Posts Tagged ‘Neil Young’

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Yesterday (January 9th), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon welcomed both actor Will and music guest Patti Smith. After Will Smith and Fallon rapped a history of Will Smith, Patti Smith showed up to discuss her new book Year of the Monkey, she read a poem, discuss being a jerk to Bob Dylan, and performed a cover Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” 

Music guest Patti Smith performs a cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” for the Tonight Show audience.

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Graham Nash was on a helicopter with drummer Dallas Taylor flying into Bethel, N.Y., where their band was scheduled to perform at a festival. As they neared their destination, Taylor asked what lake they were flying over. It wasn’t water, the pilot replied. It was the audience.

The gig was Woodstock. The band was Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The gathering on Max Yasgur’s farm would be only their second-ever live performance, after recently solidifying a touring lineup with Neil Young, Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves. The weekend would prove to be a high point for the counterculture that Woodstock quickly came to represent—and for Crosby, Stills, Nash & (sometimes) Young, the ensemble that was in some ways the house band for the Woodstock generation.

“Their music and their image became indissolubly linked with the fate of the baby-boomer era,” music historian Peter Doggett writes in CSNY, one of two engaging biographies released tracing the band’s fractious history. The other is Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young by David Browne, a senior writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

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Browne covers the full arc of the band’s career, from its members’ musical origins in other groups in the ‘60s to the present. Doggett focuses on the musicians’ early lives and careers through 1974, when David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young toured together for the last time. Though both books cover some of the same ground, Doggett’s is far more detailed about the beginnings of the band and the musicians’ upbringings. Browne takes on the monumental task of summarizing a half-century’s worth of conflict, self-sabotage and, when the musicians managed to get out of their own way, music.

Crosby, Stills & Nash wasn’t intended to be a “band” at all, at least not in the late-‘60s sense of the word, which implied a specific identity, expectations and business commitments. Those things amounted to limitations, in the minds of Crosby, Stills and Nash, who had each dealt with all that in the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Hollies, respectively. They started singing together for the thrill of it, and they quickly realized that they harmonized with an uncommon purity that astonished their friends. That feeling of amazement carried over to the listening public when the trio released Crosby, Stills & Nash at the end of May 1969, thanks to songs including “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Long Time Gone” and “Helplessly Hoping.”

The singers intended CSN to be a sort of “mothership” situation that would, between group efforts, permit solo projects, outside collaborations and plenty of musical experimentation. Yet converting their “party trick” harmonies (Browne and Doggett both use the term) into something that certainly looked like a band, with a record deal and all the attendant obligations, quickly subsumed the idea of singing together for its own sake. If bringing in Young to help flesh out the songs onstage made sense from a musical standpoint, each book illustrates how adding a fourth massive ego also hastened the band’s descent into creative disputes and power struggles.

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Though both authors admire the group and its songs, the musicians come off as intensely dislikable, especially as money and fame transform them. Stills is a taskmaster perfectionist with control issues. Crosby is a blowhard, a drug-addled hedonist with an attitude toward women that is startlingly chauvinistic, even for the era. Young, who had been part of Buffalo Springfield with Stills, is a cynical opportunist who sees joining CSN as a way to jumpstart his own then-lackluster career. Only Nash sometimes seems sympathetic; the most level-headed, he tries to act as a go-between among warring factions with limited success.

Together (and, just as often, separately), they cut a path through popular music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Doggett writes vividly about the L.A. scene that produced Crosby, Stills & Nash, chronicling their interactions with Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas, Peter Tork of the Monkees, Joni Mitchell (who was romantically involved with Crosby, then Nash), Judy Collins (whose relationship with Stills inspired “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”), Jimi Hendrix, Atlantic Records impresario Ahmet Ertegun, David Geffen and more. Doggett does his best to tame the mythology of CSN, sorting through various stories and inconsistent recollections about when and where they first sang together (Was it at Elliot’s house, or Mitchell’s? The night the Hollies played the Whisky in February 1968, or sometime afterward?) and when various songs were written and recorded.

Browne in many ways has the harder task, as the band’s earlier years were its most thrilling and creatively rewarding. Surprisingly little of the music they made together still resonates; after their first two studio LPs, CSN and 1970’s Déjà Vu with Young, and the 1971 live album 4 Way Street, the Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) catalog is a study in diminishing returns. In the latter half of Browne’s book, there’s almost a numb inevitability to the musicians’ fumbling attempts in the ‘80s to contemporize their sound, Crosby’s ever-deeper descent into drug addiction that led to a stint in prison, and Young’s inability to stop dangling the possibility of a full-scale reunion in front of his bandmates, only to flake out nearly every time for inscrutable reasons of his own.

