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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

First Impressions: Summer Songs by Neil Young | Old Grey Cat + Rick Rubin Interview w/ Neil Young

Neil Young Archives


The latest unreleased Neil Young album SUMMER SONGS is now streaming  on Neil Young Archives.

Earlier this year, Neil Young announced that his "lost 1987 album" SUMMER SONGS had been located in the vaults.  Neil wrote earlier that SUMMER SONGS contains “original performances” of later songs with “new and unheard verses”.

 The Last of His Kind, For the Love of Man, American Dream, Name of Love, Someday, One of These Days, Hangin’ on a Limb and Wrecking Ball are the original eight performances. The words of these originals are significantly different from their subsequent master album releases in many cases. Several completely new and unheard verses are found in the songs of this collection.

Consisting of 8 songs -- which were eventually released on other albums -- this newly discovered series of ‘Fresh Tracks’ from 1987 will be included in Archives Vol. 3.

Track List:

1. American Dream
2. The Last of His Kind
3. Someday
4. For the Love of Man
5. One of These Days
6. Wrecking Ball
7. Hangin’ on a Limb
8. Name of Love

SUMMER SONGS will be the 13th and last disc on Neil Young Archives Vol. 3, expected for mid-2022.

Here are some First Impressions: Summer Songs by Neil Young | Old Grey Cat:

On Christmas, Neil Young gifted his fans with Summer Songs, an unreleased album that he recorded by himself at his Broken Arrow Ranch in 1987. At present, it’s only available to stream over at the Neil Young Archives website, which is free to all for the holidays, but will be included on the Neil Young Archives Vol. III box set that’s slated for release in 2022.

The compelling eight-song set is acoustic throughout, though he does supplement one song with synthesized bass, percussion and keyboards. In some respects, it’s akin to the acoustic Hitchhiker album that he shelved in 1976 and didn’t release until 2017, as most of the songs surfaced on future albums. And like that set of songs, these are all gems.

“American Dream” wound up as the snappy title track of CSNY’s 1988 reunion album, which also featured “Name of Love.” “Someday,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Hanging on a Limb” are among the linchpins of Freedom, his “comeback” album in 1989. “For the Love of Man” provides heart to his 2012 classic with Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill; and “One of These Days” is one of many highlights from Harvest Moon, his 1992 sequel to his classic 1972 outing, Harvest. And though it’s yet to make its way onto an official album, “Last of His Kind” is known to many fans due to Neil playing it at Farm Aid through the years.

In a conversation with Rick Rubin on Rubin’s Broken Record podcast, Neil called the tracks “sketches” and not demos, which I imagine means he heard them as pencilled outlines and not completed works. Still, what’s here is starkly beautiful and far better than what he released around the same time (Landing on Water, Life, This Note’s for You and, with CSNY, American Dream).

Thanks  Old Grey Cat! Agree that these demos are almost better than the album releases.  Sometimes less is more.  Full review at First Impressions: Summer Songs by Neil Young | Old Grey Cat.



Neil Young, Part One
When we first talked about making Broken Record, we had a short list of absolute dream guests for the podcast and Neil Young was at the top of that list. So when Neil’s new record, Barn, was announced and we were told he wanted to speak with Rick about it we were beyond excited. On today’s episode, Rick and Neil talk about the new album, and all of the archival projects he plans on releasing in the coming year. They also reminisce about the time they spent working together on some abandoned songs in 1997 that may soon be released. And Neil’s time in a Rick James fronted band that was signed to Motown, and how Neil drove from Canada to LA in a hearse. The two talked for so long we decided to make this the first of two episodes with Neil Young.
Neil Young, Part Two
Welcome to part two of Rick Rubin’s conversation with Neil Young. Today we'll hear how Neil's song “I Believe In You” from his 1970 masterpiece After the Gold Rush inspired a mystical experience for Rick. Neil also talks about recording After the Gold Rush and the parallels between that album and his latest release, Barn. And, Neil explains why he started writing and recording music around the cycles of the moon, and his massive archive of unreleased material that spans several decades.

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At 12/28/2021 08:18:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

What a pleasant Christmas surprise, Neil has given us so much this year, it’s humbling to say the least. I agree that many of the songs on Summer Songs are actually better than the released versions, especially American Dream. That one really jumps out at you. I still prefer the released version of One of These Days though, the earlier version just doesn’t feel fully formed yet.

