Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Neil Young 12: Decade

Proof that he was a bear for detail, Decade is an ambitious, sprawling retrospective that got pushed around a year while Neil sorted out the Stars/Chrome mess. Originally a three-record set, it anticipates the box set genre by including rare and unreleased tracks, the big hits, album cuts, and artist-penned notes for each track. Every album is represented (with the notable exclusion of Time Fades Away) along with tracks by Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and even the Stills-Young band for balance. The sequencing is more or less chronological, and flows nicely through all six sides. For brevity’s sake we’ll discuss just the rare tracks here.
The set begins with “Down To The Wire”, a Springfield outtake that loomed large in their legend. “Sugar Mountain” was a B-side to about 12 of his singles before finally being albumized here. It’s still great, and a good teaser for the hours of live acoustic performances he’s sitting on in his vaults. While previously available on the CSNY So Far compilation, “Ohio” is included here in its original and best single version. “Winterlong” had been around since 1969, was recorded in the On The Beach era, and inexplicably left aside until now. It’s still one of his most enduring tracks. “Deep Forbidden Lake” comes from the same cloth as “Star Of Bethlehem”; from the Homegrown era, it’s very pleasant soft country, but not so “Love Is A Rose”, an unnecessary rewrite of “Dance, Dance, Dance”, which he used to do in his acoustic shows and recorded by Crazy Horse for their album. It’s easily surpassed by “Campaigner”, a sympathetic look at the deposed Nixon by a man who had a lot to do with taking him out not much earlier.
Decade is an excellent place for anyone to start, giving a generous sampling from each of his albums while leaving some gems to be uncovered by those willing to dig for them. He would not be as prolific over the next ten years, which is one reason why a proposed Decade II turned into the Archives project, which took another three decades and then some.

Neil Young Decade (1977)—4

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