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Sunday, July 07, 2024

REVIEWS: "Early Daze" Album by Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Early Daze 
 Neil Young with Crazy Horse
 (Click photo to enlarge)


Here are a few album review excerpts of "Early Daze" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

From First Impressions: Early Daze by Neil Young With Crazy Horse | The Old Grey Cat:

Archival releases are often aural Rorschach tests destined to confound casual fans and critics alike, while sending longtime devotees of the artist into a tizzy. 

Such is the case with Early Daze, a 10-track collection of leftovers from Neil Young’s initial run with the re-named Rockets. Neophytes and others will do better to crank Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere or whatever ad-hoc “best of” playlist the streaming services have on offer. The rest of us, however, will dig listening to all the notes, nooks and crannies.  


Early Daze isn’t a “lost” album in the same vein as Chrome Dreams, Homegrown or Hitchhiker, however. 

The tracks were recorded in Los Angeles throughout 1969, candidates for something yet set. Among the gems: a rendition of “Down by the River” that was recorded on the same day (January 17, 1969) as the Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere version. It’s a little looser and less polished, but not by much. It’s an enthralling jam. “Cinnamon Girl,” recorded on March 20, is on hand, too, though in its April 1970 single/mono incarnation meant to capitalize on Neil’s then-success with CSNY. The mix features a guitar outro not heard on the EKTIN LP, which was released 11 months earlier.

From Neil Young 71: Early Daze | Everybody’s Dummy:

The biggest surprise is Danny’s “Look At All The Things”, with Neil harmonizing and not quite at the level of the perfect take on the first Crazy Horse album two years later. 

It turns out “Helpless” was tried first with the Horse before CSNY got it, and has a slightly faster but still laid-back lope. “Birds” is the same take as the alternate B-side version, but here includes the second verse skipped on the 45. Then it’s back to the beginning of the year for the first take of “Down By The River”, this time with supposedly the original scratch vocal. 

The music on Early Daze is not incendiary; there are a lot of acoustic guitars, some country influence, and Jack Nitzsche on electric piano. While everything has been freshly mixed—as opposed to done and dusted in 1969—there’s a rehearsal vibe to a lot of it, as opposed to sounding like polished album tracks.

And here is Davy's video review of "Early Daze" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

From Weekly Neil: Look At All The Things | Medium Rotation by Patrick Hosken:

But I like focusing in on “Look At All The Things” to hear the real Danny Whitten instead of the myth, or the half-remembered version Neil evokes in a drunken haze midway Tonight’s The Night on the incredible “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” a song Whitten wrote about scoring drugs.

On “Things,” Whitten is bold and assured, his country croon fleshing out what’s really a skeletally thin song embodying horniness. The version he leads on Crazy Horse from ‘71 is borderline Spectoresque in its multi-voice grandeur — almost disorienting in how the voices swallow up the song and disappear down a black hole in stereo. Early Daze captures Whitten and Neil, two birds on the same branch, offering little more than a simple take on a version of a love song. I like that.

I also like to consider the alternate timeline where Whitten cleaned up his act enough to join Neil on the Harvest tour in ‘73 and remained with it enough to sing a tune in the middle of the set, exposing his talent to new audiences. It didn’t happen. But both Rod Stewart and Everything But The Girl covered Whitten’s song “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” — which bears more than a passing resemblance to The Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses,” a song released a few months later — and found mild chart success in the years after his death.

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At 7/07/2024 06:15:00 PM, Blogger wardo said...

Thanks thrasher!

At 7/09/2024 04:50:00 AM, Blogger Flyingscotzman said...

The "new" Down By The River is an interesting one. I think its essentially the exact same performance as on EKTIN — the same take, but with different backing vocal overdubs and a different lead vocal.

(Is it actually "take one"—as the pre-song studio chatter implies—or is that just an interesting and historic bit of tape pasted in from a different time, for the audience's interest? Dunno.)

...thanks all for sharing your typically excellent reviews. Interesting to see which period Neil revisits next. Lots to keep us busy from the Early Daze in the meantime.


At 7/09/2024 07:48:00 AM, Blogger Ron said...

I have been pondering the Down By The River 'is it really take one' question myself.

It does indeed sound like the EKTIN version apart from the vocals, but could they really have nailed that performance on 'take one'?. Perhaps, if it had previously been rehearsed, but we know how Neil usually likes to work. According to the recording dates on NYA both versions were recorded on the same day. Ultimately it doesn't really matter, it sounds great, but I remain curious - maybe I will pen a Letter To The Editor and ask Neil.

