Friday, June 16, 2017

I [heart] NY

I'm a big fan of Neil Young.  Check out my profile on the left and you'll see.  Which is why a friend recently gave me a "music guide" to Young.  It takes you through every album he ever recorded, discussing each song, right up to the present.

And boy has this guy been busy.  Since 1969 he's put out 40 albums, not including live albums, compilations, soundtracks and work with other groups (like Buffalo Springfield and CSNY).

His last album (so far), released in late 2016, at the age of 71, was Peace Trail.  I admit I haven't heard it yet*.  In fact, like a lot of people, I'm far less familiar with his recent catalog than his work in the 70s and 80s.

But surveying the whole arc of his career, what you discover is a brilliant but erratic artist.  Sometimes he'd put together an album which is pretty great all around--Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After The Gold Rush, Tonight's The Night, Rust Never Sleeps, Freedom, Ragged Glory.

But just as often he'd put out something that mixes some great stuff with much weaker or even off-putting material.  Some would claim this is intentional--that after his biggest hit, Harvest (with his biggest single, "Heart Of Gold"), as he himself says, he "headed for the ditch."  But I don't believe he released intentionally bad work.  I just think he put out what felt right at the time, even if it was almost daring his millions of fans to follow him in a new direction.

It's certainly nice when an artist puts out consistently great material, but how many do that?  The Beatles, I suppose, but they recorded for less than a decade.  If you throw in their solo stuff, it's more hit and miss.

The point is, I suppose, with an artist like Young, even when the album isn't great through and through--even when it's not particularly good overall--there's still a cut or two or three which get to you. On The Beach, Zuma, Stars 'n Bars, even stuff in his lost decade, like Trans or Everbody's Rockin' or This Notes For You, feature material that can stand up with anything he did.

And that's probably what counts from a great artist.  Their best work moves you more deeply than what others do.  A decent artist who puts out album after album of solid work, in the long run, doesn't matter as much.

* Guess what?  I just went to YouTube to check out "Peace Trail" and it's pretty good.


Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter