Goin' Back / Comes a Time / Look Out for My Love / Lotta Love / Peace of Mind / Human Highway / Already One / Field of Opportunity / Motorcycle Mama / Four Strong Winds
by Crazy Donkey (aka Rob Blackmore)
Comes A Time, produced by Neil Young, Ben Keith, Tim Mulligan and David Briggs, is regarded by some as a comeback to folk music for Neil Young, more in the style of Harvest and After the Goldrush. Originally, the album was going to be called Ode to the Wind, and several copies were pressed with that name. There are ten tracks on the album, five on each side. All of the selections are written by Neil Young, except for the tenth track, "Four Strong Winds," which is a cover version of an Ian Tyson song. A wide variety of musicians play on the album, and Nicolette Larson sings the backing vocals. Crazy Horse plays on "Look Out For My Love" and "Lotta Love," with J.J. Cale on electric guitar.
"Goin' Back" is one of my favorite tracks on the album. It's a peaceful song, expressing a wish to return to the past, back to a more simple time when "fire filled the sky" and where there was "nowhere to stay." It also mentions a relationship splitting apart, which is possibly a central theme to the album. The mixture of guitar sounds works very well, and Neil's voice and the backing vocals of Nicolette Larson combine beautifully. The imagery is quite geological to begin with, something Neil has touched on in other songs, "Thrasher," from "Rust Never Sleeps," for example. The song ends, however, in the city, where the shadows of the buildings "tore us apart, and now we do what we do."
Comes A Time opens with some great fiddling, which blends well with the guitar. Neil's voice is quite lonesome, and the backing vocals are perfect, just being audible on the edges. The imagery is again very earthy, and the song seems to describe how time keeps passing by. The idea of the earth spinning round, and "It's a wonder tall trees ain't layin' down," is typical of Neil's ability to paint a picture with a few words.
"Look Out For My Love" is probably my favorite track on the album. Recently, it was performed brilliantly for the Unplugged show, and it was hardly altered because the set-up is so perfect! The crisp combination of guitars superbly complements Neil's voice, which is pitched spot-on. The electric guitar, which comes in at "hydraulic wipers pumping," just makes it for me - it's heavenly! The whole description of the airport and traffic is classic; what more can I say!
"Lotta Love" is the next track on my tape, slightly out of place with the sleeve order. There's some nice piano and high pitched percussion work. It appears to be saying that it takes a lotta love to keep people together. There's a wish for the right person / lover to "show up soon."
"Peace Of Mind" has an interesting beat, sort of like a ticking clock. It describes how it takes a long time to get to know someone and to let them get to know you. "It's hard to face that open space" is a sort of warning that if you leave, you won't have "peace of mind," and that's probably the best thing to go for. The electric guitar at the end adds to the drum beat.
The second side of the album opens with "Human Highway." This is more in the style of the first two tracks of side one, with plenty of earthy imagery. It also speaks, however, about people being unkind, and maybe talking about you and your life behind your back. The backing vocals once again add to this song.
"Already One" always makes me feel a little sad. It's about splitting up with someone, but being forever attached to them through a child, in this case a little son. It's got a slow, lonely beat, and the guitar at the end is great. Once again Neil uses words and phrases that have so much feeling, as in: "In my new life, I'm traveling light / Eyes wide open for the next move".
"Field Of Opportunity" livens things up. There's a nice blend of fiddle, and acoustic and electric guitar; the strumming keeps the beat. The song talks about moving on, new growth, and new love; everyone makes mistakes but you just have to keep trying.
"Motorcycle Mama" was apparently written by Neil after watching a woman fall off her barstool in Florida, but I don't know how reliable that is. This is certainly the most electric song on the album, and it keeps the country feel with a mean piece of fiddling. Nicolette Larson's vocals are very much the dominant force of this song. It sort of follows the "moving on" theme, with: "I just escaped from the memory-county jail."
The album finishes with a cover version of the Ian Tyson song "Four Strong Winds." It's a fairly lively version, and the lyrics fit with the other songs. Neil's voice is perfect, and again the set-up works well. I really like this album. I find the mixture of acoustic and electric guitar with the fiddle to be really pleasant to listen to. The songs are sometimes fairly lonesome, but usually there is a balance. As usual, the subject matter would appear to reflect Neil's personal life, but as with so many of his songs, the problems are of a human nature that everyone can relate to.