Posts Tagged ‘Neil Young’

Top Ten

March 13, 2015

Somewhere, I got the idea to list the ten albums that have meant the most to me. So, here they are, in approximate order of appearance (to me):

KeepTheFaithBon Jovi – Keep the Faith (1992). A little bit embarrasing, perhaps, and it have not stood the test of time too well, but I still enjoyed much of it when I gave it a spin last week. Bon Jovi was my first proper favorite artist. Keep the Faith was the first album that really meant something to me and with it I discovered that an album can have more to offer than what one discovers during the first twenty listens. Keep the Faith was the soundtrack of my life for years and made me curious to explore new music. It made me take a deep-dive (to the degree that a fourteen-year-old can take a deep-dive) into the solo career of Richie Sambora.

Motorpsycho-Timothy’s-MonsterMotorpsycho – Timothy’s Monster (1994). Five of the albums on this list could have been Motorpsycho albums, but I will settle for only one and then Timothy’s Monster is the one. It was the first Motorpsycho record I went really deep into and it swept me off my feet. It contains so much, is so varied, and moves from snappy singer-songwriter stuff to pure noise within the first four tracks.  That I discovered Neil Gaiman’s Sandman around the same time adds to the legend this album is to me. And I still love it, I don’t know why I don’t listen to it more.

rock-actionMogwai – Rock Action (2001). I didn’t really get post rock before Rock Action. Post rock has later given me so much great listening. Mogwai has continued to amaze me and is still a favorite in the post rock genre.

 

 

 

Tonight's the NightNeil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975). I’ve listened a lot to Neil Young and his presence on this list is obvious. For this list, I am divided between Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and Tonight’s the NightTonight’s is so profound, in rock history and in the life of Neil Young. Neil had won everything and lost everything. Then he made Tonight’s the Night. It moves me.
More on Tonight’s here.

KidARadiohead – Kid A (2000). While I never understood what was so great with OK ComputerKid A made me understand what a great band Radiohead is and that they are devoted to their music in a very profound way. And it made me realize that electronic music can be really great and provided a piece to the puzzle it was to understand that great music, or art for that matter, has nothing really to do with genre or form but with heart and soul and having something to tell.

AADAPMotorpsycho – Angles and Daemons at Play (1997). Ok, I had to put two Motorpsycho records on my list. Last week, I thought I would put Blissard, but then I realized that AADAP means much more to me. Motorpsycho made this record in relief after trying to adhere to certain ideas on Blissard (failing gloriously, I might add). AADAP has everything — it is full of life and creativity — and is a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated tracks (was first released in secrecy as three EP’s and only later appeared as an album). With the Neil Youngish idea to put different versions of the same track on the same album (Sideway Spiral), the noise wall Heartattack Mac back-to-back with the pop tune Pills, Powders + Passion Plays, a part played on saw(!), a piano ballad (Stalemate), the mythical Un Chien d’espace, and the wild closer Timothy’s Monster, which nods both to Sun Ra, as does the album title, and their own master piece and namesake album, it has everything. Oddly enough, my impression of it is that it is a relatively hard and heavy album, but when I listen to it I realize that mellow parts abound and may well make up the lion’s share of it. In addition, I got it’s texture mixed up with the texture of Erik Fosnes Hansen’s novel Beretninger om Beskyttelse, and this mix makes both more vivid.

EliteFireside – Elite (2000). The reviews on Firesideometer [which seems to be down, I hope it gets back up, great site] says everything I have to say about this record, and says it better. The title track is just epic,  as is the closer. But what makes the album legendary are not it’s tracks but everything inbetween (if that makes little sense, check it out, discover and understand). Fireside was hard core punk that turned psycho and I bet their fans had a hard time getting to grips with Elite. So did the band, I guess, they poured everything they had into it and ran dry. They never return to the same heights later.

TakkSigur Rós – Takk… (2005). My favorite Sigur Rós album and post rock at it’s best. A mind saver. Cannot be explained, needs to be experienced.

