Saturday, 18 April 2015
If anybody deserves to be given international hero status, then it has to be Neil Young. For nearly 50 years, Young has been confounding/confusing/delighting critics and fans alike, be it when he plugs into the big amps for some fuzz-guitar rock with Crazy Horse, strapping on an acoustic guitar like an old hippy on “Harvest”, or indulging in genre hopping insanity on the likes of “Trans” or “Everybody’s Rockin’”.
Young has never quite broken through, properly, into the mainstream. Most of his albums were not promoted via hit singles in the UK, indeed sometimes, there were no singles at all - and he has, at times, been so productive (two new studio albums alone in 2014) that it is hard to keep up. Even when he headlined Glasto in 2009, he was overshadowed by their choice of headliner the following evening - a certain Mr Springsteen. But delve into the back catalogue, and there are gems all over the place, and you start to wonder why Young still feels like a cult singer, when he should be one of the most adored and admired artistes of all time. Suffice to say, I don’t think X Factor have ever done a “Neil Young” week. I doubt Cowell even knows who he is.
So here is my intro to Neil Young. Of course, being Neil Young, means that it’s longer than most articles I would do that I would consider to be in-depth! Each of the officially recognised solo albums are listed (those “radio broadcast“ albums all over Amazon have to be omitted, to avoid opening a big can of worms), with either the original LP catalogue number or the original (ish) CD one, dependent on date of release. I have used the Geffen lawsuit era (roughly) as the crossover point between the two, because that’s as good a time as any. A list of Young’s UK 45’s follows at the end of the article.
After stints in several bands, The Squires and The Mynah Birds, had yielded little success, Young formed Buffalo Springfield alongside - amongst others - Stephen Stills. They were essentially a multi front man band, with three of the five band members taking lead vocals on their first album. In-band fighting was apparent pretty much from the start, and after the self titled debut album had surfaced in 1966, Young temporarily quit the band the following summer, forcing him to miss the group’s appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. He rejoined and helped to finish a second album, “Buffalo Springfield Again”, although such were the tensions within the group, that many of the tracks were essentially solo recordings by different band members. The group split up soon after, and a third album appeared posthumously in 1968 under the title of “Last Time Around”. Young’s 1977 best of, “Decade”, included all but one of the Buffalo Springfield songs on which he sang lead vocals, although he also wrote several more where the vocals were handled by other band members.
Young released his first solo LP “Neil Young” (LP, Reprise RSLP 6317) in late 1968. It failed to do much commercially, and Young began his famous grumblings about his issues with recorded sound with this record, claiming that the album sounded wrong, and authorised a remixed version for release, which appeared in 1969. The album was later reissued in the UK in 71, and this and all subsequent CD pressings use this later mix. It is an album that, especially if you listen to the later stuff first, can sound underwhelming and a bit gentle at times, but the sheer anthemic beauty of the orchestrated and joyously catchy “The Loner”, the most famous track from the record, showed that Young definitely had potential as a solo act.
Starting with his next LP, Young began to occasionally record albums with backup groups - a number of band members from an outfit called The Rockets were invited to appear on his next album, and were dubbed Crazy Horse. The first of several records to thus be credited to ‘Neil Young With Crazy Horse‘ (or similar), “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (LP, Reprise RSLP 6349), was a remarkable leap forward, an astonishingly ambitious piece of work - extended guitar solos everywhere, many of the songs follow the basic “verse chorus verse” formula, but are interspersed with lengthy, rambling, guitar workouts. Something that could be over in three minutes is instead stretched out to nine or ten minutes in length. The epic nature of “Down By The River” and “Cowgirl In The Sand” remind me very much of the longer drawn out numbers that Dylan had been recording in the 60s (“Stuck Inside Of Mobile”), albeit with less poetry, and more rock and roll. Not every Young album that followed would keep to this path, but it did - in a way - predate his “Godfather Of Grunge” tag that he got given in the 1990s.
Young began to operate a sort of dual career from here on in - he joined Stills again to form Crosby Stills Nash And Young, who released an album called “Deja Vu” in 1970. A stand alone single written by Young, called “Ohio”, was issued by the group midway through promotion of the album, in response to the Ohio shootings that had taken place in May of that year, an event that had left Young shellshocked. “Helpless” from the album, along with “Ohio”, were later included on “Decade”. By the end of the year, Young’s third solo album “After The Gold Rush” (LP, Reprise K 44088) had been released, in which the raucous guitar rock of “EKTIN” was largely replaced by country rock stylings, or in the case of the astonishingly stunning title track, little more than Young and a piano. It was his second classic on the trot, and was further evidence of how he didn’t necessarily need to be part of a group to make good records. Just as well, because after a CSNY tour spawned a live album in 1971 called “Four Way Street”, the group imploded.
1972’s “Harvest” (LP, Reprise K 54005) briefly put Young firmly in the mainstream. The harmonica driven “Heart Of Gold” was issued as a single, and became a hit worldwide. Young struggled to come to terms with his sudden emergence as a pop star, and as he famously wrote in the sleeve notes for “Decade”, “...this song put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch”. Nevertheless, it is a great album - the monumental baroque whirl of “A Man Needs A Maid”, the time signature jumps throughout “Words”, the country-fied twang of “Old Man”, the simplistic acoustic strum (but lyrically mournful) “The Needle And The Damage Done”...at least the mainstream had made the right choice when they decided to use this album to turn Young into a star.
The success of “Harvest” pushed Young in a completely opposite direction. His next three albums would be almost relentlessly downbeat, and later came to be known as the “Ditch” or “Doom” trilogy. One of them still remains unavailable on CD, as does what was Young’s next venture, “Journey Through The Past” (2 x LP, Reprise K 64015). In essence, a soundtrack album for a film directed by old Shakey himself, featuring sizeable chunks of material recorded by Young, either as a solo artist, with CSNY, or with Buffalo Springfield, it’s “soundtrack” tag comes from the fact that a couple of recordings are by an orchestra with no Young involvement, and a Beach Boys track appears at the very end - but given that most of the other material is exclusive to this album, has meant it has always had an air of desirability around it. Only one song on the record was genuinely “new”, a Young solo piece called “Soldier”, and an alternate edit of this song later made it onto “Decade”.
Numerous reasons have been cited as to why 1973’s “Time Fades Away” (LP, Reprise K 54010) remains unavailable on CD. It was the first of several Young albums to feature new material captured exclusively from concert recordings, and Young later claimed that the tour from which it was culled was nothing short of a disaster. His view was that the problems surrounding the tour (band members heavily indebted to drink or drugs, Young struggling from a throat infection, the recent death of Crazy Horse member Danny Whitten, financial issues) resulted in a bad record - or at least a record that brought back bad memories. Critics loved it, but it seemed to have chronicled a period in Young’s career that was problematic, and he obviously didn’t want to be reminded of it. It has been reissued recently as part of a hyper expensive vinyl only boxset, “Official Release Series Discs 5-8”, which you figure has almost been done deliberately to try and keep the record ’out of sight’ (as an aside, Young’s first four solo albums can be purchased on CD en masse thanks to the “Official Release Series Discs 1-4“ boxset, which is also a hell of a lot cheaper).
From some years, the same fate befell 1974’s “On The Beach” (LP, Reprise K 54014). The country rock charm of “Walk On” and the finger picking groove of “For The Turnstiles” later made it onto “Decade”, but the rest of the album languished out of view. Young was apparently unhappy with the sound of the record, and thus didn’t want it put onto CD until improvements could be made. In 2003, it was one of four Young solo albums that were remastered using “HDCD” technology, and the green light for these albums was granted as part of the “Neil Young Digital Masterpiece Series” reissue campaign. For some, it remains Young’s greatest record - certainly the tearful acoustic lament of “Ambulance Blues”, the epic nine minute album closer, remains one of the most beautiful and brilliant things Young has ever recorded. Unlike the other albums in the series, this one really is a masterpiece. It’s release coincided with a CSNY reunion tour, during which each band member got the opportunity to perform material from the solo careers (Young took the opportunity to perform songs from “On The Beach“), but it took until 2014 for any of the shows to be documented officially, which occurred via a multi disc box set in the fall of that year. At the time, the only “new” product by the band was a compilation album, and again, they split up again soon after.
Recorded before “On The Beach”, it’s safe to assume that the reason that “Tonight’s The Night” (LP, Reprise K 54040) was delayed was due to the highly personal lyrical content that runs through the record - the title track makes a direct reference to the recent death of one of Young’s friends after a drug overdose, and Danny Whitten. The album had in fact been unofficially shelved, but when the playback of this album versus a newly recorded Young album called “Homegrown” at a party gained greater praise, Young ditched “Homegrown” and opted to release “Tonight’s The Night” instead, later claiming that “Homegrown“ was ‘a very down album‘. The title track was some ten minutes in length, but was split into two and used to bookend the record. Reunited in full with (an obviously reconfigured) Crazy Horse soon after, 1975’s “Zuma” (LP, Reprise K 54057) was home to another Young classic in the form of the sprawling growl of “Cortez The Killer”.
Young went into extra curricular mode again in late 76, when he formed the Stills-Young Band with Stephen Stills (after an attempt at a full blown CSNY reunion fell apart), and they released their first - and only - album entitled “Long May You Run”. The title track was later included on “Decade”. Young’s next solo record was another that remained unavailable on CD for many years, 1977’s “American Stars N Bars” (LP, Reprise K 54088) - once again, home to another stone cold Young rock classic, “Like A Hurricane” - a gloriously epic, intense, and tearful lament, where Young’s vulnerable vocals and sad sounding keyboard lines try to battle the monumental guitar solos that run throughout the song.
Originally planned for release before “American Stars”, “Decade” (3 x LP, Reprise K 64037) remains the best of all of the (relatively few) Young compilations. Never one to do much in the way of “non album material”, it’s mostly a run through of key album tracks from Buffalo Springfield onwards, with several tracks obscure enough that they would now call them ‘deep cuts’, but that are often better than Reprise’s choice of singles were (in the UK at least), such as the beautiful harmony driven “Tired Eyes” off “Tonight’s The Night”. There are several rarities (and the original running order would have had more), such as the early period live b-side recording of “Sugar Mountain”, an alternate mix of “Hurricane”, and several previously unreleased tracks. It has since been squeezed into a double CD format, with the album then tucked inside a differently designed slipcase. Indispensable.
As punk approached, Young - typically - fought his way straight through it in his own bloody minded manner. Firstly, by issuing a country/folk rock influenced effort in 1978 called “Comes A Time” (LP, Reprise K 54099), and then, a more raucous and aggressive effort called “Rust Never Sleeps” (LP, Reprise K 54105) the following year - as if he was taking the punks on at their own game. Like “Time Fades Away”, this record of new material was recorded live (with Crazy Horse) and shared it’s title with a concert film, which featured a completely different track listing. The film was issued by RCA on the long defunct VideoDisc format (in a different, and far more surreal sleeve), but has since been made available on DVD. The UK 45 taken from the album was “My My Hey Hey”, which was an acoustic version of the album’s closing number “Hey Hey My My” - which was also issued on the flip of the same single. An accompanying live album, “Live Rust” (2 x LP, Reprise K 64041) was issued in late 1979, which had a running time pushing the 75 minute mark, meaning that the current CD edition has several songs included in edited form to keep it down to a single disc.
The 80s were a different time for Young. If “Rust Never Sleeps” had cemented his reputation in rock, then everything that followed for the next seven or eight years, almost went some way to undoing all that hard work. You will struggle to find too many people who will talk excitedly, or even know, 1980’s “Hawks & Doves” (LP, Reprise K 54109), the third of the four left unavailable on CD until 2003. The last of the four was Young’s next album, “Re-Ac-Tor” (LP, Reprise K 54116), which despite being another collaboration with Crazy Horse, suggesting 100% raucous punky grunge, was actually the first Young album to feature synthesizers. It does still maintain the ramshackle, messy, rough-around-the-edges vibe of earlier Crazy Horse records, but there is a slight “new wave” element lurking in the background, a pointer of things to come. It marked his final release for Reprise, and he moved to Geffen Records, who presumably, were hoping for a return to the “Rust Never Sleeps” period.
They didn’t get it. 1982’s “Trans” (LP, Geffen GEF 25019) was overloaded with synths, and vocoderized vocals, heavily influenced by Kraftwerk and mostly as far removed from his work with Crazy Horse as you could get. It opened and closed with countrified guitar tunes that recalled his glory days, but pretty much everything else inbetween did not. He then offered the label another pure country album for release as the follow up, but so stunned were Geffen by “Trans”, that they refused to release it, and asked specifically for Young to record a “rock and roll” album. Young took them at their word, and began work on an album heavily influenced by 50s rockabilly, including covers of “Mystery Train“ and “Bright Lights Big City“, with a band called the Shocking Pinks. Midway through the sessions, Geffen heard what was going on, and were infuriated, hoping instead that Young was going to record a “Zuma 2”, rather than something so throwaway which sounded like it predated Young’s entire career - and aborted the sessions. As such, 1983’s “Everybody’s Rockin’” (LP, Geffen GEF 25590) was issued as an almost mini album, Geffen agreeing to release what had been completed in those sessions, which gave it a running time of under 25 minutes.
Horrified by what Young was doing, Geffen sued Young in December 83, claiming he was violating his contract by making deliberately “non commercial” music. Head honcho at the label, David Geffen, later apologised to Young for the action, admitting that he should have left Young to follow his career choices. Young was later quoted as saying that the records he was making were deliberately varied each time around because “...it was a way of further destroying what I’d already set up. Without doing that, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now”. After countersuing, and touring for the best part of a year, Young eventually got his way, and released a country album as his next effort, 1985’s “Old Ways” (LP, Geffen GEF 26377), although it was a highly altered version of the originally planned release that Geffen had refused in 1983, with which it shared it‘s title.
With Geffen and Young now having come to some sort of agreement, Young continued to release “not very rock” records like 1986’s “Landing On Water” (CD, Geffen GFLD 19130), the first album which would spawn a single complete with an extended remix in the UK, but another album that did little sales wise, nor won much critical acclaim. It rather awkwardly married occasional Crazy Horse style guitar licks with synths and 1980s production values. The same fate befell 1987’s “Life” (CD, Geffen GED 24154), which like “Landing On Water”, was promoted with a single release by Geffen (“Long Walk Home“), but did little in the hit parade.
Young returned to Reprise in 1988, and almost immediately, seemed to revamp his career. “This Note’s For You” (CD, Reprise 7599 25719 2) pushed him back into the mainstream in the States, a blues influenced album originally credited to “Neil Young And The Bluenotes”, but later reissued as a standard ‘solo’ album after legal action was threatened by Harold Melvin (and his Bluenotes). Another reunion with CSNY this time spawned a new album called “American Dream” later the same year. But it was 1989’s “Freedom” (CD, Reprise 7599 25899 2) that returned Young to the position he had held a decade previous. It was home to folk and rock tunes that fully recalled his 70s heyday, and it‘s signature song was the enormous “Rockin’ In The Free World”, included in both acoustic and electric form...the latter, a noisy, firebrand beast of a song, politically charged, and the first signs of Young staking his claim for that Godfather of Grunge title. It remains one of Young’s best known songs, and was proof that the 80s hadn’t killed him off, but had seemed to re-energise him.
1990’s “Ragged Glory” (CD, Reprise 7599 26315 2), recorded with The Horse, was even better. Snarling, messy, noisy, and aggressive, this was almost an “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere 2”, such was the epic nature of many of the songs, and the barrage of guitars and feedback that emitted from them. It is home to much of Young’s best “latter period” material, such as the bile driven “Fuckin’ Up”, the epic growl of “Love To Burn” or the melodic grunge of “Love And Only Love”. The subsequent tour spawned an equally thrilling live album “Weld” (2 x CD, Reprise 7599 26671 2), which at one point, included a bonus one-track disc of spliced together feedback, captured from numerous songs at numerous gigs. The disc was also issued as an album in it’s own right as “Arc” (CD, Reprise 7599 26769 2).
Returning to his approach of ‘destroying what had come before’, Young’s next album took him back to the world of folk and country, 1992’s sublime “Harvest Moon” (CD, Reprise 9362 45057 2). The title track gave Young another worldwide hit, helped by MTV showing the video, a beautiful acoustic waltz of a ballad, with added slide guitar. In the UK, Reprise attempted to turn it into a mega hit by issuing it on multiple formats, with the second CD edition including three of the “previously unreleased” tracks from “Decade”, which at the time, had not yet been repressed on CD. The charming “From Hank To Hendrix” and the romantic lilt of “Unknown Legend” helped to create an album that, like “After The Gold Rush”, succeeded in following up an epic rock and roll record with something much simpler in sound, but which was just as affecting.
