Monday, September 10, 2007

Neil Young

Neil Young's self-titled solo debut sticks out like a sore thumb in his catalog. There are two instrumentals, elaborate overdubs, brief pop songs and noextended guitar workouts. In short, nothing one would come to associate with a typical Neil Young album. The album also lacks coherence and clear direction, and basically sounds like an artist with an overabundance of ideas and little idea of how to filter them properly.

The album opens with a breezy instrumental country song that, to my knowledge is one of only two instrumental songs in Young's catalog (excepting Arc in its entirety). The other, which opens side two, is written and arranged by Jack Nitzsche. I don't think Young even plays on it.

The closing number, "Last Trip To Tulsa", is a nine-and-a-half minute acoustic epic with no guitar solos whatsoever. Young's elliptical lyrics seems like an effort to emulate the more oblique musings of Bob Dylan songs like "Tombstone Blues" or "115th Dream". It doesn't work. I considered posting it here for sheer curiosity value, but, as I mentioned previously, it's nine-and-a-half minutes long and not very good.

"The Loner" and "The Old Laughing Lady" represent the album on Decade; nothing made the cut for Greatest Hits. "I've Been Waiting For You" is in the same vein as "The Loner", a brief and powerful sixties-pop number with gobs of organ swirls and some fierce guitar tones.

"I've Loved Her So Long" is another Jack Nitzsche collaboration (Nitzsche produced three of the album's cuts, including his own aforementioned one) and is the real find here. Rather than overloading the track with strings as on "Expecting To Fly" and later tracks, here Nitzsche uses a chorus of female voices to give the song its lush textures. Young's voice sounds terrific here; while he's best known for the nails-on-chalkboard whine he employs for his louder electric rave-ups, he has a gentler sound he uses for quiet numbers that sounds lovely, particularly on the early ballads.

Incidentally, this track led to the first real sound quality dilemma I've faced since starting this blog. I record all of the songs from records in my own collection and actually rather like the vinyl sounds in some of them, but here it's a bit much. The combination of the track's unusually low mastering volume (it's noticeably quieter than the other songs on the album, even at its peak) and the advanced state of deterioration of my copy makes for an almost unlistenable aural soup. I boosted the level more than 200% in SoundForge, so the song becomes audible over the vinyl pops, but that makes said pops create digital peaks in the level.

So I'm posting it anyway, best I can do. I considered posting a digital version as well, but figured that kind of goes against the point of this blog; the version I listen to sounds like that, so there it is. If you want a better sounding version of this one song, by all means, grab it on iTunes. It's just a buck.

Buy it... on vinyl.

From my deck to you: Neil Young - "I've Been Waiting For You" and "I've Loved Her So Long"

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