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Friday, August 05, 2022

Comment of the Moment: "Noise & Flowers" by Neil Young + Promise of the REAL

"Noise & Flowers"
Neil Young + Promise of the Real 
  Release Date - August 5th 
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Noise & Flowers by Neil Young + Promise of the REAL -- a new live album that captures the group on their 2019 European tour was released today,  August 5th.

Without further ado, comes the Comment of the Moment on LISTEN TO “THROW YOUR HATRED DOWN” from ‘NOISE & FLOWERS’ by the ever so intrepid Scotsman:

Greetings all. 

It's album release day (exciting!), so here are a few thoughts on Noise and Flowers.

Before we talk about Noise and Flowers, though, I think we need to talk about Life and Death.

(I know: all a bit heavy! But bear with me — we're going somewhere).

Tonight's the Night, of course, is a record about life (and death). Sleeps With Angels is a record about life (and death). Greendale is a record about life (and death).

No coincidence. Because wherever there's life, death is waiting in the wings.

That's true for you and me, for the butterfly on your window ledge, and the lamb in the slaughterhouse (and the men who put her there).

And although death is often distressing, the real problem is one of *denial*. Denial of our own mortality.

We humans get ourselves into trouble when we act as if we are Gods: impervious to death. And we get ourselves into trouble when we're terrified and act aggressively (which traces back to a caveman-style *fear* of death).

But if we can *accept* death, its proximity can bring out the best in us. And it inspires us to live our lives that much more vividly.

And that's what Noise and Flowers is all about.

The backstory:

Elliot Roberts, Neil's friend and manager of 50 years, passed away shortly before the European tour with Promise of the Real (from summer 2019) that this album captures.

By coincidence, one of my dearest friends was dying at the same time. I remember each day of June/July 2019 expanding in scope — seeming deeper, wider, more vivid than ever before.

Noise and Flowers is the sound of that feeling.

It's also the sound of Neil Young getting the very last drop of mileage out of the peak of his vocal range.

Example: Rockin' In The Free World was at the high end of Neil's vocal range when he wrote it. And 30 years later, it's *definitely* at the high end of his vocal range. (The performance here errs between sublime and shambolic, much like All Along The Watchtower on the Road Rock album.)

So there were lots of songs performed on this tour that didn't make the cut. Why? I think because they were "rough gems" that wouldn't have made the merciless transition from live *concert* to all-revealing live *album*.

But many of the performances that *are* here are special ones:

Intense, vulnerable, focused, fragile and powerful — all at the same time.

Prior to 2019, my "scathing" assessment of Promise of the Real was that they "too often filled in the musical gaps that sound best when left unfilled".

But the 2019 tour saw a surprise attack on the "less is more" front. It saw POTR strip away all the extra stuff: less of a collage, and more putting a metaphorical spotlight onto the man at the heart of it all.

Being in the spotlight can be scary!

But the spotlight is also where an artist rises to the occasion. And that's what Neil, Lukas, Micah, Anthony, Corey and Tato do on this record.

The sound mix on Noise and Flowers is an oddity. The overall effect is like an audience bootleg tape on acid. It's a bit "lo-fi" at times. Some of the tracks have a slap-back echo effect that makes the left channel feel slightly out-of-kilter with the right. I'm not sure how I feel about it!

As Neil puts it:

"This music belongs to no one. It's in the air, every note was played for music's great friend, Elliot".

The whole thing aims for that soupy, swampy, swimming-in-reverb sound that will be familiar to anyone who's ever been to an *actual* arena gig.

Veteran readers and writers here know that I adore the authentic live sound. With that disclaimer, the sound of this record is not *always* the most sterling example of its type... it's a bit narrow, at times a touch distant. But part of that may be due to limitations of the original recordings.

(We've also been spoilt recently with Toast, a sonic masterpiece).

Opinion: Noise and Flowers is one of those albums that's best when nonchalantly blasted at full volume, rather than savored on bass-shy audiophile headphones.

And hey, before you knock it (or me) as unsophisticated: TRY IT.

