compilation on this thread is "Campaigner". I've never heard it on piano, and I like the way Neil plays it on the keys.

    I like "Mother Earth" on the pump organ, maybe better than the Ragged Glory style. "Hurricane" is fun on the pump organ too, but nowhere near as great as the regular Crazy Horse style.


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