Thursday, November 08, 2012


Neil Percival Young was born on November 12, 1945 in Toronto, Ontario. He had diabetes as a child and a bout with polio in 1951. Neil began as a solo artist and was a member of Buffalo Springfield (1966-68) who played folk, country, psychedelia, and rock music. His first solo album, self-titled, dropped in 1968. In 1969 he released EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE with Crazy Horse. It featured ‘Cinnamon Girl’. He was also a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, as of the same year. His fourth album HARVEST (1972) was a big success with songs such as ‘Heart of Gold’, ‘Old Man’, and ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’. One of my favourite Young songs is 1989’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’. In 2006 he released LIVING WITH WAR. Here he showed himself as an activist, clearly against George W. Bush. He is also an environmentalist. Neil Young released AMERICANA, his first work with Crazy Horse in eight years on June 5, 2012 (Reprise). Crazy Horse is Neil Young (vocals, guitar), Billy Talbot (bass, vocals), Ralph Molina (drums), and Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro (guitar). Of this recording American Songwriter quotes Young as saying: “Every one of these songs…has verses that have been ignored. And those are the key verses, those are the things that make these songs live. They’re a little heavy for kindergarteners to be singing. The originals are much darker, there’s more protest in them…” In this review I won’t bore you with the history and background of each of the songs.

‘Oh Susannah’ begins with great electric guitar licks. It sounds like a mix between a kid’s sing-a-long song and a rock song. Here are some of the lyrics: “Rained all night the day I left/The weather it was dry/Sun so hot I froze to death/Susannah, don’t you cry/Oh, oh, oh Susannah, don’t you cry for me/Cause I come from Alabama with my B-A-N-J-O on my knee.” ‘Clementine’ begins with heavy rock guitar and features heavy percussion. It’s a tragic song: “Ruby lips above the water/Blowin’ bubbles soft and fine/But alas I was no swimmer/So I lost my Clementine/Clementine (2X)/Oh my darlin’ Clementine…How I missed her (2X)/How I missed my Clementine/So I kissed her little sister and I forgot my Clementine.” ‘Tom Dula’ is the longest track, clocking in at over eight minutes long. Tom Dula’s name is chanted throughout this story song which includes these encouraging words: “Hang down your head Tom Dula/Hang down your head and cry/Hang down your head Tom Dula/Poor boy you’re bound to die/I met her on the mountain/And there I took her life/Met her on the mountain/Stopped her with my knife.”

‘Gallows Pole’ is a bluesy romp with good choral vocals. It is the song of a man condemned to death, whose parents can’t save him, but his lover does: “Honey did you bring me silver?/Honey did you bring me gold?/Did you come to see me hangin’ by the gallows pole?/Brought you a little silver, I brought you a little gold/Didn’t come to see you hangin’ by that gallows pole.” ‘Get a Job’ has a doo-wop feel complete with ‘Sha-na-na-nah’ lyrics. It’s a tongue in cheek song about a nagging wife: “When I get the paper I read it through and through/And my girl never fails to say if there is any work for me/When I go back to the house I hear the woman’s mouth/Preachin’ and a cryin’, tell me that I’m lying about a job/That I never could find.” ‘Travel On’ is an upbeat country song that sounds a bit like ‘Do Lord’. It finds Young in love: “Wanna see my honey, Wanna see her bad, wanna see her bad/Yeah, wanna see her bad/I wanna see my honey, wanna see her bad/She’s the best girl this old boy ever had/I’ve laid around and played around this old town too long/Summer’s almost gone, yeah winter’s come and gone/Laid around and played around this old town too long/And I feel like I gotta travel on.”

‘High Flyin’ Bird’ has a classic rock sound. It is either morbid or full of hope depending on your interpretation: “Well, I once knew a man/He worked in a mine/Well, he never saw the sun/But then he never stopped tryin’/And then one day that old man he upped and he died/Yeah, he up and he died (2X)/Well he wanted to fly and the only way to fly was to die/Lord, I’m goin’ to die (2X).” Next up, is a rocked up version of a song I would sing to my kids while pushing them on the swings at the park. ‘Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain)’ is heavily electric guitar driven and uses gang vocals in a nice fashion. Included here is a gruesome verse: “We’ll kill the big red rooster when she comes/We’re gonna kill the big red rooster when she comes/We’ll kill the big red rooster, we’ll kill the big red rooster, kill the big red rooster/When she comes.” Woody Guthrie wrote the lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land’ back in 1940. Here, it has a happy old country/folk sing-a-long feel to it: “As I went walkin’/I saw a sign there/And on the sign it said ‘No trespassin’/But on the other side, it didn’t say nothin’/That side was made for you and me.” Pegi Young, Stephen Stills, and an Americana Choir help out on vocals on this one.

‘Wayfarin’ Stranger’ is mellow and is about a man with singleness of mind on a spiritual journey: “I am a poor wayfarin’ stranger/While travelin’ through this world of woe/Yet there’s no sickness, toil, or danger/In that bright world to which I go/I’m goin’ there to see my Father/I’m goin’ there no more to roam/I’m only goin’ over Jordan/I’m only goin’ over Home.” ‘God Save the Queen’ is covered in a manner suitable for a Broadway musical. On it, Neil strikes another spiritual chord: “O Lord and God arise/Scatter the evil lies/And make them fall/Confound their politics, frustrate their empty tricks/On Thee our hopes we fix/God save the Queen.” The song and the album end with the words “Let Freedom Ring”. This seems appropriate.

AMERICANA is for fans of traditional American historical songs. Long-time fans of Neil Young and his experimentation with various musical styles, but leaning towards rock, should enjoy this one. Those who appreciate the seasoned, mature artistry of folks like Larry Norman, Willie Nelson, and Randy Stonehill will appreciate AMERICANA. This is a unique album that covers a lot of ground in a way that will hold your attention and overall make you appreciate music more. This album is, in reality, timeless. I’m rating it 87%. For more info visit