Another Number For The Road
by Nick Kent - Mojo, December 1995
(Scanned for HyperRust by Steve Kitchen.)
Back in 1988, Neil Young, freshly re-signed to Warner Bros-Reprise after six wretched years on Geffen, started talking excitedly about an imminent follow-up to Decade, the three-record set re!eased in 1977 as a neat summation of his career to date. Decade II, as Young referred to it initially, would primarily act as a way for members of his audience to re-approach all those puzzling 80s records like Trans and Everybody's Rockin'. It would be another three-record set, available some time in 1989.
In 1995, there is no sign of any actual release, but over the years the project's mooted scope has ballooned to 20 CDs, provisionally titled The Neil Young Archives. This year he was still confidently predicting that "the first part" would be made available in 1996, which could well be the three-CD set Young compiled in 1991 covering his music in the '60s, in which case look out for four or five tracks from The Squires dating back to 1963 or '64, seven or eight solo things from just before The Buffalo Springfield, a lot of Springfield live stuff you've never heard, "Then it ends with a whole live concert featuring me and Crazy Horse from The Fillmore East."
Despite no available track listing, one can still hazard a guess as to some of what will be showing up. What follows represents only a glimmer of the musical treasure that Young plans to bestow upon us.
IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN - - - 1970
Young has recorded this much favoured non-original, a robust old country waltz, on three separate occasions, the last-known being in the mid-'80s in a duet with Willie Nelson for a special Farm Aid EP, later discarded. The first version is the best. Young toured with Danny Whitten era Crazy Horse augmented by Jack Nitzsche on piano in February and March of 1970, recorded every date and planned to put out a live album culled from the shows before After The Goldrush. It Might Have Been was to be featured, alongside Wondering (an irresistibly superficial Country-Pop original Young finally released in a truly lame doo-wop version for Everybody's Rockin') Winterlong and Let's Go Downtown (exhumed for Tonight's The Night).
Young sacked Crazy Horse at the end of the tour in an effort to shake Danny Whitten out of his heroin stupor; the live album was scrapped and many of the songs excluded from Goldrush. For the Archives, Young promises "a whole live concert featuring me and Crazy Horse from The Fillmore East. There'll be wild versions of Down By The River, Cowgirl In The Sand, Wondering and Winterlong that have never been out even on bootleg."
SWEET JONI - - - 1973
After his back problems at the beginning of the 70s had confined him to his ranch for almost two years, Young stepped back into the limelight at the beginning of 1973, backed by the Stray Gators (Jack Nitzsche on piano, Tim on bass, Ben Keith pedal steel guitar and Kenny Buttrey on drums) for an ill-starred stadium tour that would end up with a mutiny (Buttrey had to be replaced by Johnny Barbata), Young losing his voice, and Crosby and Nash being summoned in a last-ditch attempt to keep spirits high. Time Fades Away documents the results, but omitted two brand new compositions. New Mama is Tonight's The Night's gentle acoustic ballad written to commemorate Carrie Snodgress giving birth to Young's first child Zeke, but in '73 was played in a noisy proto grunge metal electric version. The second was Sweet Joni, a maudlin, obscure, slim-line piano ballad in the style of A Man Needs A Maid, that Young dedicated to his flaxen haired soul sister from Saskatoon. The pair recorded together in '73, sessions promised on Archives.
LOVE-ART BLUES - - - 1974-75
"My songs are all so long and my words are so sad," sings Young tongue only slightly in cheek on this excellent rumination on the torments involved in trying to blend a vigorous creative schedule with domestic stability. Performed by CSNY throughout the late summer of 1974, Love-Art Blues was recorded for inclusion on Homegrown, a down-beat collection of songs documenting the final break-up of Young's relationship with Carrie Snodgress but shelved in favour of a re-vamped Tonight's The Night. The CSNY tapes will appear on Archives as well the entire Homegrown album.
WINDWARD PASSAGE - - - 1977
Imagine for a second the concept of Neil Young replacing the deranged 'Skip' Spence in Moby Grape in mid-'68, and you'll get a pretty good idea of what this very temporary band, The Ducks, featuring Young on vocals and lead guitar and the Grape's superb Otis-Redding-alike Bob Mosely on bass actually sounded like. The instrumental Windward Passage, a sort of epic surf instrumental meets The Magnificent Seven theme features some of Young's most jaw-dropping electric guitar playing ever.
LADY WINGSHOT - - - 1978
Young returned to the elaborate musical style of Broken Arrow for Lady Wingshot, a strange ode to a female sharp-shooter from the days of the Old West that he recorded and short-listed for Comes A Time before deleting it at the last minute (Young returned to the song briefly a decade later when he performed it live with The Restless, the band with whom he recorded Eldorado).
INTERSTATE - - - 1985
Frustrated at Crazy Horse's inability to work well in the studio in 1984, Young relocated with the International Harvesters in time for the release of Old Ways (or Old Ways II as Young refers to it, so different is its final track-listing from the original collection he was sued over it) and he also recorded a special EP for Farm Aid (never released), the organisation he initiated with Willie Nelson and John Cougar Mellencamp in 1985. Some of Young's finest-ever country compositions were short-listed for inclusion, specifically Nothing Is Perfect, the country waltz he previewed at Live Aid, the ribald Let Your Fingers Do The Talking aka The Phone-Sex Song and best of all Interstate, a moody autobiographical piece recorded by The Harvesters in '85 and later by Crazy Horse for the Ragged Glory sessions. Though both versions remain in the vaults, the melody of the song's chorus was sparingly re-employed by Young this year for the chorus of Mirror Ball's Big Green Country.
ORDINARY PEOPLE - - - 1987-88
Recorded with The Bluenotes in '87-'88 for a live double album titled The Big Room that got scrapped at the last minute in favour of Freedom, the extraordinary Ordinary People is a complicated narrative work over 12 minutes long which features the same kind of intense snap-shot imagery so effective on Rockin' In The Free World. According to Young himself, the song was intended for Freedom but "it was too topical. It would have been dated by the time the record had been released. Ordinary People is the kind of song that can only work on retrospective collection."
SEPARATE WAYS - - - 1993
In '93, Young got together with Booker T And The MGs for tours of Europe and America. This line-up never got to work together in a recording studio but live versions of Dock Of The Bay, Train Of Love (Sleeps With Angels) and Separate Ways will almost certainly appear on Archives. The last-named is an old song from '75's Homegrown sessions that Young next re-recorded with Crazy Horse during the Sleeps With Angels sessions.