Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gearing up for the "other Neil"

Now that the Rush chapter has come to a close for the year (and what a ride it was!!!)... well, it never really comes to a close, but I have to move onto other things to keep my mind occupied...

(drum roll please... bshshshshshshshshshshsh...) It's time to gear up for the "other Neil!" Yaayyy!!!

The "other Neil" means Neil Young, who also happens to spawn from Canada like the "primary Neil," (being Neil Peart, drummer /lyricist of Rush). In recent years both have also shared the fact that they migrated to southern California at some point of their lives. What else do they have in common... they're both lyricists, and they both have piercing stares... and they shake around alot (Neil Young's nickname being "Shakey," of course---I'm assuming due to his angular guitar poses when he's soloing and awkward sudden jolts onstage---soon to take out someone's eye, if he hasn't already)... what else... I'm sure I could draw all kinds of bizarre parallels...

So October 23 is the big day, which will be here in less than 4 weeks. It's a big event because not only will I be seeing Neil Young for the first time in concert, but his new album Chrome Dreams II is released on that same day. From what I understand, some members of the Crazy Horse band are accompanying him on this tour, so I'm expecting some electric Neil---but it would be nice to get a little acoustic Neil as well.

I just love this guy's diversity, both between projects and during live sets. How does someone get down and dirty with Crazy Horse in 1977's American Stars & Bars, then record a beautiful and sentimental acoustic album like 1978's Comes a Time, and finally slap down a masterpiece mixing both light and heavy sounds with 1979's Rust Never Sleeps? Then brings it out on stage to pull off both ends of the spectrum flawlessly? Neil Young. There's nobody like him, and the breadth of his catalog is only second to Dylan's---but in my opinion he's way more accessible than Dylan---and all due respect to you Bob, but Neil could rock you out of the house. Plus I couldn't understand a damn thing you were "singin'/sayin'" at Portland State a couple years back, which doesn't help matters either.

Neil Young is one of the hardest working artists out there, and always has
been. His career has taken more interesting and unlikely twists and turns than the North Cascades Highway; which, if you dive deep into his catalog, is one of the very appealing things about him; you have absolutely NO idea where he's going to steer the ship next. He could give you something light and polished, or he could drive it "into the ditch," as he once stated, and give you something raw and gravelly.

Neil's one of those artists who, if you venture deep into his catalog past the Decade compilation (which is actually a decent introduction), rewards you with countless lost gems. That's how I discovered Tonight's the Night, which is one from the "ditch trilogy" that I keep coming back to (along with On the Beach and Time Fades Away, the latter of which was never released on CD). I can throw that on, then bump up to 1992's Harvest Moon (a MUST own if your even a marginal N.Y. fan), then get more contemporary with his recent rallying cry Living with War.

Neil's catalog is a potpourri of tasty treats, and you really can't go wrong
anywhere---especially in the 60s, 70s and 90s---but especially in the 70s. Of recent, I really like 2000's acoustic Silver and Gold, the creativity of Greendale from '02, the sentiments of his father and upbringing in Canada on Prairie Wind from '04, and the anger and honesty of Living with War from '05.

The only part I might warn you about is his 80s material, which has some weaker albums, but that was overshadowed by extenuating circumstances involving a war between him and
Geffen records. David Geffen was basically being mean to Neil (there's really no other way to frame it, the guy's an ass) and not supporting new directions he wanted to go in, so Neil responded with an album titled Trans, which featured "Transformer Man," a rather amusing listen (morphed robotic early 80s voice and all, insanely dated). Despite that unfortunate period, he closed out the 80s with a new record deal and the album Freedom, which boasted the hit "Rockin' in the Free World." He then inspired an entire rock sub-genre, the grunge scene, which in turn inspired him. Whatever he may have lacked in the 80s he certainly made up for in the 90s.

Anyway, I could go on forever about this guy. I look forward to the new CD and to seeing the man in concert. We'll talk about him more in the near future.

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