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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Comment of the Moment: A "Dream Mix" for Neil Young Archives Vol #3

Neil Young - ~1972


Last week's episode of  Thrasher's Wheat Radio 2.0 Podcast - Episode #15 featured our Special Guest Mark "Don't Spook The Horse" in Manchester, U.K. who discussed Neil Young's Archives Volume #3 and what it might contain upon release.

In response, we featured a very substantive Comment of the Moment by  Lone Red Rider who  speculated on What Will Neil Young Archives Vol #3 Contain?  

And in response to Comment of the Moment by  LRR, here is a "Dream Mix" for Neil Young Archives Vol #3 by Tomatron

Summer Songs [see First Impressions: Summer Songs by Neil Young] will bring an interesting close to the set.

Its inclusion certainly will benefit Volume 3. If the end of the third set coincides with the end of the Geffen era, we are reminded that he was still in that contract when Summer Songs was recorded. It’s easier to think of the album, as presented this past winter, as a beginning; all the songs done that summer of ‘87 were farmed off to new projects, most secretly remaining the definitive studio versions, shelved. None had an album spot until Freedom finally hit stores’ shiny new CD racks in 1989.

Freedom and Eldorado are both excellent albums, but they render each other incomplete. Now that Eldorado is *finally* reissued, we can remedy this by uniting the two on a NYA playlist. Here is a potent recipe:

1. Rockin’ In the Free World
2. Crime In The City (Sixty to Zero Part I)

Freedom’s initial acoustic statement is essential first track status. Being the sole live version here, it finds the listener in the crowd to invite us into the studio for a beguiling collection of sounds. Here come the lyrics to announce a fury distinctly hinted at by the heavier of Neil’s 80s productions such as Landing On Water.

Crime In the City, with its hushed and sculpted mix as it continues the disaffected urban world-building, presents a contrast that would define the ebb and flow of Freedom. Listening today, I noticed for the first time a low chuckle from Neil after the line “he was sure he was right.” That little laugh suits the bitter tone of the whole album.

3. Cocaine Eyes
4. Don’t Cry
5. Heavy Love

While Freedom is all about dynamically zigzagging between styles, Eldorado seeks to pound away for track after track, to get loud and stay that way. At the Hit Factory sessions, poor Larry Cragg had to wrangle a usable signal out of Neil’s blistery amp-linking experiments.

Times Square was a dry run at what would become Freedom (its unreleased Boxcar take might fit nicely at the top of this trio). When that record was scrapped, Neil put out the mini-LP Eldorado to showcase his most real and raw, unrelenting sound. Don’t Cry stands on its own in any rendition but is strongest in its original, uncut presentation between these two other brutal rockers. Don’t Cry’s restored Old Black freakouts might just set your skull on fire. Freedom really needed more intensely overdriven screeds like Cocaine Eyes and Heavy Love. Now it has them.

6. Hangin’ On A Limb
7. The Ways Of Love

Freedom knew it needed a come-down from the assault of its first few tunes, after what those amplifiers just did, and Hangin’ serves that relaxation up beautifully with Linda Ronstadt’s delicate harmonies. Her valuable contribution is highlighted by placing the two together, going right into The Ways Of Love. Now that the album is expanded, there is room to breathe. But these love songs are restless. Like Neil told Niko Bolas when the producer was going through some heartbreak, “Dig it- that means you’re alive.” Although Neil’s domestic bliss paeans are lovely, his tales of love coming undone are among his most compelling.

8. Someday
9. On Broadway
10. Eldorado
11. Wrecking Ball

On the sixty-one minute long LP of Freedom, oddball Someday kicks off Side B. Why did the Volume Dealers make this choice? The album is such a classic today that it’s possible to forget what a studio achievement it was. Niko Bolas had been working his ass off all through the mid 80s to successfully create a formally shaped work of studio artistry with Neil Young, a digitally crafted match for Young’s brilliant assemblages of the 70s. (Hell, even David Briggs quixotically tried it on Life.) But Bolas finally hit a vein of gold with the Freedom material. Someday is the earliest-recorded track; Shakey was still with the Bluenotes, giving the Volume Dealers plenty to work with in the mix. Someday earned its place at the top of Side B by virtue of being so damn showy - the crazy bastards pulled it off, they really did it. The juxtaposition of Someday’s earnest ritz with the pummeling On Broadway accentuates the ironic arch of the entire collection. Neil Young is serious and/or shitting you.

