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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Comment of the Moment: In Defense of Neil Young's Album "Fork In The Road"


 "Fork In The Road" by Neil Young


Earlier this week, we posted on the video of "Light A Candle" by Neil Young | NYA and made the following off handed observation that album Fork In The Road was an "often mistakenly maligned minor masterpiece (post 2000) album." 

Well.  You might have thought that we had offered praise for - oh, some sort of weird avant-garde head scratching piece of modern art or something similarly sacrilegious.

VIDEO: "Light A Candle" by Neil Young | NYA

What follows is a passionate defense of Neil Young's album "Fork In The Road" as our Comment of the Moment from the post  "Light A Candle" by Neil Young | NYA by Alan in Seattle: 

I also like the opener When Worlds Collide, although when I first listened to it - and a fair number of the album's songs-I thought it sounded like Neil had hurried up and made an album. 

I thought many of the songs sounded too simple. But as time passed, like so many of his albums, it grew on me and became a classic. Just Singing a Song Won't Change the World is pretty Epic, truly. We get to sit back and hear him crack open the Heavens with Old Black. I love it. 

I want that song on my Afterlife soundtrack. Endless solos preferably. 

If you don't love Fuel Line, I can't understand why not. This is just a fantastic song, great riff, cool lyrics... He is placing Linc Volt front and center. Johnny Magic. This is a really cool song. Its impressive how hard can he can rock playing just a few notes! He tips his hat to the 50's background singing.

Its a Punk Rock Alt-Fuel extravaganza. 

And for Neil to give Thrasher a boost at a critical juncture is so cool. I am so grateful that message came through from Artist to frustrated fan / blogger Thrasher; he might otherwise have quit! That was when Neil decided maybe this page serves a good purpose. He got over being pissed about having his setlists posted on the Internet. 

He began to see that many of his biggest boosters reside right here where the chaff gets separated. 

This was a moment on the Neil timeline when I was not playing close attention. I had a 4 year old and a 7 year old at the time. I am sitting here listening to Cough up the Bucks, a song I didnt' care for that much at first, although I liked many of the themes. It has become a classic in my inner World. Get Behind the Wheel sounds good to me today. 

 This is kind of what happens in general when I listen to Neil Young music. I am partial to the electric guitar. I like this album as much, maybe more(!), than Silver and Gold, possibly. That will send some of you fans reeling perhaps. What with Razor Love and all. I saw the tour and I loved it. I enjoy Silver and gold but I like his songs that have a bit more energy than some on S&G do. And then CSN took 3 from it and made them worse with syrup, to my ears. 

Blasphemy? There is no accounting for taste! 

An album I absolutely love is Le Noise. Some of you don't love that album? I will never understand that. I want Neil to do a Le Noise 2! Bring it on! Thanks for all the ear candy, Neil! Compelling music, the soundtrack to our lives. I would obsess on some other music if only it could hold my interest (for well over 3 decades). I feel like a lucky bastard to have snapped up all of these releases as they came out. As I sit here enjoying Hit the Road on NYA, it sounds like another classic, for sure. 

I love 80% of what he does. I like around 18% beyond that. Is there a Neil Young song I don't like? Usually for me its the ones that CSN is singing on. Oh, here's one I don't like: Welfare Mothers. I just always thought that song was in poor taste and not that intelligent. But so what!

I still love to dive in and digest his Art. As Light a Candle leads me to bedtime, I pity the fool who undervalues this song. 

Yet another Environmental Anthem, and upbeat, heartfelt masterpiece. 

Alan in Seattle 

As always, thanks for the passionate defense of FITR Alan in Seattle!

As we attempted to clarify in followup comments -- which you handled much better frankly -- a couple of points.

1st, FITR may not be a "minor masterpiece" for NY, but comparatively speaking for the era, yes. 2nd, for us here @ TW, FITR is essential NY. Why you ask? The title track and the lines about blogging came to us at a very critical time.

For those around here at the time, you'll recall those post-LWW years and the absolute near chaos here in blog comments. This was in the days before the SocMed era of FB, TWTR, etc.

All of which led to our semi-legendary encounter with Mr. Young who engaged with us directly over the TW contretemps and kerfuffle. The chaff MUST be separated from the wheat.  Clearly.

Neil Young & LincVolt


Then of course, there was the whole LV saga in of itself, watching Neil and the boys in the garage in real time, chatting away. They were very magical times for rusties.

Lastly, FITR is an album which is meant to be played while you're rolling down the open highway w/ speakers blasting. try it & it works really well as a road trip soundtrack.  

Sitting around the house on a Sunday morning? not so much.