Mr Soul kicks the album off with a sense of no-nonsense, "let's get down to business" swagger. F*!#in' Up concludes it with a high-octane sonic demolition job.

In between, we have... noise and flowers. We have sweetness, lightness, gracefulness, peace, war, up-beat country rockers, mourning, palpable sadness, explosions, and a spine-chilling electric version of On The Beach.

But mostly, we have life and death.

With this swirling, chaotic, intense, fragile, mysterious album being the sound of a magical dimension that exists outside of either one.


Yet again Scotsman, you have given us all much to chew on here. Actually, we have not had a chance to listen just yet. Of course, our memories will be filtered by the tours we caught with Neil + REAL, although not the Europe leg.

We are quite looking forward to seeing the concert video. From Andrew B., comes the BluRay package with the concert locations by song.

Bluray Tracks
"Noise & Flowers" by Neil Young + Promise of the REAL

Thanks Andrew B., enjoy!

Neil Young + Promise of the REAL

More on "Noise & Flowers" Coming in 2021: Neil Young + Promise of the REAL | NYA - UPDATED

More on The Story Behind The Album Cover "Noise & Flowers" by Neil Young + Promise of the Real .

More on Sneak Preview: "Noise & Flowers" Track by Neil Young + Promise Of The Real.

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At 8/05/2022 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Abner Snopes said...

A definite denial of death is a pathological state, the denial is often quite subtle and often comes off as "a disbelief" ("this cannot be me"). Acceptance is obviously difficult for many and perhaps there are some good reasons- especially as one might die young with "so much left undone." Hell no, I refuse to accept this, I shake my fist at the universe with Camus.

But there are more interesting points. If the acceptance of mortality comes early enough, and takes the right form (and isn't just an affirmation of death), one can bring more meaning to life. For example, the labor and joy of "raising children" goes up in meaning as one grasps the limited time and scope for such great endeavors.

What awaits us is the horrifying question of "life after death" (the best and original oxymoron). No reason to believe it but then many do and fervently. What does this add to the mix? Perhaps a further and more pernicious denial? It might also be the denial of this life, the only one we know (denial, as in a diminishment in the value of this life). When the narrator says "I'm an accident" we seem to think that is alright, nothing wrong with that, "let the moment last."

How this ties to abortion is not yet clear but it can be.

At 8/06/2022 03:41:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Thrasher: thanks, and I'm looking forward to the concert video, too. My guess is I will end up watching the video more often than listening to the album.

I really enjoyed following this tour via the YouTube recordings (because I couldn't make it to a live show), and I think the official video will be fun and bring back memories.

Ab: "What awaits us is the horrifying question of life after death"

Hmmm, yes! Very interesting point here. Is belief in the after-life a positive or negative, overall? I don't know! Very interesting to think about, though.


At 8/06/2022 06:42:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

I've been A+B'ing the BluRay with the vinyl, the mix seems much clearer on the film to my ears. Cracking film.

Andrew B

At 8/06/2022 06:49:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

In case you haven't spotted, Hey Hey My My (Berlin) play's over the credits on the BluRay. It's not credited on the sleeve but is listed on the BluRay loading page.

Also note the misspelling of KILKNY, how do these things get through quality control?

The BluRay mix is Stereo 2.0. Shame there isn't a 5:1 mix option.

Andrew B

At 8/06/2022 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Julia said...

The more I hear Neil and POTR, the more I appreciate how good Neil and Crazy Horse are. I think that but for the connection between POTR, Willie Nelson and Neil it is unlikely that there would have ever been this collaboration. I hope that this marks the end of the experiment.

Toast is on another level altogether.

We all have to die

At 8/06/2022 05:29:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I’ve only listened to the vinyl so far, and I was instantly aware of the sound quality being noticeably cavernous. Not a quality that would usually be associated with a recording made in 2019, so I assume that this was completely intentional.

Neil is very particular about what his records sound like, and this cavernous quality may have to do with the loss of Elliot Roberts, and the tour that was dedicated to his memory.

Once the ear acclimates; the performances are extremely good, and I can understand why Neil wants them released. I’m convinced that he cares far less what people think about the choices he’s made, and more concerned with the final product that he’s given us.

