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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Comment of the Moment: PREMEIRE: "Timberline" from Neil Young's unreleased 2001 album "Toast" w/ Crazy Horse

Last week, the song "Timberline" from Neil Young's unreleased 2001 album "Toast" with Crazy Horse album premiered on Neil Young's archive website.

The ~four minute song, tells the story of an unemployed lumberjack and his world battles with faith. Here is the Comment of the Moment from PREMIERE: "Timberline" from Neil Young's  unreleased 2001 album "Toast" w/ Crazy Horse by Tomatron:

Timberline has that dark edge to it, that’s for sure. 

Very much a cousin to Southern Pacific with the implication of violence a la Revolution Blues. It was no one thing but a confluence of factors that seems to have led to the shelving of Toast. The heavier subject matter was replaced by the more jingoistic (and still excellent) AYP tracks that were added after 9/11. The bitter acrimony of Toast album tracks was either deleted or sweetened in their Booker T incarnations. Neil alludes to a relationship that both parties understand to be over. But some kind of arrangement was met and most of the songs stayed. It will be interesting to hear the Toast versions of AYP tracks and see how much (or how little) was transformed in the process. Given the Horseless final release of AYP, I find it remarkable Goin Home was included at all back then.

With those records that he has rated harshly or pulled from release altogether (like Time Fades Away or Homegrown, which are actually among his best), that denial is less about the songs and more the feeling he has associated with the time spent playing them. It’s difficult to revisit the untimely death of a friend, or the precipice of divorce, so the music made during these crises is what ends up sacrificed. Eventually the hard feelings let up after decades, and the work shines through with the quality and heart that was always there.


In order to properly savor these last few days of anticipation before Toast is unveiled in full, let us share in the observation of said album’s generous runtime: 52 minutes. The total length of the three tracks already accessible plus “a hypnotizing 10 minutes” of Gateway Of Love (per the Greedy Hand write-up) still leaves approximately 25 minutes of material for three songs, an average of more than 8 minutes per tune. Folks, it looks like Toast will be served with a dollop of jam. 

 Thanks -- as always -- Tomatron for the comment and observations on  "Timberline" . Small correction "Toast will be served with a dollop of jamS"  ;)

Neil Young Unreleased 2001 Album w/ Crazy Horse 

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Toast Track Listing
01. Quit... 5:24
02. Standing in the Light of Love 4:18
03. Goin Home... 7:52
04. Timberline... 4:10
05. Gateway of Love ...10:10
06. How Ya Doin (Mr.Disappointment)... 7:00
07. Boom Boom Boom (She's A Healer)...13:10

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 7/07/2022 10:27:00 AM, Blogger David Rart said...

First review I've seen by someone who appears to have heard the entire record

"Often vague or judderingly on the nose in his subsequent prolific, patchy 21st century, this music is a complete, conjured emotional place, Young and his faithful band in equilibrium as he confesses his wracked position."

At 7/07/2022 10:30:00 AM, Blogger David Rart said...

ah ha, they are all coming now, sounds like a lost classic to me

At 7/07/2022 10:37:00 AM, Blogger David Rart said...

Dare we talk now about how issues in Neil and Pegi's relationship impacted his early 20th Century work and might continue to do so today? It seems he himself might be addressing it by at last releasing this. It certainly wasn't clear to me at the time, they seemed to be living happily ever when he started taking her on tour as a backing singer. I assumed the spirit of Harvest Moon prevailed until the big divorce. Yes it is a matter of his private life, though this has always been intertwined with the music we love.

At 7/07/2022 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Dionys said...

The reasons why I strongly oppose the idea of discussing of how "issues in Neil's and Pegi's relationship impacted his early 21st century work" are far too numerous to be elaborated on this venerable website. I declare not to participate in any of this as long as any of the spouses involved at the time and now are still alive. There are things that one does not talk about in a place that can change into a public toilet any minute. Beware of the Croz.

At 7/07/2022 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Currently listening:) Your gonna wanna like Are you Passionate. That Pitchfork review sums it up well.

At 7/07/2022 11:30:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ David - thanks for review linkage! Less than 24 hours to release of The TOAST!

@ Dionys - we hear you loud & clear here. simpatico

At 7/07/2022 05:29:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

As a corollary of sorts to tomatron’s comments, I’d argue the underlying angst and doubt associated with the Toast recordings is present on the AYP? album, albeit sublimated at times beneath the upbeat shininess of the MGs. When I refer to that album, I typically include the question mark as part of the title. There are few other NY song titles, and no other album titles I can recall, that come in the form of a question. AYP? the song, except for the bridge verses about the soldier and the prisoner, is made up almost entirely of questions.

“Are you dreamin’, now, that you’re going to the top? Are you negative? Is it everything? Are you scared of it?”

