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Friday, July 03, 2020

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy/Quadrilogy/Quintology/Sextology In Light of "Homegrown" Release: What Might Have Been?

Neil Young's "Ditch Quadrilogy":
"Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night", "On the Beach" & "ZUMA"

Now with Neil Young's album "Homegrown" finally released after 45 years in the vaults, how does this impact the chronology of those cherished mid 1970's albums period known as "The Ditch Trilogy"?

Here is the Comment of the Moment on Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy/Quadrilogy/Quintology/Sextology In Light of "Homegrown" Release: What Might Have Been? by the always formidable (D.) Ian Kertis; The Metamorphic Rocker:
For me, Homegrown clearly sounds--and feels--like a meeting point between Harvest on On the Beach.

In fact, I think Homegrown sounds more like OtB than OtB sounds like either TtN or TFA. Although TFA and TtN have a certain anguish and ragged edge in common musically speaking, the "ditch" classification is very loose and tenuous--if not artificial-- for me, at least in the straightforward sense that the classic trilogy of albums don't sound or feel too much alike for my ears (and Zuma is its own beast entirely, imho).

Each of these records just has its own musical identity and sensibility, such that it's never made that much sense in my mind to put certain albums into unified groupings, rank or otherwise quantify and compare them. In other words, "It's all one song".

Fwiw, however, it's possible we now have an alternative or parallel Ditch trilogy to consider: Tuscaloosa, Roxy, and Homegrown. That Tuscaloosa and Roxy offer counterparts to TFA and TtN respectively seems self-evident to me, and I'd argue that Homegrown offers essentially the mood of OtB with a seasoning of Harvest sound thanks to the Gators.

So perhaps an even more intriguing question would be, how do the last trio of NYA releases illuminate, echo, or counterpoint their "twins" classic catalogue? Also, how might Songs for Judy and Hitchhiker play into--or deconstruct--the ditch narrative? And of course, don't forget to enjoy and connect with the music, regardless of the mythos, as we chase our tails through the maze of Neil.

"Only real in the way I feel from day to day."

~Ian
Thanks Ian for sharing your thoughts here as your long view insights are most enjoyable to ponder. Right, what about Tuscaloosa and Roxy in the pantheon? Essential chapters? Or merely live concert versions of established classic songs in the canon?


Folks know that we here at TW regard the live concert experience to be paramount and far more essential than the albums themselves. We've long argued that the songs in concert are more powerful and effective than what was captured in the studio.


Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy
"Time Fades Away", "Tonight’s the Night" & "On the Beach"

More on Neil Young's Ditch Trilogy/Quadrilogy/Quintology/Sextology In Light of "Homegrown" Release: What Might Have Been?

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3 Comments:

At 7/03/2020 09:31:00 PM, Blogger onthebeach said...

To my ears, I like the versions on Roxy better than the TtN Lp...They feel looser than their studio counterparts and as the comment above said "more powerful"...on the other hand I think Tuscaloosa is tighter than TFA...the band sounds more refreshed vs road weary on TFA...I agree though with the statement that Homegrown sounds like OTB at times for sure...

 
At 7/04/2020 03:02:00 PM, Blogger NYBD11-12 said...

The "Ditch Trilogy" are 3 of the most powerful LPs of that era. Yeah, I know TFA makes Neil "nervous." I empathize that he doesn't want reminders of this sad time. But the feelings in TFA songs "are as real as the day is long."

These 3 LPs are fairly different, although both TFA and TTN are made with ragged glory. To me, the Ditch is the emotional trauma that Neil experienced during the years he made these LPs. TFA is landing in the ditch. OTB explores it. TTN is a catharsis that led his way out. Zuma finds him back on the road. "Don't cry no tears around me" indeed.

These 4 LPs, plus Goldrush, Ohio, Comes a Time, and Rust led the Dean of American Rock Critics Robert Christgau to call Neil "the truest rocker of the 70s."

 
At 7/04/2020 06:13:00 PM, Blogger (D.) Ian Kertis; The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Thrasher, thanks for another spotlight, though I'm not sure it's entirely healthy for my ego!

@onthebeach, I agree about Roxy: more powerful in many instances than the studio TtN, and Neil's vocals are a little better, too. Tired Eyes in a concert setting is devastating, heartbreaking. Speakin' Out and Albuquerque hit their groove with a hypnotic, almost comatose sadness. Those two tracks in particular stand out so much more to me on Roxy than ever before.

@NYBD, It's worth noting, from a strictly chronological viewpoint, that TtN was recorded before but published after OtB. Which throws another wrench in the "ditch" dynamic: if there's a defined trilogy, does it go in recorded order or release order? Clearly, this doesn't affect the order in which the work was first released for most of us to hear, which in turn would likely influence how our perceptions of the ditch narrative were formulated over the last 40 years. But it does point out the limitations, or difficulties, of trying to impose an overarching narrative that brackets these albums from the rest of Neil's catalogue.

I know it pushes against--or at least, makes a paradox of--the "all one song" mantra, but I think any attempt to contain Neil's works within an overarching narrative will be prone to loopholes, leaks, and ambiguities. The heart of the matter, for me, is Neil's own warning that "If you follow every dream, you might get lost..." .


 

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