I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing more soothing than listening to Neil Young’s high nasal on a hot summer day while cruising the streets of Philadelphia at full volume in my 1998 Nissan Maxima as everyone on the streets turn their heads to gawk at the kid who isn’t playing Rihanna or Drake or whoever the cool new hip hop artists of today are.
If I crashed my car while listening to Cowgirl in the Sand so help me God I am not leaving the fiery wreckage until every 10:08 of that song is finished. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and berate your parents for never introducing Neil into your existence. Then go on youtube and get blown away by guitar sorcery and a lilting voice that seems to float over the raw instrumentation like a beautiful cumulonimbus cloud over a belching Mount Saint Helens. Whether he’s ripping up guitar lines in a nonsensical fashion that brings to mind a thrashing tiger shark or making his guitar squawk like an angry toucan, everything about this song is perfect. And it may not even be the best offering from this eight CD archive of Neil’s early brilliance.
The archives set, which covers Young’s career from 1963 when he first set out to become a rock and roll star as a naive 18-year-old, and 1972 when he, as the rock and roll sensation he was dreaming of being, finally achieved the number one single he’d been dreaming about with the legendary Heart of Gold that made him realize that, “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch”, provides basically every notable piece of music he made from that period. You get to watch him transform right before your ears as he morphs from a trembling lead guitarist for the up-and-coming Los Angeles rock outfit Buffalo Springfield who was so unsure of his unorthodox voice he had to be coaxed to a microphone to an ultra confident hit maker who once wrote three of his most famous anthems Down By the River, Cinnamon Girl and the aforementioned Cowgirl in the Sand in one night as he was lying in bed with a fever of 103.
If you’re familiar with Neil’s work, this is a must have. If you aren’t familiar with his work it’s a must have. Basically what everyone out there should do is go to Amazon and order this thing immediately so you can really try and get to know a guy who gave everything he had to a craft he excelled at. He basically took whatever messages his heart was telling him at the time and put it into words that are tragically true and extremely obtuse, like the pre-chorus for I Believe In You, a song from After the Goldrush where he sings:
Now that you made yourself love me
Do you think I can change it in a day?
How can I place you above me?
Am I lying to you when I say
That I believe in you
I believe in you.
What’s he trying to say here? I have no clue, but whatever it is is pretty damn awesome. You get to see one of the most talented songwriters of the 20th century write about his life as he suffers through the break-up of his first marriage and subsequent ups and downs of love that every man goes through. Why not one more lyric sample? This is the second verse from Tell Me Why, which is also off of After the Goldrush.
Tell me lies later, come and see me
I’ll be around for a while.
I am lonely but you can free me
All in the way that you smile
Tell me why, tell me why
If you haven’t felt that way at one point in the past please stop reading because you are probably a gargoyle. Neil tugs at the heart strings of every man (and woman) with his most innermost of thoughts. Listening to his songs is kind of like reading a chapter from his diary. I’m very curious as to how he explained all of the words about love he put down to his wife and various paramours.
Anyway, if you like the crunching guitars that can be found in I’ve Been Waiting For You, a monster of a song off of his first solo album the eponymous Neil Young, or peaceful folk rock like Bad Fog of Loneliness, a treasure of a song he wrote for the Johnny Cash Show and promptly forgot about, in the form of newly remastered songs that sound like they were recorded yesterday, go pick up Neil’s Archives Volume One. You won’t be disappointed. These are 125 songs you shouldn’t live without.