Posts Tagged ‘Arc’

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, 'Arc-Weld' (1991)

Neil Young was in the middle of a career renaissance when he hit the road with Crazy Horse in early 1991. Their new album Ragged Glory was hailed as their finest in a decade and the group was playing songs old and new with a stunning level of energy and passion. The live album “Weld” captured the best moments on a two-CD set. The 14-minute rendition of “Like A Hurricane” remains one of the best version of the tune, while concert staples “Cortez The Killer,” “Powderfinger” and “Hey Hey, My My (In The Black)” have never sounded so vital. It’s hard to pinpoint a live peak for Crazy Horse, but this very well might be it. The album originally came packed with Arc, which was a single 35-minute track of various feedback-soaked beginnings and endings of songs. “Now here I am, 45 years old, and this is the essence of what’s happening to my mind,” said Young of the extended noise suite. “I really made Arc for people who ride around in the Jeeps with the big speakers. If you pull up beside somebody on the street and you’re playing that, that makes a fucking statement.


Weld - neil young and crazy horse.jpg

In the late ’80s, Neil Young re-embraced distortion. He cut “Rockin’ in the Free World.” He teamed up with Crazy Horse for 1990’s album Ragged Glory  And then he and his Crazy friends hit the road in the winter of 1991, for what Young termed the “Smell the Horse” tour, which was documented on the Arc-Weld album.

These were loud, noisy shows, a commitment that ran even to the support acts, Sonic Youth and Social Distortion, both of whom Neil had hand picked for that purpose. Extended, tangled performances were akin to the electric music captured on the “Live Rust” album more than a decade earlier. But Young with Crazy Horse  bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina plus guitarist/keyboardist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro weren’t trying to relive the past so much as they were inspired to the present. Apparently, the band watched CNN reports from the first Gulf War every night before taking the stage.

“It blew my head off during that tour,” Young said about the war in Iraq in Johnny Rogen’s Zero to Sixty: A Critical Biography. “When we were playing that stuff, it was intense. It was real. I could see people dying in my mind. I could see bombs falling, buildings collapsing on families.”

The nasty images and violent news spurned the singer-guitarist to play some of his roughest material from the new record along with enshrined tunes about death and genocide such as “Powderfinger” and “Cortez the Killer.” He and Crazy Horse also debuted a version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” accompanied by the sound of a blaring air raid sirens  and gunfire. Weld consists of rock and roll songs by Young and Crazy Horse, duplicating seven songs that had appeared on either “Rust Never Sleeps” Or “Live Rust” from twelve years earlier. It also echoes those albums as Young, in both cases having spent most of a previous decade pursuing different musical avenues, returned to straightforward rock and roll via the acclaimed Ragged Glory album with Crazy Horse, then celebrating that return with an accompanying multi-disc live document and concert film.

After coming off the road, Neil Young assembled recordings from the shows to document the four-month tour in the form of a double-live album. The concerts had been loud enough, but Young did further damage to his hearing while mixing the live record, which he would give the appropriately metallic title of Weld.

“I made Harvest Moon[after Weld] because I didn’t want to hear any loud sounds,” he said in 1995. “I still have a little bit of tinnitus but fortunately now I’m not as sensitive to loud sounds as I was for a year after the mixing of Weld.”

But Weld wasn’t the only thing Young was putting together in the summer of 1991. In addition to the live album, he began playing with fragments of concert sounds, weaving together layers of guitar distortion, drums, crowd noise, lyric fragments and stage chatter into an abrasive collage.

The experimental record, to be titled Arc, evolved in a 1987 film project called Muddy Track, for which Young recorded beginnings and endings of live performances and edited them together. He showed the piece to Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who encouraged the rock legend to attempt a similar treatment with the professional recordings from the current tour.

Young came away with a one-track, 35-minute album that featured snippets of him singing “Like a Hurricane” and “Love and Only Love” (which repeat, almost like a refrain), as well as squealing feedback and low-end rumbling that was a ringer for constant explosions. Many would compare it to Lou Reeds Metal Machine Music.

“It’s new-age metal,” Young said in April 1992. “That’s what I would call it because you can listen to it really quiet. It’s soothing… It’s a generic rock ’n’ roll sound; it has no identity. It’s the tone, the metal tone. It’s like being inside a giant milkshake blender. It’s another dimension. Most bands’ beat defines who they are. There is no beat on Arc.”

In a limited release, Young packaged his conventional live album with Arc, which he called “more art and expression than anything I’ve done in a long time.” Via Reprise, he released 25,000 of the three-disc set, Arc-Weld, on October. 22nd, 1991. He ended up putting out the records separately, as well. (A VHS concert video was released too, although it has gone out of print.) Fans and critics reacted positively to the intensity of the performances on Weld while regarding Arc as, at best, something of a curiosity.

Although Neil Young would take a short hiatus from loud music following the release of Arc-Weld, he wouldn’t stay away for long. As the “godfather of grunge,” he’d soon team up with Grunge rockers Pearl Jam and reconvene with Crazy Horse multiple times throughout the ’90s.

1. “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” – 0:00
2. “Crime in the City” – 5:42
3. “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Bob Dylan) – 12:14
4. “Welfare Mothers” – 19:04
5. “Love to Burn” – 26:08
6. “Cinnamon Girl” – 36:06
7. “Mansion on the Hill” – 40:54
8. “F*!#in‘ Up” – 47:08

Of course the second cd is mandatory listen after the first one

1. “Cortez the Killer” – 0:00
2. “Powderfinger” – 9:46
3. “Love and Only Love” – 15:42
4. “Rockin’ in the Free World” – 25:03
5. “Like a Hurricane” – 34:23
6. “Farmer John” (Don Harris, Dewey Terry) – 48:25
7. “Tonight’s the Night” – 53:24
8. “Roll Another Number” – 1:02:05