Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Neil Young - On The Beach

Release Date: July 16, 1974
Label: Reprise

Every once in awhile, you dig up an old album and think, "Why did I not hear this earlier?"  This recently happened to me, so I decided to write about what is quickly becoming my favorite Neil Young album.

I first started listening to Neil Young as a Freshman in college, back in 2001.  The first album of his that I picked up was Harvest, and within a relatively short period of time, my collection had Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, Zuma, and Harvest Moon.  Each of these albums is completely different, which is what makes Young great.  His music covers the entire spectrum, covering everything from rock to blues to country to folk.  He has even dabbled in electronic music, and was highly influential in the "grunge" movement.  Neil Young will surely go down as one of the greatest musicians of our time.

After the success of Harvest in 1972, pressure mounted to write a successful follow-up, and during this time, Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten died of a drug overdose after having been kicked out of the band.  This led to a stretch of albums known as "The Ditch Trilogy."  The first was a live album, Time Fades Away, which Neil considers a disaster, and remains the only Neil Young album not available on CD.  The second album he recorded, Tonight's The Night, was Neil's most pessimistic album, and would not be released until after On The Beach.

On The Beach was unavailable on CD until 2003, which may be part of why I personally never heard it while "discovering" Neil Young.  It was not commercially successful, but it is now widely considered to be one of Young's best albums.

It opens with a lively, straightforward rock song called Walk On.  This gives way to a remake of a song he did earlier, called See The Sky About To Rain.  The third song, Revolution Blues, is a classic Neil rocker, along the lines of Southern Man and Cowgirl In The Sand.  The fourth track is a weird little piece, For The Turnstiles, featuring Neil's banjo.  Rounding out the front side is Vampire Blues, a bluesy song about the blood sucking tendencies of the oil industry.

The back side is where it starts getting weird.  Neil and co. recorded these tracks while under the influence of a homemade marijuana concoction, leading to a much mellower feel for all three tracks.  Those tracks, On The Beach, Motion Pictures (For Carrie), and Ambulance Blues, all take on a looser, more free-form structure.  They are not as immediately grabbing, but after several listens, they start to grow on you.

1Walk On2:41
2See the Sky5:02
3Revolution Blues4:03
4For the Turnstiles3:15
5Vampire Blues4:11
6On the Beach6:59
7Motion Pictures (For Carrie)4:23
8Ambulance Blues8:56

This album is solid.  And considering he followed it up with Tonight's The Night and Zuma, this has to be considered one of his best stretches.  It seems Neil Young went through some of his hardest times in the mid 70s, but it led to some of his best work.


No comments:

Post a Comment