Friday, July 5, 2024

Neil Young 71: Early Daze

Way back in 2017, when the Neil Young Archives launched as an interactive streaming website, the timeline feature included virtual Post-It notes as placeholders for various projects that would, we would presume, be someday released. One of those notes read simply Early Daze, which we knew from his 2012 memoir Waging Heavy Peace was a collection of recordings made with Crazy Horse in 1969. This is basically what Neil was up to after Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere came out, and right around the time Ahmet Ertegun suggested that Crosby, Stills & Nash add him as a second guitarist, which was only one reason why the project changed. And it only took him twelve years to get it out of the pipeline and into the world.

All of these songs have been heard before, but not all in these versions. For starters, “Dance Dance Dance” was already on the first Archives box, as was “Everybody’s Alone”, said to be an alternate mix, but that’s negligible. “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown” doesn’t quite have the bite of the live version, just as “Winterlong” would be improved onstage as well as in a later recording. Both still sound excellent here. Yet another stab at “Wonderin’” was likely left aside because Neil botched the lyrics. “Cinnamon Girl” is the mono single mix, which favors Danny Whitten’s vocal, but has the familiar guitar coda tagged on.

The biggest surprise is Danny’s “Look At All The Things”, with Neil harmonizing and not quite at the level of the perfect take on the first Crazy Horse album two years later. It turns out “Helpless” was tried first with the Horse before CSNY got it, and has a slightly faster but still laid-back lope. “Birds” is the same take as the alternate B-side version, but here includes the second verse skipped on the 45. Then it’s back to the beginning of the year for the first take of “Down By The River”, this time with supposedly the original scratch vocal.

The music on Early Daze is not incendiary; there are a lot of acoustic guitars, some country influence, and Jack Nitzsche on electric piano. While everything has been freshly mixed—as opposed to done and dusted in 1969—there’s a rehearsal vibe to a lot of it, as opposed to sounding like polished album tracks. But if you take these songs, and replace “Down By The River” and “Cinnamon Girl” with “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Believe In You”, you’d have a pretty decent second Neil Young and Crazy Horse album. (You can even leave the studio chatter in.) But then we wouldn’t have Déjà Vu and After The Gold Rush as we know them. Of course if Danny had lived, things would have been completely different. This album is a testament to him, as he sings with Neil on nearly every track.

Neil Young With Crazy Horse Early Daze (2024)—


  1. Thanks wardo! Yes, Danny’s “Look At All The Things” is a nice little treat. Another reminder of gone far too soon. Linked over on TW.