The Emperor of Wyoming / The Loner / If I Could Have Her Tonight / I've Been Waiting for You / The Old Laughing Lady / String Quartet from Whiskey Boot Hill / Here We Are in the Years / What Did You Do to My Life / I've Loved Her So Long / The Last Trip to Tulsa
by Ken Myers
I have always been impressed by the "sound" of this album. I have heard that the CD release of Neil Young does not stand up sonically, but my vinyl version, now over 20-years old, still sounds great. (Alright, alright, the quiet passages, especially on "Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill," are kind of crunchy). This album has a lot happening on it, from the Hollywood Strings (?) to the almost mechanical, almost inaudible whirring and buzzing multi-tracked muted fuzz guitars. And then there's Neil's voice, haunting, spooky, beautiful. His plaintive, arid, downright dangerous sounding vocals are some of his best. I make no attempt to analyze lyrics here, but let me say that it sounds like they're the words of a soul who has crossed to the other side and wants us to follow him. Here are just some brief thoughts on this album. Some may call this work overproduced, and I would dare say Mr. Young would not disagree. I remember a Rolling Stone interview from the mid-70's in which Neil referred to this album as "overdub city." Certainly the presence of strings may put off many of his grunge followers today, but taken within the context of its time, this album holds up remarkably well. I hate the cover art. I've always loved the opener, "The Emperor of Wyoming." Hell if I know what the title means, but this starts off as a loping cowboy instrumental (I bet there are lyrics to this song somewhere) and segues nicely into "The Loner." This is my favorite song on the album, it reminds me a lot of "Mr. Soul," but with strings. It's got those great buzzing guitars too. I think the background vocals work wonderfully on "The Old Laughing Lady," but almost ruin "I've Loved Her So Long." "I've Been Waiting For You" has a great guitar (there must be hundreds of them) intro. Then there is "The Last Trip To Tulsa"!!! What a way to end this album - weirdness disguised as weirdness. I love it, it's so different from what came before. The jangled and jarring images, the paranoid, almost whining vocals - just Neil and his guitar. However, the single most beautiful moment on this album is on "Here We Are In The Years," when Neil sings the line "So the subtle face is a loser this time around." It is absolutely beautiful and evocative, and is my all time favorite "Neil moment."