“Because we’ve all been there – that small town in Ontario of the heart and soul, all solitude and yearning. And learning. Which hurts at the time, but in the fullness of time, we come to realize it’s about as good as life gets. And nobody’s ever put it better than Mr. Neil Young in the song known as Helpless, and he never sang it better than he did one evening toward the end of 1976, the concert known as The Last Waltz, the band known as The Band bidding a proud and fond (though not exactly permanent) farewell. Even Joni Mitchell showed up in the background making for perhaps the most righteously Canadian thing that ever happened in a San Francisco ballroom (of course, it was called Winterland). It was even snowing (backstage anyway). Way better than hockey.” (Philip Random)
“Given my age at the time (barely fifteen), Neil Young’s On The Beach is definitely one of my earliest (and oddest) album length crushes. And being cool had nothing to do with it. It was just one of those difficult teen summers, stuck visiting relatives, no friends within three thousand miles, too old for little kids stuff, too young to care about adult bullshit. And yet for some reason, there was this Neil Young album kicking around my uncle’s place. I think he won it in a raffle, probably listened to the whole thing once, if at all. And to be honest, that’s probably all I would’ve given it if there’d been any other options. But there weren’t, so I dove in, with side two, the mellow side, the rich and deeply somber, dark and melancholic side, being the one that truly grabbed me over time. Though grab’s the wrong word. More of an embrace, albeit a cool one. Particularly Ambulance Blues, which really felt like the album cover: a California beach on a grey and disappointing day, patio furniture spread around, and the tail fin of a buried car, with Mr. Young way out at the water’s edge looking like he might be about to jump in, never come back. You’re all just pissing in the wind.” (Philip Random)
“The album was released in 1972 under Neil Young’s moniker (soundtrack to a movie almost nobody saw, and probably for good reason), but this Crosby Stills Nash + Young live recording of Ohio dates to June 1970, barely a month after the events in question – the murder by National Guard marksmen of four students on the campus of Kent State University, Ohio. So what you’re hearing is a band that’s very much in the line of fire, the smoke hasn’t even cleared, they’re playing for their lives, ferociously. Because Richard Nixon has given the executive order. F*** the long hairs and their protests, send in the tin soldiers and shoot ’em all down.” (Philip Random)
There’s a lot of autobiography in Neil Young’s discography, with Don’t Be Denied (found on 1973’s Time Fades Away, the deliberately raw follow up to the worldwide mega hit Harvest) particularly loaded in that regard. It concerns a weird kid from somewhere north of Toronto whose parents split up and he moves with his mom to a town called Winnipeg at the wrong age, pays the price in schoolyard beatings, etc. But to paraphrase an old German, that which does not destroy you only increases your will to pick up an electric guitar and not ever be denied again.
Wherein young Neil Young, still just a member of Buffalo Springfield, hears the Beatles Sergeant Pepper’s and responds with an epic piece of something or other. It starts with a live snatch of one of the other songs from the album, slips sideways into various surreal reflections on this-that-other things, finishes up with some honky-tonk piano that just sort of fades away into a heartbeat. It’s all definitely about something, which in 1967 was all you really needed.
“Second of two in a row from Neil Young’s endlessly rich early mid-70s phase, though the album in question, Zuma, is not considered part of the Ditch series. Hard to say why really as, to my ears, it seems rather in line with the previous three albums’ grief and brooding and overall shambolic beauty. In the case of Barstool Blues that means an anthem for all the times you’ve just got to sit at the bar all night and drink, reconciling all the stupid shit you’ve perpetrated, and how its fallout got you there, sitting, drinking, reconciling, moaning those barstool blues … maybe somewhere in the vicinity of Zuma Beach, a thick haze of L.A. smog reminding you that every breath you take is a tiny piece of your inevitable death, but in a good way.” (Philip Random)
Tonight’s the Night is oft thought of as Neil Young‘s death album, and the deepest, darkest depths of the so-called Ditch Trilogy. Stark cover, mostly black. Stark songs pulling no punches about various dead friends, and in the case of Tired Eyes, a friend who left death in his wake, got caught up in an ugly drug deal, ended up in prison for a long time. The damage done.
The Final Countdown* is Randophonic’s longest and, if we’re doing it right, most relevant countdown yet – the end of result of a rather convoluted process that’s still evolving such is the existential nature of the project question: the 1297 Greatest Records of All Time right now right here. Whatever that means. What it means is dozens of radio programs if all goes to plan, and when has that ever happened?
Installment #23 went like this.
857. Marius de Vries – The Avengers Theme
856. Holger Czukay – cool in the pool
855. Ropes – Club in Europe Forever
854. Blue Nile – stay
853. Barry Adamson – something wicked this way comes
852. Spoon – I turn my camera on
851. UB40 – present arms in dub
850. Johnny Mathis – wild is the wind
849. The Rain and the Sidewalk – master of the universe
848. Can – I’m so green
847. Chicago – make me smile [longer edit]
846. Jimi Hendrix – love or confusion
845. Three Dog Night – never been to Spain
844. Joni Mitchell – cold blue steel + sweet fire
843. Nitin Sawhney – Voices
842. Strawbs – a mind of my own
841. Funkadelic – Brettino’s Bounce
840. Funkadelic – Music For My Mother
839. Sun Ra – exotic forest
838. Neil Young – lotta love
Tracks available on this Youtube playlist (not exactly accurate).
Randophonic airs pretty much every Saturday night, starting 11 pm (Pacific time) c/o CiTR.FM.101.9, with streaming and/or download options usually available within twenty-four hours via our Facebook page.
“Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps was the final album of his best decade (1970s), the one where he acknowledged punk rock while reminding us that he and Crazy Horse had been making a proper garage racket long before the likes of the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones hit the scene. Not that Rust Never Sleeps is a punk rock album, just raw and loud, and that’s all reserved for Side Two which kicks off with the one of a kind epic Powderfinger. Epic, sorrowful, poetic — I always assumed it was about the American Civil War, a young kid left behind to defend the farm (or whatever), facing down an approaching enemy with no hope at all yet determined to pull the trigger anyway. But that’s just my read. Different from Neil’s, I’m sure. And everybody else’s for that matter.” (Philip Random)