Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin: Blue Flame (Fillmore West, 27th April 1969)


Fillmore West, San Francisco, CA – April 27th, 1969

Disc 1: Train Kept A Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You Baby, As Long As I Have You, You Shook Me, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown

Disc 2: Killing Floor, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Sitting And Thinking, Pat’s Delight, Dazed And Confused

Blue Flame joins an impressive list of releases covering Led Zeppelin’s April 27th, 1969 show at the Fillmore West. The soundboard source is among the earliest tapes to escape from Wolfgang’s Vault, over thirty years ago. Vinyl releases include Fillmore West 1969 (GLC) and Moby Dick (GLC) combining to present the whole tape in great quality. The Jester label reissued these LPs in the same great quality.

It’s Been A Long Time on Songs For Swinging Mothers is another excellent sounding release which comes with a wristwatch and is extremely rare. Metallic Opus on Rec and Flying High on White Night are less complete and in inferior quality to the other vinyl titles. The soundboard is among the very first Led Zeppelin release on compact disc with San Francisco 27/04/69 Vol. 1&2 (KMCD3&4) on Kaleidoscopic Records, 20 Years Train Kept A Rollin’ Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (LLRCD 025/ 026) on Living Legend, and Zeppelin Express (Condor 1968) and Zeppelin Ediface (Condor 1970) both on Toasted all being released in 1989.

Dazed And Confused on Discomagic (CD/ON 2216) was released about this time, claims this is from Los Angeles and contains the intro., “How Many More Times”, “Train Kept A Rollin”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, and “Dazed And Confused”.

World Productions released Killing Floor (WPOCM 0589 D 024-2) with various tracks. Other releases of the incomplete soundboard include American Beauty (SFSB-1,2) on Tarantura released in 1996, Fillmore West (LSD-09/10/11) on Last Stand Disc coupled with the April 24th tape and Simplistic Atmosphere (JR-27/28) on the late, great Jelly Roll label.

Tracks from the soundboard tape have appeared on compilations like Complete Tapes Vol. 1 (Tintagel), More Than Something Else (Aulica), and the famous Cabala (Osoz) box set. The complete good sounding audience recording was released twice. First by Tarantura on Led Set and second by Image Quality on Graham’s Superb Vol. 2 (IQ-061/062). The trend of the last decade has been to use the audience recording to fix the holes in the soundboard tape and has been done very effectively. Immigrant attempted it first with Twinight (IM-002/3), but this version was very rough.

The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin label did an unbelievable editing job on 1999′s Collage (TDOLZ Vol. 91) in which the difference between the audience and soundboard, and the fades were so smooth, made this an incredible aural experience. This was followed by Avocado Club (EVSD- 270-275) on Empress Valley, which is a six-disc set with the April 26th, the audience recording of the April 27th and an edition of both audience and soundboard. Wendy is the most recent with the March 2007 release of Sleeping Beauty (wecd-78/79).

Many question why there is yet another release of this show following so closely on the heels of the Wendy release. It is a fair question to ask and except for some degeneration of the audience recording at the very beginning of the show, this is a pretty good release. It certainly isn’t offensive and Bumble Bee doesn’t try to “improve” the recording with heavy-handed tinkering with the tape.

In fact the label themselves claim this tape is “the low generation which recently is excavated” and that ”polite mastering is administered.” The edits between the two sources are similar with the older editions. The audience recording is used for the first twenty seconds before fading into the soundboard tape in “Train Kept A-Rollin’”.

Thirty seconds is used between “As Long As I Have You” and “You Shook Me”, and about fifteen seconds between that and “How Many More Times”. In that track, the audience source is used between 19:38 to 23:00 containing the final verse of the song, and “Communication Breakdown” comes entirely from the soundboard. The first seven seconds of disc two is the audience before the soundboard comes in, and between 1:38 to 3:04 in “Killing Floor”.

The audience source is used again for thirty seconds in “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” between 1:25 to 1:55. It is used for the entire nine minute “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” and comes in again for “Sittin’ And Thinkin’”. It makes another appearance for approximately thirty seconds before “Pat’s Delight” and runs to the end. The fades are much smoother than Collage. The concert itself deserves its legendary status and is an essential tape to own. The show is great except for the final half of the second set where “Sittin’ And Thinkin’” (which sounds like “I Can’t Quit You Babe” without the bite), “Pat’s Delight” and “Dazed And Confused” sound like they simply run out of energy.

This is the only known time “Dazed” is played as a set closer and is a poor choice. On the positive side this tape contains one of the greatest versions of “As Long As I Have You” and a fantastic twenty-three minute version of “How Many More Times” which includes “Smokestack Lightening”, Bonham banging the gong, Page playing the theremin at the end, and a very self conscious Robert Plant. Bumble Bee use the famous photograph of Zeppelin onstage at the Fillmore East in New York.

