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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

INTERVIEW - Nils Lofgren: Back on the Horse | Premier Guitar

Nils Lofgren
Photo by Carl Schultz | Premier Guitar

In a recent interview, Nils Lofgren says he pre-ordered his own new album, Colorado, even though he knew that management would send a copy, saying: "Just the excitement of being a kid, getting it sent in the mail… you open it up, it’s a new Neil Young record with Crazy Horse.”

From Nils Lofgren: Back on the Horse | Premier Guitar by Nick Millevoii:
Premier Guitar: How did working on a new album together follow the shows you did with Crazy Horse?

Nils Lofgren: Neil got excited and started writing for Crazy Horse. He sent a demo and said, “Hey, I know you’ve got your record coming out and your tour, but I keep writing and they’re coming pretty fast. Any chance we could all get together in Colorado and start recording a new record before you hit the road?” My wife Amy and I—we just lost our 15-year-old dogs Rain and Groucho a year before—we were really kind of hunkered down for a couple of weeks with our remaining two dogs to grieve. Amy gave me the thumbs up and said, “I’ll drive you up there.” So we had a good time then, just reminiscing and realizing, despite life’s ups and downs, in particular all the great musicians we’ve lost that I’ve gotten to play with over the years. To have the four of us, after 50 years, have a chance to show up in a beautiful place and create something new, there’s a deep gratitude that comes with it.

After 50 years, that’s really rare.

Billy and Ralphie and I knew that we had the songs, because at this point Neil sent us 11 demos. Neil said, “Don’t work out parts, just get familiar with the chords on the demos,” which is reminiscent of all my work with Neil, and it turned out to be a beautiful experience. We knew whatever obstacles were in front of us, either way, we were going to do something special and, as always, we kept it raw and raggedy.

There was no rehearsal, no practice.

We didn’t want to use headphones. Neil was singing through a PA in the room, so it was kind of like a little live club setting and we went after an immediate discovery of the song. We took the arrangements off the demo and just followed them. Of course, if Neil was playing a solo and kept playing, we wouldn’t go back to the verse until he got back to the verse. It was very organic, stream of consciousness, and it was just a brilliant chapter. You don’t get many chapters like that after 50 years … and to have a new album come out of it was really exciting.

I’ve already ordered mine.
Full interview at Nils Lofgren: Back on the Horse | Premier Guitar by Nick Millevoii.

More on Nils Lofgren and Neil Young.

Also, see Nils Lofgren's comments on working with both Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and Neil Young's Crazy Horse.

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At 12/12/2019 04:56:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

This interesting interview with Nils appears to confirm two of my guesses: that Poncho was intending to be back up until the last minute in 2018 but had reason not to be (I hope he is okay), and that She Showed Me Love was in fact a test run that was deemed sufficient and therefore not returned to.

And I think it works. I see why Neil chose it: it's a pretty good take that captures the vibe of the song. It's all there, you can feel the substance of it coming through. But unlike "I Do" (quite simply one of Neil's most hauntingly-beautiful tracks of the last 25 years) or "Green Is Blue", it doesn't send that shiver down my spine, doesn't take my breath away.

And that's the thing: it's just a pretty good version. "Pretty good" isn't "great"; and it's not a world apart from "boring", either. As acceptable and as fun and as idiosyncratic as the album version of She Showed Me Love is (I enjoyed it), I reckon he could have taken it up a few notches instrumentally if he'd stuck with it for another take or two. Perhaps if there are any more Crazy Horse shows in future (either with Frank or Nils) then this hypothesis will be confirmed.

Of course, we all live in the mobile phone-addicted world of 2019, where none of us (self included) can focus on one thing for more than 5 seconds without getting bored and checking Twitter or skipping a few tracks on the playlist. The end result for us is a lot of surface-skimming. Depth and richness replaced with shallowness and superficiality.

We all have the option to resist this trend if we want to, and it starts by stubbornly sticking with things a bit longer and a bit more intensely and with a bit more (okay, a lot more) focus than the modern world makes it comfortable for us to do.


At 12/12/2019 10:28:00 PM, Blogger Happy Andy said...

Interesting commentary as usual Scotsman but 180 degrees from my viewpoint as usual. I love the take of She Showed Me Love. Neil is into capturing the moment, the feel of the music. Another take may have sucked the life out of the music. Crazy Horse are not Toto. If you don’t like Neil’s first take best take mentality then bad luck.

At 12/13/2019 01:21:00 AM, Blogger Shakey said...

Any time there is a new album like this I force myself to listen start to finish a few times. This usually involves headphones and some marijuana and I find this helps the music grow on me and allows me time to assess each track. Ive begun doing this with some of Neil's past albums now and find I now love some albums I may not have been a fan of originally. Have to mention Olden Days also. This song is so hauntingly beautiful and sad.

At 12/13/2019 03:59:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

As I said above: "I see why Neil chose it: it's a pretty good take that captures the vibe of the song. It's all there, you can feel the substance of it coming through". So I don't really think this is "180 degrees" from your viewpoint.

Yes, another take *may* have sucked the life out of the music. Or maybe it would have done the opposite. Here's the thing: "take 2" doesn't delete "take 1".

