Monday, June 2, 2008

Neil Young 2: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Coming a mere six months after his debut, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is an exponentially better Neil Young album. For one, most of the singing and playing was done live, or at least sounds that way. This direct approach gave him confidence in his voice, which emboldened the songs in turn. Plus, he’d hooked up with the three guys he’d christened Crazy Horse, who gave him a good, solid—if occasionally sloppy—base on which to build his craft. While only seven songs long, he makes them count.

“Cinnamon Girl” was written about a hot girl walking on a hot city sidewalk, and sounds like it. This tune absolutely sizzles, and the one-note solo is as perfect as the fuzzy ending. The title track has a snappy, not-too-fast country beat and a wonderful harmony by guitarist Danny Whitten, who would be an excellent foil onstage and in the studio. Too bad it’s over so quickly. “Round And Round (It Won’t Be Long)” is tied for the worst song on the album; while it’s still pleasant, it drags for a sleepy stop on the way to “Down By The River”. This is one of two ten-minute side-closers here, and a lot better than it deserves to be. There are only a few chords and another one-note solo, but even on the last fade you want it to keep going.

“The Losing End (When You’re On)” is an authentic original country song with more great harmonies on the chorus. It makes a nice companion to the title track, but stands out for the “all right, Wilson, pick it!” exhortation before the solo. “Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)” goes on too long to be interesting, but much like “Round And Round”, here it’s merely a plodding setup before another masterpiece. “Cowgirl In The Sand” begins with some quiet electric picking, then crashes in full throttle. With (again) only a couple of chords and several epileptic solos, it is mesmerizing, and an incredible finale.

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is the first essential Neil album, as it lays the groundwork for the rest of his career. It’s also pointedly credited to him with Crazy Horse, showing he understood how to pay his debts. It is a collaboration that would be explored further.

Neil Young With Crazy Horse Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)—4

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