Monday, October 6, 2008

Neil Young 13: Comes A Time

Having glanced into the past—albeit with a three-record set—Neil was soon ready with another album. But keeping with his standard M.O., it wasn’t a simple trip from the studio to the pressing plant to the record store. First, an album was announced with the title Give To The Wind. Then, it was changed to Comes A Time, then delayed yet again after Neil decided to swap the order of the last two songs on side one, necessitating the destruction of an entire press run. At least he kept the title the same.
“Goin’ Back” starts sweetly, and goes through a mysterious middle section. Strings appear, and female harmonies. Very nice. The title track is nearly ruined by the seesawing fiddle, an accompaniment that would return several times over the next eight years or so. “Look Out For My Love” was the original closer to Chrome Dreams, and is a rare acoustic departure from the Crazy Horse we know and love for the mud they usually throw. The same sound is used well on “Lotta Love”, which was a big AM radio hit for then-girlfriend Nicolette Larson; Neil’s version fits him like a glove. “Peace Of Mind” is tearjerkingly beautiful, filled with strong lyrics (even the line “she still gets you hot” can’t sink this). His decision to swap these songs was a sound one.
The second side turns up the country, making it akin to side one of American Stars ‘N Bars. We’d heard so much about “Human Highway” for years, as it was supposed to be the centerpiece of at least two aborted CSNY projects. Hearing it here for the first time is something of a letdown, but it has gained appreciation over the years, especially those harmonies. “Already One” is an autobiographical jewel, if a little odd to have Nicolette refer with him to “our little son”. “Field Of Opportunity” has themes that would be revisited in time, but here it’s silly country with a strained pun. “Motorcycle Mama” is another mistake where no one involved comes off well. “Four Strong Winds” is a Canadian folk anthem that he’s made his own. He’s said that he used to practice this one in front of a mirror when he was a boy dreaming of fame and fortune. It ends the album with a nice “off into the sunset until the sequel” sensation. Just like in the cowboy movies.
Comes A Time is a very appealing country album with his most overt Nashville sound yet. Most of the songs have strings used quite nicely with only a hint of syrup. Even the weaker performances here are redeemed by the best songs. But even with something this strong, he wasn’t about to sit still.

Neil Young Comes A Time (1978)—4

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