According to Poncho, they battled with Like A Hurricane for 10 days before striking gold with that effortless-sounding synthesizer master take. 15 years later, Ragged Glory was created by playing the same set "over and over" for days on end. Probably fair to say that the life wasn't sucked out of the music: quite the opposite.

Now, if the first take is magical then that's great! And is the fifteenth take in a row often going to better than the third? Very unlikely.

But an artist who believes everything has to be captured as quickly and as effortlessly as possible is telling himself a story; and by telling himself that story, he makes it true. So in a world of smartphones and app notifications, it might not actually be "the Muse" telling us to settle for that first attempt; maybe we've all just lost our focus or attention span.

On the other hand, it might not be The Muse telling us to keep chasing after perfection either; maybe we are just scared of releasing our work into the world. That sounds equally plausible, doesn't it?

So it works both ways.


At 12/13/2019 04:05:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Yes - Olden Days, Lose My Mind, Green Is Blue, Eternity and I Do: these strike me as being the tracks at the heart of this album. Not that there is any need to, but you can distill it down to these five.


At 12/13/2019 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@Scotzman : you make some interesting points about perfection. It may be that certain people are only looking for perfection, and I know of many artists that are only looking for that (elusive) perfection. I think it’s a bit of a mistake to even recognize perfection as something achievable. Because it’s not. The music I find most important tends to be the most impenetrable; on an intellectual level anyway. I prefer music that surprises me and challenges my preconceptions. If on first listen, my reaction is one of confusion or conflicting opinions, then I immediately realize that it has something special to offer.

I completely agree with your take on the lack of attention span we all struggle with now, and like you; I’m no exception. But I also agree with @Shakey that if we could all just slow down long enough, then maybe more Neil fans might have found much to love in his output this century. I have found many of Neil’s 21st century albums required several listens before they revealed their genius to me. I have always been one to live with a record before discerning its value for myself. Most of my favorite albums have taken time to flesh out, but I’ve always approached music this way.

Even Neil expressed his love for mistakes on his hometown webcast from Canada several months ago. I believe he actually said “I love it when I make a mistake”. So I don’t think he’s ever looking for perfection. It’s a certain FEELING he’s after. I really didn’t enjoy the most recent Crazy Horse webcast Neil showed on Hearse Theatre, but it turns out that those performances were what made Neil want to record another Crazy Horse album....., so, what do I know.!

So for those out there disgruntled with Neil this century, I suggest you take some time out, slow down, and reconsider some of these records you so quickly disregarded from the past 20 years. You might just realize you missed something beautiful in your hurry off to the next.....


At 12/13/2019 05:06:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Dan - right! Perfection is an excuse: an excuse to give up, or to not start. That's the other extreme.

Some people are scared to even put pen to paper or paint to canvas in case they come up with something mediocre. And of course, we really don't need any more mediocrity. Anyone creating something new and putting it into the world for the first time is going to see it grappled with, misused, misunderstood, judged, or most likely (and perhaps most underwhelmingy) ignored. So their fears are justified, but also misplaced.

The trick, I think, (whatever our medium) is to realise that the best way to stand a chance of hitting greatness (not perfection) is to keep shooting at it, regardless of whether we hit it or not.

No harm in having a target: on the contrary, people who care have targets. But actually hitting it is a great bonus: the fun part is having a shot at it, doing your best.


At 12/13/2019 05:39:00 PM, Blogger Syscrusher said...

A little late to the game but I did write a my thoughts on the album after one listening:

The songs on Colorado seem quite varied but when strung together create a united vibe throughout... pretty chill, but dark and with darkness in the lyrics. The sound in places is reminiscent of some of his other albums yet is another totally unique album full of beauty and darkness. Beauty and darkness. Rainbow of Colours does seem of a brighter ilk than the other songs but still I think it works to change the vibe before the sombre finale of 'I Do'. That being said this might actually be a case where the Briggs fanatics (can I call them Chromey's?) are right Briggs would have pushed for a more undiluted album replacing Rainbow with Truth Kills.
(Mind you he couldn't influence the tracklist of Tonight's The Night.)
Shut It Down, Eternity and I Do are the three stand out cuts for me after one listen and seeing the film.
Overall it feels like exactly the album one might expect from the 74 year old version of 1070's Neil. If I were to ask for my perfect Neil Young album it would feature that ragged country Crazy Horse sound like in The Old Country Waltz, and this album opens with that same feel, ragged harp-infused acoustic Horse with the song 'Think of Me'. A mid-weight tune but GREAT like all of Neil's mid-weight tunes.
'She Showed Me Love' is a cool rant song. I don't even mind the Earth/baby carriage imagery that so many people are complaining about. It seems an original enough idea to be included in a song somewhere, and besides it's not the words he's singing, it's the WAY he's singing them. He thinks you might not believe him but I sure do!
Olden Days is a charming song, classic melodic Neil worthy of his older material. Only downside is that I keep wanting to sing "except The Pope maybe in Rome"...
'Help Me Lose My Mind' is a really cool stomper but I feel like I liked the video of Billy singing the song more than the song itself. I need to play this one again and crank it!
Not sure what I should say about 'I Do' other than this might be the song of the decade for him, and I love this singing voice he uses on this one and a few other later period songs. It could also have been called 'Do I?'. Very cool. But more absorbing to do.



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