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Saturday, July 09, 2022

Comment of the Moment: Neil Young's Unreleased 2001 Album "Toast" w/ Crazy Horse

"TOAST" (Clone to Are You Passionate? [???]:  
Neil Young Unreleased 2001 Album w/ Crazy Horse 
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Yesterday, "Toast" -- Neil Young's unreleased 2001 album with Crazy Horse album premiered on Neil Young's archive website.

Here is an epic Comment of the Moment from the irrepressible  Flyingscotzman (aka Scotsman) on  PREMEIRE: "Timberline" from Neil Young's unreleased 2001 album "Toast" w/ Crazy Horse:

Greetings to all at Thrasher's. I've been totally "away" from music for the last few months, busy with other projects, and so have missed out on a lot of the discussion.

I still haven't listened to the last 3 "bootleg series" releases, and still have a couple of timeline concerts to catch up on. Anything else I've missed out on?

I have, however, already listened to Toast. I see a lot of perceptive comments already, from Ian and others.

I know from correspondence elsewhere that some have missed my comments here, the last few months, and others have been glad to see me go.

So I'll take that as glass-half-full, and will post my first impressions on Toast very shortly!

(Yes, the "first impressions" are almost as long as Driftin' Back, and will surely upset people who don't like it when I have a viewpoint. If so: GOOD.)

I hope you are all well, and wishing you a happy listening session to the "new" Crazy Horse album.

A heartfelt suggestion:

Do not write Toast off as a 6/10 Are You Passionate clone.

Because it turns out this long-awaited record—one where anticipation could only be flecked with uncertainty—is exciting. More exciting than anything I've heard in... ages.

It has moments, many moments, that are so sublime it's hard to believe they've been locked up for the last 20 years.

A few months ago I "boldly" (cough) proclaimed this record would, at very least, be interesting.

Well, it's certainly that. It's *fascinating*. And electrifying, too.

Because, within the nuts and bolts of this album, there's an "exposed wire". It sometimes causes the songs to misfire. (Listen to some of the not-quite-there guitar soloing and the occasional throwaway lyrics).

But it also causes exciting *sparks*, with thrilling frequency.

And it makes this album feel vividly, vividly *alive*.

There's another major difference, too, between this music and Are You Passionate:

Toast is a Neil Young album. With all the haunting idiosyncrasies you'd expect from a Neil Young album.

Whereas Are You Passionate is a Neil Young album *in disguise*.

I fear the slightly comical word-image of the previous sentence may dim the impact of what I think is a valid point.

And it's a point that needs some nuance. So I may very well complicate the point by trying to clarify it.

An artist has to protect his spirit. And I think that's what Neil does on Are You Passionate. He makes a genre record... and starts to bring his family back together.

With that in mind, consider this:


It wants us to *believe* this album is a story, or about *other* people (or just another 80s-style concept-experiment with genre.)

Neil wants us to think he's acting. Even though the real act is that he's *not* acting.

In that way, Are You Passionate sort of feels like a deliberate "self-forgery". Toast doesn't. But it's not a case of "Toast is good, AYP is bad".

(I did warn you there was some nuance).

AYP isn't the end of a relationship. It's Neil actively battling to keep it together. And the theatrical mimicking of the soul sound-signature gives him the shade he needs to "stand in the light of love". (A paradox!)

All that is part of what it means to be a Professional Creative, too. For reasons we'll get on to shortly.

So to us, Toast is "just" music.

And to us, Shakey: Neil Young's Biography is "just" a fascinating book written by a charismatic writer.

But to Neil, they're his life.

Art is *about* life, but when it becomes *indistinguishable* from life itself, it becomes dangerous.

Little things are blown out of proportion — seeming far bigger (and more dangerous) due to their closeness to heart.

And that's when Kurt Cobain kills himself, or Elvis Presley *the person* becomes submerged by his career.

Other people get hurt in the fallout, too. Because when people are fearful, they act in inconsiderate ways. Many of us are guilty of that, on occasion: it's part of what it means to be human... unfortunately.

So, do I prefer Toast to Are You Passionate? Early impression is a very emphatic "yes".