So it is with everything Neil has released over the decades, I will take my time, and really immerse myself in what I’ve been given. This always results in a rewarding listening experience, and yet another brilliant yet unexpected move by Neil.

I’ve always found that a first listen is never going to reveal the gold that lies beneath the surface of a Neil Young album.

Peace 🙏

At 8/06/2022 05:37:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

From previous comments, I have taken a boldly affirmative view of Neil and POTR's collaborations. I fully stand by that assessment. A little odd to me that some others don't hear that chemistry, but different people have different ears. The gift of N&F is being able to really hear the Real as a live band. With the overdubbed sound collages, Earth is a neat listen, not a great vehicle for the band.

The Monsanto Years was a slightly under-cooked, rickety start. In hindsight, however, the problems weren't do with musicianship. Bluntly topical songs (not a big deal on its own), uneven tone veering between angry and goofy. Remember Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop? Released as an advanced single, that track alone probably alienated folks. Almost a novelty track by Neil's standards. Most of the album did *not* sound like that, but first impressions often stick.

The Visitor is altogether smoother, more musically and thematically balanced. Where Monsanto Years errs on the side of the highly specific in its subject matter, Visitor has a more even, nuanced mix of topical and universal themes, often swimming around in each other in the same song. Essentially, this is a mature, thought-out, musically adventurous, cleanly produced album.

The odd thing: I seem to remember some positive buzz when The Visitor first came out in late 2017-early 2018. This is an album I had on heavy rotation for probably the better part of a year. I trust my ears. Given the cursory dismissals in more recent comments, though, I almost feel like I hallucinated positive reviews at some point.

At 8/06/2022 06:55:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

@ Ian. I hear you. POTR bring out something really special in Neil, and it has resulted in some truly great music. I actually love each album you mentioned in your post. But then, I’ve enjoyed each and every album Neil has ever released. I know I’m in the minority here, but each album has been an honest representation of where Neil was at the time it was made, and for whatever reason, I have been able to resonate with all of them for different reasons. The same thing with Frank Zappa. Most of his fans only like certain periods of his recording career, but I have found something remarkable in all of it.

What I see with POTR is the freedom Neil has when he plays with them. He seems to become younger than his years with them. There seems to be more risk taken, and the band seems ready for whatever he throws at them. They definitely play in the moment, which opens up endless possibilities. Noise & Flowers has several moments where this is clearly on display. Unfortunately we live in a time when most people don’t have the patience or inclination to devote themselves to focused listening. Everything is so temporary. It all seems to be about ‘the next thing’. I prefer to spend time with every album I buy, and really focus on how it makes me feel and think. Music isn’t only about entertainment, its a powerful art form….. but, to each their own.

Peace 🙏

At 8/06/2022 07:25:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

I should amend that to say Earth, the album, is a great listen. A cool concept and good set list that elevates some of the Monsanto songs, just not necessarily a band showcase with all the other layers of sound added.

I completely agree, each album captures a moment or moments. Some I come back to more than others. All are truthful. Imperfect, yes, but they come by it honestly. Anyone's work will have flaws, strengths, weaknesses. I could point to moments I enjoy on any of these albums. On Monsanto, Wolf Moon, Seeds of Change, the little mandolin intro of New Day. A lot of good ideas/sounds, when you listen for them.

At 8/07/2022 12:30:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...


The reference to sound "collages" in my rant is about Neil + Promise of the Real's LIVE performance style from ~2015 (where three guitarists each have a hand on the metaphorical steering wheel)...

And not the STUDIO-based collage of sounds that we hear on Earth — which is one of my favourite Neil Yong projects of the last 5 years or so.

(Earth is sourced from live recordings, but it's essentially a studio album painted on the canvas of a live album. The overdubs aren't a distraction — they're the whole point.)

And for those who think albums like the Monsanto Years and the Visitor are worth listening to, you'll find no disagreement here.

The popular belief seems to be "POTR are not that interesting in the studio". That's not my opinion, though.

The, Irrepressible, Infernal, Irremediable Scotsman.

