Friday, June 13, 2008

Neil Young 3: After The Gold Rush

Even while keeping busy with CSNY, Neil spent much of 1970 working on his own album. Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten had already developed a heroin addiction, putting that band into disarray and jeopardizing their immediate contribution to Neil’s work.

The resulting album, After The Gold Rush, is a schizophrenic collection with a lot of styles all over the place that all sound like him. “Tell Me Why” is a fine starter, asking the immortal question if it’s hard to make arrangements with oneself. The title track is one of two hit songs that feature a French horn solo (the other being the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”). The line about “getting high” still draws cheers today, though he’s been careful to update the time frame in which Mother Nature is said to be on the run. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” is still a favorite, even if it seems to be missing a verse. “Southern Man” comes stumbling in like a drunk at a banquet. Reminiscent of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, it blasts on through, and then we get the simple four-chord, four-line “Till The Morning Comes” twice through. (David Bowie borrowed its inspiration for “Kooks”, right down to the trumpet.)

Side two starts with “Oh Lonesome Me”, a country chestnut taken at half the speed of the original that sounds like Neil wrote it himself. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” is inscrutable—what with old and/or dead men lying by the sides of roads and castles turning—but excellent. “Birds” is another heartbreaker, all piano and shaky harmonies and much too short. “When You Dance I Can Really Love” sandblasts away the tears with the euphoria of watching a lovely girl dance. Senses tingle, mountains crumble and that incessant piano pounds all over the fade. The ambivalent “I Believe In You” is one of the few tracks that features Crazy Horse, but the finale is “Cripple Creek Ferry”, a harmless singalong going down the river as we wave goodbye. (Notice how his previous solo album had epic side-closers, while these sides end with afterthoughts in comparison.)

Between this and CSNY he was seemingly on his way to superstardom. If you hate Neil’s voice, you’ll hate this album. But if you can take it, you’ll learn to love every single track.

Once it had become the style, After The Gold Rush was begrudgingly granted an upgrade for its golden anniversary. This merely entailed the addition of two outtakes of “Wonderin’”—one of which had already been released on the first Archives box set. The vinyl edition had them on a separate 45, while the CD tacked them at the end following a 30-second gap of silence indexed as a standalone track titled “[Break]”.

Neil Young After The Gold Rush (1970)—
2020 50th Anniversary Edition: same as 1970, plus 2 extra tracks

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