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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Comment of the Moment: Overview of Neil Young's Last 18 Years of Albums

The Man In The Black Hat
(or "Rockin' In The Free World")

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real
Telluride, Colorado - 10/1/16

Photo by thrasher
(Click photo to enlarge)

A few weeks ago, we posted a comment In Defense of Neil Young's Late-Late Style.

The comment by Minke T. deals eloquently -- and bluntly -- with the twilight years of Neil Young's output -- both recently as well as the future years to come. A very worthwhile read if you missed the original posting.

Which brings us to our latest Comment of the Moment on a summary overview of Neil Young's last 18 years of recorded output by Rog:
Wow, who else has released so much in the last 18 years?! My thoughts:

Silver and Gold - I like this album, but it's not one I come back to very often. Song quality is good.

Road Rock - I think this sounds decent, but I'd rather have a full gig, so I'm more likely to put a bootleg on. The DVD from this tour is great though.

Are You Passionate - I've never understood why this gets a hard time, I love it! Particularly Mr Disappointment, Let's Roll, Goin' Home and the title track.

Greendale - absolutely brilliant! Sun Green especially.

Living With War - When Neil Young used to protest something, he would write a song. From the 00s onwards, he would write an album instead. This is one of the successful ones, it still feels concise and has a great sound. After The Garden is a highlight for me.

Prairie Wind - Lovely record. Even with the Nashville/Harvest connection, I don't think this is quite like anything else.

Chrome Dreams II - His last brilliant "songs" collection. Ordinary People throws it a bit off balance, but Spirit Road, No Hidden Path, The Believer, all brilliant.

Fork in the Road - a couple of good tunes only, this should have been the theme for a song or two, not a whole album (see LWW comment). His weakest in years.

Le Noise - could have done with a little more variety, but it's a great sounding and interesting record. Again, it's like nothing else. Unusual for someone who has done so much to keep making such unique moves.

Americana - this is a fun record

Psychedelic Pill - I'm not interested in lyrics about MP3s, but it's a great record all the same. I like that they went for a pure style this time, instead of editing the jams down to traditional lengths. Walk Like A Giant was amazing on the tour.

A letter Home - Just horrible, the spoken word stuff is cringeworthy.

Storytone - Awful syrupy songs. Too Disney. No edge. Could barely get through it. Loved the Horse version of Who's Gonna Stand Up, glad that at least got an EP release.

The Monsanto Years - Again, full album on a theme which could have just been a song or two. However, it's saved by how good the music and production is. It's a great sounding record! Big Box and Monsanto Years especially. Really like the Promise Of The Real stuff.

Earth - Unconventional live album but a great listen.

Peace Trail - A bit slight, but some good stuff here. Particularly the title track.

The Visitor - Decent. His most varied record since Chrome II. A grower.

Whilst I'm still hungrily waiting for a slice of Toast, the archive releases have also been superb. Particularly Massey Hall, Cellar Door and Bluenote Cafe.
Thanks Rog! Nice summary overview of Neil's last 18 years of albums. It is quite a range of listening experiences. As always, live music is better. Although relatively little of this period made it to the stage and as has been the case, played once on tour and never again.

More on In Defense of Neil Young's Late-Late Style.

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At 3/28/2018 09:00:00 AM, Blogger Julie said...

I largely agree with Mike T's assessment and have been thinkingh of sharing my thoughts on the subject.So here you are. I am sure there will be disagreement with my views and I doubt if I will be on Neil's Christmas card list next year.

Neil has created a body of work that is unmatched with one or two exceptions (e.g. Dylan, The Beatles etc) by most other artists. His legacy is secure and in 100 years people will still be listening to some of his songs, but not all of them because some frankly are just 'a piece of crap.'

What I find disappointing however is the steady decline in standards (a path matched by Dylan in his recent output).

There has been nothing really worthy of Neil's main body of work in my view since Psychedelic Pill and which was his last coherent and consistent piece of work. It is no coincidence that it was recorded with Crazy Horse.

A letter Home - Just horrible, the spoken word stuff is cringeworthy. And appalling sound quality - I know it was deliberate but why bother to record it in that way at all.Chnages properly recorded is agreat song - just listen to the live version from Farm Aid(?)

Storytone - Awful syrupy songs. Too Disney. No edge. Could barely get through it. A love song ( yuck) to DH and who in my view is largely responsible for the decline in standards.