But I think I understand (and can enthuse about) why Neil chose to make AYP, instead. And actually, I'm glad he did — because the concerts from Germany 2002 (with Poncho and the MGs) are superb.

More musings:

On Toast, Neil's singing is among the most intimate you'll ever ever hear, and the production is fantastic.

The fragility of his voice (a weakness on the AYP mix of Goin' Home) is *transformed* into a strength by bringing it up-front, compressing it, warming it up with some haunting echo. It feels like a direct link to Neil's soul.

(And, again, you can see why that might cause the artist to blink; to think twice).

The sound-mix of Goin' Home is a million times better than on Are You Passionate. And the overdubs (lots of gorgeous, colourful overdubs on this album) help propel the song into a higher gear.

The result? The best Neil Young song of the last 20+ years finally has a worthy representation on record.

There's one more thing I wanted to say, because I have a hunch there is somebody out there who needs to hear it:

In a world where the soulless forces of social media try to compel us to comply... to fit in... to be fearful of even the *suggestion* of social rejection... to obsess about "likes"... to act like cloned automatons (for God's sake)....

It's becoming increasingly rare to hear music like this.

Music with soul that actively rewards the listener for seeking out the kind of fragile nuance that the system actively seeks to kill.

My suggestion: treasure it when it arrives.

And treasure the people who make this sort of stuff, too — because there aren't many of them.

The artist, too, has a responsibility. To keep at it. To respect herself *and* her family *and* her audience. And to do the music justice.

(Forgive me if I'm sacrificing clarity by being a bit vague, in the last few paragraphs. But I don't think I'm talking total gibberish.)

On that note! Thanks for taking time to read my rant.

And congratulations to Mr Young on releasing a powerful (but still seemingly-fragile and *sensitive*) piece of music into a dangerous world.

I promise you, it will survive.


So glad to have you drop a thought or 2 here Scotsman.  Always our pleasure to feature as a CotM.  The Neil bounty still yields huge bounties after all these decades is approaching miracality for a certain generation.

When you come back for a visit here @ TW, you don't just casually drop by but drop us something to chew on, hold and savor.  We are honored and humbled by you and many others who generously share so much.  So we give back to the community and the circle goes round  and round.


Also, see Comment of the Moment on "Toast" - A Roadstory: Neil Young Shares Thoughts on Unreleased 2001 Album by Tony "Hambone" Hammond in the UK.  (See  "Toast" - A Roadstory: Neil Young Shares Thoughts on Unreleased 2001 Album.)

More on interview with Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, Neil Young, Crazy Horse Guitarist [discusses TOAST] | The Aquarium Drunkard. 

Also, see ‘Are You Passionate?’ Turns 10 Years Old and Neil Young's Album of the Week: 'Are You Passionate?' + Defending AYP?

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At 7/09/2022 02:25:00 PM, Blogger mrtew said...

"The sound-mix of Goin' Home is a million times better than on Are You Passionate."??? I don't hear any difference at all except *maybe* a little better bass. I think you're remembering the AYP version wrong or listening to old worn out vinyl. If I hadn't just spent half an hour going back and forth between the two versions of that song I'd have sworn in court that it's the same mix of the same take with the ending faded out instead of the cool AYP ending where it sounds like he gave up and dropped his guitar. I like the AYP versions of the other three shared songs better too, the Toast versions sound more like Harvest Moon to me than Crazy Horse. This record isn't the revelation to me that I thought it would be or that "Summer Songs" was! I'm still glad to get Standing and Gateway at last! So nice!

At 7/09/2022 02:55:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

mrtew: I'm listening to the original CD version of AYP — Toast *definitely* has a much improved mix.

(Wider, "meatier", Poncho and Billy are louder, with a more heavily-processed and louder lead-vocal.

Listen to the added echo on Neil's voice to verify.

This is based on my old CD copy of AYP, which I assume is standard (?). But if there's an alternate mix of AYP, I'd like to hear it.

PS - thanks Thrasher for the CotM, and the very generous note!


