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Tuesday, February 01, 2022

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's "The Geffen Years": ~1981 - ~1988

Neil Young's "The Geffen Years": ~1981 - ~1988
(image via Sugar Mountain Discography)


Breaking from recent news, here is the Comment of the Moment posted on "UPDATED - Joni Mitchell Joins Neil Young In Removing Her Music from Spotify " by Tomatron:

Over the weekend I had to go and pick up some Neil Young vinyl, filling in that big Geffen-shaped gap in the collection. 

 I’ve had a copy of Trans for years, no problem there. But I snagged the rest of them including This Note’s For You, a record that isn’t on Geffen but thinks it is. (Note: both it and Everybody’s Rockin’ sound awesome at -10 pitch on the turntable. You haven’t heard the studio version of Twilight til you’ve played it 10% slower.) 

The only one from the era I couldn’t find in town was Old Ways. But I have faith it’ll appear on the used shelves in time, its natural habitat. While I’ve been loving the madness of Landing On Water for a while now, the big find was Life, an album I never knew I wanted until I heard it on the original LP. The live quality really shines and some of it started reminding me of a more time-ravaged variation on Zuma and Rust tracks. 

The Horse sound genuinely unhinged in a way that only the late 80s could incite. It is some cacophony, but I can hear what Briggs and Young were going for and I appreciate it. Those synths are bad, but in a certain weird punk rock Crazy Horse way. The sentiment is brutish and keen, the resonance metallic. It’s not what anyone wanted/wants to hear. 

As a follow up to Re•Ac•Tor and precursor to the chaos of Muddy Track, it makes perfect sense. Keep this one at 33 1/3 and crank it to 11 if your eardrums can handle it. 

This comment post goes out to all the Neil Young haters on the blog today. 


Thanks Tomatron for the welcome break from last month's news.  Maybe February will be quieter?

For more on  Neil Young and "The Geffen Years", see post on Neil Young's Uncut, Never-Before-Seen Interview | 'Inventing David Geffen' | PBS American Masters Archive.

 Neil Young - November 29, 2011
Inventing David Geffen PBS | American Masters

Also, see:

David Geffen, Elliot Roberts, & Neil Young
Frame from 'Inventing David Geffen': American Masters
(Click photo to enlarge)

Labels: , ,


At 2/01/2022 01:50:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

willforestwater has left a new comment on your post " Neil Young's Uncut, Never-Before-Seen Interview | 'Inventing David Geffen' | PBS American Masters Archive ":

I don't think I've listened to Life since the 80s. And I maybe listened to it once then. Never owned it.

But this article made me go back and listen again. It's out there today on YouTube if you care to listen.

I still think it's absolutely horrible, drenched in 80th synths, those terrible 80s drum effects, and amazingly bad choices for vocal FX that made it unlistenable for me back in the day.

But even back then I though that with different production some of the tunes could be redeemed. Like the way 'A Treasure' revealed the beauty of the songs on the sugary and overproduced Old Ways, maybe some decent versions of these songs exist.

Hopefully the Archives will reveal a different side to Life, maybe with demos or alternative takes.

At 2/01/2022 05:13:00 PM, Blogger Aer Stephen said...

I love the Eighties music. Trans especially. And the Transband/Solo Trans/Solo Trans w Shocking Pinks shows were wonderful. Art. Artist at work. Not confined by expectations by fans or critics. Exploration. Rusted Out Garage tour, the Bluenotes. Old Ways. Even Landing on water and the Touch The Night epic live performances. Hawks and Doves. Mideast Vacation. We've Never Danced. I love the Eighties music. All of it.

At 2/01/2022 05:20:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

The only 80's Neil album that I think is truly bad was Landing On Water. Parts of Old Ways and Life make me cringe, but both albums have good songs. Actually, I think "Mideast Vacation" might be Neil's best song of the 80's.

At 2/01/2022 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Mother Nature On The Run said...

How does anyone ever get anywhere by going backward to move forward?