Possibly designed to try and cash in on Young’s brief flirtation again with the mainstream, Geffen issued the “Lucky Thirteen” (CD, Geffen GED 24452) compilation in 1993, featuring material from his time on the label along with some previously unreleased recordings from the end of that period with The Bluenotes. Of the 13 (surprise surprise) songs on here, no less than eight were either unreleased versions or alternate edits. So whilst it’s a hits album with absolutely no hits on, it’s kind of interesting in that it covers the most controversial period of Young’s career, and does so in a fascinating way. It could so easily have just been 13 album tracks in album mix form, so fair play to all concerned for taking a more unusual approach. Many of the “alternate” versions made reference to being taken from the “Reprise Records Neil Young Archives”, a sign that Young was already making plans for a career spanning boxset of unreleased material, and whilst there has indeed been an “Archives” box finally made available in recent years (the first of several planned volumes), none of the Geffen material from this album actually made it onto the first volume, as it was concerned with 60s/early 70s material only. The opening number on “Lucky“, an extended “Sample And Hold” originally from “Trans”, is now also available on the CD edition of the latter, in place of the original “short“ mix - “Trans” was another one that got a long delayed re-release on CD at the start of the noughties (it is also home to a new, longer, mix of “Like An Inca”).
Young’s new found success saw him being lined up to do MTV’s Unplugged series, but again, like Dylan, what should have been an unquestionable success by an artist who seemed perfectly suited to the concept, didn’t quite go according to plan. The first attempt left Young frustrated, unhappy with the performance of his group, and the version released on LP that summer, simply, as “Unplugged” (CD, Reprise 9362 45310 2) was actually from a second set. In typical Young mode, the set was quite eclectic and occasionally obscure, but Reprise used the release to try and keep Young firmly in the public eye, with several tracks being released as singles. The album also included a “new” song, a never before released outtake from the 70s called “Stringman”. It later got a second lease of life when it appeared as a b-side on Young’s 1994 standalone single “Philadelphia”, a masterfully sublime and dreamlike piece of heartbreaking piano music, taken from the soundtrack album of the film of the same name. Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia” became a much bigger hit, but Young’s contribution is eye-wateringly beautiful.
With Young now aligned to grunge, he seemed to feel a certain amount of affinity with the genre. 1994’s magnificent “Sleeps With Angels” (CD, Reprise 9362 45749 2) at times bristled with a snarling menace that sounded not unlike his (new) contemporaries, whilst the title track was a reference to the recently passed-away Kurt Cobain, who had quoted Young in his suicide note. At other times, the record had a more woozy, laid back vibe, an attempt Wikipedia says was to “recapture some of the atmospheric experiments Young...played around with in the “After The Goldrush” era”, whilst the epic “Change Your Mind“ - a 15 minute ramble bizarrely chosen as a single release - recalled the monumental guitar workouts on “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere“. Reprise were once again determined to keep Young in the mainstream, releasing not one but THREE singles from the album. Each time, material from “Tonight’s The Night” was used as b-side material, almost as if the link between the two albums was being deliberately played upon (both dealt with, in a way, the death of one of Young’s musical allies, but Young was not happy when a year later, an interviewer brought this subject up, and he refused to discuss it). However, even though the fantastically growling sneer of “Piece Of Crap” made some impact chart wise, none of these singles came anywhere close to “Heart Of Gold” popularity, and Reprise would only release one more physical single by the man in the UK in the following years. As if to further play up to the Godfather of Grunge tag, 1995’s “Mirror Ball” (CD, Reprise 9362 45934 2) was recorded with Pearl Jam as his backing band, before the release of several newly improvised instrumentals were included on another soundtrack release, “Dead Man” (CD, Vapor 9362 46171 2).
Reunited with the Horse again, 1996’s sublime “Broken Arrow” (CD, Reprise 9362 46291 2) veered between gloriously epic drawn out rock jams during the first half, and simpler (sometimes more folk driven) shorter numbers in the second half, before concluding with a taped “on stage“ cover of “Baby What You Want Me To Do“, complete with the crowd talking all over it, obviously unaware of what Young was playing. It works rather well though, and brings the album to an understated close. In the US, the second song on the album, “Loose Change”, appeared in edited form on the CD, whilst vinyl copies added a bonus track in the form of “Interstate”, unavailable anywhere else in the UK. Young and the Horse went out on tour in support of the album, and a documentary film called “Year Of The Horse” was shot during the proceedings, and was later released on VHS and then DVD. An accompanying album of the same name, but in a different sleeve, was released in 1997 (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 46652 2), and is simply incredible - Young and the band crash and growl their way through bits of the back catalogue, but it works brilliantly IMO...the rather sweet “When You Dance I Can Really Love” is transformed into a grungey, heavy, meandering rock beast, as is everything else on the record. As Young jokingly laughs at the start, “it’s all the same song”. Maybe, but it’s a damn fine one.
