Returning to Neil Young

I was on vacation last week, so I did my normal return to the working week rountine of catching up on music I’d missed. Because if a blogger doesn’t hear the album that many other people have listened to in a forest, does it make a sound? Yes.

In my absence, one of the other Noise Narc contributors (Chris, I’m thinking), added Neil Young’s Le Noise to our (Not So) Short List of Best Albums of 2010. I was more than a little incredulous. Don’t get me wrong, I love Mr. Young. His December ’08 concert at Philly’s Wachovia was a revelation, putting openers Wilco firmly in their place. And several of his recent albums have been pretty good. But not best of the year good. By a long shot. And teaming up with famed producer Daniel Lanois sounds like a stunt Paul McCartney would pull (and has).

But Chris’ nomination was sound. This is a killer album. Young’s guitar work and age-ripened voice pairs excellently with Lanois’ Waves of Noise. And unlike, say, some of Lou Reed’s left field albums, it doesn’t sound so much like a Neil Young experiment as a way for him to refract the essence of his music off another style, much like Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. Though this “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” is not the most representative track, its kinship with “Cortez the Killer” makes a tempting set piece.

Neil Young, “Peaceful Valley Boulevard” [Buy]

In the glow of having an old master surprise you, I poked around Mr. Young’s Wikipedia page, I found this gem: “In the 2006 film Heart of Gold Young relates how he used to spend time as a teenager at Falcon Lake, Manitoba where he would endlessly plug coins into the jukebox to hear Ian Tyson’s ‘Four Strong Winds.'” One of my favorite (probably apocryphal) musical anecdotes involves Django Reinhardt obsessively playing a Louis Armstrong record after his first exposure to jazz, so I loved this song before I heard it (or realized I’d heard it before on Young’s Comes a Time). My body may be back to the 9 to 5, but my mind is imagining a teenage Neil Young, a pile of Canadian dimes in front of him, the gears of his irreverent musical genius clicking into place.

Ian and Sylvia, “Four Strong Winds” [Buy]
Neil Young, “Four Strong Winds” [Buy]

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9 Responses to Returning to Neil Young

  1. Material Lives says:

    I’m such an idiot. I didn’t research this album and ignored it last week, so I didn’t see that Daniel Lanois, one of my heroes, produced it. I love this track. Going to go listen to the whole thing.

  2. materiallives says:

    No, I didn’t know that. The Neil Young song you posted is def the strongest on the album. Not sure how I feel about it as a whole yet.

  3. Yep, that was me. I doubt it’ll make it to my top ten, but I felt it was worth the nomination. Feel free to change the “choice cut” if you want. I liked that whole string of songs from “Angry World” to “Peaceful Valley Boulevard.”

  4. Santiago says:

    Well, Paul McCartney has not collaborated with Lanois, although he has collaborated with producer Youth, if that’s what you mean

  5. Pingback: RCJ&Y and an Earnest Plea (and a Devious Cash Grab) | Noise Narcs

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