The epic tale of Eldorado is reinstated beside Broadway to round out the mini-LP set, adding only the acoustic guitar of Poncho Villa to the Restless core of Chad Cromwell and Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas. But wait. There is one more released track from New York’s Hit Factory sessions: Wrecking Ball. Summer Songs recently revealed the haunting ballad’s bitter-with-addiction lyrical roots. For Freedom, Wrecking Ball wore something pretty and white, barely skirting the recrimination at the song’s center.

12. No More
13. Too Far Gone
14. Rockin’ In the Free World

The final tracks of Freedom remain as iconic as those that opened the album. No More is quite possibly the best tune on the whole record. The guitars seem to hang suspended against a dead quiet, black night sky. The feel change from the verse and back through an implied swing seems to sagely mock the listener, the subject, and the narrator all.

Then the harrowing paranoia gives way to an all-time live classic, Too Far Gone, done up here in near-tribute to the squeaky-clean country of Old Ways like rhinestones on worn denim. Where previously this version might have come off as a cheaply polished throwaway, the extended and intensified flow of the record now plays up the need for another wind-down. Too Far Gone has always been a hangover song. It doesn’t deviate from the albums’ themes of destructive intoxication, but it does musically soothe.

The effect is ever more extreme, then, when Rockin’ In the Free World blasts in, taking the vitriol of the Eldorado EP and amplifying it further, the atmospheric keyboards of perennial MVP Ben Keith synthesizing the band’s heavy noise with the pristine textures of Freedom’s album tracks. This song rocked out so hard it literally created the 90s. 

So much to unpack here Tomatron.  What a great "what if" comment.  Always nice to have our dreams.  And who knows?  Such dreams are now achievable thanks to the wonders of digital playlists.

btw, does anyone remember mix cassettes?

More on  What Will Neil Young Archives Vol #3 Contain? , as well as,  LOST ALBUM: First Impressions: Summer Songs by Neil Young

Also, check out last week's episode of  Thrasher's Wheat Radio 2.0 Podcast - Episode #15 which featured our Special Guest Mark "Don't Spook The Horse" in Manchester, U.K. who discussed Neil Young's Archives Volume #3 and what it might contain upon release.

 Special Guest
Mark "Don't Spook The Horse"

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At 4/30/2022 10:45:00 AM, Blogger Joel_Grant said...

Off topic so I will be brief: Last night, 4/29/2022, in Edmonds, WA, I saw Rufus Wainwright in concert and he did the most beautiful cover of Neil's 'Harvest' that I have ever heard. I won't waste anyone's time reviewing the concert, but I will say that if you get a chance to see Rufus and his 3-piece band, go for it. Outstanding evening of music.

At 4/30/2022 02:03:00 PM, Blogger Old Black said...

Off topic also, I've just unwrapped my ORS 13,14,20 & 21 CD box. To my surprise (and I'll bet some people will be able to read things into this) all 4 CD's are labelled correctly with their ORS numbers, but the spines of the sleeves all have ORS 21 on them....? I'm sure it's just a printing error. However, the card covers are not glued particularly well and are coming apart already, the booklets are woeful, and if I'm honest and put to one side for a moment the actual sound quality of the discs themselves, (which is the important thing and I shouldn't lose sight of that) the £50 cost of this box for 3 albums and an EP is pretty exorbitant. Neil's reaping a nice harvest with this one. I know, I know, nobody held a gun to my head and made me buy it......

At 4/30/2022 02:34:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

On topic: great comment of the moment, Tomatron is all over this. I recall my roommate somehow coming up with Eldorado. "What the f is this?" Neil back from the land of misfit musicians, sounding louder, stronger, and crazier than ever, the good crazy. Thanks for this, very well written and thoughtful.

At 4/30/2022 04:43:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Freedom will always have a special place in my heart, that '89 solo acoustic tour was the first time I saw Neil in concert. Those new songs really seemed to inspire him to heights he really hadn't hit at all in the 80's. Ragged Glory was the one that really shut up all of his critics, but Freedom was the true start of Neil's "rebirth".

While I could dig the Eldorado EP and Freedom LP combined the way Tomatron did it, honestly I prefer the zig zag nature of Freedom, especially the first half. Listening to it in 1989, it felt like you were getting a different Neil on just about every song. Hearing the crush of the Times Square material followed by a soft one like "Hanging On a Limb" or "Ways of Love" showed off the different sides of Neil's music. I think putting the songs together where you get all the heavy stuff together takes away from the brilliance of the released Freedom.

I like the idea, and I will listen to it in Tomatron's order, but I'll take the back and forth of the original release.