At 7/09/2022 03:53:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I haven’t done extensive a/b comparisons, but to me, Goin’ Home sounds a hell of a lot clearer than it used to. Like someone swept away a heavy layer of aural dust. The vocal is treated as scotsman described and piano seems higher in the mix. Could be mixing and/or mastering differences, and disclaimer, my source is CD for both Toast and AYP? Losing the messy ending, though, is a bit of a tradeoff for all that clarity.

Details put aside for a moment, what I most appreciate and admire about scotsman’s commentary is the effort, however imperfect, to convey an impression of the album’s overarching, cumulative effect on the listener. There are a number of ways to talk about an album a or piece or art. One can attempt to break it down into constituent parts or components, rating (perceived) component in isolation, kind of like an autopsy that assesses the condition of each internal organ. One can then use these separate data points to generate an artificial average, usually expressed as a numeric or star rating. Or, one can go the more qualitative (and necessarily more abstract) route, seeking to put into words a sense of how the music sounds—what it feels like to hear, from both an emotional and physiological, even neuro-motor, standpoint.

The abstract language needed for the qualitative, deeply subjective approach tends to be simultaneously less concrete and more primal in its impact on the reader. Not an easy combination to balance. Yet this is the path scotsman has chosen, and his cotm is all the more richly revealing for taking the risk of fully engaging with the aesthetic object (in this case, Toast) in its own subjective register.

It’s not a question of the whole vs. sum of parts, but a matter of understanding that the “whole” is a phantasm or projection of the mind, insofar as an album is a construct, a useful yet limited thought form (device) to unify a selection of sensory input into a cohesive, intelligible frame of reference. In view of this cognitive process, it seems almost miraculous that we can even coherently theorize a shared object (ie. the album “Toast”) on which to comment.

Now that I’ve mapped out (or maybe just over-complicated) the act of criticism and interpretation, maybe in future comments I csn get down to interpreting the album itself.

At 7/09/2022 04:08:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Goin Home does have a higher quality mix now and I did notice the trippy vocal echo as well. There are a few subtly psychedelic delay/reverb choices sprinkled throughout Toast that add some nice detail to the production. Even though they’re both “early versions” sets, the dedication to sonically developing the tracks makes Toast a different type of record from Summer Songs. Although I do find Summer Songs to be more of a revelation than Toast since Crazy Horse mostly pulled off the soul vibe Neil was going for with the MGs. These versions sometimes deviate only a bit from the AYP tracks, but they’ve been recontextualized and that is significant.

Toast’s Goin Home is the one I’d pick in a standalone setting. But I listen to these songs in the context of their respective albums, and in that important respect I find the AYP Goin Home to be its equal. The albums’ two production styles don’t blend. So Goin Home had to be mixed a certain way in 2001/2 to claim its rightful place on Are You Passionate?. With its inclusion, Neil created a mythical Toast, a lost album within an album. AYP is certainly a record in disguise. But in imbibing Goin Home with a mysterious character, the missing Toast sessions took on a new life in our minds. So Toast itself became disguised by the flatter mix it was given (a bold contrast to the lush presentation of the AYP surrounding it), as well as by the absence of backing vocals (again, starker than it would’ve sounded in the studio). The abrupt ending that gives way to AYP’s most vanilla rendition of When I Hold You In My Arms is now iconic. For me, it’s the artist’s way of saying, yes, Toast happened, here’s the proof, but it was weird, he doesn’t like it anymore, and his music sounds like *this* now. Goin Home in AYP has that mythical quality that endures. And it’s a minute longer, which is cool.

At 7/09/2022 04:33:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

So I'm giving Toast a big thumbs up, though as far as 2000's Horse goes, I'd still take Greendale and Psychedelic Pill in a heartbeat. I like my Horse with a lot more cunch, and on Toast they sound almost like a polished band. Seems very restrained to my ears, yet there is still plenty to love.

The non-AYP songs really do the job. Standing, Timberline, and ESPECIALLY Gateway Of Love are all excellent Horse songs. Matter of fact. I'm shocked that Gateway never got an official release, it's a totally unique and fascinating Crazy Horse tune. Quit was never one of my faves, so either version is fine with me, but I really prefer Mr Disappointment and She's A Healer with the Horse, both tunes seem darker and edgier with the Horse.