Blue Flame is a good release that certainly isn’t too offensive and is recommended to those who have not picked up this show before.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Blue Flame | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin II (1969)


This album is the amazing follow up to their great debut album Led Zeppelin I. This album doesn’t have as many blues influenced songs, it has more hardrocker songs. Also, this album includes John Bonham’s epic drum solo, Moby Dick. Jimmy Page adds some amazing guitar solo, that make thw album even greater. Each member of the band contributes to the album, which is why I think it is such a great album. This is also a great album to start with, if you want to start listening to Led Zeppelin. I think this album is just a little better than Led Zeppelin I.

1.) Whole Lotta Love
This song begins with an opening riff that I think everyone has heard at least once. The bass joins in, and Plant starts singing the first verse shortly after. Bonham joins in atthe beginning of the chorus, and continues throughout the song. After the second singing of the chorus, the famous weird part of the song with all the synthesizer. This is the only part of the song I’m not to fond of, I don’t think it flows with song to good. This lasts for about a minute and twenty seconds, Then Page starts his little solo inbetween the drum beats. Plant sings another verse, then he has his solo where he just sings, while the rest of the bands quite. The song ends on Plant singing, while Bonham has some great fills. Overall, this song is a alltime classic, and is probably my second favorite song on the album. 5/5

2.) What Is And What Should Never Be
The song starts out with Plant singing, and the rest of the band playing a soft, mellow riff. The song gets a lot harder when the chorus starts, then mellows down again for the verses. After the second singing of the chorus, Page plays the verse, and chorus as a solo. Plant sings one more verse. The song ends with a jam, while Plant sings, and the song fades out. 4.5/5

3.) The lemon Song
This is the longest song on the album at 6:20, and this is kind of a jam song, which is kind of unique for the album. It starts off with the sound of a gong, and some fuzzy guitar in the background. Then, the rest of the band starts in. Page has some nice fills inbetween verses. After the second verse a real upbeat tone takes over, and Page has a good, fast-paced solo. After it’s over the main riff starts back up again, and I think the transition back sounds really cool. Then, a the jam starts up with Page singing, Page with some more nice fills, and the bass is really prevelent during this part. Page has a solo, then then the upbeat riff starts up again. The song ends right after that’s over. 5/5

4.) Thank You
This is the softest song on the album, and is a nice song for a little break from the hard rocker that make up most of the album. It starts out with Page on the acoustic. During the verses JPJ plays organ while Page plays lightly in the backdround. Binham joins back in during the chorus. then, Page has a little solo, that flows good with the song. Plant songs another two verses. The song ends on JPJ playing the organ, and the song slowly fades out. 4.5/5

5.) Heartbreaker
This is another one of the very recognizable Zeppelin songs, and is another one of the rockers on the album. It starts out with unmistakable riff that everyone knows. Inbetween the first and socond verses they play the opening rif over again. after the second verse the best solo on the album begins, I think it’s one of Page’s most recognizable solos, and one of his best. Then the band joins in with the solo, which makes it even better. Plant sings one more verse, and the song ends on Plant singing “heartbreaker”. This is my favorite song on the album, and is one of the best rock songs of alltime. 5/5

6.) Living Loving Maid (She’s just a Woman)
This song starts right after Heartbreaker’s over. It’s the shortest song on the album at 2:40. The only thing I don’t like about this song is it’s to short. It’s very upbeat, and has an awesome sounding riff. It has a little solo in the middle, that’s pretty good. It’s very catchy so if you listen to it, it will be stuck in your head all day. 4/5

7.) Ramble On
This is a great song, with a very nice acoustic riff. Bonham taps softly on his drum that goes throughout the whole song. The bassline to this song is also very good. Plants lyrics are very mystical, and magical, and tell of far off lands, which is what we hear a lot of times in his lyrics. The music picks up, and gets a little harder during the chorus. Page has some very nice fills inbetween verses, that the song even better. It fades out on Plant yelling the last of the words, with the band playing in the background. 5/5

8.) Moby Dick
This is the epic drum solo by John Bonham. Plant doesn’t sing at all in this song, and is one of only a few instrumentals by Zeppelin. At the beginning Page plays some guitar, and adds some very nice fills. Then Bonzo takes the cake with this awesome solo, which is amazing live. He plays some bongos that sound very good, and in the movie The Song Remains the Same he plays his drumset with his hands which is pretty cool. The solo goes from soft to loud, and from slow to fast many times times. Then, at the end Page comes in again, and where Page had his fills at the beginning of the song, where bonham plays some great fills. 5/5

9.) Bring it on Home
The riff at the beginning sounds very folky, and Plants voice is very raspy. Plant also plays some good harmonica. At about a minute and fourty-five seconds the riff gets really loud, and it turns into another hard rocker. During the whole song Page plays a very fuzzy riff, thats sounds pretty awesome. At the end the song turns back into the folky sounding song at the beginning, and it ends. This is a perfect ending song to this classic, and is one of my favorite on the album. 4.5/5

This is one of Zeppelin’s best albums, and is probably second best next to physical grafitti. This album shows why Led Zeppelin is the best hard rock band of all time. If your a hard rock fan this is a must have, and is one of the alltime best albums, and will always be one of my favorite albums.
Hope it helped.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin II | | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin II (1969)

LED ZEPPELIN II CDFrom Rolling Stone

Hey, man, I take it all back! This is one fucking heavyweight of the album! OK — I’ll concede that until you’ve listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it’s just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides. But, hey! you’ve got to admit that the Zeppelin has their distinctive and enchanting formula down stone-cold, man. Like you get the impression they could do it in their sleep.

