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Neil Young - On the Beach (2003) Retail CD
Along with a couple of lesser albums from around the same period, this album remained officially unavailable for nigh on 20 years. Of course many Neil Young fan's, myself included, found themselves buying contraband cd copies made from the original vinyl at draughty record fairs up and down the United Kingdom. This really is an unusual and captivating recording, it holds up well compared to other great early 70's downer records of the era such as Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks".
There has been a lot of discussion about the motives behind On the Beaches time in the vaults. People have said thatmore… it is some sort of marketing ploy, the album kept unavailable to build up it's mystique and Neil Young's status as an enigmatic artist. A more likely reason is that due to the unusually personal and confesional nature of the songwriting that Young just didn't feel comfortable having it out there. This seem's especially likely seeing as a number of the songs deal in part with his fraying relationship with Carrie Snodgrass. Perhaps after they separated he deleted it as a sign of courtesy to her?
Anyway, none of that really matters as now we have the album in a remastered non-hissy format. On first listening to it you may be suprised at how well played and produced it is, especially as similar downer wild man Neil albums such as "Tonights the Night" and "Time Fades Away" are decidely rough around the edges. The musicians Neil Young used on this album are perhaps one of the best fits for his style that he has ever used on record. Ben Keith, Tim Drummond, Rusty Kershaw, David Crosby, Graham Nash (on one song) and wait for it Levon Helm and Rick Danko the rythme section from The Band Guesting on a couple of songs. Here's a quick breakdown of the songs-
This song actually borders on funky! Great lead guitar, catchy chorus, great lyrics, great sound.
See The Sky About To Rain
I think The Byrds had already released their version of this by the time this album came out. Unusual sound, Neil plays Wurlitzer Piano which features prominently on this album. Beautiful slide guitar from Ben Keith, great drumming from Levon. Lyrically it sounds like something from around the time of Buffalo Springfield or his first solo album, it has a kind of naivety about it. Fluffed wurlitzer notes add to the charm.
Easily one of the best rockin' Neil Young songs ever. Lyrically quite shocking, especially for people who only know Neil from harvest or after the gold rush. It is written from the point of view of a member of a "Family" style cult living in the hills surrounding Hollywood. Great guitar interplay between David Crosby and Young, amazing bass fretless bass from Danko and amazingly tight drums from Helm. I think it probably says something about Neil's mental state at the time of this album that he manages to really get inside the skin of his manson like figure, with chilling lines such as
"Well it's so good to be here asleep on your' lawn. Remember your' guard dog? Well I'm afraid that he's gone. It was such a drag to hear him whining all night long (waaa ooooh). Yes that was me with the doves setting them free at the factory where you build your' computer love." Neil actually had first hand knowledge of Manson, he was introduced to him via Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys who the Springfield toured with. Young hung out a bit with Manson and even introduced him to Warner record executives. David Crosby (also connected to Manson through Terry Melcher who owned the Laurel Canyon house before Polanski) thought that the song crossed the line and was apparantly extremely uncomfortable playing on it and with its release. With lines like "I got the revolution blues I see bloody fountains, and ten million dune buggies coming down the mountain. Well I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars but I hate them more than lepers and I kill them in their cars" it's hard not to have a little sympathy with Crosby. Still it's a really chilling song, great perfomance both musically and vocally, and could be my favourite Neil Young song.
For the Turnstiles
Another reviewer snidely commented that Neil showed a "lack of courage" not including Revolution Blues on DECADE. For the Turnstiles is the song he included instead. Although I too would have prefered "Revolution Blues" to be included I wouldn't describe including "For the Turnstiles" instead as pandering to a mainstream audience. Afterall it's a lyrically obscure song that seems to be about depression era baseball. Musically it's probably the least polished song on the album, it's a sparse arrangement with Neil on Banjo and Ben Keith on Dobra and backing vocals. Neil's lead vocal sounds like something from "Time Fades Away", you get the sense it was recorded at about 4am after a tequila fueled night in the recording studio. Very nice song though.
Bit of fun this one, although it does make a couple of pot shots at the oil industry. Love the ramshackle, shakey guitar solo.
On the Beach
This is an "I'm rich internationally acclaimed rock star my life is hell" style song. The good thing is the author is fully aware of how ridiculous and spoiled this type of song sounds to most people, so it is written with tongue in cheek. "I know my problems are meaningless but that don't make them go away." Like another reviewer says it doesn't have much to say but it says it very well, and besides it's got a lovely laid back groove.
Motion Pictures (For Carrie)
This one of the personal songs I was talking about, written for Neil's Oscar winning wife. Notable for the slide playing by that old country fiddler Rusty Kershaw.
Long, rambling, fairy-tale like acoustic epic. A good song to have playing as you drift into unconsciousness at the end of a long hard day. It features an electric tambourine (I want one of those) and Rusty Kershaw on the fiddle. And the words are beguiling "You're all just pissing in the wind, you don't know it but you are. And there aint' nothing like a friend who can tell you your' just pissing in the wind.
|2||See The Sky About To Rain|
|4||For The Turnstiles|
|6||On The Beach|
- Neil Young - On the Beach (2003) Retail CD
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- 07/06/10 by Fraze
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Rated 4.5 of 5 (2 votes). Click CDs to vote!