Neil Young

Greatly Appreciated

Neil Young  (born November 12, 1945) is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician.  He co-founded the band Buffalo Springfield together with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969.  He released his first album in 1968 and has since forged a successful and acclaimed solo career, spanning over 45 years and 35 studio albums, with a continuous and uncompromising exploration of musical styles.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website describes Young as "one of rock and roll's greatest songwriters and performers".  He was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice, first as a solo artist in 1995, and second as a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1997.  (More from Wikipedia)
There about midway through the fourth side of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 was a song that I didn't think quite fit in:  "Farmer John" by the Premiers.  It was earlier than any of the other tracks, dating from 1964, and it sounded like it was recorded live at somebody's picnic.  The lyrics were simple – "Farmer John . . . I'm in love with your daughter . . . whoa-oh-oooh" – as was the beat and the slow, loping groove; but it just kept growing on me.  Eventually Neil Young recorded a cover of the song in the same style on his excellent 1990 album Ragged Glory.  The songwriter is Richard Berry – he is not related to Chuck Berry but has some seminal songs to his credit nonetheless; "Louie Louie" heads the list, but "Have Love, Will Travel" is almost as good.  (See below).
(January 2011)
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When buying two- or three-album sets, be sure to see whether all of the albums are actually inside the cover; it is hard to tell by feel.  That is particularly true if the price seems unusually attractive.  I have literally lost count of how many times I have seen a copy of the Allman Brothers BandAt Fillmore East where the disc with the outstanding "Whipping Post" performance on it is missing.  I picked up Neil Young's Decade retrospective album one time at a very good price; only two of the three albums were included, but I went for it anyway.  Several decades later (ahem), when I was picking up Katrina debris, I found a copy of Decade on the far bank of the little bayou behind our house; and sure enough, only two of the albums were in the cover.  That is the only unquestionable example of a record that floated that far from the house. 
(November 2012)
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Several of the performers that had appeared at the original  Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969 were in attendance at the Vietnam Veterans Benefit Concert near Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1987:  Richie HavensCountry JoeJohn Sebastian, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (at least individually, with Stephen Stills and Neil Young appearing in a reformed Buffalo Springfield).  Other musicians at the Vietnam Veterans Benefit Concert included James BrownStevie Wonder, the Byrds, Bonnie RaittKris KristoffersonLinda RonstadtFrankie Valli, and the Four Tops; and there were also speeches by John RitterLouis Gossett, Jr.Whoopi GoldbergOliver Stone, and Ed Asner
(January 2013)
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That brings me back to the original topic at hand:  If Germans and Dutch could fluently speak the language of rock and roll, how much easier is it for Canadian rock musicians to blend in seamlessly with the larger rock world.  Canadian rock stars are common, even if not everyone knows that they are Canadian:  Neil Young is a long-time favorite of mine who is from Toronto, Ontariothe Guess Who, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, had numerous hits in the 1960's and 1970's and had a spinoff band as well called Bachman-Turner Overdrive, with lead singer Burton Cummings also having a lucrative solo career; Steppenwolf evolved from a Canadian rock band called the Sparrows (Mars Bonfire, a former Sparrow wrote their massive hit "Born to be Wild"); and the band that Janis Joplin headed for her final album, Pearl (after she left Big Brother and the Holding Company), the Full Tilt Boogie Band is from Stratford, Ontario.  Even the seemingly quintessential American band called The Band was actually composed of Canadians with the exception of Levon Helm; they once released a single under the name the Canadian Squires


(April 2013)

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To some extent, I think that Providence guides my hand as I am writing.  For example, in the post about the UARB Hacienda (one of the few current bands that I have written about), I started out talking about the Premiers in an examination of Hispanic rock bands and artists.  Their song "Farmer John" – which Neil Young covered much later – is the next-to-last song on the classic compilation album Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968 and also the oldest, dating from 1964.  As I struggled with how best to describe their sound – having been dissatisfied with the descriptions I had read in reviews and other places, including their own label's promotional material – I realized that Hacienda's music was actually quite similar to this song by the Premiers


(June 2013/2)


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I'm not sure where I got the idea that "Farmer John" was written by Richard Berry, but I was mistaken about that; the song was actually written by Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Dewey Terry, who originally recorded the song in the mid-1950's under the name Don and Dewey.  Sorry about that.  I'm still glad that I had something to say about Richard Berry though; he wrote some great songs, and not just "Louie Louie".
(January 2014)
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Buffalo Springfield started with a chance meeting of Stephen Stills and Neil Young; later, Stills and his friend Richie Furay were driving along Sunset Boulevard in L.A. and spotted a hearse.  Stills was sure that it was Young's, and sure enough, it was.  Neil Young had another Canadian in the hearse as a passenger:  Bruce Palmer.  These four formed the band with drummer Dewey Martin


As is often true, there were tensions in the band; Stephen Stills and Neil Young never really got along, and that has apparently continued to the present day.  Young was in and out of the band several times over their short life, and Bruce Palmer was fighting deportation back to Canada.  By the time that their final album, Last Time Around was released – back when bands announced that sort of thing – Jim Messina was part of the line-up.  One of Neil Young's first well-known songs, "I Am a Child" was on that album; but he really shone on the previous album, Buffalo Springfield Again with the opening cut "Mr. Soul", "Expecting to Fly", and the ambitious "Broken Arrow" (Young named his music publishing company after this song). 


