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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Comment of the Moment: 'Sleeps With Angels" Film Now Playing on #3 | Neil Young Archives

"Sleeps With Angels" Documentary Film by Larry "L.A." Johnson
via Subscriber News | NYA

Much, much excitement in the Rust community over the latest NYA Subscriber News and the premiere of a work in progress documentary of the making of the album Sleeps With Angels by Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

Primarily, the enthusiasm centers around watching the late David Briggs -- Neil Young's long time associate and Producer -- collaborate in the studio. Our Comment of the Moment in on the post 'Sleeps With Angels" Film Now Playing on #3 | Neil Young Archives by David R.:
Nice to see.

Pity all the music seems to be the same as the final studio versions. Great to see Neil with short hair and at one point even no sideburns. Cool to see him on the flute and playing distorted harmonica. Made me wonder if the characters in Trans Am are the start of the sort of thinking that led to Greendale.

I loved this record at the time and listening back I am still astonished by how good it is. Personally I think it might be Neil's best. I never thought about how different the sound is to Ragged Glory though it is true it is on a different planet. There is something of David Lynch to it, it would work as a soundtrack to one of his films, and I recall alongside grunge that was a major cinematic line art followed in the early 90s. Listening again I can feel Neil really tapping into that here and it is notable and logical that he then followed it with Dead Man.

I know a lot has been said about how Neil might have lost part of his muse when he lost Briggs, though sadly that is also clear listening again. Ever since Neil I feel has relied too much and too often on the just plug in and play approach that was first tested ironically here with Piece of Crap. Sleeps with Angels is very much so a studio record and feels and sounds like the product of one of those long experimental spells in the studio that started with The Beatles in the 60s and maybe ended with Radiohead at the millennium. The timing for Neil was perfect too, it was late enough after the 80s to not go over the top with studio sounds, drum machines, synths etc, and still early enough to have the enormous music industry support that allowed bands to really indulge themselves making a record.

I guess that is it, Neil has always blown with the wind of his own muse, though back then there was also an entire industry and experienced team that in this prime of his life blew behind him too.
Much thanks for sharing your thoughts here David!

The late David Briggs was Neil Young's producer on several key albums including Tonight's The Night, Zuma and Ragged Glory. Briggs' influence on the recording process has been lauded as a major contributing factor to Neil Young's recording success bringing a unique "discipline" to the process.

Neil Young and Producer David Briggs, 1995
Photo by Pegi Young

"How Survivals, Grief and Legacies Unfold in American Music"
by Caryn Rose @ 2019 Pop Conference at MoPop - Seattle

See David Briggs and Neil Young: "How Survivals, Grief and Legacies Unfold in American Music".

Also, see:


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At 7/12/2020 09:36:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

As usual, too much to say. Love SWA. Dave's point re: the contrast with Ragged Glory is apt, and I think the difference is a both a strength and an obstacle. RG is much more accessible to the "casual" fan or listener, so in terms of commercial and popular success, SWA--with its tack pianos, marimbas, and flutes book ending blues-tinged, grunge jam dreamscapes--is neglected in comparison.

Trying to get at this album's special qualities by analogy to other art forms seems futile, but if there's such a thing as "smooth grunge", SWA may be it. If RG is the aural equivalent of a Jackson Pollock canvas, SWA sounds more like Dali to my ears. And the best moments of the subsequent Horse albums--particularly Broken Arrow, YOH, Pill, Colorado-- somehow manage to find a fruitful midpoint between these sounds.

As to the towering figure of Briggs, my feelings are a mixture of respect and ambivalence. As anyone who has lost loved ones will know, it can be difficult to have a clear-eyed conversation about the people we love and miss. I'm just not in favor of making out either Briggs or Neil to be more (or less) than the complex, flawed, yet amazing humans they were and are. As we all are.

I will say that, while I am certain Briggs was an invaluable (if volatile) confidant and collaborator for Neil, I think the degree to which the muse is deemed lost or obscured in Briggs' absence is, sometimes, a tad overstated. In fact, and without going too in depth for the moment, there's a period of Neil's work I've started to think of as loosely constituting an artistic "mid-life crisis", starting gradually in the immediate post-Briggs years. It really settles in, for me, with the Looking Forward/SS&G era songs, carrying through to AYP? and the next several albums.

I hear the culmination and resolution of this cycle in CDII, by the end of which Neil, and we have, have found "The Way". From AYP? through Prairie Wind, I hear a lot of uncertainty and searching the past for answers in the present, whereas CDII strikes me as a set of songs mostly about peacemaking and looking to the future. Ordinary People fits in with The Believer, No Hidden Path, Ever After, and The Way precisely because of its ultimate optimism, "faith in the regular kind" to "put the business back on track".

Without even getting into the (imho) major artistic renaissance Neil has discovered from through POTR, I think you get a sense that I'm arguing, in no uncertain terms, for the vitality, inspiration, and impact of Neil's work even without Briggs available in the flesh. Not that I'm downplaying Briggs's importance--far from it--but it would be unfair to dismiss out of hand Neil's body of work over the last 25+ years on such a simple pretext.

At 7/12/2020 11:46:00 PM, Blogger Sedan Delivery said...

SWA is a very special record for me. I remember I bought the cd in summer 2006 at a used music store in Harvard Square. I had a summer internship at my dream job in Massachusetts, but I didn’t know anybody so I spent most of the summer going for long runs and listening to Neil. As a relatively inexperienced guitar player at the time, the guitar sounds on the album blew me away. The little bluesy solo on Prime of Life, the long droning notes on Blue Eden, and the way his guitar sounds like a T-Rex on the title track. Incredible stuff.

I took the music back to college with me for senior year. I went to art school in New York City and spent many late nights in the studio sharing one stereo with my classmates. On the realllly late nights, when it got to be about 4am, my classmates (most of whom wouldn’t know Neil if he walked up to them on the street) would say “put that ‘piece of crap’ song on.” I would skip to track eleven and we would jump up and down and yell along to the chorus to vent our frustration. Good times.

I also think “My Heart” may be one of his best songs. So simple and perfect.


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