Really looking forward to Archive Volume III. I’m getting both the Blu Ray Edition for the visuals, and the CD Edition for listening to just the music. I know it will be lots of $$$$$$$, but I must have both.

Peace 🙏

At 12/28/2021 11:05:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Summer Songs now hosts my go-to versions of the bulk of its track list. I mean, the CSNY takes of American Dream and Name Of Love don’t even hold a candle to their “sketch” editions. Their freedom from the confines of that record brings me joy in spite (or because) of their more lonesome presentation here. Summer is akin to Hitchhiker, but it does have a lonelier feel that resonates hard. Neil doesn’t often harmonize with himself, so when he does it has that powerful effect when set against the stark backgrounds of a simple guitar or piano.

While Freedom is an excellent album through and through, I find these first versions to equal or better their more fleshed-out counterparts. Freedom’s Someday is fine but it’s somewhat weighted down by the production, and the ‘87 track is more essential as a result. Old Grey Cat still prefers the Freedom lyrics of Wrecking Ball. For me, the fresh track is a compelling alternate version that stands alongside the iconic released cut. Wrecking Ball began with a more bitter tone that I believe is more truthful. The guy our narrator is singing about is the kind of low character that not everyone can see through. When Neil changed the verses to the Freedom version, he created a song that is overwhelmingly romantic. Now the sweetness of that version is given a bitter aftertaste with the understanding of the personality of its narrator. It’s as though the Freedom album version is sung from the perspective of the subject of the ‘87 version. He sees himself as dashing and offering romance to the poor girl who meets him. He likely doesn’t even see the side of himself that Neil Young’s earlier narrator called out so candidly.

Even though Hangin On A Limb and One Of These Days benefitted from more attention in the studio, particularly with the addition of key players on those records, they shine here among the summer songs as important elements of a statement of where the artist was at this time and what he sounded like before the requisite 80s production trappings were applied. For The Love Of Man fared better on Psychedelic Pill than most of these songs’ classic album tracks; J. Hanlon had dialed in some wonderful atmosphere with the Horse. But the song fits a little more snugly into Summer Songs and feels more personal, which is appropriate for its subject matter. Finally, we can happily accept this presentation of Last Of His Kind as the only known studio rendition. The acoustic riff is absolutely huge over the Synclavier accompaniment, making for a worthy definitive edition of a great 80s protest song. Of course Summer Songs will be welcome as part of the imminent NYA Vol. 3, but it stands up as an album just as Hitchhiker has. Whenever (if ever) feasible, they ought to press this one to vinyl!

At 12/29/2021 01:44:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

About Summer Songs "Not Demos from 1987."

American Dream is like a million times better on Summer Songs than the overproduced, sterile version by CSNY on the "American Dream" album. I had that album once and got rid of it because, IMHO, it sucked. Its the only NY album I don't have, pretty much. There is no other Neil Young related album that I value less. Even Landing On Water had killer tracks.

Last of His Kind is a really good song, & is probably the best "farmer" song Neil has ever done. Evoking ideals to fight for, & Farm Aid. Insight into Capitalism, Corruption, & justice! Are There Any More Real Cowboys in this land? (also great). Homegrown raises the bar pretty high too, I concede. I have some relatives still farming in NW Minnesota where my Mom is from, not far from where Dylan and NY grew up. My Uncles had to diversify and bust ass to survive as farmers*.

Neil Solo is really nailing it on Summer Songs. I can't believe I am saying this, but Someday is possibly better on SS than on Freedom! A cornerstone album for me, Freedom touched me deeply, and wove itself into my life at the time. It also lit a fire in me that burns still. To hear a unproduced solo version which rivals the original released version carries enormous magnitude. The '87 version has us seeing the face of God up in space. That is less corny than the unnecessary hammer hitting the spike in the original version and associated lines.

"For the Love of Man" Neil further reveals his immensely heartfelt, emotionally brilliant, and musicially inspiring '87 version which to me is better than the one on Psychedelic Pill. The solo intensity often wins out.

One of These Days is sacred stuff, a classic Neil Young song. The Harvest Moon version is priceless. The "Demo" version on SS at first sounded a bit too busy. But it has grown on me. I like it quite a lot. Now we get to have both.

Wrecking Ball's opening lines reveal visions of a partner overindulging on alcohol. More hopeful than Ramada Inn, but those lines lead to it. This is a really good version, and Neil polishes it into a diamond on Freedom.