Ramada Inn tells the tale of the break down of his relationship with Pegi. Grown ups stick together through adversity and I am sure Neil was not easy to live with at times. But to leave a wife and family of 36 years for the younger model And so they can save the planet together is just juvenile nonsense and which is revealed all too clearly in Paradox.A 72 year old slouching around in unscripted film with new girlfriend and new best friends - youngsters and whose music is unlikely to be listened to at all were they not with Uncle Neil. It is a mid life crisis writ large and all the sadder for that.

The Monsanto Years - Again, full album on a theme which could have just been a song or two. It is unworthy in the context of Neil's body of work and PoTR are in my view light weight musicians who would never have been heard of but for their connection with Willie Nelson ( who I think is overrated and irrelevant).

Earth - Unconventional live album but a great listen.If you only listen to it once or twice! Compare PoTR's versions of Neil's songs to thos withy Crazy Horse. PoTR produce a muddied cloudy version of the songs - youngsters trying - and failing - to show how good they are. With Crazy Horse there is a clarity to the music and they always do enough but no more than is necessary to bring life to the songs.

Peace Trail - A bit slight, but some good stuff here. Particularly the title track. And My new robot and My Pledge

The Visitor - Decent.

And that really says it all ' Decent.' If that is the best that can be said about a Neil Young album -0 and it is about this one - then it is easy to see how far his standards have dropped. Light weight songs tossed out with no real craft or purpose backed by second rate musicians desperate for the lime light.

Neil follows his own path as we all know. The path with DH and PoTR is a downward one and asad ending to a lifetime and legacy of amazing stunning and life changing music.

Maybe, just maybe there is one final great album to be made with Crazy Horse but I will not wait for the next PoTR collaboration or the next DH film - a vanity project or what.

Drop the mermaid, ditch Willie's boys and get back with Pegi and the real muse and the music.

And i bet I won't be onTW's Christmas card either, but they are just my thoughts for what it's worth

At 3/28/2018 10:06:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

Dear Julie,

Thanks for writing and sincerely appreciate your viewpoints here.

Many -- no doubt -- agree. As much as we try and stress, sure it's all a personal opinion which everyone is entitled to. There are no right answers ... only wrong questions.

We've addressed most of these points before over the years and will not go into now and challenge here.

Any respectful analysis is welcome here and we welcome other responses to Julie, Minke or Rog.


At 3/28/2018 10:11:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

ps - it will take more than this to be removed from TW's Christmas card mailing list. All the best.

At 3/28/2018 11:02:00 AM, Blogger Seamus Mc Donnell said...

I love reading the diatribes in each of the new stories here on Thrashers.
It always ends up as with folk trying to argue what Neil should and should not do.
I want this/ I want that.
Ring him up if you're that concerned.

At 3/28/2018 01:52:00 PM, Blogger Lloyd Walton said...

Paradox was Beatlesque, in a Yoko way. Hat's off to Elliott.

At 3/28/2018 03:39:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Julie your assessment of NY's last 18 years was spot on. Thanks for writing those words because its exactly the way I feel about my favorite artist. Except for the Archives and subsequent series this century has been a rough one if you love his music.Your best statement that says it all is your last.

At 3/28/2018 03:41:00 PM, Blogger Andy said...

I personally really like Silver and Gold. I feel a lot of fans expected a masterpiece, based on the theory that Neil got good around the beginning of decades. I think it is a memorable group of songs, but that's a pretty subjective opinion on my part. My only potential criticism is that the playing is a little gentle, soft perhaps. Vocals hushed, drummers holding back, etc. I am not saying it needed the Horse, but a firmer touch might have brought things up a notch . . .

. . . And a firmer touch is what we got on Prairie Wind, which for my money is his best album of the aughts. A really well-developed and sophisticated group of songs.

To disagree respectfully, I'm not big on Greendale. Some of the songs in the middle of the album are a bit forgettable to me, particularly the bluesy numbers.

At 3/29/2018 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Ya, just ride back to Broken Arrow & everything will get better.... really? "You can never go home." I am enjoying Neil's albums, as usual. I like the last 18 years of songs and albums quite a lot. I value the new stuff. I finally got off the Dylan train when he started doing the Sinatra songbook, 1st an album, then a triple album. Even ALH is better than that. In fact, the "Clean version" of ALH is very good. I agree about the sound quality, why bother? Thankfully, the project was redeemed by hearing it without the speed wobble and horrible sound. Ironic after buying a Blue ray surround system to pay tribute to Neil's high audio resolution standards. But with Archives 2 on the way, in a Blu ray box, what's to complain about. More is what I want. Alan in Seattle

At 3/29/2018 12:27:00 PM, Blogger Gary A. Lucero said...

The great thing about being a Neil Young fan is you might be the one who prefers his lighter country music, his eclectic output, his Crazy Horse material, or some or all of the above.

