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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review of the Moment: Neil Young's New Album 'Homegrown'

"Homegrown" by Neil Young
(back cover)

With the official release of Neil Young's album 'Homegrown' last week -- after a 45 year delay -- reactions have been flooding out around the world and trickling in here at TW. (Also, see 1st THOUGHTS: Neil Young's New Album 'Homegrown'.)

Neil Young's comments on 'Homegrown'
(See PREVIEW TRACK: "Try" from Homegrown Album by Neil Young )

Some critics have hailed the unreleased album as "classic" and "essential". The ever prickly Pitchfork says: "Homegrown is named Best New Reissue", which seems to be impossible for an unreleased album to be "reissued"?

Well, anyways, here's a Review of the Moment on 1st THOUGHTS: Neil Young's New Album 'Homegrown' by Ian "The Metamorphic Rocker":
Homegrown Thoughts: the first one that springs to mind is "Wow...".

Now on the 5th or 6th listen, the actual listening experience is quite otherworldly. I've read enough about the album that I was prepared, in theory, for weirdness, but in practice, this Homegrown is a trip in every sense of the word. Rewards headphones. I just heard Neil chuckle about 1:30 into We Don't Smoke it... which, by the way, is absolutely a highlight for me. It's like Blue Eden (Sleeps with Angels), except imagine the Stray Gators playing in place of the Horse. Great jam!

Opinions are weird. I know there's some controversy here, but I prefer this take of the title track over the Horse version. It's funky and raw: Are You Ready for the Country's stoner cousin.

Lots of little delights: beautiful harp and finger plucking on White Line. Star of Bethlehem sounds like a fresh mix of the Stars 'n Bars/Decade version. Maybe it's the improved mixing and mastering or it could be I was never paying attention before, but in years of listening to this track, I had never picked up Ben Keith's delicate harmony vocals behind Emmylou. With that discovery, the song has never been more affecting and bittersweet. In fact, Ben Keith is all over this record. Talk about a lump in the throat: it's something to hear a "new" NY album with that pedal steel touch.

Can't say enough good things about Separate Ways. It deserve a post of its own and maybe it'll get one soon. Try is a real grower for me: possibly the sweetest--and saddest--number Neil has ever put on record.I could try to express my responses to the other songs new and old, but I feel this album is better listened to than talked about. I will say that I can see/hear a few possible reasons it didn't come out in '75, and I suspect casual fans may be left confused and cold by it. If I had to describe this album with one word, it would be "interiority".

The lamp on down the hall-- or Shining Light--is the love that makes the world go 'round. Yes it do, yes it do.
Thanks Ian for sharing your 1st thoughts on 'Homegrown'. "interiority" ... nice framing and creative. Well, that seems to be a lot of Neil's old style of looking inward while looking out.

Someone once said the difference between Bob & Neil is that Bob writes about what's around outside of him. Neil writes about what's inside him.

"Homegrown: Never Known to Fail" by Neil Young

Here's another 1st thought on NYA by Bill Bentley:

Full review @ Bentley's Bandstand | NYA.

 PRE-ORDER: Neil Young's album "Homegrown" 
Neil Young's new album "Homegrown" is now available for pre-order order. Release Date: June 19th Pre-Order here (Please shop locally & independently. But if you can't, we appreciate your supporting Thrasher's Wheat by clicking this link . Thank you!!!)


Official Audio for Neil Young's "Vacancy" from 'Homegrown'. More on Neil Young's new album "Homegrown" and preview track "Try".

Track list and details @ Neil Young's new album "Homegrown".

More 1st thoughts on Neil Young's new album 'Homegrown' @ 1st THOUGHTS: Neil Young's New Album 'Homegrown'.

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At 6/25/2020 01:43:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

A nice in-depth explanation on NYA from J Hamlin for the omission of Cowgirl in the Sand on the CD and Vinyl release of Rust Bucket.

Peace 🙏

At 6/25/2020 05:33:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Thanks for heads up Dan!
Just posted @

Looking fwd to Dangerbird tomorrow!

Can't wait to get to the bottom of the rust bucket!


At 6/25/2020 06:05:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thanks for the shout out, Thrasher. This album is fascinating, rough edges and all. Musically and just in its overall sound, it feels like a halfway point between Harvest and On the Beach. But even though songs like Try and Star of Bethlehem encapsulate Neil's gentle, country-tinged mode, I don't see the album winning over those who strongly prefer Neil's more popularly accessible Harvest/Comes a Time/Harvest Moon sound. Admittedly, I find Comes a Time and Harvest Moon overproduced in places--the NYPS release from the '92 tour shows how some of those songs not only stand up but breathe better without heavy-handed arrangements. Just as the Live Rust rendition of Comes a Time's title number proves that song doesn't need a chorus of fiddles trying a weed bit hard to evoke a folksy atmosphere.