And who can deny that Jimmy Page is the absolute number-one heaviest white blues guitarist between 5’4″ and 5’8″ in the world?? Shit, man, on this album he further demonstrates that he could absolutely fucking shut down any whitebluesman alive, and with one fucking hand tied behind his back too.

“Whole Lotta Love,” which opens the album, has to be the heaviest thing I’ve run across (or, more accurately, that’s run across me) since “Parchmant Farm” on Vincebus Eruptum. Like I listened to the break (Jimmy wrenching some simply indescribable sounds out of his axe while your stereo goes ape-shit) on some heavy Vietnamese weed and very nearly had my mind blown.

Hey, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s not very objective.” But dig: I also listened to it on mescaline, some old Romilar, novocain, and ground up Fusion, and it was just as mind-boggling as before. I must admit I haven’t listened to it straight yet — I don’t think a group this heavy is best enjoyed that way.

Anyhow . . . Robert Plant, who is rumored to sing some notes on this record that only dogs can hear, demonstrates his heaviness on “The Lemon Song.” When he yells “Shake me ’til the juice runs down my leg,” you can’t help but flash on the fact that the lemon is a cleverly-disguised phallic metaphor. Cunning Rob, sticking all this eroticism in between the lines just like his blues-beltin’ ancestors! And then (then) there’s “Moby Dick,” which will be for John Bonham what “Toad” has been for Baker. John demonstrates on this track that had he half a mind he could shut down Baker even without sticks, as most of his intriguing solo is done with bare hands.

The album ends with a far-out blues number called “Bring It On Home,” during which Rob contributes some very convincing moaning and harp-playing, and sings “Wadge da train roll down da track.” Who said that white men couldn’t sing blues? I mean, like, who?

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin II | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Live Rust (1979)


Around the beginning/end of each of the last four decades, Neil Young has gotten mad and produced a masterpiece or two. Witness: After The Gold Rush (Reprise 1970), Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust (Reprise 1979), Freedom (Reprise 1989), Ragged Glory (Reprise 1990), Arc-Weld (Reprise 1991), and Road Rock, Volume 1 (Reprise 2000, yet to be hailed a “masterpiece,” but how can one go wrong with any live Neil Young). An added plus is that three and one half of these releases are live albums. The groundbreaking Rust Never Sleeps is the half live offering, containing all previously unreleased music. Side one of the LP is all acoustic music, typically introspective, beginning with a laid back “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and proceeding through the now classic “Thrasher” and “Pocahontas.” Side two’side two is another story altogether. Opening with the remarkable “Powderfinger,” Young establishes his vision of the 1980s, one that is on the bleak side. This release ends with an electric “Hey, Hey, My, My (into the Black)” that pounds English Punk rock into a handful of dust.

…with a big red beacon and a flag and a man on the rail…

Right on the heels of Rust Never Sleeps is Live Rust, an all-live recording containing many of Young’ earlier songs. It is this added completeness and the period of the recording that gives Live Rust the edge over Rust Never Sleeps in this list of the top ten best live rock albums. Live Rust, was originally released as a double-LP live album, on the streets just four months after Rust Never Sleeps. It was the soundtrack to the concert film recounting Young’s Rust Never Sleeps tour and was recorded Oct. 22, 1978, at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Live Rust reprises four songs from Rust Never Sleeps in different performances. In spite of this apparent redundancy, Live Rust is an excellent Neil Young live album and retrospective, illuminating Young’s career from the early “Sugar Mountain” and arriving at then-new songs like the scathing “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and “Sedan Delivery.”

…you better call John, ’cause it don’t look like they’re here to deliver the mail…

The concert documentation begins with an acoustic Neil Young, playing guitar and harmonica. He spins his way through some of his more introspective songs: “Sugar Mountain,” “I Am a Child,” and “Comes a Time.” He then switches to piano to deliver one of his first masterpieces, a nervous “After the Gold Rush.” He then reprises “My, My, Hey, Hey” from Rust Never Sleeps. Then Young turns it up. “When You Dance, I Can Really Love” and “The Loner” are separated from the remaining electricity by a sound clip from Woodstock and a desolate “The Needle and the Damage Done” and an unplugged “Lotta Love.” Finally Young gets serious with a reprised “Sedan Delivery” followed by a sextet of songs that can only be described as corrosive ferocity. “Powderfinger,” Young’s ode to hopelessness very well may be the greatest country song ever written. While quite traditional harmonically, Young makes the genre radioactive musically and lyrically. This song is simply astonishing and its development is equally astonishing as one listens to the three commercially available versions.

