Monday, October 27, 2008

Neil Young 14: Rust Never Sleeps

By the time Comes A Time came out, Neil was already touring with Crazy Horse and recording the songs that would fill up his next two albums. In this age of single-play CDs, it’s easy to forget the importance of album sides, and Rust Never Sleeps is the quintessential yin and yang, acoustic and electric. (Also, like Time Fades Away, much of it was recorded live in front of audiences unfamiliar with the songs.)
“My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)” starts out spookily enough, and fades just as it’s getting interesting. (But it will return.) “Thrasher” has a pretty melody and lilting vocal that don’t explain the involved lyrics, which may or may not be about CSNY. “Ride My Llama” also makes no sense but is still enjoyable. You can just hear the audience clapping along in the middle. “Pocahontas” is another one of his best. A continuation of his exploration of the Native American, this was the original lead track from the unreleased Chrome Dreams album, while it’s been given some overdubs here (such as the “yi-yi-yi” backing vocals). It doesn’t really fit with the Cortez/Inca idea, but it’s still a nice look at a lost time. “Sail Away” started out in a bar setting with shuffled lyrics—probably left over from two albums earlier—but it works best here.
After you’ve enjoyed the acoustic side, here comes the fuzz. “Powderfinger” is an absolute classic. Also on Chrome Dreams in a stark, acoustic, paranoid version, Crazy Horse does the best job of all on this take. Fans are still trying to figure this song out. “Welfare Mothers” and “Sedan Delivery” are true thrashers (as opposed to the “Thrasher” on side one). “Welfare Mothers” would work best live, but “Sedan Delivery” has weird sound effects and stop-start sections that makes it the better of the two. (It had also been recorded with a radically different arrangement for Chrome Dreams; more on that later.) It all gets slammed home with the hard version of the opening track, called “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black)” to differentiate it.
When Rust Never Sleeps was still a new album, a certain New York FM station used to play the opening and closing songs back to back, but that’s not to say the rest of the tracks are filler. With this album, Neil capped a rollercoaster of a decade. He wouldn’t reach this height again for some time.
That fall, the Rust Never Sleeps concert film hit theaters, with the requisite soundtrack album. Though Neil intended to give it the same title, cooler heads convinced him to call it Live Rust. While the performances are enjoyable, this album is for those who think live greatest hits albums are the be-all and end-all. For song selection, Decade is preferred source for the superior studio versions. (Live Rust does, however, offer a nice version of “Comes A Time” that you can enjoy without the sawing fiddle.)

Neil Young & Crazy Horse Rust Never Sleeps (1979)—
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Live Rust (1979)—

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