The point is, Homegrown is just about the right level of loose and ragged for me, but yymv depending on matters of taste. Two key moments of the album are Separate Ways and Florida. And they are the two tracks I have the hardest time writing about in a concrete form. Separate Ways is a fantastic cut, possibly my favorite on the album and certainly a bold choice for opener. Its wobbly, pensive gait is a stellar instance of Neil's instinct for creating music that uses its sound to evoke an emotional state. Keith's ghostly pedal steel licks are the perfect complement to this soundscape and a fine counterpoint to Neil's drifting vocals, a seemingly instinctive musical sympathy showing how and why Ben Keith was such an effective collaborator for Neil.

As for Florida, it will intrigue some and just irritate others. I predict it will be one of the flashpoints for strongly divided opinions on this album. It's certainly one I'll be coming back to, as I'm still very much in the process of wrapping my head around both the words and the sounds, but I'm sure some just will not "get" it and they won't care to.

That said, it's not representative of the album as a whole. Kansas and Little Wing are wonderfully unadorned acoustic performances that shouldn't be overlooked. Between this release and Hitchhiker's Captain Kennedy, I'm glad we're starting to see side 1 of Hawks & Doves in a more (imho) more conducive setting. Little Wing is highly underrated and I hope more listeners are moved to reconsider it now, as part of an album whose flow and feeling it sincerely harmonizes with. One of my keen hopes is that Archives II will do a similar service for Lost in Space (aka Deep Sea Blues), one of my all time favorite Neil tracks that almost no one knows. I've always been a bit frustrated to have both Lost in Space and Little Wing stuck on an album which, otherwise, just doesn't take off for me in many ways.

I look forward to Rust Bucket, Return to Greendale blu-ray, and seemingly some possibility still for NYA#2 (???) in full later this year. "Little Wing, don't fly away when the summer turns to fall."


At 6/25/2020 08:36:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

100% agree with Ian that Separate Ways alone is a gem that Neil hid somewhere in the center of his soul & within his flow of songs that he did release...I dare say Separate Ways is the signature song on Homegrown

but I sure do love the Stray Gators (sort of) finally hitting the groove on Homegrown

Neil's archive releases are making my 40's absolutely golden here on Earth

I am baked...

At 6/25/2020 10:10:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Jonathan, Both Homegrown (the song) and We Don't Smoke It are great vehicles for the Gators. I can see how the latter wouldn't have immediate appeal for some, but I encourage you to forget about the goofy words and get lost in the groove, following the moody, churning harmonica and guitar licks to wherever they'll take you. Aside from the Crazy Horse workouts, you don't get a lot of jamming or band showcases on NY records. It's a unique track in this regard, and certainly adds to the album's flavor for me.

I'll close by offering that I've started plugging some of these tracks into a playlist (the digital descendant of the mix tape). I call it "Like a Dove", because the initial idea was to meld side 1 of Hawks & Doves with side 2 of Stars 'n Bars. It ended up expanding to incorporate various other mid-'70s NY tracks, focusing mostly on the mellower tracks. So far, the running order is:

1. Hawaii 2. Kansas 3. Ride My Llama [Hitchhiker version] 4. The Old Homestead 5. Lost in Space 6. Florida 7. Like a Hurricane 8. Star of Bethlehem 9. Little Wing 10. Will to Love 11. Mexico 12. Deep Forbidden Lake. 48 mins. I always listen to the albums as the artist intended--sometimes even playing songs I would normally skip just to get the full experience--but equally, I get a lot out songs by playing with sequence, in different settings according to my tastes. Especially when dealing with peak era NY, when he had so many tracks that could have come out in so many permutations.

At 6/26/2020 02:17:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Ian - thanks again for dropping more thoughts here on HG.

Sounds like everyone is digging the journey through the past.

We're quite intrigued by the whole impact of HG on the Ditch Trilogy myth. The what if HG had been released back in 75 and TTN was being released today?

We hope to have more to say on that in the near future. Along w/ a surprising revelation regarding song Florida, the fever dream ramble.

ps - cool on the digital mix tape! We've found that playing tracks in recorded sequence on NYA to be remarkably effective and easy. This mid 70s period really becomes even more stunning when you watch the tracks scroll by almost day after day. An amazing period, for sure.

@ Jonathan - so glad you're getting golden here on Earth! bake on!

At 6/26/2020 04:32:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@Ian Kertis: Your sequencing is brilliant!!!

Peace 🙏

At 6/27/2020 12:39:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Dan--Thanks; glad you approve! I'm a writer (aspiring), and my approach to sequencing is related to narrative structure. At the most fundamental level, a lot of it comes down to tension and release. I think people underestimate how important sequencing is to an album experience. Not just for obvious "concept" albums: maybe I'm connecting dots that aren't really there, but to me, many (all?) of the best albums have some strong narrative or structuring principle binding together the individual tracks, whether it's billed as a story or not.

It's worth noting this is not something I could do in the same way without spending time and energy listening to and appreciating the original albums, paying attention to how songs are structured and how they play off each other in the original, intended order. I greatly admire and study a lot of Neil's (or sometimes Briggs'?) sequencing, and in truth, I think my fascination with album sequencing has informed my ideas about written narrative just as much as my sequencing is itself inspired by a study of narrative.

