Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Neil Young 32: Road Rock

With his name on two albums within a short span after a long (for him) break, Neil undertook not one but two tours. The first was the cleverly titled CSNY2K, which screamed for the inevitable live album. Instead, for some reason, Road Rock Vol. 1 surfaced at year’s end, a single-disc souvenir of the “Friends & Relatives” tour with the Silver & Gold band, plus his wife and half-sister on vocals.
Unlike the crisp acoustic sound of the album the tour was promoting, Road Rock is muddy and even sloppy sounding—amazingly for a live album that doesn’t involve any of Crazy Horse. For many of the tracks the audience noise is mixed at the same level as the band, so maybe it is just like being there. The song selection is random, only scratching the surface of the dozens of songs they did throughout the tour. To his credit, these are mostly songs that had yet to appear on any of his other live albums, but they truly do not improve on any of the versions we already love. “Cowgirl In The Sand” stumbles along for 18 minutes, with the normally solid Jim Keltner contributing his own paradiddles and Donald “Duck” Dunn all but inaudible on the bass. The backing vocals are the aural equivalent of too much ketchup on your hamburger, and why must we have another “Tonight’s The Night”? While “Walk On” and “Peace Of Mind” are nice diversions, “Words” runs for 11 minutes, and we didn’t care much for “Motorcycle Mama” in the first place. Of the first-timers, “All Along The Watchtower” with Chrissie Hynde is about as thrilling as the Stones backing up Dave Matthews, and “Fool For Your Love” is hardly worth the $18.
While the title suggested that more volumes were to come, to date none have. This is most likely not due to Road Rock’s poor sales, but rather that Neil got sidetracked into other things (like the Archives, fans hoped against hope). Those wanting more could splurge for the concurrently released Live At Red Rocks video, which includes a complete concert performed in a torrential downpour.

Neil Young, Friends & Relatives Road Rock Vol. 1 (2000)—2

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