Is the singer asking these questions of a partner or, possibly, of himself? Either way ambivalence, tension, and insecurity hover over the delicate waltz. Booker T’s Hammond organ carries a mournfully ethereal quality, almost the sound of a funeral procession, counterpointed by a guitar tone from Neil, here and throughout the AYP? album, that I can only describe as sour and biting. I can’t over emphasize that this is a heavier album (even aside from Let’s Roll) than is often suggested.

She’s a Healer (Boom Boom Boom?) is another case in point, what I refer to as soul grunge. Most of the other songs—You’re my Girl, When I Hold you in my Arms, Differently, Be With You, Disappointment, Quit—struggle with varying degrees of romantic yearning and possessiveness in relation to the “you” that is the object of the singer’s affections and worries.

You’ll notice I’m not making any allusions to any “real life” relationships here. I don’t think it’s necessary to do so in drawing out the themes surrounding AYP? and Toast. One hallmark of successful art is that it transcends highly conditions of its production to communicate ideas and emotion experiences that resonate with many people.

Maybe my vantage point for Toast is a little different? I’m most curious about how it may illuminate AYP? and vice versa. For those who have already established a strong relationship with AYP?, Toast may be a uniquely rewarding experience. Standing in the gateway of love, I can hardly wait.

At 7/07/2022 05:39:00 PM, Blogger Richie Cruz said...

While I'm looking forward to Toast, and I'm not a huge fan of the AYP album, I do think the song "Are You Passionate" is one of Neil's best tunes of the 2000's. Especially the last verse, when Neil's voice cracks, well, that's as real as it gets. Great song.

At 7/07/2022 05:45:00 PM, Blogger Phil said...

I've just finished my first listen to Toast and I can confirm that it's a real experience. The Standing/Goin' Home/Timberline suite is one of the most powerful in Horse... And Gateway/How Ya/Boom one of the grooviest...
AYP and Toast are really different albums...

At 7/07/2022 05:58:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

@ Ian
Your comment is very much appreciated because it shows how to separate art or music from the real live persons that otherwise could be heavily affected even if the theories about their involvement are pure speculation and nonsense.

After the artist has let go of his or her art it takes on its own life. Any long-time Neil Young fan will have experienced that once you thought you had an idea what the guy and his music was about he already was around the corner onto the next quite different thing.

With "Émile" J.J. Rousseau created the first novel on education, but he sent all his own children to the orphanage. While any parent today would consider this to be a monstrous behaviour, this does not take away any of the importance or significance of Rousseau's writing.

So to stick with the music and those information willingly and intently disclosed and discussed by the artist him- or herself is the right thing to do. Marriages and family affairs are to be protected from being turned into digital peep-shows.
I think this to be right even for an artist who once sung "My life's an open book, you read it on the radio".

At 7/07/2022 07:19:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

On AYP?, a handful of tracks I rate highly: Two Old Friends, Mr. Disappointment, AYP?, Goin’ Home, She’s a Healer. Could make a good, heavy EP out of this. I will (hopefully) report back on Toast over the weekend. Trying not to go in with a lot of expectations, excited but open-minded. It will be unique, I’m sure.

At 7/08/2022 12:48:00 AM, Blogger mrtew said...

I love AYP and most of this just sounds like early slightly mellower versions of half the songs on the album that was released. I do like the new songs Standing and Gateway a lot but not Timberline yet. Cool to finally hear it after all these years of anticipation.

At 7/08/2022 05:58:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

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.


At 7/08/2022 06:59:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

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.

(End of Book #1)

At 7/08/2022 07:03:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

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.


At 7/08/2022 08:17:00 AM, Blogger Andyedie said...

Toast gave me chills today. It's one of Neil's most 'complete' records and best of his 21st century. Soulful like never before and that run of Standing..., Goin Home, Timberline and Gateway just wowed me something shocking. I'd always loved Gateway Of Love but dammit, those sublime and plain gorgeous Ralph and Billy harmonies take it to the next level....AND THIS PRODUCTION is perfect. Instrument sound is fantastic...polished in parts, grimey in others but it's the best Crazy Horse have ever sounded. Well done John Hanlon.

At 7/08/2022 09:26:00 AM, Blogger Phil said...

Maybe it means nothing but this is a Neil Young WITH Crazy Horse. But the majority of NYCH are NY + CH or NY & CH or just NY CH. I think only EKTIN and Broken Arrow have the WITH on cover. Any explanation ? More personal album ? Or nothing at all ???

At 7/08/2022 10:01:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Scotsman - so good to hear from you!

thanks much for the excellent TOAST obs. definitely CotM material.

At 7/08/2022 10:46:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

"Art is about life" and so it actually cannot simply conflate with life. Art that is about the psychic reality of the artist is a representation of that psychic reality. The danger Scotsman mentions is then radically dangerous- a conflation of the artist's life with art itself is not possible- what we get is derangement, perhaps the disappearance of the self into a creation, a character, a something, and one can then easily see the danger.

