Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grooves: Neil Young - After The Gold Rush (1970)

Neil Young is one of the staples of my life. I've blogged about his various albums, devoted a Discography post to him and have celebrated as many as possible of his 30 plus album catalog. In terms of devotion to listening to an artists music, Neil Young comes in around #3 of my all time list right after The Who and Beck. Needless to say, After the Gold Rush will be one of many Neil albums to get their due here on Grooves. There are many I do not have yet, including such greats as On The Beach or Harvest Moon, but maybe by the time I get to those letters, I will have found them out there in the world of purchasing vinyl. What else is there to say about After The Gold Rush, Neil's third solo album released the same year as the first Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young record Deja Vu. This man was churning out great songs in 1970. From that CSNY album we got "Helpless" and "Country Girl," two excellent tracks. Then we are treated to an entire album of Young songs on After The Gold Rush. Young takes his backing band Crazy Horse and mixes it up with Stephen Stills, Jack Nitszche and Niles Lofgren making some cameos all over the record. The sound gets a little more dynamic than the crunchy, hard edge of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. And for that, it stands out as one of Young's best records of the early era. It's not my personal favorite from this time frame, but it still packs a huge amount of excellent songs onto one album.

This album was purchased at easily the best record store in New Jersey. Princeton Record Exchange, also known as Prex, never ceases to fail in delivering the goods. Be it new albums, import records, good, moderately priced albums and a nice, orderly fashion and always has some gems floating around. This album isn't necessarily a gem as it has hundreds of copies and re-issues flying around, but the fact is you rarely can get a $3 record in the kind of condition that my copy of After The Gold Rush anywhere else. The record is clean, in really great condition and has no scratches or flaws on the actual album sleeve itself. That kind of meticulous care is hard to come by unless you are in Center City, yet nothing in Philadelphia lives up to the caliber of Prex. It's worth the 45 - 50 minute drive from the Philly area.

If you have no knowledge of Neil Young, After The Gold Rush is the way to start things off. It's the perfect balance of what Young can do with Crazy Horse but with a slightly more cohesive sound from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. "Tell Me Why" is just Young and the acoustic guitar in one of my favorite tracks of his. It has one of the most romantic lines in a song: "I am lonely but you can free me/All in the way that you smile." Next comes the titular track. Yet another track of just Young but this time behind the piano. Also one of my favorite tracks, "After the Gold Rush" is a perfect song. The French horn adds a wonderful touch to the beautiful, but sombre piano. "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is a decent enough song, but it's mostly your standard pop affair. It's Young's emo song, if you will. Young finally utilizes Crazy Horse to their full talents on "Southern Man." The classic track sounds so much better amidst these other songs then it does out of context. It has one of Young's classic guitar solos that turns mechanical at the end. The reason I love it on the album is because we are treated to the short ditty "Till The Morning Comes," which is Donovan by way of barn-yard choir. It seems like a throwaway at first, but it's a really great track that closes the first side.

Side two pales in comparison to side one. It starts off with the classic country ballad "Oh Lonesome Me." It's perfect for Young, but he could write a better ballad than this song. "Don't Let It Bring You Down" is the perfect example of the classic Young song structure. Every time I listen to it, I think of the Dana Carvey bit from his stand up special (you know the one.) For this, I can never listen to it seriously. I'm not sure if that's the songs fault or the brilliant comedic nature of the bit. Needless to say, the song can never be taken out of context for me. "Birds" is another quiet, piano driven song. It's a very pretty song, but leaves no impressive mark like "After The Gold Rush." Then comes "When You Dance I Can Really Love." It's an oft forgotten Neil Young single and it's deserving of praise. Jack Nitszche piano in the background adds a nice layer to the rough guitar work of Neil Young and Danny Whitten. It's a nice mid-tempo jam. "I Believe In You" is a little less impressive, sounding like leftovers from 60's era Buffalo Springfield. It's a little of the old mixed in with a lot of the newer sounds Young was playing with and it kind of sticks out. The album closer is easily one of the best Neil Young songs and it's all of a minute and thirty-four seconds. It gets stuck in my head for days. And I love it.

Funny enough amidst doing this vinyl undertaking, I read the liner notes and discovered that After The Gold Rush was inspired by a screen play written by Dean Stockwell and Herb Berman for a movie with the same title. Upon further research, it seems that the movie never came to be, but the album was a major success. Dean Stockwell also designed the cover for the next Neil Young album that will appear on this. So strange how that worked out. Also, I found inside the record a print of hand-written lyrics about the size of a small poster. I've had this record for a few years now and totally forgot about that. The little treats vinyl brings! Very cool.

Up Next: Perfect timing.... The Sword's first of a few


Slim Pickins said...

i agree. one of neils better albums. despite the fact that hes reinvented himself time and time again (especially in more recent years) around this time is where is where he finds his true, classic Neil Young niche. relatively simple guitar and piano but what really (and counter intuitively for me at least) is his incredibly simplistic but unique sounding drums. always bass on the one and snare on the three, but whatever it is, tone i guess, it surprisingly unique sound. ive come to realize that drums, second to vocals, make the sound of the band and Neil does a great job of forming his own sound during this ATGR/harvest moon era. its not easy to stand out in a genre thats been played time and time again, but Neil accomplishes that with relative ease.

also, the story behind the albums inspiration is very interesting. I guess to put out albums as frequently as Neil, one would have to outsource a bit for inspiration and i respect Neil for that. and true, Only love can break ur heart is a bit poppy, and i hated it for years, but lately ive come to appreciate it more and more. in some ways its the best representation of this era as far as sound. and despite the fact that it a bit lacking lyrically, Neil somehow or another always finds a way to paint a picture in my minds eye better than most painters. . .and he not only does it lyrics but with his perfectly folky yet not annoyingly country sound. props to Neil and props to this blog. i love what you do.

Paul Tsikitas said...

It really is a great album. I think I like it better than before I started this little endevour. It's still not my favorite of the 70's, but that's a list of albums that is too good to deny.