At 2/01/2022 09:06:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Thrasher, I’m hoping to hear some of those sorts of tracks on Vol 3 too. We kind of got that in a minor way for Everybody’s Rockin’ and TNFY with the songs he included on Lucky Thirteen being better sounding than the actual album tracks. And Depression Blues is better than most of what ended up on Old Ways. Demos from the Life era could be something like Summer Songs, which would be very cool. Now I have no reason to try to endure CSNY American Dream, with those amazing early versions unearthed.

At 2/01/2022 10:35:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Trans is in my top 5 Neil albums

At 2/02/2022 03:46:00 AM, Blogger Steve L said...

I reckon the number of times I play an album is generally a good indicator of what I think about it. Boringly, for a while now I've been keeping a tally of the number of times I play albums off the NYA steaking service.

Over the past year or so I have played the Geffen era albums the following number of times:

Trans - 14
Life -10
Old Ways - 6
Landing on Water - 4
Everybody's Rockin' - 2

I also played This Note's for You only twice in this period.

My 'top play' is Homegrown - 26 times over the past year or so.

At 2/02/2022 06:11:00 AM, Blogger Andy Walters said...

Life is and has always been a stinker, I love 'Old Ways' containing a stand alone classic Neil song 'Misfits'.

At 2/02/2022 05:29:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Starting with its absurd title, the 1987 Neil Young & Crazy Horse record is over the top. Say what you want about Life as a whole, (most will target the objectionable production effects), but Mideast Vacation succeeds at what it set out to accomplish. The song gets under the skin with its acidic narrative and synthetic presentation. In modern parlance, it’s a banger. The originally unreleased Letter From Nam gives a glimpse of how Long Walk Home *used* to sound, but an additional decade and a half of neoliberal interference cements the American Empire reading of the song. Digitally induced bombast is absolutely required here. The digital reverb on the drums is so huge one can visualize the entire perimeter of the arena, half full and brimming with the aroma of spilled Bud Light.

Neil may hate the way Around The World turned out as an example of the supposedly botched Crazy Horse performances accompanying the metronome, but that tune is a lot of fun. They get a dumb synth punk thing going that morphs into new wave (a style honed on the previous record) and that absolutely ridiculous spoken breakdown. Around The World perfectly skewers the 80s while still being completely of its time. Some of Neil Young’s records have a timeless feel to them, but Life offers no escape from the confines of the epoch. Inca Queen is no exception, as heard in its proliferation of processed instrumentation. Nevertheless, it is just so damn epic. And I can’t think of another song where Crazy Horse do backing vocals in that particularly low chanty way again. “Inca Queen has. Inca Queen has. Inca Queen has come.” She’s here; ‘bout time!

Side B is where it starts feeling more like the Crazy Horse we know. If Mideast Vacation is the six-year sonic continuation of Shots, Too Lonely could be the long-awaited follow-up to the rest of re•ac•tor. It’s just gleefully mean and too great to be in tune. Year Of The Horse showed us how amazing tunes like Prisoners Of Rock ‘n’ Roll and When Your Lonely Heart Breaks can be when the band is given free rein. It must be conceded that those later performances are the definitive editions, but they’re not half bad here in their original incarnations. Prisoners makes clear the title of the album is a sentence rather than a celebration, yet still it revels in its rebel primitivism.

We Never Danced has ample atmosphere as the album closer. It could’ve fit right in to the Bluenotes repertoire with a horn arrangement dropped in to replace the keyboards. But the real winner of Side B is Cryin’ Eyes. It’s quick and catchy, approaching a garage-y DEVO attitude but looser. They could trot that one out at any show from ‘86 on and have us jumping in the aisles. Dig that sick guitar tone on the lead!

Briggs would bring it on home in a few years for Ragged Glory, reminding us how the Horse could drink when led to water. He was operating outside his wheelhouse this time, but you gotta credit him for giving it a go. The tunes’ production may run counter to what people expect of the band, but they’re not boring. There are plenty of NY albums I wasn’t into before and now I adore unreservedly. This realization brought me back to the Geffen years to find joy in Life and the weird vibes of the times!


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