Several years passed before the release of the acoustic tinged “Silver & Gold” in 2000 (CD, Reprise 9362 9362 47305 2), although the end of 1999 had seen the release of another CSNY album, “Looking Forward”. This was then followed by another live album, the curiously titled “Road Rock Vol 1” (CD, Reprise 9362 48036 2), given there has never been a Volume 2. It was credited to “Neil Young Friends And Relatives”, on the basis that various collaborators were on board, but the only really vocal contributor is Chrissie Hynde, who duets with Young on a cover of “All Along The Watchtower”. Unlike the double disc “Year Of The Horse”, this one has a running time of only just over an hour, and although there are some attempts at typical Horse-style ramblings (the opening “Cowgirl In The Sand” drags on for 18 minutes), it doesn’t quite pack the same punch, presumably because the Horse are absent here. One of the songs on here was totally new, never having made it onto a Young studio album before (“Fool For Your Love”) whilst a live DVD in a similar sleeve was issued at the same time, which featured everything from this album, bar “Watchtower”. Young toured Europe in 2001, including an appearance at what was supposed to be the ‘Irish Music’ festival in London, The Fleadh - not too sure exactly what “Cinnamon Girl” quite has in common with The Dubliners. Several new songs were tried out, which featured on his next album, the “soul” influenced “Are You Passionate?” (CD, Reprise 9362 48111 2) in 2002.
Beginning with 2003’s “Greendale” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 48533 2), Young began to issue, on a fairly regular basis, CD’s that came initially with a free DVD, sometimes featuring extra footage, but sometimes just featuring the relevant album in High Definition sound, as this was closer to how he wanted the music to sound than the accompanying CD did. “Greendale” has divided critics - a rock opera detailing the life of a family living within a fictional town, I quite enjoyed it’s epic nature last time I listened to it (several songs pass the 10 minute mark), but some critics tore it to shreds. The first pressing includes a solo performance of the album by Young on the DVD, later pressings replaced this with a performance by Young and Crazy Horse.
Were it not for the hi-def sound approach, then there would have been little need for 2004’s “Greatest Hits“ (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 48924 2), which for the most part offers up selected material from the still-on-catalogue “Decade”, even including “Ohio” and “Helpless”, but which has an overall running time that sees it all sit on a single disc quite comfortably. But it does feature some of the big hitters from the later years, and the free DVD - as well as featuring the full album - also includes the promo clips for “Harvest Moon” and “Free World”.
2005’s “Prairie Wind” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49494 2) was viewed at the time as possibly being Young’s swansong - the record dealt with the death of his father, and was recorded just before Young himself underwent surgery for a serious condition. Some of the lyrics dealt explicitly with mortality, almost as if Young was preparing himself for death, and at times, it can feel incredibly personal. But of course he survived, and returned with the anti-war diatribe that was 2006’s “Living With War” (CD, Reprise 9362 44335 2). A reformed CSNY toured the album, which caused problems at some shows, as parts of the band’s more conservative audience vocally expressed their annoyance at Young’s anti-war, and what seemed to them as anti-American, lyrics.
Towards the fall of 2006, Young began to finally start getting his “Archives” project underway. He started with the release of “Live At The Fillmore East” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 44488 2), a 40-ish minute document of (most of) the electric segment of the shows Young played there with Crazy Horse in March 1970. Of the six songs included, three of them were - at the time of recording - brand new songs, including “Winterlong”, as featured on “Decade”. The DVD included the audio from the CD, along with photos from the gig. It was the first of several albums to be released under the banner of the “Neil Young Archives Performance Series” (NYAPS for short), and was labelled ‘Volume 2’ - the volume number related to the recording date of the show within the planned series, meaning that a ‘Volume 1’ was still sitting in the vaults. The following year saw the release of ‘Volume 3’, another double disc release called “Live At Massey Hall 1971” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 43327 2), this one coming with a DVD containing exclusive footage.