 

 

 

ShapeOfJazzOrnette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come (1959). I have listened a lot to jazz music in my life, but few jazz-albums makes it to this list. Shape, however, finally made me appreciate and understand free jazz, both as an idea and as a mean of expression. Miles’s In a Silent Way would have been the next jazz record if I could make ten last longer.

 


frances-the-muteThe Mars Volta – Frances the Mute (2005). 
Frances was, and is, my gateway into, and is perhaps also the crown jewel of, the world of the Mars Volta. The way leads further to At the Drive-In, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Life Coach, and the full force of progressive and experimental music at it’s best.

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On Tonight’s the Night

August 1, 2014

Tonight, I will go and see Neil Young & Crazy Horse in Bergen. It is the first, and probably last, time I see Neil Young together with Crazy Horse. A strange horse that has been limping its entire life but somehow still is around. But the cowboy riding it is no less strange.

Anyway, to celebrate the event (Neil Young is one of my absolute favorite artists), I thought I pull out one of my favorite passages from Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Young biography Shakey. The passage concerns the album Tonight’s the Night, ironically enough not a Crazy Horse record, but in my view, Neil Young is Neil Young, no matter who he plays with.

The music recorded at [Studio Instrument Rentals, LA] is some of the top-drawer, big-time, hot-shit greatest rock and roll ever made. You could write a book on the bit of piano that opens Tonight’s the Night. Just an offhand, uncertain tinkling of the ivories, but so ominous, so full of dread. It sets the tone for the onslaught to come—out-of-tune singing, bum notes, mike hits and some of the best, most beautiful noise ever.

These are dispatches from the other side—sublime, stream-of-consciousness poetryset to drunken Jimmy Reed rhythms; “Speakin’ Out” is half Kahlil Gibran, half Fats Domino. “Oh tell me where the answer lies / Is it in the notebook behind you eyes?” croons Young, propelled by his chunky honky tonk piano and Lofgren’s quicksilver blues guitar. “All right, Nils, play it!”—one of the only times Young will ever invite a musician to solo on record.

The unearthly “World on a String” sports lyrics that evoke all sorts of thoughts on success, purpose and mortality, and one couplet in particular could be tattooed on Young’s heart: “It’s just a game you see me play / Only real in the way that I feel from day to day.” The doomed, resigned opening rumble of guitar tells you no happy face came up with this riff.

In the sly, soulful “Roll Another Number”—written on the spot in the studio—a well-oiled Young fumbled with the key to his ignition, then tells us he’s “a million miles away from that helicopter day” of Woodstock and goes on to mourn those who didn’t go the distance (“Though my feet aren’t on the ground / I been standin’ on the sound / Of some openhearted people goin’ down”). At once funny and profound, the music is exquisite—loose, liquid and just short of falling apart.

Perhaps the most luminous playing is by Ben Keith, whose otherworldy steel lends just the right lonesome-prairie feel to songs like “Albuquerque.” “I couldn’t belive all that weird slide in Tonight’s the Night,” said Lofgren. “All those shades of melancholy that were in us…it’s almost Middle-Eastern, like ‘Ben Keith Goes to East Cairo.’ ”

“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn,” Charlie Parker once proclaimed. Young was in the thick of it. Surrounded by friends, his subconscious unhinged, he had tuned in to the cosmos. Halfway through “Mellow My Mind,” Young’s ravaged voice cracks with emotion. “I still get chills when it gets to that fuckin’ note,” said Molina. “It’s so real. I’ll tell ya, man, Neil was right there with us. He was wide open.” [Pp. 416-417, First Anchor Books ed. 2003].

Tonight's the Night

Neil Young himself:

See, Tonight’s the Night was the closest to art that I’ve come. But you really have to be detached. The whole thing was just me and it. You can’t struggle to get there. It’s just gotta happen—a set of circumstances that make those things take place, and if the circumstances ever come together for me again to do something like that, I’ll do it [p. 433].

