Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Neil Young Ragged Glory (1990)


Around the early ’90s, it seemed an awful lot of artists were excited about the new CD format and thought they had to release albums with enough material to fill up all that extra space they had. After hearing Ragged Glory, I have to wonder if Neil Young was guilty of doing that, too. There are only 10 tracks in this album, and most of them are very good! … But about three or four of them just seem to keep going.

To fill up the time, Neil Young does nothing to change the hook, chord progressions or texture … he just gives us an extended version of one of his wonky solos on an extremely distorted guitar. Of course, he’s talented enough to keep it interesting most of the time, but other times I just want him to shut the hell up and get on with the next song. I realize how anti-Young I’m being …Well, I guess I was never a rabid fan of his to begin with… Excuse me if I don’t worship every single one of his wonks.

You could say this album is a little more effective as background music than for intense listening. But even as I was listening to it casually, a lot of it just seemed like it went well past its expiration date. “Over and Over,” for example, is just a single groove that’s *ahem* being repeated over and over. It’s a neat groove, and his ultra-distorted guitar is cool, but why is it so much to ask that he changes the textures and melodies around a little bit? …

Why are we forced to endure the same repeated ideas for eight minutes?? It’s not hypnotizing or anything. “Love to Burn” is 10-minutes long, but at least it has a more workable hook, and some more impressive guitar noodling. I only get tired of that song after, er, six minutes! It manages to generate enough momentum to keep it fun. So, I’m only complaining about it a little bit. “Love and Only Love” is also a 10-minute song… and it’s pretty indistinguishable from “Love to Burn.” I have the exact same comments and the exact same complaints. That brings me to my next point. All of these songs sound the same!

“The Days That Used to Be” is really well-written, but that’s because it’s ripped-off from Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages.” I do like the way he worked in that crunchy guitar riff in there. “F*!#in’ Up” might not be quite as engagingly melodic, but it has the meanest guitar riff of the whole album, so therefore it is my favorite track. That’s just a really cool song to hear. Of course the guitar is incredibly distorted there, and really does sound like he was trying to show those young grunge boys a thing or two about awesome ugliness… and succeeding to a considerable degree.

“Mansion on a Hill” is about the only song here with pop-appeal (if you want to call it that). The guitar riff is catchy, and I guess it doesn’t sound that distorted. The vocal melody is pretty good, and it’s accented by these haunting “ooooo” noises that have a tendency to stick in my mind. Nice one!

I had a lot of negative things to say about this album, but that’s not my fault. There were a lot of negative things to be said!! However, truth be told, I liked this album, and all of the songs I talked about thus far in the review have overall been good ones. The only terrible song on the album is the closing number called “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem).” It just consists of Neil Young and his back-up band singing alone with an incredibly distorted electric guitar. I mean, these lyrics were pompous already without such treatment!

The only way you’re going to fall hopelessly in love with Ragged Glory is if you love the electric guitar, and you want to listen to Neil Young play with it for 70 minutes straight. There is next-to-no musical diversity in here… the melodies are usually fine, but most of them consist of one hook that’s repeated forever. I do like listening to electric guitar solos very much, but in order to appreciate this album you have to reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally appreciate the electric guitar.


April 12, 2013 - Posted by | Neil Young Ragged Glory |

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