Just as “Old Ways” was technically the second version of an album of the same name, so 2007’s “Chrome Dreams II” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49906 4) was issued with a title confirming it was a follow up to an album that was never actually issued (circa 1977). It’s title gave a clue that it was, at times, a bit obsessed with cars (“Beautiful Bluebird”, “Spirit Road”) whilst the album itself picked through the various genres that Young had dabbled with throughout his career - be it the “Harvest”-esque acoustic strum of the opening track, the grungy snarl of “Dirty Old Man”, the epic drawn out rock of “No Hidden Path” or the (Bluenotes) horn driven romp that was “Ordinary People”. Part of this variety was almost by default, as several songs actually dated from the different parts of Young’s 80s Geffen period.
‘Volume 0’ of the NYAPS releases was released in late 2008 when “Sugar Mountain - Live At Canterbury House 1968” was released (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49839 8). So numbered as it predated all of the other planned albums in the series, this was the very show at which the previously released live b-side version of “Sugar Mountain“ was recorded. Everything else on the set, though, was previously unreleased. Young’s aforementioned 2009 Glasto slot was part of a tour plugging “Fork In The Road” (CD + DVD, Reprise 9362 49787 2), another record referencing the world of the automobile.
Young’s “Archives Vol.1” boxset was finally issued in 2009. Available as a CD boxset, technically on import only (8xCD, Reprise 175 292-2) but also as a DVD or Blu-Ray edition, it included rarities and album tracks from the days of The Squires up until the period circa “Journey Through The Past”. The CD edition was spread over 8 discs, two of which were “single disc” editions of the “Fillmore East” and “Massey Hall” releases (ie. no DVD this time around). ’Volume 1’ of the NYAPS was finally included, a 1969 Toronto gig called “Live At The Riverboat”. The remaining five discs mixed up material from Young’s solo career, Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and more, although the CD edition of the box was missing several numbers from the “Early Years” disc, as it occupied just a single CD on this edition of the set, but was covered in greater depth on the DVD/Blu-Ray sets. Each disc was housed in it‘s own individual sleeve, with the “Fillmore” and “Massey” releases using the same sleeves as per their original pressings. Also missing from the CD edition was a reissue of the “Journey Through The Past” film, although it was made available as a separate release on DVD and Blu-Ray through Young’s own Archives webpage. On the 6 “new” discs, virtually everything was rare or unreleased, including alternate tracks from existing studio albums - just as Young’s debut had been reissued in a new mix soon after it’s original release, so had “After The Goldrush” - and a mix of tracks from both versions of both albums make the box. Also included was the standalone 1972 45 with Graham Nash, “War Song”, never officially released in the UK before.
The release of the boxset was followed by ‘Volume 12’ in the NYAPS series, “Dreamin’ Man Live ‘92” (CD, Reprise 9362 49855 3). Taped, as the title suggests, during 1992, it features solo acoustic performances of the entire “Harvest Moon” album, from shows which took place both before and after the release of the LP. Whilst some “acoustic albums” are hopeless affairs, which take decent songs and rip all of the heart out of them, these songs are perfectly suited to the format, and it’s a near essential release.
It’s much loved by the critics, but I can’t help but think that 2010’s “Le Noise” (CD, Reprise 9362 49618 6) deserves to be approached with caution, a solo album on which Young uses only an electric guitar, rather than an acoustic. As such, it bounces around with lots of feedback and reverb, so can all feel like you are just listening to one long song, whilst all the time, really waiting for it to kick into gear. Still, kind of admirable, in a “Metal Machine Music” sort of way. It was followed by another NYAPS release, “A Treasure” (CD, Reprise 9362 49579 3), also available as a CD + Blu-Ray release, which is a bit of a bugger if you don’t own a Blu-Ray machine. It was taped on the 1984-85 tour that Young undertook whilst the lawsuit with Geffen was blowing up. Don’t believe those who tell you that “Nothing Is Perfect” is being released here, in any form, for the first time - because Young also performed it at Live Aid in 85, which was released on DVD in 2005.
In recent years, Young’s output seems almost to have been a sort of revisiting of his past - be it the folk rock approach (of traditional music standards) on 2012’s “Americana” (CD, Reprise 9362 49508 5), or the rambling guitar epic-ness on “Psychedelic Pill” (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 49485 9) released the same year (so rambling, that “Driftin’ Back” had to be chopped into two halves to fit onto the vinyl pressing).
2013 saw the release of another NYAPS set, “Live At The Cellar Door” (CD, Reprise 9362 49434 5). Of interest is that the set was labelled ’Volume 2.5’, necessary because it had been taped inbetween the Fillmore East and Massey Hall shows, but it did make you wonder if the original planned series was being revamped as it went along, as if this was an extra show that had been discovered, or a change of plan saw it given the green light. This release includes, as do other releases in the NYAPS set, Young doing one of those Buffalo Springfield songs that he wrote but did not sing on, “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong”.
