Thursday, July 14, 2005

Neil Young's Silver & Gold (cd)

This album is just exactly perfect. A little short, but perfect. At just over 35 minutes in duration it could use some fleshing out, but I think Neil donated the other songs that would have been included to his pals CSN on their 1999 album Looking Forward. Which is a real shame because if he had included the songs 'Looking Forward', 'Out Of Control', and 'Slowpoke' this would have been an even better album. It's hard to imagine this masterpiece getting any sweeter, but it would have been even more of a slice of heaven with those included. And as much as I love this album, I've read many Rusties(hard core Neil fans) criticize it for one reason or another("light-hearted", "fluff", "too comfortable"). All bullshit. Maybe I'm a softy, but I think it displays his writing, vocal, and musical abilities at the top of his game.
The album starts off with a very pleasant greeting in 'Good To See You'. As if welcoming a good friend after many years, it pops a grin on your mug and puts a bounce in your stride. Its "back to the woodshed" feel is carried throughout the entire album. Containing a very positive message accented by wonderful harmonica playing and pedal steel licks sprinkled generously throughout.
The title track actually dates back to 1982. I have many bootlegs that have this song appearing in a number of different styles through the years, but Neil seems to have really nailed it with this version. Just Neil and his acoustic guitar singing about the glory of love and all the joys that come with it. Peggy Young must be proud to know he's singing about his love for her that "never seems to get old".
The country sing-along 'Daddy Went Walkin' is next up. This is pure classic country, simple and sweet. Mama, daddy, and the old dog all get a mention. A gentle tale of uncluttered living and easy life on the farm.
The nostalgic 'Buffalo Springfield Again' makes me smile every time I hear it. It pretty much tells the story of his old band and band mates, describing his longing to see the old gang one more time to "show the world what we got". A beautiful backing track supplied by the Stray Gators colors his lyrics and emotions to perfection. A happy-go-lucky tune if ever I've heard one and one of my favorites of the album.
Even though 'Great Divide' lyrics paint a picture of loneliness and alienation, it still manages to feel "up" in its delivery. Great wailing pedal steel licks provided by Ben Keith add to the somberness of the lyrics. Neil's vocals floating ever so gently above the track as if they were a gentle breeze blowing across the ripples in an otherwise placid pool of water.
'Horseshoe Man' provides some of the best poetry on the album. It's Neil discovering that, despite his age, he still has a lot to learn about the complexities of love. The lyric "I don't know about love" with its double meaning is meant to twist your head, leaving you scratching it in a blissfully confused state.
Emmylou Harris provides a wonderful counter vocal line on 'Red Sunset'. It's dusk once again in the old railroad town and everyone's heading to the bar or home for a peaceful evenings rest. A lover is arriving home from a long journey to a heart filled with soothing care for ailing bones. A wonderful instrumental break in the middle between the pedal steel and either a squeeze box or violin, blend together sounding like bagpipes. You can almost see the rolling hills of Scotland before your eyes.
The reflective 'Distant Camera' is a song of love for his soul mate. More wining pedal steel incorporated to provide a wistful backdrop for this snapshot of Neil's heart and soul.
Which brings us to the final song 'Razor Love'. This song shakes me to my core. Another song that Neil reached back in to his past and finally recorded more than 13 years after it was written. I first heard this song on a bootleg from his acoustic 1989 world tour. I loved it as much then as I do today. Every phrase evokes deep emotion from me, as in the line "You really make my day with the little things you say". This song is how I picture love. Something that cuts you so deep, there can be no mistaking its presence. And as Neil stretches for the notes in the line "silhouettes on the window", my breath is truly taken away. A love song to end all love songs. Not silly, sappy, or embarrassing. Just heavy, heady, and stunning in its brilliance. One of my favorite songs of all time.

Funny story about 'Razor Love'.
The setting: Sitting at a friends house smoking lots of pot and watching Saturday Night Live with several strangers in the room.
I had come to his house because he had digital cable and I wanted to record Neil's performance in the best possible quality on video tape. So, we sit through the first half hour getting progressively more stoned as the not-so-funny sketches came and went. Finally, Neil is introduced and the band every so smoothly starts the song. Not having the album yet(it wasn't in stores for several more days), I had no idea that it was included on the album. As I slowly begin to recognize the song, I jump from my chair pointing and screaming "THIS IS THE SONG! THIS IS THE SONG!" All the strangers look at me like I'm a fucking loon and go back to their conversations, not paying an ounce of attention to the song. Meanwhile, I'm doing cartwheels in my chair with excitement. Neil did not disappoint, the version was magical. Those poor fools didn't know what they were missing.

iPod Song of the Day: 'Helen Wheels' from Paul McCartney's Band On The Run


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