I've been a fan since the early seventies. About the time he headed for the ditch, my older brothers, the guys who turned me on to Neil, moved onto other music, but the guy was just irresistible to me. I couldn't get enough of him, and I don't care what he puts out, I'm all for it. I'd personally rather get a new album of tepid material than some live performance from 1970. I want to see what The Man is doing now!

Having said that, there's plenty that I'm not a big fan of: most of Old Ways, almost all of Silver & Gold, most of Are You Passionate, the original Living With War (OMG!), Le Noise, A Letter Home (OMG! 2), Storytone (OMG! 3), but the rest is worth a listen, at least occasionally.

Regardless, I imagine we all have a different bent. Keep it coming Neil! Make another crappy movie, some more shitty music, or another misguided archival web site! I love it!

PS: Don't make another music player. That was a bad idea.

At 3/29/2018 01:25:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

@Alan: Don't hold your breath waiting for that Blu-ray box, according to Neil it's not happening.

At 3/29/2018 03:48:00 PM, Blogger Minke said...

Dear Rog, all,
My sincere apologies if I came across as blunt in my recent post. That was not my intention. But intentions are irrelevant.
Nice post. Thanks & greetings to all,

At 3/29/2018 04:20:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Gary - good to see you. Thanks for comment. It's been awhile. Racking our brains on your rust handle??

@ Minke - no worries. Blunt is OK and no apologies necessary. A great comment and worthy of TW COTM.

At 3/29/2018 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Gary A. Lucero said...

I alluded to it before but I definitely think NYA is another missed opportunity for Neil. If there were apps for iOS and Android to not only stream but search the timeline, check out the lyrics, etc., it would be amazing! Every time he/they tweet and include that damned NYA URL I want to yell and tell he\they they're idiots! People consume Twitter, etc. on phones nowadays and those damned URLs won't help them!

But he's a stubborn guy, so he clings onto quality. I myself don't have room or money for vinyl (plus the dust here in N.M. kills it anyway) so I'm happy enough listening to non-therapeutic iTunes-quality crap. I'm not about to sit at a PC trying to listen to streaming anyway!

I will of course subscribe to NYA, though, just to get the discography and to of course support Neil Young. The guy has to need the money, right?

At 3/29/2018 06:07:00 PM, Blogger Lone Red Rider said...

Recent comments by Elliot suggest that a mobile app is forthcoming. Who knows how they can afford to do that. Subscriptions will likely not pay for it AND all of the licensing deals. But, in today's world, if you are not mobile friendly, then you are not...friendly.

At 3/30/2018 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Mikkelrev said...

For me, the last 18 years of NY has been great. I enjoy everything from the acoustic and "lighter country" music to the harder rock. There is something in his music that hits me and touches me. And NY is one of the very few of that kind. I mostly listen to jazz these days, but NY is still with me - and I've been a fan since the 70's.

About the records the last 18 years: I was thinking about which of the records I've enjoyed the most. And these are the top 5:

1. Living With War. The original, with the chorus. I played this over and over and over again for months. Never got tired. So "tight", comrehensive, spot on. For me this was a masterpiece.

2. The Visitor. Another masterpiece. Still listen to this every day. Carnival is a classic (and so is Peace Trail - two classics the last year - he's still got it!)

3. Storytone. A beautiful record. Both the big band and the solo. (By the way, there is nothing pathetic in writing a love song when you're 70. Only difference is that you are more reflective than when you were 20. And, by the way, I wish people would listen to and review thew music, and not make personal moral judgements about how they think others should live their lives, and who others should fall in love with, or not)

4. Silver and Gold. Oh yes, this was nice. And the DVD also.

5. Fork in the Road. This is funky, spontaneous, comrehensive. I liked the first live bootleg even better, but this record is still enjoyable. I wish he could do the song Fork in the Road live.

I know many disagree about this, but that's the good thing about Neil. And, just to be clear: I love all Neil's stuff from the 70's. But I think he's still got it. Like nobody else.

At 3/30/2018 10:36:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Mikkelrev - good suggestions there that someNeil fans will agree and disagree with. As Always.

We know we said to Julie above that we'll refrain from commenting on Neil's post-2000 work and let others chime in.

Now that we've had some other opinions, we'll do one of our favorite TW taks ... go on a journey through the past into our Archives.

Here are the results of a Poll for Favorite Neil Young Studio Album of 21st Century from 2010:

As you can see from the comments, many took issue with the surprising results.

Or how this TW claim?
"No Hidden Path": The Best Post-1970s Neil Young Song?

Thanks again to all for contributions here!


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