However, my only real quibble is Goin Home. Sorry, but I MUCH prefer the AYP version. I like the murkiness of the sound, Neil's vocal is WAY better on AYP, and to shame with the fade out ending. I loved the abruptness of the sudden end on AYP. Maybe it's because I loved Goin Home so much on AYP, the way the Horse just crashed the party, so my views may be changed with more listens to Toast, but I like the AYP version better.

Other than that, though, Toast is a real revelation that I will listen to many more times.

At 7/09/2022 06:50:00 PM, Blogger Shakeydave said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/10/2022 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Paul Dionne said...

What an astounding point. Besides the title song of AYP being one of Neil's greatest, you bring up the point of the Booker T and Ponch tour of 2002. Those are such incredible shows, esp the televised Berlin show, where Neil is as much in the zone as he has ever done. That is the greatest broadcasted show Neil has ever done.

paul dionne

At 7/10/2022 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...


The points in question are too important to ignore. First of all a false dilemma of sorts- a piece by piece, in isolation approach to an aesthetic object or a comprehensive subjective, "abstract" approach (or, I suppose both- in tandem). There is another option.

But first, the analogy with the autopsy. Any pathologist will tell you that "cause of death" is as much a legal endeavor as it is scientific one and hence the need for specificity and viewing organs in isolation from one another. Just a moment of reflection reveals the superficiality of the autopsy (while it still might be accurate). Joe died of liver failure, etc.., true enough. Any attempt to fully understand liver failure will end in the multiple relations between liver and other organs and finally to the whole human body (as it is a system). Hence, in this case, the whole takes epistemological and ontological priority over the parts.

I cannot see how you reach any conclusion about the whole as a "phantasm." If we want to look at fiction, there is no way to proceed in any interpretation except from "the whole." Try an interpretation of any novel from a "part" and you will see what I mean immediately: a part of what? The whole and what the part means will follow from a more or less accurate understanding of the whole. That there will someday be a full account of the whole is implausible but this is not a problem as the same holds with respect to ecology. There is never a full grasp of any ecology (partly caused by constant change, partially caused by human limitations).

Whatever method Scotsman is following, and I frankly do not see any, the language he uses does not have to be "more abstract" if the issue is the emotional/semantic sense of the whole (which presupposed that there is a whole). The sense of sadness might be quite literal and concrete, which is generally a criteria for aesthetic value.

Watch out for the reduction of the whole to a "phantasm" as it will also provoke skepticism of the worst sort. In fact, as you push a kind of subjectivity in response, you might undercut the basis of your own ideas. On the other hand, if subjectivity is used in its benign way, as "effect on the specific listener" there is nothing to worry about as the quality of the aesthetic object will depend on its intersubjectivity of meaning and emotion.

I think Scotsman's comments are first rate because he isn't doing theory and his ideas are not corrupted by any dogma. He is speaking directly of the emotional and semantic power of the music. His comments are immediately comprehended.

At 7/10/2022 03:56:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Abner--The autopsy analogy, on reflection, is not satisfactory. Actually, what might be nearer the mark is the assessment of internal organs of, say, a brain dead patient to determine which ones are suitable for donation--at that point, the whole person is no longer a primary ethical concern. It's about salvaging pieces that may be useful, individually, to others.

In case it's not clear, let me state that quantitative, qualitative, and mixed or hybrid approaches all hold value. Which one is most useful, or simply desirable, depends on the endeavor at hand.

It's true, as you say, that it's virtually impossible to interpret an album, novel, or other artwork without recourse to the "whole". Again, I feel I wasn't quite clear on this point. Ontologically, parts imply a whole but if anything, I look at invocation of the "whole" as strategic essentialism, rather than necessarily reflecting some fixed, literal truth.

Of course, the album literally exists in the sense of the sound recording, master tape or digital equivalent. However, to me it seems reductionist to say that the album=the sound recording itself, any more than a novel= manuscript or even the pages used to mass-produce text. Beyond the physical (or digital) medium, one is left precisely with the intangible: the experience(s) received by the listener, reader, etc. Hence my use of words like phantasm, construct, projection to describe The Whole.

