Neil Young: You Love Him/You Hate Him
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11:21 AM
I mentioned in my first blog that one of my all time favorite
bands/artists is Led Zeppelin. OK, my top four of all time (could
never rank beyond 4) also consist of Steely Dan, The Clash and
yes...Neil Young. Since Neil has something new out (and is only one of
two on that list who has the potential to have anything new out), and
since Deuce has talked about U2's latest in our music blog...I thought
I'd bring a little attention to Neil. Actually, his new "Fork In The Road"
CD is nothing really new or groundbreaking, it's partially a
platform to draw attention to his latest environmental/political
crusade: the preservation of the American car industry. You see, Neil
got ahold of a 1959 Lincoln "Heavy Metal Continental," a 5,000 pound
"whale" at least as big as any Chrysler the B-52's ever sang about, and
is converting it to a hybrid with an ultimate goal of 100 miles per
gallon (I think they have it just over 80 MPG at this point). Once the
goal is reached, Neil will drive it from Witchita, Kansas (where it's
being modified) to Washington, DC to show everyone that American
know-how is still very much alive...and if it can make this "whale"
that efficient, Detroit can do it too...and, as he feels, without a lot
of physical retooling to get it done.
Good 'ol Neil, that is one of the reasons I have always admired him...you never know what part
of left field he is going to walk out of...just that he eventually
will. From rock to country to an album based on an ad slogan for a
spray paint, to techno, back to country, over to grunge, etc. etc ...a
true nightmare for any record company's marketing department. Yet his
music has influenced artists as diverse as James Taylor (who played
banjo on the original studio recording of "Old Man"), Devo, Lynyrd
Skynyrd, Kurt Cobain, Eddie Vedder, Sonic Youth and Radiohead, just to
name a few. The kid from Canada, who suffered through Polio, Diabetes,
Epilepsy (he sometimes refers to himself as Bernard Shakey), and a
recent brain aneurysm which almost did him in for good, has done pretty
well for himself.
I first saw him live on a solo tour he did in
the mid-80's, then with Crosby, Stills and Nash in 2003 and 2007, but
regret never getting to see him with Crazy Horse.
A good friend of mine dated a girl many years ago who once toured with
her brother as an acoustic act which did a lot of Neil's songs. One
night in the late 70's, while playing in a small bar in upstate New
York, they noticed Neil sitting at the bar. He introduced himself,
then when their gig was done that evening, flew them to his farm in
Canada. She told me she couldn't believe it...there were chickens
running through his farmhouse, which also doubled as the left speaker
of a GIANT stereo system with his barn as the right speaker. I think
this is another reason he's been one of my hero's..he's always into the experience
of music, and for Neil that experience is, many times, loud and clear.
His latest endeavor is offering up collections of his music on Blu-ray
disc because of that formats ability to reproduce audio in a lossless
format...loud and clear.
Anyway, back to his latest CD...it's a
fun, country/rock group of songs that poke at today's economic issues,
which has been the topic of several of Neil's past works, but this time
with an enthusiastic outlook that "we'll get through this." Maybe it's
his older age or maybe it's his latest brush with death, but his
tone seems less angry and more optimistic this time
around. Nonetheless, if you're already a fan you'll like it and, if
not, it probably will not win you over. I think the best chance of
winning new fans over is his recent movie release on DVD, Jonathan
Demme's "Heart of Gold"
which is a concert he performed at the famed Ryman Auditorium in
Nashville shortly after his recovery from the aneurysm and after the
death of his father. It really shows the emotional side of Neil,
with some truly heart-rendering music, and the recording quality is
Either way, with Neil Young, I have found, you either love him or....you usually tolerate the ones like me who do!