Posts Tagged ‘Neil Young


69 (albums) from 1969

When I think of 1969, I think the end of the hippie dream, the fading of peace and love. After the violence of the Democratic convention in ’68, it appeared the Yippies were taking precedence over the original anti-war movement that so many of us bought into when we were at college.

the-band-the-band1Despite the triumph of Woodstock, the year ended on the foreboding trajedy of Altamont. It was the year the Beatles said farewell, another dream that was ending. So when I think about 1969, I don’t necessarily think of great albums first. But as Mojo Magazine points out in a recent special edition with a piece aptly titled 69 from 1969, which we acknowledge with the headline above, there was a motherlode of great music released in 1969. The music was changing and the early ’70s gave us another wave of great music as well with the dawn of the singer-songwriter era. But the decade’s last year included an impressive list of offerings.

You can find music just as good or better from any year in the ’60s. But since it’s 40 years on for this watershed year, we have a poll below in which you can vote. To refresh your memory, here are some of the highlights in no particular order:

jethro-tull-stand-upThe Band, The Band: Their second release and perhaps my favorite, along with Stage Fright, filled with songs that make up one of the foundations of today’s Americana movement.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young: His second, and although I for one liked the weak-selling debut, this unquestionably has several of his standards.
Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin: Some prefer the second, released in late 1969, but this really had the bigger impact as far as influencing the music scene. It was hard rock, but quite different in some ways than anything before.
Stand Up, Jethro Tull: Arguably their best, predating the more progressive leanings of the band.

slystandA Salty Dog, Procol Harum: Speaking of prog, but really is it? Using classical ideas and instrumentation in a tasteful combination is more like it.
The Gilded Palace Of Sin, The Flying Burrito Brothers: Gene Clark, the Byrds and others had recorded tracks and some nearly full albums of what was to be called country rock, but Gram Parsons’ first project as a leader really set the stage for the Eagles and those who followed.
Tommy, the Who: Many cite other Who albums as superior to this and that’s probably true, but none had a bigger influence in the grand scheme of things.

Stand, Sly & the Family Stone: This is loaded with classic Sly songs, Everyday People, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, You Can Make It If You Try.
Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash: Deja Vu had some better songs on it, but as a trio this was their highlight.
Dusty In Memphis, Dusty Springfield: A peak  from a remarkably consistent vocalist, career defining.
Blind Faith, Blind Faith: The one-off, with about 15 minutes of filler, still holds up as a solid outing with at least a couple of rock ‘n roll classics.
Abbey Road, the Beatles: A fitting sendoff, which was recorded after but released before their official swan song, Let It Be.
In A Silent Way, Miles Davis: I preferred the first real experiment into fusion, Miles In The Sky (1967), but there is no doubting the impact of this outing.
Clouds, Joni Mitchell: I always think of this as coming out earlier than 1969, but her career didn’t take off in earnest as a solo performer until the ’70s with Blue and For The Roses.
Then Play On, Fleetwood Mac: The last gasp of the original Mac with Peter Green. It may have been the last but it has some wonderful blues romps, including Oh Well.
Let It Bleed, the Rolling Stones: Their decided shift back to blues-influenced rock on Beggar’s Banquet is followed by incorporating country blues into the mix. One of their last great ones.

There are many others, the Allman Brothers’ debut; Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, not as well known in the States as the U.K., where it is a folk-rock staple; Santana’s and Chicago’s first. The list goes on.

What do you think? Vote for the best album of 1969.

This article is also available over at BabyBoom Review at this link.

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A man of more than expected words

nyoungI’ve seen Neil Young give acoustic concerts twice over the years, and he’s never been particularly loquacious in between songs. But on a new release of a concert from 1968, Sugar Mountain — Live at Canterbury House, he’s positively chatty.

There are seven raps interspersed throughout the  set list and most are amusing, if not downright funny, from the laid-back, rambling Young. Perhaps the best is Bookstore rap, in which he talks about his only other job that lasted two weeks.

As for the concert, it’s excellent. It’s better than an earlier release from his archives, Massey Hall 1971, although not by much, from 2007. That one included a video DVD of the show, which is at times brilliant and other times (static shots of a reel-to-reel tape recorder) frustrating. This set comes in a two-disc version, the second being DVD audio.

What’s to like about  Canterbury House is the era. The show is from around the release of his first very under-appreciated solo album The Loner, and many of the tunes are from it. These songs played acoustically makes the set all the more fascinating and rare.

The sound is very dry, very little reverberation, since it was recorded in a small coffee house in Ann Arbor, lending a more intimate air to the proceedings. Massey, recorded in Toronto, has more of a concert hall ambiance.

I have great respect for Young, but honestly haven’t been into his latest ventures. In fact only Freedom with Rockin’ In The Free World and Harvest Moon even scratch the surface with me in the past two decades. I love his early work and The Loner and After The Gold Rush are my favorite albums.

But to hear If I Could Have Her Tonight, I’ve Been Waiting For You, The Last Trip To Tulsa, The Old Laughing Lady and the title track from The Loner shortly after the album was completed makes for a significant document.

In addition, there are Buffalo Springfield tracks, among them Mr. Soul, Expecting To Fly and Broken Arrow, the last two big production numbers on record but here stripped down to the essentials. Also you’ll find an early version of Birds, from After The Gold Rush, done on acoustic guitar rather than piano.

These releases from the archives — they aren’t really reissues although they seem to be classified as such sometimes — almost make up for Young’s reluctance to remaster his early albums. He claims he hates the CD format and it’s unacceptable for the sonic quality he aspires to. Don’t get him started on MP3s. I kind of agree with him there at least on the low bit rates. But he’s scheduled to release the first volume of a long-awaited box set series next year and it’s going to be available on only DVD and Blue-ray audio versions at a ridiculously expensive pricetag of more than $300. Nothing on a CD release of any kind is in the works. It is eight discs but really. That’s a bit much.

July 2018
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