Robert Christgau's Neil Young Album Reviews

After the Goldrush thru Live RUST

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Robert Christgau's Reviews

Note: For an update on this page, see the Consumer Guide page on Neil Young.
Robert Christgau, you may recall, is the longtime music critic for the
Village Voice, and these reviews come from "Christgau's Record Guide:
Rock Albums of the 70s" which I got for 48 cents in a used book store. 
Hope you enjoy 'em.
-- [ From: Les Tuttle * EMC.Ver #2.10P ] --

"Neil Young: 'After The Gold Rush' (Reprise, 1970). While David Crosby yowls about assassinations, Young divulges darker agonies without even bothering to make them explicit. Here the gaunt pain of 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' fills out a little--the voice softer, the jangling gutar muted behind a piano. Young's melodies--every one of them--are impossible to dismiss. He can write 'poetic' lyrics without falling flat on his metaphor even when the subject is ecology or crumbling empire. And despite his acoustic tenor, he rocks plenty. A real rarity: pleasant and hard at the same time.



"Neil Young: 'Harvest' (Reprise 1972) Anticipation and mindless instant acceptance made for critical overreaction when this came out, but it stands as proof that the genteel Young has his charms, just like the sloppy one. Rhythmically it's a little wooden, and Young is guilty of self-imitation on 'Alabama' and pomposity on the unbearable London Symphony Orchestra opus 'There's A World.' But those two excepted, even the slightest songs here are gratifying musically, and two of them are major indeed--'The Needle and the Damage Done' and the much- maligned (by feminists as well as those critics of the London Symphony Orchestra) 'A Man Needs A Maid.'

Original grade: B. B+."

Harvest - Album Home

"Neil Young: 'Journey Through The Past' (Reprise 1973): The film is as yet unreleased, which judging by the still on the cover--hooded horsemen carrying cruciform staves--is just as well. Its 'soundtrack' has one virtue: eccentricity. Except for the apparently unfinished 'Soldier', the standards, the Buffalo Springfield numbers, and the Young songs are familiar, but not in these versions, many of which are also apparently unfinished. Scholars will be grateful for the source material: the rest of us will have to settle for the 15:51 of 'Words' which occupies all of side three.


 "Neil Young: 'Time Fades Away' (Reprise 1973): This is no desperate throwaway or quickie live album. Loud and dense but never heavy, singing with riffs concocted from the simplest harmonic components, it's squarely country, yet it never hints at nouveau-rockabilly good times. The opener, 'Don't Be Denied' is an anthem of encouragement to young hopefuls everywhere that doesn't shrink from laying open fame and its discontents. And the finale, 'The Last Dance,' evokes the day-job hassles that pay for Neil Young tickets, suggests alternatively that 'you can live your own life,' and then climaxes in a coda comprising dozens of 'no's wailed over a repetitive back-riff. It must have been strange to watch fans boogieing slowly to this mournful epiphany. But with the Stray Gators (driven by ex-Turtle Johnny Barbata instead of ex- Dylanite Kenny Buttrey) doing as much for Young's brooding, wacked-out originality as Crazy Horse ever did, it sure is exciting to hear.


"Neil Young: 'On The Beach' (Reprise 1974): Something in his obsessive self-examination is easy to dislike and something in his whiny thinness hard to enjoy. But even 'Ambulance Blues', an eight-minute throwaway, is studded with great lines, one of which is 'It's hard to know the meaning of this song.' And I can hum it for you if you'd like.

A -

On The Beach - Album Home

"Neil Young: 'Tonight's The Night' (Reprise 1975): This should end any lingering doubts as to whether the real Neil Young is the desperate recluse who released two albums in the late '60s or the sweet eccentric who became a superstar shortly thereafter. Better carpentered than 'Time Fades Away' and less cranky than 'On The Beach', it extends their basic weirdness into a howling facedown with heroin and death itself. It's far from metal machine music--just simple, powerful rock and roll. But there's lots of pain with the pleasure, as after all is only 'natural.' In Boulder, it reportedly gets angry phone calls whenever it's played on the radio. What better recommendation could you ask?


Tonight's The Night - Album Home

"Neil Young: 'Zuma' (Reprise 1975). Young has violated form so convincingly over the past three years that his return may take a little getting used to. In fact, its relative neatness and control -- relative to Y, not C, S, N, etc. -- compromises the sprawling blockbuster cuts, 'Danger Bird' and 'Cortez The Killer.' But the less ambitious tunes -- 'Pardon My Heart,' say -- are as pretty as the best of 'After The Gold Rush,' yet very rough. Which is a neat trick.


"Neil Young: 'American Stars 'n Bars' (Reprise 1977): The first side, recently recorded, is Young's rough-and-tough version of L.A. country rock, featuring a female backup duo called the Bullets and climaxing with 'Bite The Bullet,' his sharpest cut since 'Tonight's The Night.' The second is a journey through the past that perhaps should have stayed in the outtake can. On one tune, Neil turns into a salmon while masturbating in front of the fireplace; on another, he and Crazy Horse somehow take the wind out of 'Like A Hurricane' which blew everybody away at the Palladium last fall.



"Neil Young: 'Comes A Time' (Reprise 1978): In which the old folkie seeks out his real roots, in folkiedom. Not only is this almost always quiet, usually acoustic and drumless, and sweetened by Nicolette Larson, but it finishes off with a chestnut from the songbook of Ian and Sylvia -- not just folkies, but Canadian folkies. Conceptually and musically, it's a tour de force. Occasionally you wonder why this thirty-two-year- old hasn't learned more about Long-Term Relationships, but the spare, good-natured assurance of the singing and playing deepens the more egregious homilies and transforms good sense into wisdom. The melodies don't hurt, either -- Young hasn't put together so many winners since 'After The Gold Rush.' Now that it's been done right, maybe all those other guys will hang up their Martins and enroll in bartending school.



"Neil Young: 'Decade' (Reprise 1978): As usual with compilations by album artists, I prefer the original LPs in both theory and practice. But this triple is done with care right down to the packaging and commentary. The five previously unreleased songs range from pretty good to pretty great, the sides cohere stylistically, and I'd rather hear 'Ohio,' 'Soldier,' 'Helpless,' and 'Long May You Run' in this context than any other.



"Neil Young: 'Rust Never Sleeps' (Reprise 1979): For the decade's greatest rock and roller to come out with his greatest album in 1979is no miracle in itself -- the stones made 'Exile' as grizzled veterans. The miracle is that Young doesn't sound much more grizzled than he already did in 1969; he's wiser, not wearier, victor so far over the slow burnout his title warns of. The album's music, like its aura of space-age primitivism, seems familiar, but while the melodies work because they're as simple and fresh as his melodies have always been, the offhand complexity of the lyrics is unprecedented in Young's work: 'Pocahontas' makes 'Cortez The Killer' seem like a tract, 'Sedan Delivery' turns 'Tonight's The Night' on its head, and the Johnny Rotten tribute apotheosizes rock-and-roll-is-here-to-stay. Inspirational Bumper Sticker: 'Welfare Mothers Make Better Lovers.



"Neil Young: 'Live Rust' (Reprise 1979): John Piccarella thinks this is a great Neil Young album, greil Marcus thinks it's a waste, and they're both right. The two discs are probably more impressive cut for cut than 'Decade,' but without offering one song Young fans don't already own. I prefer the studio versions of the acoustic stuff on side one for their intimacy and touch. But I'm sure I'll play the knockdown finale -- 'Like A Hurricane,' 'Hey Hey My My,' and 'Tonight's The Night,' all in their wildest (and best) recorded interpretations -- whenever I want to hear Neil rock out.



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