"Keep filling that old fuel line"

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At 1/21/2021 06:38:00 PM, Blogger Christian said...

Putting 'Get Around' on there would have made it a better album too.

At 1/22/2021 08:53:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Someone out there is screaming, “It’s All One Song!” Thanks Thrasher! It’s an honor to “get published on your fantastic blog! Alan one seattle

At 1/22/2021 12:38:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Christian - sure. can't recall why left off? something about trying to balance the LV/car songs w/ the financial/bailout/econ songs.

@ Alan - oddly silent here @ TW on FITR. hmmm. maybe your case is so strong that folks are coming around?

maybe the rusties are re-evaluating?

maybe the rusties are changing their minds on FITR and finally hearing the light?

"You hear the sound, you wait around and get the word
You see the picture changing everything you've heard

Change your mind
Change your mind, change your mind
Change your mind
Change your mind, change your mind
Change your mind, change your mind"

At 1/22/2021 01:30:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Alan in Seattle, I am with you all the way. I would only add that Neil's burning sense of humor comes through on this record. I used to cringe at Welfare Mothers but then I relaxed and loved it because it is all wrapped in a dark, subversive humor. I think we sometimes forget about Neil's amazing sense of the comic, which all great artists seem to have. Usually the comic comes through in the darkest moments. Thanks Alan. I am on lunch break, enjoying the moment!

At 1/22/2021 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

The video for the title track - FITR - is hilarious & I recall being excited for the new album after hearing/seeing that video...the groove is there for sure

But other than Light a Candle, I still can't get into the rest of the record...just doesn't do it for me...and that's ok

At 1/22/2021 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

If memory serves "Get Around" was left off, because it was too long to have all the other designated songs fit on the LP format or one CD. And the song alone didn't justify another unit in a release that the artist knew would be criticised for a number of reasons.

For myself I was not that unhappy "Get Behind the Wheel" was the only song off that album played at the Olympiahalle in München in 2009. I guess many Europeans did not get all the irony about Bubba bookin' down the road in his gas-guzzling American clunker nor the allusions concerning bail-outs. While there were considerable efforts to stabilize the Euro, toobig to fail companies and some countries like Greece and Italy, the effects of the financial crisis back then were felt differently in countries and regions with a larger NY fan community. Hence the transatlantic silence.

At 1/22/2021 03:39:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Welfare Mothers make better lovers.

This is true! Neil knows......

At 1/22/2021 06:50:00 PM, Blogger Bruno said...

Well because of that story i grabbed my CD/DVD edition of FITR today and listened really loud the DVD audio today.. It's a great album in fact, the sound of the guitar/drums is fantastic. And i remember the 2009 tour i catched in Paris that year, superb show. Neil played "Get Behind The Wheel" but i'm not sure he played "Fork In The Road" the song very often...

At 1/22/2021 07:10:00 PM, Blogger Be The Rain said...

@ thrasher et al....
OK You guys got me excited to slip FITR on in my car, turn it up to 11 and take a ride!
Sounds like my opinion of it will definitely improve. I am pumped!

At 1/22/2021 11:15:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Nice! I don’t think I have heard Get Around ever somehow!

At 1/23/2021 03:06:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Thanks Abner. I will give Welfare Mothers another try. Dark humor from Neil is worth sitting through. He is playing a character singing the claim. It’s not “Neil” expressing his opinion.

At 1/23/2021 03:08:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Thanks again. I hope you had a good drive and did not get a speeding ticket during Fuel Line! Keep on blogging...

At 1/23/2021 03:10:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

I had never listened to Get Around. At first mention I thought someone was joking about The Beach Boys Classic of the same name. That is one song Neil would probably never cover!

At 1/23/2021 03:11:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

He may know. Or the character in his song sounds like he is sincere... and as deep as a puddle of water on the sidewalk. But I am going to re-evaluate that song.

At 1/23/2021 03:11:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...


At 1/23/2021 04:43:00 AM, Blogger NY 1970 said...

FITR has never been an essential listen to me except Light a Candle which is beautiful to my ears. Think I'll give it another go this weekend. Unfortunately not in the car as we are only supposed to make "essential journeys" here in Scotland & I don't think that would count. I will just have to retire to my little box at the top of the stairs and listen at reduced volume which won't have the same effect.

At 1/23/2021 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Lone Red Rider said...

It's "Everybody's Rockin" part 2.

At 1/23/2021 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

I would love it if Neil did that, but he won’t. I hope to be proven wrong!

