Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Another tremendous archive release from Young, this one from a very stony evening back in 1976, one of his famous full moon sessions when he told producer David Briggs to roll tape as the muse had hit. In the course of an evening he laid down 10 cuts, eight of which would grace various albums from American Stars 'n Bars to Rust Never Sleeps, right up to 2010's Le Noise, plus a couple that didn't escape the vaults at all until now.

This is Young alone on guitar, or piano for The Old Country Waltz, in his dark, mystical mood, with time shifts and altered realities. Pocahontas leads things off the same cut that appeared on Rust Never Sleeps, but in that version it's overdubbed with backing vocals and more players. Powderfinger is next, again a Rust cut, but that time it was played live with Crazy Horse. Captain Kennedy is the same track that appeared on Hawks and Doves, the only bit of full recycling here. Ride My Llama is similar to the released rust cut, because it was a solo live performance, but here it's a little more chilled. When Hitchhiker was used in Le Noise, it was done on electric guitar, so this is calmer, and probably more effective, its account of drug intake now casual and alarming, even 40 years on. Campaigner, long a favourite comment on the '70's ("Even Richard Nixon has got soul") gets a verse edited out for the Decade release restored, thank you very much. Human Highway, a much-traveled Young song, was supposed to be a title track for a cancelled CSNY album around that time, and later done with the country band on Comes A Time, but here the acoustic version works just great. The Old Country Waltz is creaky, Young a saloon pianist, and probably better than the band version on American Stars 'n Bars.

Of the unreleased songs, Hawaii is one with his obscure lyrics, describing an encounter with a stranger, on an "overdose of vitamins", who wants to explain something to Young about Hawaii. Young is uneasy about the man, and although he's not named, seems to be an evil presence. Since Young met Charles Manson during his Hollywood stay, I immediately leapt to the conclusion, but I have no proof. Give Me Strength is a far more straightforward lyric, with even a rare bit of Neil break-up wisdom on offer: "Give me strength to move along, give me strength to realize she's gone." I've actually enjoyed the last couple of new Young studio albums, including last year's Peace Trail, so I won't jump on the bandwagon of those shouting that his archives are far better than his new material, but this is far better than mere discards from the '70's. Hitchhiker will now take its place in the line of Young albums of that time, in its proper place between Zuma and American Stars 'n Bars.

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