Meet me at the Wrecking Ball. Cause I just might be Fool Enough to Fall. I can relate. Wrecking Ball Romance. Yet another gorgeous classic in utero, perfected on Freedom. The SS version is like a demo in this way.

Hanging on a Limb. This is an excellent version of a gorgeous song, a classic. I miss Ben Keith's steel on this one.

Name of Love on SS sounds more solid and soulful. Neil is the band we needed to do many of these songs right.

The monumental Freedom was released just as I was discovering Neil's catalogue. It spoke to me as I healed from what I thought was a broken heart. Our relationship was kind of like Too Far Gone meets Touch the Night in 1989. The night it ended, I survived a high speed car wreck, hitting a wall at 70MPH sideways in a RX-7. It was a cinder block wall in the middle of a fork in the road, and I was plowed, doing 70MPH in a 25 zone. I turned Left and hit the wall flat on, like jelly. Seatbelts save lives. I walked away without a scratch. Its a bit eerie for me to contemplate. My Dream Machine was tangled steel and I was now a pedestrian. Life got a lot better a few chapters later.

That ole Neil Young, he has so damn many fantastic songs and albums. I am in awe of his ability to create magnificent music, or World Class Rock and roll. He is a Master. There he goes again, channeling the Muse in the moonlight.

Thank you Neil Young for Summer Songs this Holiday Season! Alan in Seattle

At 12/29/2021 02:13:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

What else did Santa bring me? CDs since I can't afford vinyl: 5 Mark Lanegan solo albums (of Screaming Trees, old Grunge from Ellensberg, WA, 1984->), 2 Joe Strummer albums (RIP, of The Clash), 2 Beatles Deluxe albums, Sgt Pepper & Abbey Road, new Los Lobos album (which is fantastic), Willie's Stash Vol 1 w/Sis on Piano, a very good album. Willie's Stash Vol 2 has Lukas and Mikah on it with him covering Hank Williams songs, also very good. Oh, and several Alice in Chains albums, classics from the Grunge era. One is a EP with Chris Cornell singing passages in a song.

I share this to remember that variety is the spice of life. So many great bands and artists to experience and love, if you're lucky.
But we Neil Young Fan-addicts don't just do Neil Young. We are into all kinds of stuff, right? Music saves lives, as we know. Thrasher was off seeing some other band when the Ent did a belly flop on his HQ.

Hey, here's something that might amuse you: Dan Swan and I share the same favorite Tom Waits album: Rain Dogs. As an album, I would compare it to Neil's Carnival, or dropping Acid at the Circus, as the band slays it right there under the Big Top.

Keep the Homefires Burning...

At 12/29/2021 01:38:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I would like to reframe what I said earlier….. after listening to Summer Songs again, these songs are not better than the ones already released…. their just different. One may prefer one over the other, but they’re both extraordinary performances… only different. Just take each song as what it was when Neil recorded it. Different times create different versions, and sometimes as they evolve the original intentions are altered. This is a wonderful example in the power of the moment, and how things can change over time. I think this is important that Neil is always chasing the moment, and why his music ages so well. He’s always capturing the moment, and trusting his instincts.

Peace 🙏

At 12/29/2021 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

….that first their is supposed to be they’re… darn spellcheck.

At 12/30/2021 11:27:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Tomatron, Dan, Alan, thanks- looks like I need to listen to Summer Songs and soon.

At 12/30/2021 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Alan, traumatic accident, must have been incredible to walk away (without a scratch). I am glad you were fortunate. Life can change in a split second.

At 12/31/2021 12:05:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I'm not certain this is the ideal place, but mobile app ate previous comments I tried to post on the Barn reactions thread, and I still have a few lingering feelings. As I write, the extended coda of No Hidden Path from CDII, reminding me more than ever of the "all one song" mantra. When I make comparisons or draw parallels between Barn and previous albums or songs, it doesn't mean that Barn can't stand on its own. Neither do I hear the songs being particularly derivative.

If anything, there are "family resemblances" between (for instance) SWA, CDII, and Barn (maybe Abner will dig this particular analogy). Less fancifully, it just means that NY and CH, like many artists, probably revisit and expand on older ideas to see if they can do it even better this time. And I enjoy hearing these echoes.