When Early Daze was first mentioned I mistakenly assumed it would include recordings that predated EKTIN, but apart from the versions of DBTR and Cinnamon Girl they were all in fact recorded post EKTIN. Maybe some of the other songs that appear on Early Daze were tried for EKTIN as well but weren't up to scratch at that time. I have been really enjoying listening to Early Daze though, great sound and performances. I also enjoy the studio banter and Neil's voice sounds so young!

I reread some of the passages in Shakey that relate to this period last night, and I was surprised to read about an apparently great version of Helpless that they played in the studio which was 'lost' because the recording engineer hadn't pressed the 'play' button. Is this version on 'Early Daze' the 'lost' version somehow now found, or a similar version or a completely different version?

Also I am very curious who is playing the electric guitar part on Helpless - is it Neil or Danny? The credits on NYA just say 'guitar' for both of them. To my ears the tone and sound of the electric guitar part sound unlike any other Neil performance I can think of, so maybe it's Danny?

Many thanks to all the reviewers and comments - I have watched and read them all. Some great insights and observations - much appreciated.

Can't wait for Archives III !

At 7/09/2024 12:53:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Apropos of Noise & Flowers, I suggest hi-def blu-ray as the best listening experience. The music breathes more deeply in surround, so to speak. N&F came in for some flak because of the deliberately foggy, reverb-bathed aural quality. But it does say “noise” in the title. More broadly, I’ll argue in favor of NY’s experiments with the Real any day. Like many experiments, the results can be unpredictable and uneven, but the infusion of youthful energy (“new blood”) is, to me, palpable. Along with different instrumental sounds, The Visitor has some of NY’s freshest lyrics (Carnival, Change of Heart, Almost Always). Raw and rough-hewn in spots—but fresh nonetheless.

Winterlong is simply a good fit for POTR. I’d also reserve plaudits, though, for the live Horse version from Fillmore East 1970–meaty and soulful. I first fell in love with the classic Decade version, but gradually came to conclude it’s equally affecting without the lap steel passages. The heart of it is how the tender words juxtapose with the electric backing. I’d add that I’ve fully appreciated Ben Keith’s contributions down the years—he co-produced Silver & Gold, which I think came out beautifully in its overall sound.

A note on DBTR: “take 1” wouldn’t necessarily be the first time the band played it. Recording costs money and resources. It’s not uncommon to have informal rehearsals or run-throughs, building the arrangements before tape is used up on more proper “takes”.

At 7/10/2024 06:14:00 AM, Blogger Ron said...

I guess the point I was somewhat clumsily trying to make on DBTR take 1 or not was, regardless of how much rehearsing of it they had done (and I'm sure there would have been at least some), it seems to me quite remarkable to capture the fully formed performance of the the musical parts of the EKTIN released version on a first take. It's not one of Neil's simpler pieces either, so bravo to them!

Regarding Winterlong, Decade was a big part of my Neil Young journey, and although not one of my all time Neil favourites I have always enjoyed it. I always find it interesting to hear different versions of Neil's songs, acoustic versus electric, with Crazy Horse versus solo or with someone else, etc. The Early Daze version is a worthy addition in my opinion.

At 7/10/2024 03:21:00 PM, Blogger The Metamorphic Rocker said...

Looking back at the thread, I realize my comments on DBTR were mostly redundant. For anyone who may find them useful, here are the notes from the track list at the official NY/Warner's site.

1. Dance Dance Dance (Included on Neil Youngs Archives Vol. I.)
2. Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown (Unreleased version)
3. Winterlong (Unreleased version)
4. Everybody’s Alone (Different mix was included on Archives Vol. I)
5. Wonderin’ (Unreleased version)
6. Cinnamon Girl (Original 7” Mono mix. Released April 20, 1970. Includes guitar outro not
on LP version.)
7. Look At All The Things (Unreleased version)
8. Helpless (Unreleased version)
9. Birds (Unreleased stereo mix). Mono mix was released as B-side to “Only Love Can Break
Your Heart”)
10. Down By The River (Unreleased version with alternate vocals)

Not too much info given here, but I'm inferring DBTR is the take from EKTIN with different vocals. I don't know how many takes were recorded--but as you say, probably not too many.


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