Taken together, CSNY and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young present as full a picture of the group as is ever likely to emerge. It’s not a triumphant story. Beneath the promise of those early songs—and that initial camaraderie—lurks a mostly unwritten, certainly unanswerable question that poses itself again and again: What if?

Much like the dream of the Woodstock generation, the tale of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is awash in senseless vanity, squandered chances and potential left tragically unfulfilled. Yet it’s often hard to look away—just like with any car wreck.

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Neil Young has announced that his previously shelved 1975 album, “Homegrown”, will finally be released in early 2020 following its restoration from the master tapes.

“Homegrown will be our first release in 2020, sounding great in vinyl – as it was meant to be,” Young wrote on Neil Young Archives. “Made in the mid-nineteen seventies! …A record full of love lost and explorations. A record that has been hidden for decades. Too personal and revealing to expose in the freshness of those times. The unheard bridge between the albums Harvest and Comes A Time, Homegrown is coming to NYA first in 2020!”

The Neil Young Archives homepage also shows a video of Young’s longtime engineer John Hanlon mastering Homegrown in an analogue chain. “This is the way records were made when we started out. This is the way we made them sound great. We were told that this was impossible now, the Homegrown tapes were too damaged to use; we had to use digital. We didn’t agree. We did not accept. We painstakingly restored the analogue masters of Homegrown.”

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Official Movie Trailer for the new Neil Young Film – ‘Mountaintop’ IN THEATERS ACROSS NORTH AMERICA ON OCTOBER 22, 2019 AND IN EUROPE AND SOUTH AMERICA ON NOVEMBER 18TH.

The documentary goes behind the scenes of the making of ‘Colarado’, Young’s first album in seven years with Crazy Horse. Earlier this year, the singer-songwriter announced that he would be postponing the rest of his 2019 tour plans to focus on completing 15 unfinished film projects.

One of those films was a ‘making of’ documentary that was filmed to tie into the release of ‘Colarado’, which will be Crazy Horse’s first new album since 2012’s ‘Psychedelic Pill’, and according to Young, the record will stand up to some of his previous classics albums.

“We believe we have a great Crazy Horse record and one to stand alongside ‘Everybody Knows This is Nowhere’, ‘Rust Never Sleeps’, ‘Psychedelic Pill’ and all the others,” he said back in April.

Neil Young first revealed Crazy Horse’s return to the studio in April. He announced ‘Colorado’ would arrive in October, and feature “10 new songs ranging from around 3 minutes to over 13 minutes.” Besides CD and digital versions of the record, there will also be a double vinyl release comprising three sides of music and a 7” exclusive single not on the album.

Following songs ‘Rainbow of Colors’ and ‘Milky Way’, Neil Young and Crazy Horse released a short instrumental called ‘A letter from us’ last month.

With Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s new album “Colorado” arriving on October 25th, the reunited rockers have shared “Rainbow of Colors,” the second preview from the upcoming LP. It’s a bright, optimistic tune calling for unity in the age of Trump. Much like the previous Colorado single “Milky Way,” it is quite mellow by the usually loud standards of Crazy Horse.

“The idea of the song is that we all belong together,” Young wrote on his Neil Young Archives website. “Separating us into races and colors is an idea whose time has passed. With the Earth under the direct influence of Climate Chance, we are in crisis together needing to realize we are all one. Our leaders continually fail to make this point. Preoccupied with their own agendas, they don’t see the forest for the trees.”

Colorado is the first Neil Young and Crazy Horse album since 2012’s Psychedelic Pill, and the first since guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro retired from the group. He has been replaced by Nils Lofgren, who has played with Young going all the way back to After The Gold Rush in 1970. This new lineup of the band first played together on a California theater tour in 2018 and they cut Colorado at Studio in the Clouds near Telluride, Colorado earlier this year.

An arena tour was originally booked for later this year, but Young said he was pushing it back so he could focus on a series of archival concert films and documentaries. And in a recent note, Young hinted that he’s already looking ahead to Crazy Horse’s next record. “Another one is coming,” he wrote. “I can feel it. It’s a new generation for the Horse. Long live the Horse!”

Official Audio for “Rainbow of Colors” from ‘Colorado’ the new album from Neil Young with Crazy Horse available on October 25th.