He then returned with another album of covers, 2014’s “A Letter Home” (CD, Reprise 9362 49399 9). Available as a hyper expensive boxset from the USA, it was recorded in Jack White’s “Voice O Graph” recording booth, and the US edition actually appeared on White’s own Third Man Records imprint. By the end of the year, we also had “Storytone” (2 x CD, Reprise 9362 49324 0), the first pressing following the format of the earlier, original, “Greendale” by featuring an orchestral version on one disc and a solo version on the other.
UK Singles Discography
Oh Lonesome Me/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise RS 20861)
The Loner/Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (7”, Reprise RS 23405)
Only Love Can Break Your Heart/Birds (7”, Reprise RS 20958, later reissued with alternate b-side and new cat number)
Cinnamon Girl/Down By The River (7”, Reprise RS 23462)
When You Dance I Can Really Love/After The Gold Rush (7”, Reprise RS 23488)
Heart Of Gold/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise K 14140)
Old Man/The Needle And The Damage Done (7”, Reprise K 14167)
Southern Man/Till The Morning Comes/After The Goldrush/Heart Of Gold (7”, Reprise K 14350)
Walk On/For The Turnstiles (7”, Reprise K 14360)
Lookin’ For A Love/Sugar Mountain (Live) (7”, Reprise K 14416)
Don’t Cry No Tears/Stupid Girl (7”, Reprise K 14431)
Like A Hurricane (Edit)/Hold Back The Tears (7”, Reprise K 14482)
Four Strong Winds/Motorcycle Mama (7”, Reprise K 14493)
My My Hey Hey/Hey Hey My My (7”, Reprise K 14498)
Hawks And Doves/Union Man (7”, Reprise K 14508)
Little Thing Called Love/We R In Control (7”, Geffen GEF A 2781)
Wonderin’/Payola Blues (7”, Geffen GEF A 3581)
Weight Of The World (Extended Version)/Pressure (12”, Geffen GEF 7 T)
Long Walk Home/Cryin’ Eyes (7”, Geffen GEF 24)
Rockin’ In the Free World (Edit)/(Live LP) (7”, Reprise W 2776, later reissued in 1994 on 7” and Cassette, with alternate catalogue number and p/s)
Rockin’ In the Free World/Cocaine Eyes/Rockin’ In The Free World (Live LP) (CD, Reprise W 2776 CD, later reissued in 1994 with “Cocaine Eyes“ replaced by “Rockin‘ In The Free World (Edit)”, alternate catalogue number and p/s)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Winterlong (7”, Reprise W 0139)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Old King/The Needle And The Damage Done/Goin’ Back (CD1, Reprise W 0139 CD)
Harvest Moon (Single Edit)/Deep Forbidden Lake/Campaigner/Winterlong (CD2, Reprise W 0139 CDX, unique p/s)
Long May You Run (Live - Edit)/Sugar Mountain (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“) (7”, Reprise W 0207)
Long May You Run (Live - Edit)/Sugar Mountain (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“)/Cortez The Killer (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“)/Cinnamon Girl (Live Version from “Rust Never Sleeps“) (CD, Reprise W 0207 CD)
The Needle And The Damage Done (Live)/You And Me (7”, Reprise W 0191)
The Needle And The Damage Done (Live)/You And Me/From Hank To Hendrix (CD, Reprise W 0191 CD)
Philadelphia/Such A Woman/Stringman (Live) (CD, Reprise W 0242 CD)
Piece Of Crap/Tonight’s The Night (Cassette, Reprise W 0261 C)
Piece Of Crap/Tonight’s The Night (Part 1)/(Part 2) (CD, Reprise W 0261 CD)
My Heart/Tired Eyes/Roll Another Number (CD, Reprise W 0266 CD)
Change Your Mind (Edit)/Speakin’ Out (Cassette, Reprise W 0276 C)
Change Your Mind (Edit)/(Album Mix)/Speakin’ Out (CD, Reprise W 0276 CD)
Downtown (Edit)/Big Green Country (Cassette, Reprise W 0314 C)
Downtown (Edit)/(Album Version)/Big Green Country (CD, Reprise W 0314 CD)