Neil Young – Zuma (1975)
The cover’s all kinds of delightful absurdity, but the music within is shockingly normal, especially coming just a few months after his most oblique (and I’m warming to the idea that Tonight’s the Night is his best). The epics are appropriately dubbed; atmospheric, even – I tend towards albums with a certain mood when looking for one to play while studying, and I’ve landed on this one several times last year because of “Danger Bird” and “Cortez the Killer.” But a lot of the other songs are marginal successes, if that: I confess a smile to the mumbled backing vocals of “Pardon My Heart” and to the bongos in closer “Through My Sails” (both leftovers, and pretty forgetful outside of those elements); to Neil Young squeezing out the main hook on “Don’t Cry No Tears” over the deliberate drumming of Ralph Molina; to how Young’s drunkeningly impassioned singing on “Barstool Blues” (it moves like a sine curve). That’s all I got on this one; that’s all he gave me.
Neil Young – Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983)
Bottom 5 Neil Young record; I s’pose it makes sense in context of just having released a record that harnessed (?) the increasing digital world around him to release a record that rejects all advances made in the past couple of decades (except production, because that would be too easy). It might’ve worked if there were more songs like “Payola Blues” and less songs like “Cry, Cry, Cry” and I confess I itched a half-smile for “Kinda Fonda Wanda” and felt dirty about it immediately afterwards. In an interview in 1995, it’s clear he doesn’t get the source material in the first place: “Well [Everybody’s Rockin’] was as good as Tonight’s The Night as far as I’m concerned. The character was strong, the story was great but unfortunately, the story never got to appear on the album. Before I got a chance to finish it – I got stopped from recording. Geffen cancelled a couple of sessions where I was going to do two songs – “Get Gone” and “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me” – that would’ve given a lot more depth to The Shocking Pinks. But if you didn’t see the shows you wouldn’t be able to get into it fully. Of course, it wasn’t anywhere near as intense as Tonight’s The Night. There was very little depth to the material obviously. They were all ‘surface’ songs. But see, there was a time when music was like that, when all pop stars were like that.” Skirting over the random comparison to Tonight’s The Night; it’s an insult to suggest that the songs of rockabilly greats were merely “surface songs” – they were much more.