Monday, January 26, 2009

Neil Young 18: Everybody’s Rockin’ and Old Ways

The experiments of Trans didn’t go anywhere, and soon Neil was insisting that country music was all he was ever going to care about henceforth—even more so when his record company objected. Desperate for product, the record company insisted the Neil pout out some rock ‘n roll, so he did—to the letter—tossing together ten short songs that fit right in with the retro style the Stray Cats were then riding.
Everybody’s Rockin’ was tossed into stores in the midst of that phenomenon and sank, justifiably. The tunes mix covers with his own originals, and no one knew what to thin. “Rainin’ In My Heart” has a great blast of harmonica, “Payola Blues” shows that corruption was alive and well in the ‘80s and “Wonderin’” was revived for the first time since 1970. It’s the best song here, along with “Cry, Cry, Cry”. But as a genre exercise, Zappa did it better. The album should have been an EP, especially since it was part of a larger project.

After what seemed like ages (and a detour with Crazy Horse that went nowhere), Old Ways finally turned up, a straight Music Row country album through and through. No matter how many times you listen to side one of American Stars ‘N Bars, side two of Hawks & Doves and all of Comes A Time, you won’t be ready for this. This is strictly Hee-Haw music, with Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins on piano, the seesawing fiddle of Rufus Thibodeaux and a pile of all-star duets. “The Wayward Wind” is a standard with too much syrup for it to go down smoothly. “Get Back To The Country” comes from the same bad intentions as the still-unreleased “Gonna Rock Forever”, and the Jew’s-harp doesn’t help either. “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” finally makes a good point, in this case asking what true country is. “Once An Angel” could easily be a hit for lots of other people, while “Misfits” spends a lot of time telling a tale that never finishes.
“California Sunset” is a souvenir from the Austin City Limits TV show, while “Old Ways” came from the post-Trans era and asks the same questions as “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?”. “My Boy” is even sweeter than “Already One”, a lovely song to either of his sons. “Bound For Glory” could have been a hit for Charlie Rich ten years earlier, and “Where Is The Highway Tonight?” ends it all with a dull thud.
He had another album’s worth of songs put aside that his touring band had mastered, but his career was going nowhere with no rescue in sight. It would recover, just as the music from this period would gain appreciation, but for now, it was getting tough to be a fan.

Neil & The Shocking Pinks Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983)—
Neil Young Old Ways (1985)—2

No comments:

Post a Comment