joshthevegan: (cully vale)


Following the success of his album Harvest, Neil Young's career took a decidedly unexpected turn for the obscure. A live album of unreleased songs that went unnoticed, followed by a recorded album that his label refused to release at the time because it was too raw and unrefined (Tonight's The Night), Young offered On The Beach as his first studio recording since his breakout record. If one were simply presented with the title, the immediate thought would likely be that this is a sunshiny, shallow record of pop songs. The cover art, thankfully, reveals that this record isn't a sunny day on the shore, but rather a gray, lonely day standing in a thin, misty rain, staring at something much bigger than you will ever be. This is an absolute case where the artwork is clearly needed to express the intent of the musician when naming the album.


There is no denying that Neil Young is one of the most important recording artists in the last 50 years. He has to date released 34 studio albums, several in-concert albums and videos, helped form Farm Aid, was credited with influencing the grunge and punk rock movements to varying extents, and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

His musical style usually falls into one of two categories: Acoustic ballads/country rock or distortion-heavy hard rock. (He has, on several occasions, delved into other genres with varying degrees of success, but the two aforementioned styles are certainly the most prominent in his catalog, and certainly the best.)

His skills as a guitarist are incredibly expressive, totally unique, and absolutely impressive in both his softer, more tender songs and his more aggressive material. When playing acoustic numbers, he uses an unusual down-plucking style which augments the bluesy, dynamic sound he tends towards, and when performing his harder material a more meandering, psychedelic and somewhat shaky soloing style prevails.

Young is one of the few performers of his generation that never went through an extended period of lower quality music. He has certainly made a few missteps along his way, but when releasing music as prolifically as he does, mistakes are bound to happen, and fortunately they are few and far between in Neil Young's case.

Young's song "Cortez the Killer", from his album Zuma, is a personal favorite of mine. This version with Crazy Horse on the Live Rust tour is one of the most mesmerizing performances in rock history.

September 2014

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