musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Neil Young Never Sleeps

I just finished reading Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace. I can’t say that it’s a great book — too many clichéd phrases and repetitive references to Neil’s various side projects  dampen the “wow factor” — but for any diehard Neil Young fan, it’s still a must read. Like the man’s music output, you never know what expect from one chapter to the next — and that’s part of the fun. If you can tolerate Neil’s copious references to his car collection and the “PureSound” audio project he is obsessed with launching, you’ll enjoy reading most of this book. It’s packed with fascinating anecdotes and honest recollections of his life, both inside and outside of music. Particularly touching are the passages in the book that reveal Neil’s love and devotion to his handicapped son Ben, and also to his wife, Pegi. At times I think this book could have used a strong editor, one who could have cut out some of the weaker and sillier parts, but then again those parts are just Neil being Neil, staying true to his soul, and this book gives the reader a better idea of what he thinks and cares about. And in that context, the book hits the mark.

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Last year Neil released two excellent albums with his longtime band Crazy Horse. The first one, Americana, was billed as “a collection of classic American folk songs.” That may have been the case, but in the hands of Neil and his band, those songs were turned inside out and re-energized. The album included songs such as “Oh Susannah”, “Clementine”, “Tom Dooley”, “This Land is Your Land” and “Waywarin’ Stranger.” But these were definitely not laid back, traditional arrangements of these old songs. Each one was electrified and transported by Neil’s new arrangements and the presence of Crazy Horse. There was also a clear social and political slant to the song selection, all of which made the album even more of a vital listening experience. If that “comeback” (it was the first Neil Young and Crazy Horse album in nearly 9 years) wasn’t enough, Neil and the Horse returned later in the year with Psychedelic Pill, a two-CD set of all new material. Not only was this a double album, but the songs themselves were sprawling opus-like creations. The opening track, “Driftin’ Back” was 27-minutes of electric guitar bliss, enhanced by Neil’s wacky lyrics. Pure genius. There are several other tracks that break the 10-minute barrier, so don’t go expecting a bunch of short, sweet folk tunes or a reprise of Harvest. All in all, there is nothing ground breaking on Psychedelic Pill, following familiar Crazy Horse territory. But if you are a fan of Neil’s other Crazy Horse recordings, you’ll love this one too. The energy and raw power is both thrilling and comforting. These guys, even in their 60s, can still deliver the goods!

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In addition to Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill here are the other CDs I’ve been playing in heavy rotation lately:

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George Jackson – Let the Best Man Win: The Fame Recordings Vol. 2

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia – Live at the Hammersmith Odeon ‘75

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Live from Alabama

Various Artists – Titan: It’s All Pop

The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

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Daryl Hall – Sacred Songs

Lee Morgan – Lee-Way

Jim Boggia – Safety in Sound

UB 40 – Signing Off

Jackie Leven – For Peace Comes Dropping Slow

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Ronnie Dyson – One Man Band

Roy Harper – Songs of Love and Loss

Miracle Fortress – Miracle Fortress

Alabama Shakes – Boys  & Girls

Fun. – Aim and Ignite

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Aimee Mann – Charmer

Cannonball Adderley – Money in the Pocket

Cabaret Voltaire – The Original Sound of Sheffield: Best of 1983-87

Elvis Costello – Kojak Variety

Lyle Lovett – Release Me

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Alphonse Mouzon – Mind Transplant

Robert Glasper – Black Radio

Larry Young – Locked Down

Dr. John – Unity

Etta James – Rocks the House

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Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Outskirts of Deep City

Freddie Hubbard – First Light

Bill Fay – Life is People

Groundhogs – Thank Christ for the Bomb

Augustus Pablo – Skanking Easy

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Taj Mahal – Hidden Treasures: 1969-1973

Miles Davis – The Birth of the Cool

J. Tillman – Year in the Kingdom

Hank Crawford – Roadhouse Symphony

Dusty Springfield – A Very Fine Love

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Chris Difford – Cashmere if You Can

Various Artists – Hip Hammond & Soulful Grooves

Eddie Money – No Control

Bloomfield/Kooper/Stills – Super Session

Ken Stringfellow – Danzig in the Moonlight

 

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