…and it’s less than a mile away, I hope they didn’t come to stay…

On Rust Never Sleeps

, we are first introduced to the song and Young sings it with a pensive resignation. The story of a young man faced with overwhelming adversity alone takes the only horrible way out he sees. On Live Rust , Young turns it up a notch and the listener can detect real fear emanate from Young’s anguished story. By the time that ten years elapse between Live Rust and Arc-Weld , Young has honed the song to a crystalline clarity, the fear now palpable as a tumor, the terror as clear as traumatic pain. “Cortez the Killer,” Zuma ‘s molten tour de force , bubbles and flows effortlessly from Young’s black, modified Les Paul, hailing the great and ruthless explorer. The early “Cinnamon Girl” is loud and proud, updated since its infancy. Young’s guitar centerpiece, “Like a Hurricane” is next, a Dorian elegey to love, delivered in Young’s apocalyptically devastating way. “Hurricane” is an anticlimax that plateau’s with the electric hammer of “Hey, Hey, My, My” closing the coffin lid on the Punk era. The show closes the “The Needle”‘s other bookend, “Tonight’s the Night,” a song transmogrified every time young has played it.

…its got numbers on the side and a gun that’s making me quake.

A singular talent, Neil Young has out lived and out produced the majority of his contemporaries without losing a bit of his grit and drive. Lyrically, Young is second only to Dylan in theme and design. His acoustic personality has the perfect temperament for internal detection and exposition while his electric music is the best vehicle for his rage and frustration. Young has been widely recorded live, both commercially and by bootleg. The Road Rock series is not old enough to hail a masterpiece yet nor has it yielded a new performance of “Powderfinger” or “Hurricane.” Let’s hope the series does yield these. But for the time being, Live Rust rules.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live Rust | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Live Rust (1979)


If I read it one more time I’m going to hurl. Now what would that be? Well that would be that Live Rust was recorded on Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s tour supporting Rust Never Sleeps. No, No a million times no! Most of Live Rust was recorded at the Cow Palace in San Francisco on October 22, 1978. Rust Never Sleeps was released, June, July 1979. Live Rust was released on Nov., 1979. How wrong is the statement that Live Rust was recorded to support Rust Never Sleeps? Well, some of Rust Never Sleeps was recorded during the Live Rust tour.

Live Rust was actually recorded during the Comes a Time tour. That and I guess you could also say that Neil was also promoting his triple greatest hits album, Decade, which also was still somewhat current.

I was lucky enough to see this show live at the Chicago Stadium. I remember so much of it, as if it were yesterday. There are a few visuals that stand out, the first being the very beginning of the concert. All the amplifiers and stage equipment were covered by huge wooden-looking crates. Beneath the ‘crates’ were over sized amps. One ‘crate’ started to ascend and there was Neil, sitting beneath it playing his acoustic to “Sugar Mountain.” Yup, just like it was yesterday.

Earlier I mentioned how this was not tour to support Rust Never Sleeps. I gave you the timeline to support my argument, but there was one simple was that I remember. That was, it was the first time that I ever heard the acoustic “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” or its electric counterpart “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”

The acoustic was played first, as the song continued, you became very familiar with the lead riff. “Ok, cool song” you thought.

About an hour and a half passes, now Neil along with Crazy Horse are all plugged in. They kick into the electric version, remember, neither of these songs had been released yet, and you start hearing that familiar riff only louder. You say to yourself, Oh, I like this song, but I can’t place it, were have I heard it before? Well, duh, quit thinking back thru the Neil catalog, you just heard it for the first time earlier in the evening! Ah, that’s it! What a great way to introduce a couple songs. Remember that the next time a band you are checking out and the front man says, “this is a new song” and you think it’s time to hit the can. You just might be missing something historic. I have an old Led Zeppelin video. In it, they say here’s a new song and start playing “Stairway to Heaven.” People think it’s some ballad and you can see them hitting the aisles. Do you think they wish they’d stayed in their seats? Oops. Closer to home, give a listen to “Old Man” on Neil’s Live From Massey Hall album. It’s was a new song for those people. It get zero reaction at the beginning. Yeah, that would have been fun to hear even if you didn’t know the track.

Live Rust is a great way to hear a nice retrospective of the early to middle sections of Neil’s career. You get some Buffalo Springfield, (“I Am a Child”,” Mr. Soul”) and then the full gamut of solo goodies. You do not however, get any Crosby, Stills Nash and Young.

This was originally a double album. The first or the four sides was the acoustic songs, “Sugar Mountain”,” I Am a Child”,” Comes a Time”,” After the Goldrush” and the previously mentioned “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).”

