Given its legendary status in the Neil Young world, it's surprising this wasn't the very first release in his Archive series. But perhaps Young has been dickering with the track list all along, as it has a shifting target for fans since the album was first mentioned (and discarded) back in 1975. For those unfamiliar, Homegrown was to have been the follow-up to On The Beach that year, but at a listening party for it, his pals then heard the then-unreleased Tonight's The Night album after. Some listeners were adamant that Young needed to release that album, and the mystery of Homegrown was launched.
It was around this time that Young acquired his reputation for stockpiling great songs for a later date. Frequent tours with Crazy Horse, CSNY or solo would feature unreleased gems, and where and when they would appear was anyone's guess. The Homegrown sessions were first mined for release on American Stars 'n' Bars, There he placed one of its best songs, "Star Of Bethlehem," featuring harmonies from EmmyLou Harris. Also present was the title cut, but recorded by Crazy Horse. The original "Homegrown" here is much different,
faster and funkier, more of a country groove number. Also that year, Young's Decade collection, career highlights to that point, included the brilliant "Love Is A Rose," which had been handed to Linda Ronstadt back in 1975.
Young went back to Homegrown time and again for songs, either on tour or for albums. "Little Wing," a classic Young acoustic/harmonica track, made Hawks & Doves, while the mellow "White Line" showed up on Ragged Glory. Here though it just has Young and fellow Canuck Robbie Robertson, the Band leader, picking on acoustic lead lines to mirror Young's harp.
Most of the rest showed up on tour, and there are lots of other tracks from this series of '74-'75 period that Young has considered Homegrown numbers over the years. But he's finally settled on this 12-track version, and the ones he has picked include more stellar tracks, and only a couple of clunkers. "Vacancy" is a full-band stomp with cohorts Ben Keith on slide, Tim Drummond on bass and Karl Himmel drumming, plus Canuck/Band associate Stan Szelest on piano. It features some great interplay and Young electric soloing, plus the blue vibe of his "Ditch Trilogy" period. There are two tracks famous among Young acolytes, "Separate Ways" and "Try," which address his crumbling marriage with Carrie Snodgrass, the overall theme of the album. That day Levon Helm was behind the drums along with Keith and Drummond, and these feel most like the On The Beach vibe, intimate and bittersweet, lines about trying but really Young sounds more like he's given up on the relationship.
There are a trio of tunes named after U.S. states. "Mexico" and "Kansas" are somewhat slight, just Young on either piano or guitar, more interludes and partial ideas than fully-formed. Still they are nice enough, although not as catchy as, say, the similarly brief "Cripple Creek Ferry" from After The Gold Rush. But "Florida" is just odd, either a stoned-out studio chat or a bizarre poem, accompanied by spooky noises made on a wine glass. It's kind of funny once or twice, but wrecks the album flow. Worse though is a sloppy studio jam called "We Don't Smoke It No More," which seems like the kind of thing best wiped from the tape before you get down to the real business. At best, it's lesser Tonight's The Night material.