At 6/27/2020 06:13:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Ian Kertis : I completely agree. Sequencing can make or break a record, and many artists work very hard to make the right choices. Most listeners don’t think much about it but they definitely feel it when it’s done right. As well as when it’s done wrong. One of the first bands in rock and roll that really focused on sequencing were The Beatles. They were very hands in the studio when it came to sequencing their records, and it shows.

I too have been fascinated with combining songs together ever since cassette tapes first came out back in the day. When I was working in the record business I spent hours creating mix tapes and put a lot of thought into how each song played off the one before and after. That ebb and flow, contrast and relief are really important. Of course the lyrical content plays heavily into the overall intention behind every tape I made too. It was a fun way to create something unique and powerful.

Keep going, you have a great ear and a real gift.

Peace 🙏

At 7/02/2020 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Kundalini said...

I started today watching/listening to Porchside and started to cry watching the silhouette of Neil sing The Times They Are A’Changing - I watched and listened three times and just finished Little Wing, reading the lyrics. I have a hearing loss and need to read to get them. Will any of you help me understand/interpret this song? Who is the Little Wing? She comes when the children sing - is this Spring? And then, change comes to summer but if you fly away then it is winter and that time is the best of all? Well, I try hear, times a changing, and every season is one to treasure. Winter/isolated - a time for solitude and inward glance. Is that the best of all? Some above mention Neil is interior and Bob observes the world around him, so yes Winter - Interior could be the best for Neil.

We approach the Fourth of July and Neil presents us with such a gift - from Alabama to Campaigner to Ohio, offering political calls to action.
A break for “Water Is Life” and a request for donations to Navajo Water Project. I see this offering as a strong celebration of our country, and yet, Neil recognizes that we built our Nation on the backs of Indigenous.
Then, Neil’s soulful prophetic voice sings Bob’s Times Are A Changing - Admit that the waters around you have grown...

Lookin’ For a Leader - with updated lyrics follows, then Southern Man - speaks to BLM today and then closes with wistful Little Wing.

Happy Fourth of July - Our country has its work to do and our Troubadour Neil is saying get out there - work for the man to succeed the current occupant of the White House, the Man who has the Great Spirit on his side.

At 7/02/2020 05:08:00 AM, Blogger Kundalini said...

And let’s not forget Darryl’s artful direction - the black and white, the textures. The filming is beautiful, parallels the artists music/words.

At 7/02/2020 05:08:00 AM, Blogger Kundalini said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/02/2020 04:59:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Kundalini, Regarding Little Wing, I think your interpretation is solid. I've always found the song very touching, with the nursery rhyme-like simplicity of the words. It could work well as a lullaby. I think the Little Wing character herself could represent hope, relief, or fresh beginnings--which could be symbolically associated with spring, the sprouting up of new life, etc, just as in the title track of Homegrown: "One day, without no warning, things start jumping up from the ground"--the exuberance of renewed growth. "Winter is the best time of them all" is the puzzler, and I don't have a strong reading of that line as yet.

Neil has several other songs with birds as characters or symbols: the aptly titled Birds from 'Gold Rush', Dangerbird, Thrasher, The Old Homestead (with its three "prehistoric birds"), and the much later Beautiful Bluebird (among others) show this motif. I'm not going to unfold a thesis on avian imagery in the lyrics of Neil Young--although that's an enticing project for the future--but this may provide some context for the imagery of Little Wing.

Sorry if I'm giving more questions than answers, but I too find the song fascinating and enigmatic.

At 7/02/2020 05:22:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Just want to say lots of great discussion evryone here on Neil's latest.

@ Ian - good points on sequencing and the lost art.

btw, the same thoughts apply to concert setlits. Neil has really made an art form of the concert setlist as a narrative structure. We only point out the obvious here b/c so many times we hear complaints about stagnant setlists and lack of variety on tours. Like Neil's a jukebox and has to play lots of different songs every night to make it worth seeing more than one show --unlike other bands that play totally diff sets each night, but never really tell a story.

@ Dan Swan - ahh, the mix tapes. brings back those cassette memories/memorexes.

but the digital mix tape is so simple its almost unfair. But woe to they who hit shuffle/random. sacrilege

@ Kundalini - good question on Little Wing, Looks like Ian has you covered.

The lyric "Winter is the best time of them all". We would just suggest that most feel the opposite -- Winter is the WORST time of them all. So Neil's being is typical contrarian self here, maybe. Or maybe not, being a hockey playing Canadian, he probably really did love the winter cold and ice.

And speaking of birds, here's a blast from the past from rust in 1995 by Anne:

Neil & Birds in Song Lyrics

chirp, chirp, we'll fly away ...

At 7/23/2020 11:37:00 AM, Blogger hafnarbakki said...

I’ve been wondering ehy Neil Young sings:
“yes it do” instead of “yes it doe” on ‘Separate Ways”

what does that mean? is it just slang?


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