Crazy Horse joined Neil for the rest of the album. You’ll have to look long and hard to find a better backing band. They laid down such a perfect groove. Side Three with “Powderfinger”, “Cortez the Killer” and “Cinnamon Girl” is the perfect example of this.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live Rust | | Leave a comment

Genesis A Trick Of The Tail (1976)


You would think a group that loses such a productive member (Peter Gabriel) would in turn roll over and call it quits, or at least have a tough time creating a good reputation for themselves. Peter Gabriel was what made them famous, but the rest of the band was the backbone. They were indeed writing most of the material, but it was Gabriel who brought it forth to their fans by dressing in outlandish costumes. The sad thing was that mostly everyone thought Gabriel was the creative force behind the band. So, the rest of the band had to create an album which overshadowed everything they did previously with Gabriel. And they pulled it off! It was their best selling album to date. After the success of this album, people changed their thoughts about Peter Gabriel. When they once thought that Peter was the creative force who contributing everything, they began to reconsider that Gabriel contributed nothing, mostly riding on the coattails of the rest of the group. A Trick of the Tail is their most beautifully crafted album, I must say.

The album starts off with “Dance on a Volcano”, a track that showcases Genesis’s uncanny knack of musicianship. Phil Collins’s vocals are much more natural than Gabriel’s. But that could always get an artist in trouble. In later efforts, Collins seemed to concentrate more on sappy love songs than works of art. His drumming was phenominal! And never is it more apparent than on this track.

The next tune on the album is a very melodic tune called “Entangled”. A beautifully crafted piece with amazing lyrics. I just love the line “as I count backwards your eyes become heavier still”. It makes you feel like you are in a quack doctor’s office, lying down on the comfy couch. This tune makes you feel as if you are having an out-of-body experience. If you have a pulse, you must like this song in some way or another. And if that wasnt enough, Tony Banks provides the track with a synthesizer workout. Very hypnotic indeed.

“Squonk” follows with amazing drumming by Collins. The guy can make these drum fills that can make you wonder how in the world did he make that sound so easy. “Mad Man Moon” starts out as a nice ballad with heart-breaking vocals by Collins, but then there is this break within the track that drags it down. Tony Banks’s cheesy synthesizer interlude just ruins a good tune. Mad Man Moon also sounds like it could have been written by Gabriel, probably due to the fact that Collin’s sounds more like Gabriel than Gabriel himself did. “Robbery, Assault and Battery” is a nice rocker. The lyrics are rather trite, but other than that amazing musicanship.

If you thought “Entangled” would be the most aesthetically pleasing song ever written by Genesis, they throw “Ripples” into the mix. Again, heart-breaking vocals by Collins and exquisite piano playing by Banks. There is a synthesizer and guitar interlude within “Ripples”, but it is in much better taste than “Mad Man Moon”. Steve Hackett provides eerie, swooping guitar notes within this interlude.

The title track, “A Trick of the Tail” is definitely under par. I would have to say it is the worst song on the album. Good thing they didn’t finish out the album with this unpleasing tune. Genesis did though, close out the album with “Los Endos” which is an instrumental track that contains the melodies found within the other songs on the album. You can hear “Dance on a Volcano”, “Squonk”, “Robbery, Assault, and Battery” in different arrangements within this track. I just love the way they mixed in the songs to provide an “overture” so to speak.

If it was just for Entangled and Ripples alone, the album would be magnificent. These two precious ballads make the album what it is. There are a couple horrible moments like “A Trick of the Tail” and the synthesizer interlude within “Mad Man Moon”. Too bad Tony Banks had to mess around with the synthesizers so much. It was the 70’s though, everyone messed around with synthesizers, expecially the progressive rockers. I still say this is Genesis’s best album right behind Foxtrot, of course. I would give the album a healthy 9 out of 10.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Genesis A Trick Of The Tail | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps (1979)


For my money, this is the best Neil Young that money can buy. Harvest is preachy, and After The Gold Rush is a bit dull, so make sure this one’s among your first buys. In fact, I’d go as far as to state this should be your first buy, because no other album captures the whole Young experience so well. Not to mention that this is a seminal album and one of the major key albums in the whole career of the man, because this is Young’s brave response to punk and one of his best, most clear and brilliant artistic statements. But let’s get that in the correct order, shall we?

The album was recorded live with Crazy Horse, with the audience carefully muffled out; however, there is still no doubt that it is a live album, judging both by the cover and the final audience response at the end of the show. Moreover, Neil carefully divided the two sides, so that the first one is just him and his guitar ‘n’ harmonica (the band does join in in a light shuffle on ‘Sail Away’, though), while the second one is an all-out rocker paradise, with gruff, distorted electric guitars and bucketloads of feedback all over the place. If this doesn’t remind you of Dylan’s past, you probably know nothing of it: critics at the time compared this stunt with Bringing It All Back Home, however, right now it seems more obvious (though less correct from the chronological point of view) to compare it with the newly unarchived Live 1966, where Dylan first plays his acoustic set and then is joined by the ferociously rockin’ Hawks. Again, the comparison is not in favour of Young: his material just doesn’t hold a candle to Dylan, and none of the actual songs are among Young’s major masterpieces (at least, not according to me).

