Tuesday, May 1, 2018


As promised, here's the second Neil Young release in less than a month, but unlike the Paradox soundtrack, this isn't new music. Instead, it's another in his fantastic Performance Series of archival issues. which capture classic concerts from all over his career. This time, it's from a wild series of gigs in 1973, with Young and a group christened The Santa Monica Flyers took over L.A.'s Roxy Club to debut a new album. It turned out to be a bit premature. The album was Tonight's The Night, but despite the group's enthusiasm at the time, it didn't come out for another two years. Classic Neil move.

The back story is that Danny Whitten, Crazy Horse guitar player, and band roadie Bruce Berry had both died from heroin overdoses, so Young and crew were feeling pretty fractured. He brought in Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot from the Horse, and added Ben Keith on pedal steel and young Nils Lofgren of Grin on piano and guitar to fill up the ranks. Then they spent a month making Tonight's The Night, one of the loosest, rawest sets ever put down, basically a series of late-night, substance-fueled, emotionally scarred songs that ran opposite the whole Heart Of Gold style of the year before. After recording the songs, the group felt like celebrating by doing some live shows, so they went into the new Roxy club for two shows a night. All they did was the new album, about an hour long, see ya later.

No question that they had the songs down. The set sounds exactly like the album versions, which were basically just live recordings anyway. This is one great band, understanding how to make unpolished beauty. Lofgren was a secret weapon, his unstudied piano the perfect tinge of sadness to match the denial of Young's guitar mania. If anything, these versions are a little more practiced than the takes chosen for Tonight's The Night eventual album release. Young meanwhile sounds unhinged while talking to the audience. He's decided to tell the audience they're in Miami Beach for some reason, and there's a palm tree on stage with its own spotlight. He mentions it three different times, but doesn't really offer an explanation. So, pretty much normal for the rest of his career.

Not all the Tonight's The Night tracks are here. Young added Borrowed Tune, Lookout Joe, and the live Downtown featuring the late Whitten to the mix later. Instead, they encore with another new song, Walk On, which would show up the next year on On The Beach, too jaunty for this album. Ultimately Tonight's The Night got its overdue release in 1975, and is rightly hailed as one of Young's masterpieces. As shocking as it no doubt was to the lucky few in the club those three nights, they got to see something historic.

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