Yes, Neil Young has returned with his legendary backing band Crazy Horse, for their first album together since 2012’s well-received Psychedelic Pill. “We believe we have a great Crazy Horse album,” Young wrote recently on his Archives website back in April. “One to stand alongside the albums Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Rust Never Sleeps, Sleeps With Angels, Psychedelic Pill and all the others.” Big talk, but based on first taste “Milky Way” — almost as haunted and vulnerable as Young’s unnerving recent New York Times profile — it’s at least got a shot at living up to it.

Official audio for Milky Way from Neil Young with Crazy Horse from their upcoming new album ‘Colorado’ Available on October 25th.

After The Gold Rush

By the end of the 1960s Neil Young was catching the ear of many influential figures – not least his old band mate Stephen Stills, who was now part of the Grammy-winning folk-rock super group Crosby, Stills & Nash. The band were keen to have him onboard as a sideman, but Young was insistent that he be given a full title credit as a condition for his contributions. Stills frequently found himself fighting with Young for control over the band’s songwriting, and has famously said that the latter “wanted to play folk music in a rock band.”

Young’s dogged self-determination, despite its interpersonal downfalls, was a major artistic virtue that fed directly into what was perhaps his first true masterpiece. After The Gold Rush had its beginnings in an unlikely place. Dean Stockwell, a former child star of the ‘40s and ‘50s, had been encouraged by his friend Dennis Hopper to write a screenplay whilst the pair were in the jungles of Peru producing a film entitled The Last Movie. Hopper assured Stockwell that he had the relevant connections to help get the film made, and once back in the US the latter retreated to his home at Topanga Canyon in the Los Angeles Mountains to commence the writing process.

A fellow resident of the canyon and a close friend of Stockwell’s, Young was suffering through a prolonged period of writer’s block and was under growing pressure from his label to record an album of new material. After learning of the writer’s creative endeavour he was intrigued to learn more and asked Stockwell if he could read a draft of the story. The script, which has since been lost, was an unconventional, non-linear narrative with religious and psychedelic undertones. It loosely detailed an end-of-the-world scenario centred on the local Californian environment, in which a biblical flood threatened to pull the state into the ocean. Captivated by this messy but intriguing tale, Young recalls: “I was writing a lot of songs at the time, and some of them seemed like they would fit right in with the story.”

Ironically Hopper’s proximity to the project scared off any interested executives, and before long the film seemed destined to remain in limbo. Nonetheless, Young was fired up and undeterred, commencing work immediately on what he imagined to be the soundtrack of this deeply counter-cultural Hollywood film. Finding time to write and record was difficult, as large swathes of 1970 were blocked out by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s huge US Tour and further live obligations with Crazy Horse. In the precious gaps between shows, Young made initial recordings at Hollywood’s Sunset Studios, yielding “I Believe In You” and “Oh Lonesome Me” but quickly realised he preferred the atmosphere of the Canyon, continuing the process at the home studio set up in his lead-lined basement. It was here that his ensemble of bassist Greg Reeves, drummer Ralph Molina, and guitarist Nils Lofgren assembled.

The studio was a small and sweaty space, adjoined to a side control room from which producer David Briggs kept an eye on proceedings. The youngest of the ensemble, eighteen year-old Lofgren was brought in to play keyboards despite being a relative novice at the time of recording, highlighting Young’s unconventional laid back approach. Accordingly the musician recalls that “Neil didn’t mind rehearsing a bit” but they “didn’t belabour stuff.” It’s often considered that Young was attempting to merge musicians from both Crosby, Stills & Nash and Crazy Horse on this album, and Stephen Stills even appears on “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” to provide backing vocals.

The basement’s make-shift setup influenced the stark and plaintive sound of After The Gold Rush. Young featured solo on piano throughout the album, most notably on the title track which is often praised as the centrepiece of the album. Charting a surreal and fantastical course through three verses, the song starts in a medieval era of knights and peasants and ends in outer space with the remnants of humanity, after the world has descended into apocalypse.

The song was designed to directly mirror the plot of the proposed film, and Young invited Stockwell to sit in on some of the album’s sessions. The writer was impressed: “If you could calculate the amount of human energy that goes into the making of one of his songs, you would have a really fucking high number, man.”
Explaining his thoughts behind the environmentally conscious song Young recalls: “I recognise in it now this thread that goes through a lotta my songs that’s this time-travel thing… When I look out the window, the first thing that comes to my mind is the way this place looked a hundred years ago.”