What matters here is the very statement made by this album. By 1979, punk rock was already fading, but the ‘dinosaur rockers’ had already faded away several years ago, and Neil rises up to defend the positions of both. It’s funny that two of the reviews of this album I’ve read on the Web (Wilson & Alroy’s and Brian Burks’) hold the exactly opposite opinion on the message of the opening song, ‘My My Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)’: the former claim this to be a eulogy of the Sex Pistols, while the latter says that it primarily eulogizes Elvis Presley and the ‘dinosaur rockers’. Indeed, the lyrics are a bit too witty to be easily understood, but one thing’s for certain: the concept of a ‘dinosaur’ is what bugs Neil the most as he proclaims that it’s ‘better to burn out than to fade away’. After which he calmly proceeds to prove to everybody that he’s not yet burned out at all: in a certain sense, the whole concert is built with one intense desire, to prove that rock’n’roll and true music in general are totally independent of age (a concept that I uphold fully and without any compromises). This gives the songs, even if they’re not all that great, a new dimension – something of a heroic type, I’d say, and the record never becomes boring.

It’s rather hard to pick out a highlight on the first, acoustic side: the songs are rather even, with nothing to stand out in a particular way. ‘My My Hey Hey’ goes off splendidly, with a very Dylanesque harmonica solo and vocals that are undoubtedly heartfelt and, this time around, fully convincing – after all, Neil is just defending himself, and he stands the test. The allegories of the lengthy ‘Thrasher’ (no, no, it ain’t a heavy metal player, it’s just a peasant who thrashes grain) are not very well understood, but the melody is fine – it does borrow something from Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero’, but to good effect. After which we get a three-song mini-suite about America: ‘Ride My Llama’ is a rather complex song, a mystical travelogue lyricswise and a folkie-styled number melodywise; ‘Pocahontas’ deals with native Indians and their fates in the modern world; and ‘Sail Away’ is yet another mystical travelogue, this time some kind of a ‘we-gotta-get-out-of-this-place’ number. Not that you’ll remember them very well after you turn off your player, but while they’re on, they’re fine.

The second side, though, kicks your butt throughout – even if none of the Crazy Horsemen can play worth a crap (their rhythm guitarist seems barely competent and only happy to hide his talent behind a wall of fuzz and distortion, and I could play better than that drummer after a week of drumming), isn’t this the necessary attribute of a qualified punk band, after all? ‘Powderfinger’ starts the side on a wonderful note: the lyrics are just your typical nonsense-making Americano bunch of cliches about me and my Dad and my rifles and hunting out in the mountains and white boats comin’ up the river, but the melody is groovy, since, in any case, it’s ripped off from Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds Of Silence’. At least, partially, and don’t bother telling me that it isn’t. If it wasn’t, no way could I have thought of that song after thirty seconds of listening. ‘Welfare Mothers’, though, is a worthless piece of metallic crap: why Neil thought this dumb tune, with its leaden riff and stupid social commentary, was necessary on this album, is beyond me. The situation gets a little bit steadier with ‘Sedan Delivery’ that has quite a bit of that precious punkish drive and energy (yeah, I know I said I hate punk, but punk taken in small doses doesn’t hurt anybody), and, of course, the closing track, which is an electric reprise of ‘My My Hey Hey’, quite naturally entitled ‘Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)’. It features almost the same lyrics, although most of them come in reversed order – what a clever idea, but it turns out that the song is even more effective when given this violent, energetic kind of treatment, with feedback basically dripping off your ears. The short bunch of solos that Neil gives out in the course of its rendition are among his most precious ever – forget that crappy Harvest, I tell you, and hearken as the man lets go in order to prove that he’s just as hip as Johnny Rotten, and maybe even more! If this is punk, this is the most cathartic that punk ever managed to get.

I don’t know yet if it’s really the best Neil Young album ever – I still miss out quite a lot. And, come to think of it, After The Gold Rush and others, hell, even his debut album had much stronger melodies overall. But, on the other hand, they all had a lot of painful duffer material, while here there’s only one seriously offensive track, and none of the other albums are as strongly compelling as Rust Never Sleeps. What I’d really want to state is that this album breathes – it lives its own life, fresh and full of that delicious live energy that, in fact, can be pulled off only by rock ‘dinosaurs’. There, I’ve made my serious artistic statement. I don’t give a damn about Neil Young, but I welcome this album as a metaphor for the battlecry – ‘Long Live All The Bearded Dinosaurs!’

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)


As strange as it may sound, I’ve always been curious as to how our generation will look back on the music of our time. I’d imagine this was a much more austere question for the previous generation; a simpler time when bands didn’t take three years to record new material and a period in which FM radio spun full-length LP’s. The 1960’s and 1970’s were obvious breakthrough epochs in music history, deeming the influx of influential artists such as The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and hordes of others.