It may also help, when I relate one album to another, to talk about the precise qualities I'm detecting. Here I direct attention to Dan's previous comments on the track list sequencing of Barn. In my listening experience (which I like to think is not excessively narrow), no one sequences like Neil Young. Maybe it's the old Briggs influence, but even post-Briggs albums have a special way of weaving songs together, drawing out and exploiting the tension points, the push and pull between and within numbers.

Case in point: CDII. Who the hell sequences Ordinary People at the beginning, rather than the climax, of the album? Someone who has Shining Light, Spirit Road, The Way, and No Hidden Path up their sleeve. Colorado front loads She Showed Me Love--and I think it's a bold, fantastic choice.

What I'm really hearing, and trying in my own small way to articulate, are musical and spiritual threads that run throughout all these albums. It's not that Barn requires comparison. Rather, it warrants comparison by way of appreciating the scope of an going 50+ year body of work.

I must take just a moment to address CDII. I keep talking about it elliptically and it's time to spell this out, though I'm sure some will disagree with me. Ordinary People is a landmark--however, No Hidden Path makes the album. It's the foundation, the beating heart of CDII, and, I suggest, one of NY's most important songs post-Y2K. And many of the best moments don't even have words. Just Old Black sawing away, cleaving through the forest of Neil's (and our) dreams. When I listen to this track, I hear a grunge raga. Nowhere near as complex or disciplined as the Indian classical mode, but the rawness is what makes it grungy.

All of which is to say: 1) When I liken Barn to CDII, that's not a slight on either album. And 2)If you haven't listened to CDII in a while, considering giving it a fresh try. At over an hour long, it requires time and some patience but has been, and continues to be, one of NY's most cohesive, rewarding, and--in my view--deeply significant of Neil's newer albums.

If you've gotten this far with me, many thanks and happy 2022 to all! I look forward to NYA3 and--dare I say it?--perhaps even the long-awaited appearance of Toast in the coming months. Peace and cheers!

At 12/31/2021 08:17:00 AM, Blogger mrtew said...

WOW I love this "album"!!! Wrecking Ball has always been one of my favourite beautiful romantic Neil Young songs but hearing the horrifying original lyrics makes it even more beautiful and chilling especially the end where the album version just faded out. Now I'm wondering what other sweet pleasant lovely old songs have a darker history! I agree with Alan about it being reminiscent of Ramada Inn; maybe it was one of these summer songs too! I bet Too Far Gone and We Never Danced were part of the same story until they were cleaned up and sanitized for mass consumption. Just guessing.

At 12/31/2021 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Lorenzo q said...

Hello, summer songs album doesnt work in nya app, i click on it on home screen but nothing happens..

At 12/31/2021 01:12:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Lorenzo - what platform?

We use Android and Summer Songs loads ok. But we found that the BARN album no longer loads on mobile app.? Also, when searching for BARN, the results return a blank, unplayable icon.

We've un-installed and re-installed app. Player shows version from Sept.

At 12/31/2021 01:53:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@Ian Kertis: What a beautifully written post. You continually inspire me to be a better writer. Thank you for being here.

Peace 🙏

At 12/31/2021 05:10:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Good stuff Ian and yes I enjoyed the reference to Wittgenstein. I think you are right and for reasons that seem quite basic: it would be strange if there were no family resemblances (because, after all, it is family!). The idea that it is "all one song" is hyperbole for a point. I argued sometime back here on TW that "Welcome Back" is generational, a continued set of ideas-both musically and thematically- to "Change Your Mind." I thought this was hard to miss and do not count it as some sort of great insight!

At 1/01/2022 07:12:00 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Happy new year and best wishes to all fans of NY and this blog, all around this planet !!!

Just seen the Hearse Theatre schedule and, good surprise, a video of shots from Boarding House 78 will be broadcast this next thursday !!!

Even if everything's still possible with Neil, I think this is one more evidence of Vol 3 coming this year...

At 1/01/2022 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Ian, rereading your post- I think you are writing the future of Neil commentary/evaluation/interpretation. Thanks.

At 1/02/2022 01:10:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Happy New Year to all.

@ Ian. I too lose attempted TW posts from my phone. Either that or it posts twice. "I heard you twice the first time."

I also enjoyed your good writing. Its easy to take things for granted, like the sequencing of an album. I've thought about sequencing in compilations often over the decades. And you're right, Neil is a master at sequencing. Some of his Artistry was made better by the talented people he surrounds himself with, like Briggs. I was listening to CDII again just now after re-reading your post. I saw a great photo of Ben Keith sitting with Neil at a piano and listening to a him play. Ben was giving him counsel, I imagine.