Social media can be (or is) the disappearance of the self, a conflation of the self with a character, "movement" etc.., the telos, perhaps, of "fitting in."

The artist does indeed have a responsibility, beyond the ones mentioned, there are those shared with everyone- at least the endeavor to find the truth. On social media this basic human responsibility has been washed away by the forces of our worst selves.

Going Home orbits the truth, however inchoate and opaque in places, as does Timberline. The condition for such insights is the aboutness and externality of art.

At 7/08/2022 11:45:00 AM, Blogger Dionys said...

Back in 2001 at the Munich concert „Goin’ Home“, a song never played before this Eurotour 01, not even at the warm-up shows, got an enthusiastic reaction by the otherwise hard to impress audience at the Olympiahalle. While German audiences probably do not catch the metaphorical layer of the song lyrics when listening to it for the first time, they liked the hymn-like refrain, so when Neil Young and the Horse broke out the song a second time as a second encore the standing crowd in front of the stage already was singing along. I agree, that this is the most catchy and maybe best NYCH song in this millenium’s first decade. What happened to it on AYP? and why it re-surfaced only in 2014 is somewhat a mystery to me. The "Toast" version is sounding as it was at the concerts.

At 7/08/2022 12:08:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

Dionys- Is there a video of the Munich concert?

At 7/08/2022 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Dionys said...

I don't know, never checked, but I wouldn't be surprised. An audience tour compilation titled Eurotour'01 was in circulation shortly after which has the second performance of Goin' Home in Munich and the one in Erfurt. A quick check at YT brought a Montreux version, but I haven't looked at it, I am not that much into amateur videos. According to the omniscient Sugar Mountain website "Goin' Home's" second coming as an encore also happened in Oslo and Rotterdam later on in the tour.

I very much could relate to the song because of some of the lyrics. At that time I was involved in support of the back end of treaty negotiations between a small native community in Northern Alberta and the despicable agents of the Canadian government determined to trample underfoot the human and land rights of these people. Back then we would have wished for Neil Young's support. On occasion Midnight Oil and Buffy Sainte-Marie lent a hand though.

At 7/09/2022 09:42:00 AM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

going back to what Dionys said... we recently had our 38th wedding anniversary. Jesus, I think about the ups and downs. I am so grateful that Neil Young can write great songs about love and the sorrow/joy related to love. Speculation about where any of this comes from turns us into "Entertainment Tonight" and remember "I'm the Ocean."

Speaking of which, given the recent Roe rejection, that trio of songs- immense songs- from Mirror Ball, go up in value. Like a great painting acquiring vastly new relevance and weight.

At 7/11/2022 02:51:00 PM, Blogger David Rart said...

I genuinely apologise for suggesting we discuss NY's personal life in this place where people are carefully articulate in a way that is refreshing when I come from almost anywhere else online. I think it might be because I am originally from the UK where we have a more tabloid culture, even in relation to artists we love, and I assume many people commenting here are from North America which has a more detached culture when it comes to discussing artists. Nonetheless, I do also think we are more direct about things in Europe, and it is clear from many of the comments/reviews about this album that people are yearning to understand what Neil is saying about his personal life at this time, I just dared to attach names - forgive me!

(Just watching the mind blowing version of Goin Home from Montreux 2001 on YouTube.)

At 7/11/2022 05:37:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Abner & Dionys - good discussion as always. but we want to get to David.

@ David - your apologies are accepted. We know how big a person it takes to actually go the distance. So kudos.

2nd, really no apology necessary. This was pretty mild as things go around here.

To clarify, yes, we need to respect everyone's privacy. Ours, our commenters, neil, daryl, Pegi, their families.

Of course, that said, there's a line somewhere here that we try and find and abide.

When it comes to privacy, discussing song lyrics is fair game. It's on the public record.

The line gets crossed when there is totally unfounded speculation. Pegi is dead and can not speak for herself obviously. So we have to respect anything that goes into speculation territory.

again, neil released this record for a reason. we *assume* that sufficient time had passed (20 years) that neil was comfortable enough to put this out there.

Now if Neil gives an indepth interview about TOAST, then those areas become fair game.

But again, let's be sensitive & respectful, esp regarding the memories of Pegi.

Take care David. Glad to have you here.

About the only thing we can say is that before anyone hits publish on their comment, to ask themselves what would someone they deeply respect think. That's how you decide.


At 7/17/2022 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Dp said...

You know I've been ny fan since my teens and suddenly I find myself 62. I now live in seattle area. Most beautiful place to see neil inside or outside. I was blessed to take my wife and kids to many ny and nycrazyhorse tours. Loved them all. Now I'm getting my twin grandsons into neil, probably not too surprising but thay love weld farmer John and keep on rocking in usa. Back to toast, first listen driving to work seemed interesting. 2nd listen headphones at home and was blown away. My opinion is one of best horse albums, and I got all ny releases on vinyl.


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