McDonough describes the feeling:

You know how it is when you’ve been up too long, the apartment’s trashed, everything is silent, the sun’s about to come up and you’re feeling like some germ stuck to a big cold rock hurtling through space—and somehow you don’t mind? Here is a record that induces that state automatically [pp. 433-434].

Neil Young on Reviews

October 25, 2009

I’m still(!) reading Shakey; on page 669 I found a great quote from Neil Young:

Fuck reviews. Reviews don’t really matter. You can’t believe ’em when they fuckin’ praise you, and you can’t believe them when they criticize you. Because if I believe them now [after Harvest Moon, which got good reviews], that means I should’ve believed them the other times and we know that they’re wrong all the fuckin’ time.

Les Paul Dead

August 18, 2009

Les Paul, the ‘father of the electric guitar’ and the man behind one of rock and roll’s most popular guitar, the Gibson Les Paul, has died. From the Rolling Stone:

Les Paul, one of the most revered guitarists in history and the father of the electric guitar, passed away last night, August 12th at the age of 94. Paul’s manager confirmed to Rolling Stone that cause of death was respiratory failure, and a statement from Gibson indicates Paul was suffering from severe pneumonia and died at a hospital in White Plains, New York.

Almost every professional guitar player in rock and roll seem to own a Les Paul. Neil Young has a really special one, called Old Black:

Cradled in a stand in front of the amps is the fuse for the dynamite, Young’s trademark ax – Old Black, a ’53 Gold Top Les Paul some knothead daubed with black paint eons ago. Old Black’s features include a Bigsby wang bar, which pulls strings and bends notes, and a Firebird pickup so sensitive you can talk through it. It’s a demonic instrument. “Old Black doesn’t sound like any other guitar,” said [Larry] Cragg [Young’s guitar technician], shaking his head.

For Cragg, Old Black is a nightmare. Young won’t permit the ancient frets to be changed, likes his strings old and used, and the Bigsby causes the guitar to go out of tune constantly. “At sound check, everything will work great. Neil picks up the guitar, and for some reason that’s when things go wrong” [p. 8 in Shakey, Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Young biography].

More about Old Black in McDonough’s Shakey:

Young came to [sit in on a gig with the Rockets, the earlier band of the members of Neil’s legendary back up band Crazy Horse] armed with the weapons that have become crucial elements of his rock and roll sound: Old Black, a 1953 Gibson Les Paul, plugged into a 1959 Fender Deluxe. The guitar came from Jim Messina, who found the instrument’s monstrous sound uncontrollable. “Neil’s the kind of guy that if there’s an old scraggly dog walkin’ down the street, he’d see somethin’ in that dog and take it home. That’s kind of like the Les Paul – I liked the way it looked, but it was just terrible. It sounded like hell. Neil loved it,” said Messina.

Young bought the Deluxe for approximately fifty bucks in 1967. As Young told writer Jas Obrecht, he “took it home, plugged in this Gretsch guitar and immediately the entire room started to vibrate….I went, ‘Holy shit!’ I turned it halfway down before it stopped feeding back.” The Les Paul/Deluxe combo, which remains the cornerstone of his sound, would make its thunderous debut in Young’s music on his very first record with Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere [p. 298].

Old Black

David Briggs on How to Make Records

August 11, 2009

In the Neil Young biography Shakey, written by Jimmy McDonough, there’s a long quote from David Briggs on how to make records, and a little bit about what he thought of Neil Young:

I can teach you everything I know in an hour. Everything. That’s how simple it is to make records. Nowadays, buddy, the technician is in control of the medium. They try to make out like it’s black magic, or flyin’ a spaceship. I can teach anybody on this planet how to fly the spaceship. If you look at the modern console, there’ll be thirty knobs – high frequency, low frequency, midfrequency, all notched in little tiny, tiny, teeny tiny degrees – and it’s all bullshit. All this stuff doesn’t matter, and you can’t be intimidated. You just ignore it – all of it.

