LET'S TALK ABOUT NEIL......
Well, I finally did it. I completed my pre-1983 NEIL YOUNG
back catalog accumulation two weeks ago by purchasing that very first one from 1968, "Neil Young"
-- the one you never hear anyone talk about; the one with the bizarre cover that has Neil looking like he's been carved into Mt. Rushmore by a drunk 10th grader; the one that sits forlornly in the priced-to-move budget racks in every record store I've seen it. Never knew if it was any good, but there it is. My take on it after a handful of listens is that it's mediocre in all regards -- for Neil
-- when stacked next to the titanic releases that followed it the next six years, legend-making records like "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"
, "On The Beach"
and the rest. The tracks that bring it home the hardest are the ones I already knew from "Decade"
("The Loner", "The Old Laughing Lady") plus a top-notch closer in the winding and forlorn acoustic "Last Trip To Tulsa", which is 9 minutes of the Neil we came to know and love -- weird, mysterious and rocking hard even when flying 100% solo. The record suffers a bit from toss-away tracks, like an opening instrumental called "The Emperor of Wyoming" that's pleasant enough but a bit odd in placement, as well as the ultra-produced classical interlude "String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill" which is just one producer's (Jack Nitzsche's
) flat-out bad idea. Almost
makes you want to check out "Greendale"
-- it couldn't be any more self-indulgent than this, right? Neil bounces well between folksinging-troubadour mode and hard-driving, guitarslinging outlaw mode but apparently was only months away from honing his craft to a sharpened T. He found rock and roll valhalla on the next record, the incredible "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"
, and was off & sprinting for a impressive run that continues off and on to this day. This one, I'm glad to have it bookending the collection, but I'd hardly want to start any Neil fixation here.