Our parents’ generation has always made a big deal about the music they grew up with, describing how The Beatles changed their life, how Dark Side of the Moon was the most incredible thing they had ever heard, or how Led Zeppelin was an astonishing transition into hard rock. With much of that conceptualized among the general public, artists such as Neil Young were also thrown into the mix, developing a legacy that so adamantly defined the time.

Sparingly in the past have we come across a musician with such raw talent and innovation as Neil Young, which we saw him prove time and time again with both his guitar work and songwriting. Young has been so successful during his career because of his ability to channel the talent, and craft something completely unconventional. It would be hard to argue against the inference that in 1969, Neil Young was well ahead of his time. The year marks Young’s debut with Crazy Horse, a band which consisted of guitarist Danny Whitten, drummer Ralph Molina, and bassist Billy Talbot. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is the second record of Young’s illustrious career, and a colossal improvement on his self-titled debut.

Neil Young was a commercial disaster; failing to reach the charts, and faulted by terrible production. Everybody Know This is Nowhere offers a stark comparison to its predecessor, and is a testament to what Young is all about as a musician. This seven-track, forty-minute record is unlike anything that the music world had seen; country-tinged rock melding so intricately with Young’s falsetto vocals and eccentric guitar leads.

With the exception of misleading opener “Cinnamon Girl,” Everybody Knows This is Nowhere offers a disparate outlook to the rock and roll of the day; a mellow affair, drawing influences from folk and country music. The record’s chilled ambience is orchestrated by Young’s delicate tenor vocals, which is especially prevalent in the tranquil “Round and Round.” The album’s most notable characteristic however, is that of Young’s guitar playing, which is featured extensively on tracks such as “Down By the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” The soloing is almost as if Young had scrapped the written music and opted for improvisation, but still having the audacity to gradually increase the tension.

This is overly apparent on gem “Cowgirl in the Sand;” a ten-minute masterpiece that is glorified by Young’s mind-blowing guitar work. The verses are virtually replaced by extensive soloing in between the choruses, with the apprehension dramatically heightening. “Cowgirl in the Sand” is constantly evolving in such as way that the track’s long length appears irrelevant, ultimately developing into a spastic fireball of guitar mastery. The record’s final track is the perfect closer, and a definitive Neil Young song.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is the first notable release from a man that has become a rock and roll legend throughout the past forty-plus years. Ever since Young’s music has failed to be confined to conventional and standard rock restrictions, both verifying his status as an original artist, and proving his timeless work. Most importantly, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is an indication that Young is going to do things his own way, regardless of how others feel about him.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere | | Leave a comment

Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East (1970)


Although this album was (finally) released in 2006, I’m putting this review here because chronologically this is where it makes the most sense. For years me and many fans waited for Neil to start releasing archive material, much like Bob Dylan has done with his terrific Bootleg Series of albums, and when this 43 minute album appeared many people were disappointed by how little material Neil saw fit to release.

After all, it was well known that Neil and Crazy Horse (also including Jack Nitzsche on piano as an official member here) had recorded an acoustic set and that “Cinnamon Girl” was part of the electric set, but personally I’m not too bothered by this because I prefer my Crazy Horse fix served raw and electric, plus there are plenty of other live performances available of both acoustic Neil and electrified versions of “Cinnamon Girl.” The bottom line is that what is here is fantastic.

First of all, the sound quality is better than any bootleg of these performances you’ll ever hear. Secondly, what performances! The album kicks off with a predictably great “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” always a personal favorite, and it also includes excellent versions of “Winterlong” and Whitten’s “Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” both of which I’ve also long had an affinity for and these may be the best versions I’ve heard (with apologies to the Pixies who also did a wonderful cover of “Winterlong”).

The other short song is “Wonderin’,” a bit of a rarity in that it wasn’t officially released until Neil’s 1983 rockabilly record Everybody’s Rockin’, but though this easily loping number is also modestly enjoyable let’s face it the reason that this album is so great is because of its two long longs. The 12+ minute “Down By The River” and especially the 16-minute “Cowgirl In The Sand” are astounding, utterly thrilling highlights that also might be the best versions I’ve heard of these songs.

Man, this is rock ‘n’ roll as it’s meant to be played, with real musicians playing real instruments, with finding the groove and locking in being more important than technical perfection. The vocals are a bit raggedy but not in a bad way, and needless to say there are plenty of extended guitar solos along the way; with apologies to Frank Sampedro and Stephen Stills, I don’t think that Neil ever found a guitar foil as sympathetic, who so perfectly fit what he was trying to do, than Danny Whitten, who was a talented singer and songwriter as well (for more information about him on this front read my review of Crazy Horse’s criminally overlooked self-titled album from 1971).

Anyway, again it’s easy to criticize this archive release for its imperfections, which includes shoddy packaging (no liner notes from the guy who self-penned notes about each song on Decade?) but which mainly is simply too short and leaves you wanting more. Then again some of his other live albums are definitely too long, and I’ll always be on the side of too short over too long so long as the overall quality is as high is it is here.