At 8/07/2022 05:39:00 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Neil invited them into the studio and had them record new songs after a few runs through. This is a pretty hard way for a band to record well, I think. I guess he figured he might catch lighting in a bottle. Opinions vary on the outcome. I do like many of the songs.

Lukas Nelson, Mikah, and Promise of the Real are a phenomenal band. And they lift Neil's energy for the shows. They do put on great shows and Lukas really shines as a powerhouse guitarist and singer. He writes some great stuff. Maybe Neil should guest on Lukas and PotR's album?

I have seen several excellent shows by NY and PotR. I hope to see more.

If Neil is writing the songs, it's on him to come up with good Art. I don't think we can blame the band for the records. I thought Mirrorball was fantastic, but we cannot give all of the credit to Pearl Jam, now, can we?

I agree with a lot of what many people have said. Its nice to read posts from so many of you.

Your Brother Alan in Seattle

At 8/07/2022 08:29:00 AM, Blogger ANDREW BYROM said...

So it looks like I've Been Waiting For You is actually from Amsterdam NOT Hyde Park as listed on the BluRay. Firstly NY is wearing his EARTH shirt which he wasn't wearing at Hyde Park and it wasn't that dark in London.

At 8/07/2022 10:50:00 AM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

@Scotzman,Thanks for that clarification. I made a leap but did not intend to misconstrue your point. "Collaged" also happens to work as a description for some of the found sounds and audio verite of The Visitor and Earth--where it's definitely a feature rather than a bug--hence my instant association of ideas.

In case it was unclear, none of what I said about Earth was meant as a knock. More an observation that various projects have different intentions, so emphasize different qualities. I listen to Earth for a holistic sound experience, not a live performance showcase.

At 8/07/2022 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8/07/2022 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Dan Swan said...

I watched the BluRay last night and Neil is definitely telling a story. The visual approach is really interesting with the subtle transition from black and white to color. Although the songs are from different shows, the continuity is really effective. Kudos to Micah Nelson for his delicate touch on the keyboards, he definitely adds a lot to the proceedings. I agree with Scotsman on his perspective on life and death as well. The closer you feel to the reality of death, the more you embrace life. I’ve been much closer to that reality over the past decade, and I have come to terms with my own mortality, and I cherish each and every day I have while I’m here. No time for hate, or anger. I’m only interested in the pursuit of love and kindness. Definitely looks to me like that’s where Neil is at now. I’m sure the fact that he lost two more dear friends just as this album was released hasn’t been lost on him either.

Peace 🙏

At 8/07/2022 12:41:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Ian: understood your point entirely — it was my error for not being clear the first time around. Agreed on Earth!


At 8/07/2022 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

Dan: interesting about the colour transition! I'm looking forward to seeing this film.

At 8/07/2022 06:30:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Dan - thanks for mentioning the viewing of Bluray conacert.

can't wait to spin Flowers, REAL & Blu. so boisterous that POTR.

speaking of life & death ...

Here's a list of Neil Young's dear departed friends, family, and working-associates (beyond those who just "crossed-paths at a gig" or similar, like Bowie, Lou, Petty, etc).
(via David Reactor posted to rust)

****Neil's longest closest Friends

Elliot Roberts (Manager)

David Briggs (Music Producer)

Larry "LA" Johnson (Video Producer)

Ben "Long Grain" Keith (Guitars and other music)

Jim "Maz" Mazzeo (Artist)


Pegi Young (Wife/Singer/Songwriter)

Edna "Rassy" Young (Mother)

Scott Young (Father)

Carrie Snodgress (Significant Other/Actress)

****Other close Friends

Nicolette Larson (Singer, Girlfriend)

Danny Whitten (Crazy Horse)

Allan Bates (The Squires)

Jack Nitzsche (Music Producer/Performer)

Warren Zevon (Singer/Songwriter/Musician)

Gary Burden (Album artist extraordinaire)

Linda Eastman/McCartney (Photographer)

***The Bass Players

Rick "The Bass Player" Rosas (many bands)

Donald "Duck" Dunn (MGs, Frirends & Family)