At 4/30/2022 05:27:00 PM, Blogger Shakeydave said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/30/2022 05:28:00 PM, Blogger Shakeydave said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/30/2022 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Thanks y’all. My goal was to combine the two albums and remain true to the spirit (and track order) of each. I think if you wanted more of a “Freedom, but longer” effect, you could move a couple songs around and get that. (Try Freedom as is, replace the edited Don’t Cry, and slot Cocaine Eyes before that song and Heavy Love between the sides.) For me, the playlist succeeds in doing both the full length and the mini-LP justice. So even though the larger framework of Freedom is the template, sides A and B of Eldorado are in there too. And this way does preserve the overall feeling of a radio changing channels that the flow of Freedom created. But the limit of ten playlists has been removed from the site, so you could even make multiple versions for different occasions. Now that’s Freedom.

At 5/01/2022 12:23:00 AM, Blogger Tomatron said...

New preferred mix - thanks Richie!

1. Rockin’ In the Free World
2. Crime In The City (Sixty to Zero Part I)
3. Cocaine Eyes
4. Don’t Cry
5. Hangin’ On A Limb
6. Eldorado
7. The Ways Of Love
8. Heavy Love
9. Someday
10. On Broadway
11. Wrecking Ball
12. No More
13. Too Far Gone
14. Rockin’ In the Free World

At 5/01/2022 01:51:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

Looks like one helluva good album, Tomatron, doesn't it?

I'll give that a listen real soon!

At 5/01/2022 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

There's even a certain poetry to the song titles with our revised version of freedom.

It's great to rock in the free world, but beware, there's crime in the city. And trust me, cocaine eyes don't cry, even when you're hanging on a limb. Of course, you can always head to Eldorado, where you can learn the ways of love, or get yourself some heavy love, if needed.

Now someday, you might make it on Broadway, till the wrecking ball hits, then it may be no more. Of course, if you suddenly get scared that you are too far gone, just remember that you are rocking in the free world.

And that ain't a bad thing!

At 5/01/2022 06:21:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

I am buying this record! Although, nothing I say is written in stone. I am thinking cocaine eyes and don't cry should swap places but I have no reason why.

At 5/02/2022 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Greying Rider said...

As usual, interesting comment from Tomatron that eloquently puts into words a few things I've been considering since hearing Summer Songs, particularly Wrecking Ball which I've been humming to myself since Christmas. This darker, original version is superb but I can see why Neil would want to keep it off if my understanding is correct that its a song about the siren call of having a marital affair. That hasn't stopped me thinking about a version of Freedom with the more vulnerable acoustic Summer Songs versions of Wrecking Ball and Someday earlier in the track order. I also prefer that version of the latter starting with, and then repeating, the "Hold me baby, ..." line as that feels like the emotional core of the song. Throw in a more trashed version of Too Far Gone as found on Songs for Judy and this album is getting closer to some of the 70s albums where Neil fully opens up. Then maybe using the soon to be released 60-0 from Road of Plenty instead of Crime in the City and moving it to the second half. This would leave me with Freedom as an album up there with his very best. Its already close but, as so often with his 80s albums, there are different versions of the songs from the same period or earlier out there that speak to us all differently.

But Tomatron has of course approached this in the more respectful way of not rewriting the way Neil originally conceived the album and built a playlist. I shall be listening to your playlist with great interest now that Eldorado is finally up in NYA as I'm simply not that familiar with the album.


At 5/02/2022 01:00:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

There’s something satisfying about Freedom arriving at the end of the 80s as a culmination of Neil and co’s quest for a digitally produced major statement that is accentuated by the marriage of the two vlassic releases. One of Neil’s strengths with his coproducers has been to deliver an album that forges a hybrid between styles and sessions. Now that the more rollicking tracks are reinstated, Freedom stands out as one of these projects all the more. Richie, I like that story of the song titles. A good record has a rhythm that seems to tell a story, even when it’s only been assembled from various pieces not originally intended to accompany each other.

Rider, I feel such a contrast between Summer Songs and Freedom. The latter is so much more closed off, to the degree that it defines the record’s character. The crafted production and the reworked lyrics contribute a sense of guarded distance that keeps it from becoming too personal. Even one of the most passionate anthems, Rockin’ In the Free World, is a seething slab of irony. Freedom is, at heart, an album of artifice. It would be interesting to hear an alternate version like you describe. I would want all the tracks to be different versions, live takes, more demos, etc. Stuff from Live Freedom and other goodies undoubtedly to be found on Volume 4 would make this a not-so-distant possibility!

At 5/02/2022 06:24:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Incredible as it may seem, many did not recognize the irony of the song: a strong, rough and overt irony.

Freedom is a consistent problem for those who think that there is any internal consistency to "freedom" in the United States. Self-control and self-regulation, which are paradigmatic of freedom, are in opposition to "doing whatever we want." Neil is aware of this and it emerges on the album.


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