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As one of the few new bands, Crosby, Stills & Nash (Neil Young also played with them part of the time; the band was then called Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) was a hit at the 1969 Woodstock festival, including their performance of "Wooden Ships".  There was a renowned exchange between songs, where David Crosby notes that this is just their second gig, and then Stephen Stills says:  "This is the second time we've ever played in front of people, man, we're scared s--tless." 


Crosby, Stills & Nash wasn't really as new as that quote seemed to indicate; the band had released their debut album Crosby, Stills & Nash in May 1969, three months before Woodstock, and the recording sessions began in June 1968.  I had always thought that Neil Young was the man peeking out of the door on the back cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash, but it was actually their drummer Dallas Taylor.  Young did join up for their next album, Déjà Vu; the album was released under the name Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (with drummer Dallas Taylor and bassist Greg Reeves also credited on the cover in smaller print). 


Neil Young continued to record sporadically with the group; also, David Crosby and Graham Nash have released several albums with just the two of them. 


Crosby, Stills, Nash and/or Young have released any number of cultural and counter-cultural touchstones over the years:  "Ohio" (about the Kent State University shootings); "Woodstock" (written by Joni Mitchell based on what Graham Nash told her about the festival – Matthews' Southern Comfort had a Number 1 hit in the U.K. with "Woodstock"); "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (written about Judy Collins); "Teach Your Children" (featuring Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead on pedal steel guitar; the song actually made the country charts); "Helpless" (one of Neil Young's loveliest songs); "Southern Man" (on Neil Young's excellent solo album, After the Gold Rush, with Lynyrd Skynyrd good-naturedly answering the song in their hit "Sweet Home Alabama"); "Love the One You're With" (first released on Stephen Stills' debut solo album, Stephen Stills – live versions of the "Southern Man" and "Love the One You're With" appear on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young double album 4 Way Street); etc. 


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When Last Time Around was being wound up, Stephen Stills and Neil Young had already exited Buffalo Springfield; and Richie Furay (guitar and vocals) and Jim Messina (bass guitar) were about the only ones left. 


Poco became one of the earliest and most long-lived country-rock bands.  Several record companies were interested in signing the new act, but they hit a road block:  Richie Furay and Jim Messina were still signed to Atlantic Records as part of Buffalo Springfield.  Meanwhile, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were having the same problem getting signed.  David Geffen, then a young talent scout, arranged for the recording contracts for Stephen Stills and Neil Young to be swapped for those of Richie Furay and Jim Messina, so that CSNY could be signed to Atlantic Records, and Poco could be signed to Epic Records


(April 2014)


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Writing for AllmusicRoch Parisien says of this Joan Osborne song:  "Key track 'One of Us' sets the disc's optimistic tone.  It's a simple, direct statement of faith, honest and unadorned, one framed in a near-perfect chorus and delectable Neil Young-ish guitar riff.  This isn't one of those sugary, superficial, goody-two-shoes Amy Grant kind of deals."  


(November 2014)


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Neon Forest” comes off like a rocking Neil Young number – in fact, that’s who I thought it was for years when the song would come to mind.  The song features the great verse:  “You can get a weird prize for being adored / You can join the in crowd for being a whore / Although you are lonely you wish for a fence / America takes drugs in psychic defense”.  And then there is the defiant “The Undefeated” that has an “uh oh” undercurrent to the chorus:  “We're the undefeated / We got what they want / We're so f--king spoiled / Life is just a bag of pot / We're the undefeated / TV in the shade / Girls at all our parties / We have really got it made”. 
(March 2017)
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We have been bombarded with important anniversaries this year.  In music, they all seem to go back to 1962:  The first albums by Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan) and by the Beach Boys (Surfin’ Safari) were released in the USthe Beatles first single, Love Me Do” b/w “P.S. I Love You was released in the UK (Sir Paul McCartney also turned 70 this year); the Rolling Stones had their first concert; and Andy Williams first began singing his signature song, “Moon River”.  All of this historical context might have gotten rock musicians in a writing mood:  Books by Keith RichardsPete TownshendRod Stewart, and Neil Young all came out this year. 
(Year 3 Review)
Last edited: March 22, 2021