I maintain that the language to describe subjective impressions tends toward the relatively abstract, particularly if one is getting beyond generalities such as sadness. At the least, it is applying concrete terms to a more nebulous context. As in describing a piece of music as "dark" or "muddy" when, clearly, we don't mean this in a literal way. Even grunge, in the musical sense, strikes me as an abstract term--one for which there is no singular, fixed point of reference.

Of course, one does not have to be consciously "doing theory" in order to have a critical orientation. It can be dogmatic, which is not generally productive. Alternatively, it can be a useful way of articulating and refining one's instinctive approach.

In the end, we operate within these systems of rules (theoretical frameworks) because it's broadly necessary in order to produce useful work. Skepticism, sometimes, leads to chaos and dead ends, sometimes to bold, innovative thinking or beneficial acts of imagination. The challenge lies in cultivating a perspective that's flexible enough to take on new ideas and information while simultaneously holding to a rigorous standard of truth value.

I hope these comments have been a bit more articulate than my previous.

At 7/10/2022 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

@ Abner & Ian,
thanks for giving me another excuse for yet another school term finals procastination.

At 7/10/2022 05:52:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Well done Ian, constructive clarification that works for an argument.

We had some basic misunderstandings, glad you clarified.

My only small point, we can count the whole as ontologically prior to the parts without falling into "essentialism." This can be spelled out.

One note, self promotion I guess, I published a paper a few years back on Russell Banks' novel Affliction. I argued that the main character's "anxiety" has to be deeply nuanced to understand the book- this is what you were trying to say I think. I agree totally. I get your use of abstraction now.

Great to talk, really enjoyable.

At 7/10/2022 08:37:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Abner, Pleased I was able to clarify my thinking. The weird thing, when writing about theoretical obscurities in an informal setting, is that one sometimes up being slightly sloppy while appearing to be precise.

At 7/11/2022 02:51:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hoi Scotsman.I like it when somebody ( in this case you) expresses his thoughts and feelings about the music Neil makes since he arrived in the music world a little while ago,oh,so very,long ago,I should say.He never lost his muse and stands for what he talks and sings about.Honest to the bone.Not everyone likes all the music he makes,for with so many diyerent styles he played thoughout his life,there'garanteed some music people don't like or don't want to hear,because no-one has the same taste in music,as we all know.It takes a lot of courage (and love) to do what he does, did and probably will do for (I hope) a long time in the future.Let's keep on rockin' with and listening to and enjoying Neil's music.Long may he run.Houdoe,Cees Mostert,the Netherlands,Europe.

At 7/11/2022 02:56:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Beg your pardon,folks.Noticed I had a slip of the pen.The word "diyerent" should be "different".Let's say it was still early in the morning and I was a bit sleepy."De mazzel"(=take care),Cees,the Netherlands.

At 7/11/2022 02:14:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

Can anyone make heads or tails out of the quote Neil posted today under Subscriber News? I’ve seen some cryptic announcements from him before, but this one’s a stumper…

At 7/11/2022 03:09:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

@Ian, the informal aspects of these exchanges can also slacken our attention when we read, I did not pay careful enough attention to the details of your ideas.

At 7/12/2022 02:24:00 AM, Blogger Dionys said...

My interpretation re Neil Young's Subscriber News: Neil Young is conceding a typical result of mental overload. To have all these balls in the air at his age is astounding in itself. Given the experience with his father Scott Young in his late years Neil Young will be alerted by even the smallest signals when memory fails him. In the past Neil Young occasionally has been surprised by knowledgable fans who contributed details of his musical biography from way back, that he himself could not remember, but that's not a worrisome phenomenon ("It's easy to get buried in the past"). To meet one's limit with a task at hand is a different thing.

At 7/12/2022 01:47:00 PM, Blogger Tomatron said...

That makes sense. Sounds like everything worked out alright. I wonder if he still had to insert it into the intro, since it was already in the intro. Maybe it needed to go earlier in the intro, and be inserted into the intro to the intro.


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