Yes, Neil's guitar on No Hidden Path from CDII is an epic performance with spine chilling grungy guitar passages. Neil talks about feeling ice in his veins when he goes to "that place" on the electric guitar. Yes, there are a lot of great songs on that album. Boxcar. Ordinary People is gigantic; I'd love to hear a 1988 era studio recording of it. The opening track, Beautiful Bluebird, appealed to me in a way it had not before. I do see a connection to Barn. I need to give SWA a listen again soon.

@ Abner: Thanks for the kind words. Its amazing so many dudes like me survive their 20's, car wrecks, bicycle wrecks, bad deals & all. It's almost like some Higher Power was looking out for me.

Speaking of Epic Jams and undervalued albums, Abner & I are in Awe of "I'm the Ocean." The whole Mirrorball album is way better than the average Neil Young fan rates it. Neil's guitar attack on "I Got Id" ("Pearl Jam") is one for the Ages. Its hard to call it PJ when Neil s throwing down furious riffs like that on Old Black. An old friend once ran a bar in downtown Seattle. He got to witness Neil and Pearl Jam play an entire set of music as he stood in the small club and watched, alone in an empty room. He said Neil was giving him the evil eye during the whole set, furiously wailing out the tunes. That reminds me of some Neil Young experiences I have had, I am lucky to say.

@ Thrasher, you and I keep saying Fork in the Road is a better album than it gets credit for. Just Singing a Song is a big sludgy Jam. More classic grunge, blissful guitar passages. I still say Johnny Magic and Fuel Line are absolute scorchers. Neil is inspired. Fuel Line's torrid tone is the absolute upper limit of "Hardness" (Its like punk rock except far more musically accomplished). I am glad he was trying to help the Earth with his Electric Vehicle activities. He has such passion, keen intellegence, a "bleeding heart" and just like that - some great music is born. Light a Candle can save lives, honestly. This sacred song carries Hope in a time of Darkness. The personal message shout out from Neil to Blogmeister Thrasher on FitR is itself incredible, life-preserving, and Blog-preserving!

I hope all you Neil Young fans have a Not So blue 2022. Neil seems to be holding up his end of the deal. This Winter really needed Summer Songs, especially here in the freezer, Seattle, WA. Even the Salmon are frozen!

Alan in Seattle

At 1/02/2022 01:19:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

PS- I referred in my post to "Demos" but its true, they are more like sketches than "Demos." But Soundgarden Demos are brilliant, so go figure. I am thinking of "Badmotorfinger" deluxe demos. Related? Soundgarden played the Bridge School. But don't get me started about Chris Cornell. I have been a huge fan for decades and it still hurts....

At 1/04/2022 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Good evening, friends. I have accumulated some thinks since the last time any of us posted. Firstly, having listened to Parts 1&2 of the Rubin/Young podcast, I must say: do not miss this meeting of the minds. I loved RR’s style of interview. He is so chill! And when the two of them get talking about the songs they were working on, it’s pure pod gold. Also, in the course of this conversation, Neil actually reveals the title of the first disc of Vol III, the Crazy Horse disc. I have decided NOT to share that here. You have got to hear this for yourself! It’s a doozy to say the least.

They also converse about Summer Songs and Neil talks about his process for recording those tunes. The technique was unique to Summer Songs. He doesn’t recall exactly when these were done, and he hadn’t remembered what they were until he pulled out the tape and had a listen. When you look at the Song Cards on NYA you see that the date for each is listed as simply 1987. Summer, presumably. He talks about the making of several of his albums and interesting moments from his career in this lengthy convo.

One other item - I noticed some of us have been having issues posting using our mobile devices. These problems have plagued me repeatedly here and I have lost writing because of it. But I wanted to share a solution I’ve discovered. If I click the View Web Version link at the bottom of the thread, I get an alternate version of this page that allows me to type and post with no issues. It only shows the one thread, but it’s enough to overcome the block of losing the comment I had composed. This may work for you as well. Have a great night, guys.

At 1/05/2022 01:06:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Tomatron - Thanks for feedback ! Much appreciate the efforts to keep the conversations going. Along with all of our valued commenters as well.

Thanks and again: Happy Neil Year everyone!

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