Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fork in the Road

One of my favorite artists, if not my favorite artist, Neil Young, is about to release a new album called "Fork in the Road." It sounds like it's a take on the latest economic woes facing this great nation. Neil's been busy in the last nine years. This will be his seventh album of original material since 2000. That's an amazing amount of material in this day and age. Of course critics complain that some of his material is less than stellar but I disagree. I enjoy the dialogue that Neil is having with albums like "Are You Passionate", "Greendale", "Living with War", and now "Fork in the Road."

I thought I would list my 10 favorite Neil Young albums and why.

1. After the Goldrush: It's an amazing record from the aching beauty of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Birds" to the hostility of "Southern Man." I fell in love with this record when I was 15 or 16 years old. My oldest sister had it and I started listening to it on a whim. I couldn't stop listening. A lot of the songs dialed in on my teenage angst.
2. Silver and Gold: I don't know what it is about this CD but I keep coming back to it again and again. I love putting on the DVD of the concert and zoning out while watching it in bed. It just grabbed me from the opening song "Good to See You" all the way through to "Distant Camera" and Razor Love."
3. Freedom: This album put Neil back on the map after some less than stellar efforts in the early 1980's. "Rockin in the Free World" is a classic but I dig so many other tunes off this disc. "El Dorado" is a particular favorite, after all how many times do you hear castanets on a Neil Young song. And then there's "No More". His performance of "No More" on Saturday Night Live may be the best rock out ever on live television. Number two might well be Neil's performance of "RITFW" with Pearl Jam on MTV more than a decade ago.
4. Rust Never Sleeps: This record capped an incredible decade of music for Neil Young in the 197o's. Songs like "Pochantas" and "Powderfinger" stand the test of time. "Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) has aged well and remains one of his classic rockers. This album is the mirror to "Freedom" much like "Harvest" is to "Harvest Moon" "Rust" showed that he could still rock.
5. Ragged Glory: This was a magnificent follow up to "Freedom." It's great simply for "Love and Only Love", "Over and Over" and "Love to Burn." It's Neil thrashing with Crazy Horse at its best.
6. Harvest: Neil says he headed into the ditch after making this album. It's probably the best produced record he ever made. Songs like "Heart of Gold" and "Old Man" are timeless. For tenderness I still enjoy "A Man Needs a Maid" as much as anything he's ever done.
7. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere: Three of his best compositions grace this record. "Cinnamon Girl"is great even if it boasts a one note solo. I never grow tired of the two epics, "Down By the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand."
8. Mirror Ball: I'm sure Neil fans everywhere are howling right now. I just like this record. Pearl Jam is just great and the songs all work. "I'm the Ocean" and "Throw Your Hatred Down" are just flat out great tunes.
9. Zuma: It's a fun record. I enjoy the country tinged rockers on this album. Of course there is the all time classic "Cortez the Killer" which holds this record together. I know he's made better records than this but this is one I listened to over and over again.
10. Tonight's the Night: I probably listen to "Sleeps With Angels" or "Comes A Time" more, because I have to be in the right mood for this album. It's the haziest, booze injected record ever made in my opinion. It's the after taste in my mouth after an all night beer fest. It reminds me of why I'm glad I don't do those things anymore.

Before I wrap this up I know that there are a few of you out there that are screaming over how I could leave "Harvest Moon" off this list. It's simple. I never really liked the album. The songs are beautiful, but when it comes to acoustic Neil, "Silver and Gold", "Harvest", "Comes A Time" and even "Prairie Wind" are more to my liking. I know it's wrong on so many levels because "Harvest Moon" marked a second comeback for Neil much like "Freedom" did a few years before it.

Finally I want to mention three of my favorite Neil songs not on any of these albums. First there's the opus "Ordinary People." For years I had to listen to a decent live bootleg version of this song. Why he waited more than 15 years to release this song is beyond me. You can find it on "Chrome Dreams II." Then there's "Change Your Mind." This is another Neil opus penned in response to the death of Kurt Cobain. This haunting tune is on "Sleeps With Angels." Finally there's the simple "Interstate." Again this is a song I first heard as a live bootleg that he did with his country band The International Harvesters. This song can be found on a German CD with another great song called "Big Time." This version is a complete 180 from the bootleg version but I still love it.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm. I would have to put Harvest Moon on the list, my friend, but that's just my opinion. My husband and I are trying to see him in concert in the next year or so. I was so ticked. He was in St. Louis last fall, and I missed it. Thought about going to the Jazz Festival in N.O. this year just to see him but decided we would be left wanting more at that venue.