Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Molina’

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.”

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Although listed as a Record Store Day special release in the UK, Neil Young‘s Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live is freely available to order in the USA on double vinyl, and it’s very cheap, too.
The Tonight’s The Night album was recorded in mid-1973 with the ‘Santa Monica Flyers’ who were Nils Lofgren (piano), Ben Keith (pedal steel guitar), Billy Talbot (bass) and Ralph Molina (drums). The album wasn’t released until 1975 but not long after it was recorded Neil and his band head decided to play it live. Here’s what Neil has to say about it:

“We had finished recording and decided to celebrate with a gig at a new club opening on the Sunset Strip, Roxy. We went there and recorded for a few nights, opening Roxy We really knew the Tonight’s the Night songs after playing them for a month, so we just played them again, the album, top to bottom, without the added songs, two sets a night for a few days. We had a great time.”

The ‘added songs’ Young refers to are Borrowed Tune, Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown and Lookout Joe which were added to the studio the album, but not part of those original sessions (or the live performance). Walk On would end up on 1974’s On The Beach.

None of these live recordings have been released before and with Neil Young vinyl notoriously expensive, this double album is a bargain at $26 on Amazon US – that’s about £19.

Roxy: Tonight’s The Night Live is released in the US on 24th April and will also be for sale in the UK on Record Store Day on 21st April.

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Neil Young has revealed the artwork and track listing for the previously announced archival album “Roxy – Tonight’s the Night Live”, which will be released in April.

The album includes live performances of most of the songs included on the classic album “Tonight’s the Night”, which was recorded in 1973 but not released until 1975. (“Borrowed Tune,” “Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown” and “Lookout Joe,” which are on the 1975 LP, aren’t included on the upcoming album.) You can see the track listing below.

The live tracks were recorded on September. 20th-22nd, 1973, at the first-ever shows at the Roxy venue in West Hollywood, with a band Young named the Santa Monica Flyers — named after their habit of driving home after all-night recording sessions in his 1947 Buick Roadmaster, Black Queen, along Santa Monica Boulevard. The lineup included Nils Lofgren on piano, pedal steel player Ben Keith, Billy Talbot on bass and drummer Ralph Molina.

“We had very recently lost [Crazy Horse member] Danny Whitten and our roadie Bruce Berry to heroin overdoses, so we were missing them and feeling them in the music every night as we played,” Young writes in the liner notes. “Tonight’s the Night was sort of a wake. There was no overdubbing on those nine original songs. They were recorded live, with no clean up. For almost a month we recorded like that, starting around 11PM and playing into the early morning hours. Sometimes we had a small audience. Once Mel Brooks and a few friends came by.

“We drank a lot of tequila, and I wrote Tonight’s the Night’s songs somewhere around the beginning. We had nine songs and played them twice every night for a long time until we thought we had them. … We had finished recording and decided to celebrate with a gig at a new club opening on the Sunset Strip, the Roxy. We went there and recorded for a few nights, opening the Roxy. We really knew the Tonight’s the Night songs after playing them for a month, so we just played them again, the album, top to bottom, two sets a night for a few days. We had a great time.”

Neil Young, ‘Roxy – Tonight’s the Night Live’ Track Listing
“Tonight’s The Night”
“Mellow My Mind”
“World On A String”
“Speakin’ Out”
“Albuquerque”
“New Mama”
“Roll Another Number (For The Road)”
“Tired Eyes”
“Tonight’s The Night”
“Walk On”

A Record Store Day vinyl edition of the album includes two records plus an exclusive print of the band live onstage at the Roxy. That version comes out on April 21st;

When you’ve got 28 studio albums under your belt – as Neil Young did when he released Chrome Dreams II ten years ago today – you’ve no doubt got a few leftover songs, and the Reprise collection kicks off with three great ones, most notably the 18-plus minute epic “Ordinary People.” And though Young is working here with longtime collaborators including guitarist, keyboardist, and steel guitar extraordinaire Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina, The crossing of his two primary rhythm sections is interesting. Crazy Horse fans may miss bassist Billy Talbot, and Horse detractors will long for drummer Chad Cromwell, but the trio has noticeable chemistry, and it is hard to argue with the results. Young himself of course contributes mightily on a multitude of instruments.

This isn’t just a journey through the past; the singer-songwriter also penned strong new material in a variety of styles ranging from country-folk (“Ever After”) to gospel (“Shining Light”) to electric rockers (the Grammy-nominated “No Hidden Path”) is probably the heaviest song, crunchy fuzzed out guitar solo’s are abundant.

While its title references a legendary unreleased album from 1977, All this matters little since Young of course no longer has anything to prove, meaning fans can enjoy the album and others will still not know what they miss. Since the masterwork and two of the better cuts (“Beautiful Bluebird” and “Boxcar”) were written between 20 and 30 years ago,

Chrome Dreams II doesn’t have a stylistic or thematic focus, and that’s kind of the point; it’s an album that revels in driving all over the map.