The bottom line is that this is Neil Young & the first version of Crazy Horse at their absolute best, and Neil Young & (either version of) Crazy Horse at their absolute best delivered some of the best guitar-based rock music ever recorded (especially live music). Note: This album is also included as part of his The Archives Vol. 1 1963–1972 9-cd box set released in 2009.

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Neil Young Live At The Fillmore East | | Leave a comment

Genesis A Trick Of The Tail (1976)


Lead singers play such prominent and crucial roles within bands that their departures generally force their respective outfits to close up shop. Those who opt to continue generally are faced with fighting a tragicomic, uphill battle that is nearly impossible to win. Just ask Blind Melon, INXS, or The Doors. There always is, however, an exception to every rule, and Genesis has become the poster child for groups that not only managed to survive but also succeeded in surpassing previous commercial expectations after what should have been a death blow.

Of course, it helped immensely that Genesis’ Peter Gabriel-led era had grown increasingly strange and grandiose. Moving from Nursery Cryme to Foxtrot to Selling England by the Pound, the group had outlined the eccentricities of English life by wrapping its moralism inside the vivid imagery of fairy tales and fables. Even for progressive rock, Genesis’ work was an odd concoction. It all culminated, for better or for worse, with the epic, double-LP production of the postmodern The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, the staging of which tested the faith of some fans and put a lot of strain upon the band itself.

It’s evident from the interviews featured as bonus material on the latest incarnation of A Trick of the Tail that Gabriel’s decision to leave Genesis in order to pursue a solo career placed the band in a bit of a quandary. In fact, its predicament was viewed, at first, as both a blessing and a curse. The group’s remaining members — Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, and Mike Rutherford — knew that they wanted to stay together, but they weren’t sure how best to proceed. After dismissing the notion that the quartet would focus mostly upon instrumentals, it was assumed that Collins would play a larger role within the outfit since he already was familiar with the material. After all, he not only had sung harmonies with Gabriel, but he also had taken the lead on occasion. Still, before both the recording sessions for A Trick of the Tail and the subsequent tour that was mounted to support the effort, Genesis attempted to bring another vocalist on board to handle the ensemble’s edgier, rock-oriented fare. Each time, however, Collins proved that he was up to the task, and during the triumphant, 45-minute short-film Genesis in Concert 1976, which also is included with the new set, he admirably tackles the songs that typically had served as the backdrop for Gabriel’s high-drama hijinks — such as The Carpet Crawlers, Supper’s Ready, and I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) — while also forgoing the requisite costume changes that Gabriel had endured.

As for the album itself, A Trick of the Tail was everything it needed to be, both for Genesis and for its fans. Spurred, in particular, by Banks’ multifaceted keyboard textures — which blended synthesizer, piano, organ, and Mellotron — the group returned to the intricate, prog-rock maneuvers of its early work. Although hints of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway lurked with the central piano interlude to Mad Man Moon, the bulk of the endeavor found the ensemble shifting back toward the standalone story-songs of Selling England by the Pound. While Yes’approach always was a mere stone’s throw away, A Trick of the Tail brought the two outfits much closer together, which made it wholly appropriate that Bill Bruford was asked to join Genesis on tour.

Without the presence of Gabriel’s dominant vision, Banks, Collins, Hackett, and Rutherford learned, once again, how to be a band. Any hesitancy on their part to extend Genesis’ legacy quickly fell by the wayside, and A Trick of the Tail is marked by its amiable, playful air. Within the nervous rhythms of Dance of the Volcano, the multiple movements of Squonk, and the winding passageways of Robbery, Assault and Battery, it becomes apparent that the group had been liberated by the change. The stunning, new surround sound presentation of the album makes it even clearer how much fun the group was having.

Yet, A Trick of the Tail wasn’t merely meant to be a waltz through the past. It also pointed toward Genesis’ future. All of the tracks on the album — lengthy as they may be — boast indelible melodies, and they are, in effect, down-to-earth, pop songs at heart. Two cuts, in particular, highlight a different side of the band than previously had been put on display: With its majestic harmonies and ethereal synth-driven orchestrations, Entangled connects everything from Brian Wilson’s Smile to Phish’s Billy Breathes. In a similar fashion, the title track stuffs one of the group’s fantastical tales inside a prog-rock, reworking of The Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations.

“There’s an angel standing in the sun,” Collins faintly sang during the final moments to A Trick of the Tail’s instrumental epilogue Los Endos. He had plucked the lyric from Supper’s Ready, and as if to drive home the victoriousness of Genesis’ miraculous rebirth, he delivered the line once more before the song slipped into silence. This time, he augmented it with another phrase from the tune: “free to get back home.” There’s no doubt that it was his way of fondly paying tribute to his former band-mate, though it simultaneously served as a message to those fans who had tired of Gabriel’s increasingly elaborate antics, one that let them know that Genesis was back in business. ½

February 24, 2013 Posted by | Genesis A Trick Of The Tail | | Leave a comment