That being said, I have started to go through the catalogs of some of the artists I mention in the previous post. First on the docket is Neil Young. Let me start by saying I was totally wrong when it comes to the Canadian Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. A few albums were recommended to me and I listened with an open mind. Or rather as open as I could be, considering my previous experiences. I just finished listening to the 1972 album Harvest. I was blown out of the proverbial water. First of all, the production on this album is amazing. There are backing vocals provided by Crosby, Stills, and Nash (who I also need to investigate) and Linda Ronstadt. Not to mention there are two tracks that are accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra, and yes, they are epic. Young's voice is not as bad as I thought, and after a while it grows on you. It's not often you hear a tenor that is not belting lyrics about Africa, after all. His voice compliments the music he writes. That may be an extremely obvious statement, but it is very true in this case. Young is obviously untrained and has a lot of emotion in his vocals. There are singers out there who can sing a song to pieces, but have no soul. That's a huge reason I crush on the Bowie-pure emotion from that guy. Now, the same goes for Young. No repeating line is ever sung the same way and there is a strong emphasis on the lyrics. I'm starting to realize that the singer-songwriter genre is not all poppy seeds and heartache.
"A Man Needs a Maid" is a favorite from Harvest. It is one of the tunes that the LSO plays on and it is astounding. The lyrics are kind of weird, but the music is absolutely beautiful. Starting with just piano and Young, it is somber and intimate. The orchestra enters on the first chorus and take the piece in a grandiose direction. No doubt that it would be a good song without them, but they make this song special. Orchestration like this just doesn't happen anymore. "Old Man" is also a great tune. It is especially poignant to me because of my age and placement in the community. However, I feel as though this will be a song that I'll still love when I am much older. The banjo on this tune is f-ing sweet. Actually, there is not a song I did not enjoy on this record. Clocking in at a little over 37 minutes, it is a great and complete record.
After the Gold Rush is the second on the Neil Young extravaganza, as one album is rarely enough to determine the merit of an artist. "Tell Me Why" is the first track and immediately continues what I was loving on the last album, despite it being released 2 years earlier. He really writes great, great chord progressions. Again, the production is fantastic. It's these seemingly little things that make records like these timeless and "classic." I'm pretty sure this will be a reoccurring theme in my musical experiment. Of course "Southern Man" is on this album, renouncing the racism of the South and features some mean guitar solo-ing that I can only assume is Young. There seem to be a lot more ballad-esque, waltzy tunes on this album, but I honestly don't mind. But enough of this stuff, I believe I can accurately rate Neil Young now.
Of course, I am not through listening to the Young-ster, but there is enough evidence here to conclude, as I started saying, I was completely wrong. Neil Young is a fantastic songwriter who had the luxury of having an amazing producer that really brought these songs to life. The thing I'm most impressed with is how complete these albums sound and feel. I could be wrong, but it feels like a lot of thought was put into which songs would be selected for each album. Nowadays it seems that an hour is the expected length of a record and that a lot of filler is selected to make that time. I don't get that from either of these albums. I do understand that records could only hold about 40 minutes of music and that has to have been a factor, but the quality of those 40 minutes is stellar. Neil Young, I apologize for calling you a "semi-talentless ass clown." You have talent, that is for damn sure. It is easy to see how a man like Young could influence budding artists for generations. People in the recording industry should really study these albums for production, no doubt.
I am pleasantly surprised by this first round of digging into the artists that are automatically proclaimed as "classic" and "important." I am perfectly happy to be proven wrong, it only shows that there is some semblance of sanity left in the evaluation of music. I kind of hope that some of these artists really do suck though, otherwise I look like the ass clown.
NEXT UP: The Rolling Stones (sagging under arm flesh and all.)