I walk into studios with the biggest console known to mankind, and I ask for the schematic and say, “Can you patch from here to here and eliminate the ENTIRE board?” I just run it right into the tape machines. All the modern consoles, they’re all made by hacks, they’re not worth a shit, they sound terrible. None of it touches the old tube stuff – like the green board from Heider’s. It has two tone controls – high end, low end and a pan knob – and that’s it. I had great good fortune when I was a kid and started makin’ records. I made ‘em at Wally Heider’s, Gold Star, so all the people that taught me were Frank Dimidio, Dave Gold, Stan Ross, Dean Jensen – these guys were the geniuses of the music business, still are.

They taught me more about sound and how sound is made and the principles of doing it, and it’s unshakably correct what they said to me: You  get a great sound at the source. Put the correct mike in front of the source, get it to the tape the shortest possible route – that’s how you get a great sound. That’s how you do it. All other ways are work. The biggest moment of my life – the one I haven’t been able to get past every, really – is 1961, when I first got to L.A. I got invited to Radio Recorders to see Ray Charles, and I walk into the studio, and Ray’s playin’ all the piano parts with his left hand, reading a braille score with his right hand, singing the vocal live while a full orchestra played behind him. So I sat there and I watched. And I went, “This is how records are made. Put everybody in the fuckin’ room and off we go.” In those days everybody knew they had to go in, get their dick hard at the same time and deliver. And three hours later they walked out the fuckin’ door with a record in their pocket, man.

Of course, in those days they didn’t have eight- , sixteen- , twenty-four- , forty-eight- , sixty-four-track, ad nauseum, to fuck people up, and that is what fucked up the recording business and the musicians of today, by the way – fucked ‘em all up to where they’ll never be the same, in my opinion. People realized they could do their part…later. Play their part and fix it later. And with rock and roll, the more you think, the more you stink.

It’s very easy for people to forget what rock and roll really is. Look man, I’m forty-seven years old, and I grew up in Wyoming, and I stole cars and drove five hundred miles to watch Little Richard, and I wanna tell you somethin’ – when I saw this nigger come out in a gold suit, fuckin’ hair flyin’, and leap up onstage and come down on his piano bangin’ and goin’ fuckin’ nuts in Salt Lake City, I went, “Hey man, I wanna be like him. This is what I want.” Even today he’s a scary dude. He’s the real thing. Rock and roll is not sedate, not safe, has truly nothin’ to do with money or anything. It’s like wind, rain fire – it’s elemental. Fourteen-year-old kids, they don’t think, they feel. Rock and roll is fire, man, FIRE. It’s the attitude. It’s thumbing you nose at the world.

It’s a load. It’s such a load that it burns people out after a few years. Even the best of ‘em burn out. People get old – they forget what it’s like to be a kid, they’re responsible, they’re this and they’re that…. You can’t have it both ways. You’re a rock and roller. Or you’re not.

I wanna tell you something’: Neil’s never been insecure about anything in his fuckin’ life. First among equals is Neil Young, and it’s always been that way. When Neil’s got his ax in hand, it’s like the Hulk. His aura becomes solid – he becomes eight feet tall, six feet wide. The only guy other than John Lennon who can actually go from folk to country to full orchestra. The only guy. I think when it’s all written down, he will unquestionably stand in the top five that ever made rock and roll [pp. 263 – 264].

Cortez

June 10, 2009

Built to Spill’s version of the epic Neil Young masterpiece ‘Cortez the Killer’ is fantastic! It comes in two parts (only audio):

Gigonomics

January 8, 2009

An article somewhat related to my previous post was published on More Intelligent Life (http://www.moreintellignetlife.com/); Gigonomics: Now Rock Bands Must Sing for Their Supper. The article discusses how the music industry is changing due to failing record sales. From a situation where record sales was the main source of income for the artists and record companies, it is now the live music concept that is emerging as the big money-maker.

In those days, for up-and-coming bands, touring was a loss leader. However much the gigs fizzed with anarchic energy, in economic terms they were little more than a long marketing slog to sell records. Now the tables have turned. […] The big money is [now] in live music, and the records help sell the tour, not the other way around.

