Monday, February 7, 2011

Neil Young - Tonight's The Night

Release Date: June 20, 1975
Label: Reprise

 Despite occupying a high position on many "best albums of all time" lists, Neil Young's Tonight The Night is new to me.  I am a huge Neil fan, but I've just been occupied with his other work... I've been trying to absorb On The Beach, Ragged Glory, the Archives, the first two Buffalo Springfield albums... But I saw this for a reasonable price at the record store, and decided to finally pick it up.

I mentioned this album in my previous review.  It is the second recorded album in the Ditch Trilogy, but was not released until well after On The Beach due to the record company's reluctance.  Why were they reluctant, you ask?  I think it might have something to do with the fact that this might be the most honest and raw album ever recorded.  It is completely understandable that they wouldn't want this to be Neil's follow-up to the wildly successful Harvest.

Tonight's The Night was written shortly after two of Neil's close associates, Bruce Berry and Danny Whitten, died of heroin related causes.  It also came on the heals of a tour which Neil considered the most disastrous of his career, during which Time Fades Away was recorded. The result is a record that is pure depression, pure cynicism.  This is a window into the soul of a man who was at rock bottom, and it has never been more vividly captured on tape than here.  Take the lyrics to the rambling "Tired Eyes:"
He tried to do his best, but he could not.
 There are tributes here for both men: the title tracks, which bookend the album, mention Bruce by name.  The most lively track, "Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown," was an old Crazy Horse song written and sung by Danny Whitten.

Some people complain about how raw the music is.  They criticize the poor singing in songs like "Mellow My Mind," where Neil sings off key, with a cracking voice.  They complain about his borrowing a tune from the Rolling Stones, in the song "Borrowed Tune."  I say, that's the point.  He's telling us that he's so wasted that he can't even write his own song:
I'm singing this borrowed tune.
I took from the Rolling Stones.
Alone in this empty room.
Too wasted to write my own. 
Yes, some of the music here is bad.  But the bad music on this album is what makes it so great.  There is also great music here.  Albuquerque is excellent.  New Mama has always been a favorite of mine.  This is just such a unique album, and all fans of rock music should have this in their collection.


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