Posts Tagged ‘Stray Gators’

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.

Neil Young should have been on top of the world in 1973. The incredible success of Harvest finally took him out of CSNY’s shadow, “Heart of Gold” had become a Number One hit in 1972, and a 62-date arena tour sold out all over America. But the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, a painful back disorder and the endless infighting of his backing band turned the tour into an endless slog. He had a ton of hits by this point, but he opted to devote a big chunk of the set to gloomy, brand new tunes like “L.A.,” “Don’t Be Denied” and “Yonder Stands The Sinner.” The new songs were captured on the live LP “Time Fades Away”. But it was greeted by a collective shrug when it came out in 1973 and its also been out of print for decades, but Neil diehards recognize it as an absolute classic and original vinyl copies are highly prized. Unsurprisingly, Young has a wildly different take. “My least favorite record is “Time Fades Away,” he said in 1987.

Neil Young had a rough childhood. His parents went through a nasty divorce and he was raised primarily by his mother, moving from town to town and constantly being the new kid in school. He poured these painful memories into “Don’t Be Denied,” a standout track from 1973’s long out-of-print live LP Time Fades Away. “I wore white bucks on my feet,” he sings. “When I learned the golden rule/The punches came fast and hard/Lying on my back in the school yard.” It ends with the rise of Buffalo Springfield, and the realization that even success wouldn’t make him happy. It’s one of the most personal songs he ever wrote, and he’s only played it three times since 1983.

There are so many albums in Neil Young‘s catalog that most fans wouldn’t miss a stray out-of-print entry or two. But that isn’t the case with his infamous “lost” 1973 live release, Time Fades Away.
Mostly recorded on a disastrous tour that found Young and his band slowly falling apart over 62 shows in early 1973, Time Fades Away should have come at a moment of triumph, since it arrived in the wake of his hugely successful Harvest LP. Platinum sales often bring their own set of problems, however, and for Neil Young, mainstream stardom proved a burden that started chafing almost immediately. “I felt like a product, and I had this band of all-star musicians that couldn’t even look at each other,” Young reflected in a 1987 interview. “It was a total joke.”
Of course, Young being Young, he didn’t exactly make the tour easy on himself, chiefly by opting to perform previously unreleased material for crowds expecting to hear the hits. Going on to call Time Fades Away “my least favorite record” and “the worst record I ever made” in the same 1987 interview, Young explained, “As a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. It was supposed to be this big deal — I just had Harvest out, and they booked me into 90 cities.”
At this point, it’s hard to say who the “right band” would have been for Young, whose mental state grew progressively darker during the tour. All the same, the bloom was probably off the rose from the moment that former Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, who’d been slated to join Young’s band the Stray Gators for this series of dates, ended up being sent home to sober up  and soon died of a heroin overdose. The bad vibes grew to the point that drummer Kenny Buttrey quit partway through, replaced by the Jefferson Airplane‘s Johnny Barbata, and eventually, Young developed a throat infection that made things even worse.

Once Young and his crew actually started turning the tapes into an album, the problems continued, due to his decision to record using a new and fairly wonky digital mixing board whose idiosyncrasies left the whole thing sounding less than pristine. As a document of the state Young was in at the time, it was probably appropriate, but once it came time to try and remaster it for the CD format, they realized they’d have to go back to the original tapes and remix the shows all over again.
Still, there have been plans to reissue Time Fades Away on CD, most notably in 1995, when Young went so far as to schedule a November street date for the remastered disc. It was pulled before it ever got to stores, although test pressing copies have circulated for years (and ended up on YouTube, as you’ll hear in the video at the top). And in the vaults is apparently where Young intends for it to stay, despite the wishes of a growing number of fans — some of whom have signed a petition clamoring for its release.
In typically idiosyncratic fashion, in fact, it sounds like Young will release a Time Fades Away sequel before he ever sends the original to CD. Discussing his plans for the second volume of his Archives box with Guitar World in 2009, he mused, “One thing I’ll tell you about the next volume of Archives is that Time Fades Away II is in there. And it’s interesting because the whole thing has a different drummer than what was on that album. I switched drummers halfway through the tour — Kenny Buttrey was in there for the first half, and Johnny Barbata came in for the second. It’s a completely different thing, with completely different songs. So that’s interesting. There’s lots of stuff like that that I’m working on right now for the second volume.”

“Words” (Between The Lines Of Age) song by NEIL YOUNG,  with Tim Drummond the last survivor of the Stray Gators passed away. Here’s a glimpse on Tim Drummond († 2015), Ben Keith († 2010), Kenny Buttrey († 2004), and Jack Nitzsche († 2000) playing whilst recording the “Harvest” sessions in the barn in 1971