But stepping out of the failed film’s shadow, After The Gold Rush as a whole fits neatly into Young’s continued development as one of the finest songwriters of the North American tradition. Young’s ability to convey nuanced emotion through potently simple chord sequences and unvarnished yet poetic lyrics is exemplified on songs such as “Birds” and “Only Love…”, which highlight the often overlooked yet effortless sonic beauty of his music. The fact that the album allows such space for this aspect of Young’s work to blossom reveals why it remains one of the most beloved in his expansive catalogue.

Despite producing no major hits and suffering a ferociously critical review from Rolling Stone, the album truly kicked off Young’s celebrated solo career, preceding game-changing albums, such as 1972’s Harvest, and was quickly re-considered as one of the finest albums of the 1970s by the very publications who had tore it to pieces just a few years prior. It’s a testament to how swiftly Young’s career was ascending – from folk-rock’s resilient underdog to one of the standard-bearers of the great American songbook.

Neil Young To Feel The Music Book

Neil Young‘s latest book To Feel The Music is due out September 9th via Benbella Books. Young co-wrote the tome with Phil Baker about his efforts to provide high-quality music to listeners.

To Feel The Music is Neil’s third book. The Rock & Roll Hall Of Famer wrote Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream in 2012 and Special Deluxe: A Memoir Of Life & Cars in 2014. Young posted a note about the forthcoming volume on his Neil Young Archives website:
My new book, To Feel The Music, co-written with Phil Baker, has been announced and is now available for pre-order on numerous book sites.

To Feel The Music is the story of my efforts to improve the quality of audio that you hear. It takes you through how the sound was and is compromised by the tech and record companies, and instead of improving over time like other technologies, it has become worse. Our book also tells the business and development story behind Pono, and then, when people wanted the convenience of streaming, how we developed Xstream high resolution streaming, the highest quality streaming in the world, as you hear it on NYA.

The issue of improving audio quality has been one of the most important things we’ve been doing for decacdes, and something I focus on every day. We spent a year writing this and I think you’ll find it interesting and informative.

The book will be released on September 9th

Tuscaloosa (Live)

Neil Young culled highlights from his February 5th, 1973 concert at the University Of Alabama in Tuscaloosa with The Stray Gators for a new live album entitled “Tuscaloosa”, which is due out on June 7th via Warner Bros Records. The first single from the seven-track LP is a slow and beautiful version of “Don’t Be Denied.”

This is the next installment of Neil Young’s ongoing archival series, a concert he played with the Stray Gators simply titles “Tuscaloosa”, it will come out on a single CD and a three-sided vinyl album with etched artwork on side four.

“It’s from the period right around Harvest and Tonight’s the Night,” said Young,  “For me, it’s edgy. It’s like those mellow songs with an edge. It’s really trippy to be down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and singing those songs from Harvest and the songs that we were doing for Time Fades Away before it came out. I found this thing and it had such a great attitude to it. I just loved the whole night, so I put that together with [engineer] John Hanlon.

Neil Young + Stray Gators “Don’t Be Denied” from the upcoming album ‘Tuscaloosa” Available on June 7th.

Nils Lofgren performs at the 30th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert at the Shoreline Ampthitheatre, in Mountain View, Calif30th Annual Bridge School Benefit Concert - Day 2, San Francisco, USA

Nils Lofgren was lounging by the pool of his Phoenix, Arizona, home with his wife Amy in April 2018 when the phone rang. “It was a Saturday,” recalls the guitarist. “I got a pad and paper out as I thought to myself, ‘Who is calling on a weekend? What will I need to take care of now? What business do I need to address?’ That was the cynic in me.”

It turned out to be Neil Young. “He said, ‘Look, we have these five Crazy Horse theaters shows booked in California to commemorate the release of the Roxy album Lofgren says. “[Crazy Horse guitarist] Poncho [Sampedro] can’t make it. Instead of canceling the shows, we’re wondering if you can walk in pretty much without any rehearsal and wing it with us?’”

The request left Lofgren completely stunned. He had got his first big break back in 1970 when Young invited him to play on After the Gold Rush when he was just 19. He went on to join Crazy Horse for their 1971 self-tiled LP (recorded without Neil Young) and two years later he cut Tonight’s the Night with Young and the Crazy Horse rhythm section of Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. But besides sporadic charity shows and the 1993 MTV Unplugged special, Lofgren hadn’t really been in one of Young’s backing bands since the Trans tour in 1982.