At 1/23/2021 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Oh my God, now my weekend is off to a great start. Everybody's Rockin II? Sure, but too bad it can't be David "the weasel" Geffen who has to cough up the bucks to market it! On a serious not, I would really like to see an album close to "Sleeps with Angels." Dark and brooding, full of intricate tones and subdued guitars: a more mature take on the gross toll of stardom. Or a mature look at the dark times we are moving through right now. A synthesis between Sleeps with Angels and Freedom.

At 1/23/2021 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Not every song needs to be deep or make some kind of statement, some are just meant to be simply fun.

The fact that Neil knows this and has written accordingly is one of the reasons I love the guy.

At 1/23/2021 04:43:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Jonathan - maybe the hilarity of FITR puts folks off? yep, the groove is funky.

@ Dionys - thanks, that track w/ our vague recollections of the decision.

Can certainly understand how Europeans did not get the Bubba irony. We certainly appreciate you and other EARTH travelers venturing to our little blog to offer broader perspectives.

But how some of our fellow American Bubba's miss the irony is well ... ironic.

@ Bruno - great to get your re-appraisal. Volume is definitely key for FITR road songs.

@ BTR - and? Pls share your experience!

@ Alan - again, nice job here in Defense of FITR. Looks like maybe a few converts giving it another shot.

@ NY 1970 - like w/ BTR, pls share your experience! but try and hit the road and crank it for full effect. we fear that reduced volume will be counter productive.

@ LRR - certainly much better than ER2.

@ Abner - a SWA sort of followup would be cool. but we certainly don't want to encourage any similar circumstance to the SWA recording.

presumably you're aware that Cobain reached out to Neil. Neil missed him by hours. Neil went to studio grief stricken and guilty over the suicide notes quote of his lyrics.

SWA was powered by grief. It was true art in the moment. But it's kind of like once is more than enough and never again ...

like Ohio & 4 dead ... never forget, not in our name.

@ Richie - just another reason to love the guy. which is why we sing this song ...

At 1/23/2021 04:44:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Richie, I agree! Kinda Fonda Wanda!!! I love that song

At 1/23/2021 10:06:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

Kinda Fonda Wanda is way funny. It would be so cool to hear the other half of Everybody's Rockin' that never got made because David "the weasel" Geffen shut Neil out of the studio. I definitely appreciate Neil's humor but I can't claim to have a complete understanding of it. The character in the song who thinks Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers might be Bubba too, not sure."People pick up on what I'm putting Down" sounds like a truth message in the song, from Neil, revealing what he thought at the time of that situation in society. But remember, Neil also endorsed Ronald Reagan. We ALL make mistakes.

Hey Thrasher, I remember the situation differently about Sleeps With Angels. I think it was Neil trying to reach out to Kurt, not the other way around. That was a really painful thing for us Generation X'ers when Cobain killed himself. I still remember where I was standing in San Diego when I heard that news, just after returning home from a kayak outing in Mission Bay. What a nightmare for Neil to have his song lyric misunderstood / interpreted in the worst way. I highly recommend reading "Heavier Than Heaven" by Richard Cross. Cobain used to OD all the time on Heroin. Dealers were afraid to sell him smack because they all figured he would die and the cops would come looking for them.

I want to shout out another great Neil Young track with Jerry Lee Lewis: "You Don't Have to Go" It has some humor in it too.

I have become a huge Warren Zevon fan in the last 2 years. Neil playing on 2 of his trackes helped me get there. Zevon is also on Dylan's top 10 favorite songwriters. One night in 2003 I saw Dylan play 3 Warren Zevon songs live in Seattle. I also saw him play "Brown Sugar" by the Stones, same show I think. Dylan fans around the world were getting pissed to hear that because they KNEW witnesses were lying(!). The video is available on Youtube nowadays. If only Zimmy had not smoked all those cigarettes, his voice would sound more like Nashville Skyline even still.

Alan in Seattle

At 1/24/2021 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Alan:
I’m a baby boomer, born in 1956, and I can assure you that Kurt Cobain’s death was as heavy and painful for me as John Lennon’s murder. Kurt Cobain was a truly gifted, yet tormented soul. Much like Jimi Hendrix, he burned extremely bright for a very short time and then that light just went out way too soon. Apparently that was his destiny. Nirvana was the last band for me anyway that created a major shift in music that really excited me, and moved the art form into uncharted territory. Since then popular music has been stuck in a tape loop of sorts. Something will eventually come along to stir things up..... soon, I hope. Or perhaps somehow I’ve simply missed it.