Bruce Palmer (Buffalo Springfield, Trans Band)

Tim Drummond (Stray Gators, International Harvestors)

Rick Danko (On The Beach album, Last Waltz)

***The Drummers/Percussion

Dewey Martin (Buffalo Springfield)

Dallas Taylor (CSNY)

Kenny Buttrey (Stray Gators)

Johnny Craviotto (The Ducks)

Joe Lala (Trans Band, Stills-Young Band, CSNY)

Levon Helm (On The Beach album, Last Waltz)

***Performed/recorded together

Jerry Garcia (CSNY collabs, "Forever Young", etc)

Waylon Jennings ("Old Ways" album, TV shows)

Steve Lawrence (Bluenotes)

Rufus Thibodeaux (International Harvesters)

Grant Boatwright (Prairie Wind Band)

Rick James (Myna Birds)

Bobby Charles ("Saddle Up The Palomino" & others)

Rusty Kershaw ("On The Beach" album)

Johnny Cash (Christmas songs, "Johnny Cash Show")

****Made Movies together (LA already listed above)

Jonathan Demme

Dennis Hopper

****Misc others

Bill Graham (Promoter, Bridge School)

Elliot Mazer (Audio Engineer)

Bruce Berry (Roadie)

Dennis Alley (Native American "Wisdom Dancer")

Taylor Phelps (Friend/Neighbor at the ranch)

Ahmet Ertegun (Favorite "Record Company Man")

Mo "Mo the Sleaze" Ostin (Another "Record Company Man")

Meanwhile -- despite childhood polio, epilepsy, brain problems, incision bleed-out, lots of air travel and deep-ocean sailing and hundreds of thousands of miles on the highway -- Neil's performed close to 35,000 songs at over 2500 shows, put out over 80 albums and is still going strong....

At 8/07/2022 06:33:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

to continue to the point ...

neil is the real deal...

in that Danny, Elliot, Ahmet, Briggs, Jonathan, & so on, neil carried on.

no denying innate talent. no phony, for sure. not manufactured. not co-dependent.

so in the spirit ... love life.

At 8/11/2022 04:26:00 AM, Blogger hank shanklin said...

caught neil and the band in Leeds, thought they sounded great, felt they'd given Neil a whole new lease of life dynamicaly on stage.. but this.. this sounds awful, like it was recorded from one mic in a shoe box as far from the stage as possible.. its muffled then it sounds like its in a cave, sound wise its all over the place. now neil could be trying to replicate the art out bootleg recording you never can tell with him, but i think back to how good Weld sounded as a live album.. i miss those days.

neil needs to step up his production game, he needs a briggs like mentor controlling the dials and telling him when it sounds shit. his last 5 album have been dirge.. it litrally has become, "all one song".

At 8/11/2022 09:11:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Hank - thanks for sharing here.

so, just probing here, ok?

what media are we talking? cd,vinyl, bluray, stream?

how are you listening? car, headphones, earpods, hifi/hi/res?

this would be helpful context to better understand your point.

did you catch Davy's review of the N&F box?

thus far, he's the only review we've heard where he's listened to both vinyl and bluray on a high end system.

pls watch his review and come back and let us know.



At 8/12/2022 09:37:00 AM, Blogger hank shanklin said...

@ thrasher.. so, have cd, that plays in car and home through bose wave sound system.

stream high res on iMac at home, stream high res on iphone through bose headphones.

to my ears (I'm an audiologist by profession) the sound quality veers drastically.

At 8/12/2022 09:54:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ Hank - thanks for coming back to update.


not really sure how to explain a poor sounding Neil release? it certainly flies in the face of everything that neil has been about regarding audio quality.

just wondering if something in mastering and manufacturing went awry once it left neil's hands?

At 8/12/2022 06:17:00 PM, Blogger hank shanklin said...

@ thrasher.. hi, gonna back pedal here slightly.. the master audio on NYA sounds vastly superior to the CD quality, brings the whole thing alive. CD sounds very muddy and some song sound like they are recorded in a cavern. poor cd release but sounds great master on NYA.


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