First of all, I think touring still is mostly a marketing strategy for up-and-coming bands. As the article points out, however, todays up-and-coming bands must be just as much marketing geniuses as well as musicians to break through. For a live-music lover like me, the focus on the live experience sounds like good news. It does, however, mean that records will in the future have a different position and function than before, both for the artists and the fans. Even though I enjoy live music very much, most of the music I’m listening to is conventional albums released on CD, and I like it that way. As many people, I have a natural sceptisism towards change. A change towards less focus on releasing records and more focus on the live experience sounds a bit scary to me.

Live music is to me mostly about the music. My impression is that when the music industry wants to focus on the live experience, it is about everything else than the music; fireworks, video screens with live footage, t-shirts, VIP lounges, etc. I’ve been to a few big concerts lately (R.E.M and Neil Young, both in Bergen, are the most recent), and even though the fireworks and video shows were impressive, I would not list them among my top five live music experiences (sorry Neil). When it comes to my top live music experiences, it’s always all about the music!

New links

January 6, 2009

I’ve added quite a few new links recently;

  • AllMusic – Maybe the best online music resource; they offer articles, reviews, bios, discographies and suggestions. Not always updated though.
  • CEE – Center for Environmental Economics at UCSD. A research center I belong to that provides a community for researchers from different diciplines in San Diego. The center is headed by one of  my supervisors, Professor Theodore Groves.
  • HyperRust – The ultimate online resource when it comes to Neil Young; lyrics, guitar tabs, fan reports, etc.
  • It’s A Trap – A Scandinavian Music Journal. Mostly into alternative/popular/jazz music, and maybe biased towards the Swedish music scene, but great anyway.
  • Moskovitter – Friends in Moscow.
  • Neil’s Garage – Neil Young’s offical homepage. Often stream albums before release.
  • SNF – Another research institute I belong to (they finance my studies).
  • MathWorld – MathWorld is a comprehensive, online resource on mathematics. The articles are often quite technical and densly wirtten, but check out the ‘recreational mathematics’ pages and discover how fun math can be!

Please suggest interesting links in the comment section.

Holidays

December 30, 2008

The holidays try to strangle me with food, family, towering Christmas trees (my father probably has the tallest Christmas tree in the neighboorhood; certainly taller than 3 meters/10 feet), more food, presents, sweets, beer, and even more food. It’s been nice though. For Christmas I got an iPod(!), a Sun Ra record (Space is the Place), a comic book, beer glasses, and Neil Young’s Re-ac-tor on LP among other things. I was up early today (alright, that was four days ago; something happened and there you go) and listened to the Neil Young LP on my father’s old turntable, and, well, it is not his best effort. But it is unmistakable Neil Young/Crazy Horse stuff with their unsteady beat and guitar work-outs. The most enjoyable songs are ‘Surf-er Joe and Moe the Sleaze’ and ‘Shots’. ‘Re-ac-tor’ also contains some of the least inspired lyrics Neil Young have ever written; here is a representative selection from the song T-bone.

Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Ain’t got no T-Bone
Ain’t got no T-Bone

Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Ain’t got no T-Bone

Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Got mashed potatoes
Ain’t got no T-Bone
Ain’t got no T-Bone

It goes on like that forever. It is said that Neil Young spent most of his time in the ‘Re-ac-tor’ period to care for his disabled son and that much of his output from the early eighties and onward was, well, less than fantastic. It sounds reasonable, I guess, but Neil Young has always made the records he felt like making, and I have no doubt that while his record company at the time tried to push him in one direction he deliberatly moved in any other direction. That’s Neil Young for you, moving in any other direction.

Last.fm: Fancy stuff

November 11, 2008

Since I am the most interesting person on this planet, you can now see what music I’m listening to right here on the blog! I’ve used the last.fm software to log what music I play on my computer for more than a year now. Last.fm provides an RSS feed of my most recent playlist. I have to admit that I often think that what I’m listening to is now public, so I get picky in a weird way (obscurities are always ok; go figure). Right now, for example, I’m listening to one of my favorite artists; Neil Young.

Neil Young