Peace 🙏

At 1/24/2021 12:50:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Of course not! I would never want anyone to experience grief or a death to so we might have another record. I was commenting on the possibility of a similar tone. There is enough out there right now to unearth dark moods. Look at what Neil did with Freedom? An album that could catch the deeply distressing aspects of our current culture in a Sleeps with Angels type tone, a bit more subdued Crazy Horse, a tighter reign. This is what I meant. sorry if I was not clear. I have had enough tragedy and pain with suicides in our own family to stay a long way away from any kind of romanticism within human pain.

At 1/24/2021 01:29:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Abner - apologies. of course. yes, we did catch your initial drift on this. didn't mean to imply.

absolutely. "No More Pain", as Billy would sing on WM.

At 1/24/2021 03:08:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Abner: Your life experiences are valued here on the Wheat. Your contributions have been very important and enlightening, not only for me but for others here as well. Thank you for being here.


At 1/24/2021 05:42:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Thank you both. I was not mad or offended or anything really, I just wanted to make sure everyone knew what I was saying. I appreciate that you gave me the complete benefit of the doubt. In 2004 a family member died by suicide, a drug overdose, and the effects are still being felt. Neil Young had the courage to face such an event with his music and his incredible integrity. And we sure need courage now. I am grateful to be a member of this group. Someday maybe we can have a few beers together.

At 1/24/2021 10:38:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

AS someone who has been known to praise the occasional "weird avant-garde head scratching piece of modern art or something similarly sacrilegious", I feel uniquely qualified to weigh-in on FITR.

For me, "Light a Candle" is the album's key moment and statement of purpose: "instead of cursing the darkness", Neil gives us a set of songs most of which address the potentially overwhelming topics of environmental degradation and economic crisis with humor and hope. Even though the title track reminds us that we "can't eat hope", that sentiment belies the value of the irreverent, broadly satirical whimsy sprinkled throughout this album. I second those who relate this album to Everybody's Rockin--I think FITR is Neil's funniest album this side of the Shocking Pinks, and both of these albums are good fun when taken in the right spirit.

"Johnny Magic" is the big grower for me. Didn't initially think much of it, but the penny eventually dropped that it's essentially the classic folk hero narrative re-imagined as garage rock. Think "John Henry", except we've now moved on from the age of the steam drill to the Heavy Metal Continental powered by domestic green fuel. There's more than meets the eye when worlds collide.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to NYAII in March and possibly a dip into the Rust Bucket before then. It's fantastic to witness as the Archives team continues to open the treasure trove. As Pete Townshend said a long time ago, "I've got a feeling '21 is going to be a good year".

At 1/24/2021 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

what a great comment

At 1/25/2021 10:37:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Meta Rocker - ahh, so good to see you here.

we did miss you and your "uniquely qualified" opinions. :) maybe you were taking a neil break or just living life?

thanks for FITR thoughts here on rehabilitating "often mistakenly maligned minor masterpiece (post 2000) album." Our attempt at alliteration seems to have made a mark somewhere.

well, you know, any day when we say maybe TW made a small difference somewhere is a good day. and we do just try and make it one day at time. trite, yes. true, yes. trite truisms triumph. (there we go alliterating again ...)

your in for a real treat w/ NYAII. A friend of ours was admiring the box just last night while visiting. when we showed him the book, he was blown away and immediately said he had to have it, how much cost, where to buy, etc.

when we told him in sold out the entire run on pre-order in 24 hours, he was completely totally shocked.

no idea. now this is a guy who is a radio DJ and very, very deep in music business. decades and decades.

so asked him where he got his "music news". usual sources, RS, BB, etc.

he said that's big news. why wouldn't this be published as major news.

a premium box set selling out immediately by a major artist is big news.

so we explained the reason this news wasn't covered was b/c it was such an embarrassing fiasco for all involved, that someone said no news on subject.

again, shocked. then he warily turned and said, you don't think other news is being suppressed do you?

we just grinned and shook his hand and, "No!", was all he said. ...

At 1/26/2021 04:55:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Thanks, Abner and Thrasher. Yes, I'm still here. "I want to live long and I'm happy to report it back to you." Some issues posting on mobile lately, possibly due to a recent phone upgrade--my first new phone in several years. I try not to leap on the bandwagon, but it's unavoidable sometimes with technology essentially designed to turn obsolete.

Thrasher, feel free to drop line if you feel like I've gone too low-profile for too long. In this case, it wasn't an intentional "Neil break", but it's already been a long, weird winter and we haven't hit February yet. The busy and chaotic time in which we live compels me to take a step back occasionally, whether to attend other responsibilities or simply avoid having another CoTM-related moment of intemperance, the consequences of which I suspect we can all vouch for.

Keep on bloggin' till the lights go out!

At 1/28/2021 05:59:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Meta Rocker - sent you an email. if you don't see it, check Spam folder.


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