Once he got over the shock, Young filled him on in the details. Three concerts were on the books in Fresno, California, and another two in Bakersfield, California. Lofgren was due to kick off an extensive U.K. tour on May 14th , just eight days after the last show  but if he rejiggered his schedule and missed just a single day of production rehearsal, it would be feasible for him to make it work. “I talked to Amy and looked at the calendar and said, ‘Man, count me in,’” says Lofgren. “He said, ‘Give me a day. I’ll call you back to see if I can make this happen.’ The next day he called back and said, ‘We’re on. Let’s do it.’”

In keeping with Young’s longstanding “Don’t Spook the Horse” rule, he decided they’d forego any formal rehearsals even though Lofgren hadn’t played a show with Molina and Talbot since the end of the Tonight’s the Night tour in 1973. “The first time we put on our instruments was at soundcheck,” says Lofgren. “It was really seat-of-your pants.”

It sent Lofgren’s mind right back to the Tonight’s the Night sessions, shortly after the death of original Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. “We’d get together at dinner time and drink and play pool, smoke a little Thai weed and not worry about music,” he says. “It wasn’t until after midnight we’d go into the studio and play. Neil would sketch out three or four songs we really didn’t know. He said, ‘I don’t want you to know them. I want to do an anti-production record. I don’t want you to have a part for the chorus and a part for the verse. I don’t want you get to know them that well.

Opening night of the 2018 Crazy Horse run wasn’t quite that impromptu, but Lofgren still had to tackle songs like “Big Time” and “Scattered (Let’s Think About Livin’)” that he’d never played live in any capacity, with or without Young. But he’d done his homework and was able to feed off the energy all around him and deliver a killer show. “I knew songs like ‘Don’t Cry No Tears’ and ‘Like a Hurricane’ from the Trans tour,” says Lofgren. “And I’m grateful he included songs in the set from After the Gold Rush and Tonight’s the Night.”

Whenever they played a Tonight’s the Night song, it was essentially a complete reunion of Young’s backing band from that period minus the late Ben Keith. “We thought, ‘Four of the five of us are standing,’” says Lofgren. “‘That’s gotta be good. We’ll take it. We’ll miss Ben, but his spirit is with us.’”

There were no future plans for Crazy Horse after the mini-tour wrapped up May 6th, 2018, at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield, and Lofgren flew off to England thinking he may never play with them again. But then in December he got another call from Young. “He said, ‘I’m going to Winnipeg where I have such a long history,’” recalls Lofgren. “‘I want to visit old family and friends and do a couple of shows with Crazy Horse. Can you make it?’”

He happily accepted, though this time he had a little bit more time to prepare. While Young was busy playing solo shows in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Lofgren travelled to South Dakota to rehearse with Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot at the bass player’s home studio. It was at the peak of the polar vortex gripping much of the country and the temperature was well below zero. “Just walking across the ice and the howling wind in South Dakota to the studio was a big adventure every day,” says Lofgren. “Each time I was like, ‘We made it! Nobody fell and broke anything!’”

If that wasn’t frigid enough, the three of them then got onto a tour bus and drove more than 10 hours to Winnipeg for the shows. It was roughly 15 below before you even factored in the wind chill. “We were going right into the heart of the polar vortex,” says Lofgren. “Amy sat me down repeatedly and was like, ‘Look, you must promise that if the bus breaks down, before you do anything, before you call me, you call 911,’” Lofgren recalls. “‘This is not weather to mess around with. This kills people.’”

They managed to make to make it to Winnipeg without freezing to death or calling in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to rescue them. And once again, Young wanted the shows to be spontaneous. “He said, ‘I’m here with my old family and friends and I don’t want to even write a set list,’” Lofgren recalls. “‘Let’s just figure it out as we go. But don’t think. You guys rehearsed hard in South Dakota. Just don’t think. Let’s go and have an experience.’ The first night was a lot of rockiness in and out and the second night, man, we hit some groove and it felt kind of like flying or floating. It was very cool.”

The future for Neil Young and Crazy Horse is very unclear. Young has many shows on the books during the next few months, but all of them are either with Promise of the Real or solo. No explanation has been given for Poncho’s absence from the recent run of shows, but if Young decides to call up Lofgren again, he’ll be there. “It’s been a beautiful opportunity to play with dear friends that are still alive and well,” he says. “Look, I hope there’s more, but I’ll take it a gig at a time right now.”