NEIL YOUNG – ” Official Release Series Volume 4 “

Posted: March 20, 2022 in MUSIC

A new box set will bring together three of Neil Young’s ’80s albums, along with a rare EP making its widest release yet.

Official Release Series Volume 4, available April 29th, runs the gamut of Young’s eclectic output in the ’80s – likely because it only covers his releases on his long-time home base of Reprise Records. (From 1982 to 1987, Young signed instead to Geffen Records.) The ’80s were a time of transition and experimentation for Young – much of it done on Geffen, though sparks of that restless spirit are present on this set.

Young’s experiments and excavations led to some unique works that feature prominently in this box. The decade kicked off with the quick-fire “Hawks & Doves”, drawn from sessions spanning from the mid-’70s to 1980, the year of the album’s release. (At just under a half-hour, it’s one of his shortest LPs.) Neil’s dreaded ’80s run where he would release widely despised albums for much of the decade, I got more and more nervous about what these albums would actually be like. And while “Hawks & Doves” isn’t seen as the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel of his discography like certain other albums released only a few years later, it does get enough hate for me to become worried about just how far he may have fallen after such a long streak of amazing albums. Distracted by family strife, Young’s follow-up to the classic Rust Never Sleeps was a ragged collection of thrown-together country tunes and sundry offcuts. “Hawks & Doves” is wildly uneven, its title track flatly awful, but the good bits – the sinister “Captain Kennedy“, the beautiful “Lost in Space”, “The Old Homestead’s” lengthy allegory for his own career – are fantastic.

It’s often seen as Young’s first major dip in quality, something that would take a while for him to recover from. But while I can see why this isn’t as well-received as its predecessors, and it is certainly one of the weakest moments of his career thus far, it certainly isn’t a bad album by any means.

Young reunited with Crazy Horse for his next work, 1981’s “Re·ac·tor;” A Crazy Horse album that’s grinding, dark and repetitious (deliberately so; it’s influenced by a gruelling programme of treatment undergone by Young’s son), “Re-ac-tor” is hard work, occasionally uninspired and sometimes magnificent, as on the ferocious din of Surfer Joe and Moe the Sleaze and the concluding Shots.

This LP was notable for Young’s growing interest in the Synclavier synthesizer, which would figure prominently on his Geffen work, particularly the following year’s “Trans”. Inspired by his quadriplegic son Ben, an electronic Neil Young concept album with vocodered vocals was an incredibly bold move, so much so that Young padded it out with more straightforward material. The end result was a curious mess; the loveliness of “Transformer Man” was fully revealed only when Young played it acoustically on 1993’s MTV Unplugged.

After that at-times rocky tenure on Geffen, Young returned to Reprise in 1988 with a new band, The Bluenotes (later renamed Ten Men Working after objections from Harold Melvin). Their album together, This Note’s for You, sprung from blues-based mini-sets Young began incorporating into his sets a year prior. (“Nobody was yelling for ‘Southern Man’ like they’ve done throughout my whole fucking career,” he’d later quip.) Now armed with a new band and a full horn section, 

This Note’s for You” also found Young issuing some of his most incisive musical commentary of the decade, thanks to the sardonic title track that mocked the big-budget, sponsor-heavy tours from many of MTV’s biggest stars. While the broadsides against some artists was sharp enough that MTV itself initally banned the clip, they’d eventually award it a Video Music Award for Video of the Year.

The box closes out with a harder-to-find Young title: the 1989 EP “Eldorado”. Recorded primarily with bassist Rick Rosas and drummer Chad Cromwell, who’d played in The Bluenotes and here were dubbed The Restless, these five tracks laid the groundwork to Young’s next album “Freedom“, released later that year and featuring the rock radio hit “Rockin’ in the Free World.” But only three of the five tracks here actually ended up on “Freedom“, and in remixed form: “Eldorado” (editing some formidable guitar work by Frank “Pancho” Sampedro), a cover of the Mann-Weil-Lieber-Stoller hit “On Broadway,” and “Don’t Cry.” The other two tracks, “Cocaine Eyes” and “Heavy Love,” remain only available on this mini-album, which never came out beyond Australia and Japan. That, of course, changes with this set.

The ORS Vol 4 box set collects an eclectic set of decade-spanning sounds. “Hawks & Doves” (1980) revisits his folk roots and explores some of his most country-leaning offerings; the blistering “Re•ac•tor” (1981) showcases a stomping set of heavy, overdriven rock with Crazy Horse; and “This Note’s for You” (1988) casts Young as a big band leader, belting out intricately arranged blues. “The Eldorado EP” (1989) is full of feral distortion and earthy crunch featuring Young backed by The Restless (Chad Cromwell and Rick Rosas). It includes two thundering tracks — “Cocaine Eyes” and “Heavy Love”— not available on any other album. Those who pre-order “ORS Vol 4” will receive an instant download of “Cocaine Eyes.” All Greedy Hand Store purchases of “ORS Vol 4″ box sets come with free hi-res digital audio downloads from the Xstream Store at NYA.

Available on LP and CD, the box set includes classic ‘80s records “Hawks & Doves”, “Re•ac•tor”, and “This Note’s for You“, as well as the “Eldorado” EP, previously released only in Japan and Australia.

Both vinyl and CD box sets will be available for pre-order today and out on April 29th.

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