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eldorado

We’re back.

And to those who stuck it out with us during what turned out to be our longest (albeit unintentional) sabbatical away from the blog to date, we thank you for continuing to check in here despite the sorry lack of any new updates.

Now, with that out of the way…

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 25 years since I went to *that* Neil Young concert at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre back in 1989. That night, I was fully expecting a nostalgic greatest hits sort of thing from an artist who at the time seemed fairly deep into what looked like a near irreversible artistic decline.

What I got instead was…well, this:

The new songs Neil performed that night – some of his best work in a decade or more – were originally supposed to be part of a new album with the working title of Eldorado. This super-rare recording never really got a proper release (at least outside of a very limited edition Japanese five-song E.P.).

But most of the songs – including the soon-to-be-anthemic “Rockin’ In The Free World,” performed for the very first time at that same show I witnessed in Seattle – eventually made their way onto Freedom later that year on Reprise. Freedom, as everyone by now knows, ended up becoming the breakthrough “comeback” hit which signaled Neil Young’s artistic and commercial return from the dead.

At the time of its release, Neil Young was just coming off a nearly ten year period marked by a series of bizarre genre-hopping experiments – an artistic malaise that resulted in a shrinking fan base and declining record sales. Music historians now commonly refer to this period as Neil Young’s “lost eighties” (or occasionally as the “Geffen Years,” in reference to his record label back then – the same one that famously sued him for his refusal to make “Neil Young records”).

neilfreedom

Coming in the aftermath of such albums as Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’, Freedom not only arrived as a shock, but also kicked off a glorious, completely unexpected run of latter-day 1990s classics including Ragged Glory, Harvest Moon, Mirror Ball and Sleeps With Angels. As music “comebacks” go, this one has to be counted as among the greatest of all time.

But where all of this really began, was on that same tour with his small, four piece band The Restless, including that jaw-dropping 1989 Seattle show at the Paramount Theatre. Although decent quality bootleg recordings of that show can be found fairly easily by searching the internet, there doesn’t seem too much out there in the way of video.

The clips we’ve posted up here are from a show in St. Louis that happened a few weeks earlier during the same tour. They sound nearly as good as what I can remember from witnessing that amazing night on a stage in Seattle more than a quarter century ago.

The main reason for dredging up all this history now though, is because (as most fans already know), Neil Young has a new album recorded with Willie Nelson’s sons coming out next month called The Monsanto Years. Whether or not this new record will be the same sort of artistic revelation that Freedom was, of course remains to be seen. But the parallels between “then” and “now” are striking.

For one thing, based on his most recently recorded output over the past few years, a decent argument could be mounted right now that Neil Young is deeply mired in an artistic funk not at all dissimilar to those so-called “lost eighties” years. If you examine Neil Young’s last several studio albums closely, you’ll find that two of them (Americana and A Letter Home – the latter of which was recorded entirely in the phono-booth at Jack White’s record shop), contain no new original material at all.

Of the remaining two, the symphonic arrangements heard on 2014’s Storytone would easily qualify it as ranking right up there with Neil Young’s most bizarre genre experiments in the 1980s. Which, at least among his most recent work, really leaves only 2012’s Psychedelic Pill – his long awaited reunion with Crazy Horse – as the sort of album most fans would recognize as the type of record Neil Young is normally best known for.

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Neil Young premiered several of the new songs from The Monsanto Years at a surprise club show in San Luis Opisbo last month, where he was joined onstage by Promise of the Real, a band featuring Willie Nelson’s two sons Lucas and Micah. The band is also featured on the new album and will be joining Neil Young on tour this summer.

The song titles we’ve seen, including “New Day For the Planet” and “Rock Starbucks” suggest a politically charged album along the lines of Young’s infamous Anti-Bush themed 2006 album Living With War – a proposition which could go either way, artistically speaking. Basically Neil Young is letting us know he’s pissed off about GMOs here. Which, if nothing else, means that The Monsanto Years is a sure-fire candidate to divide his fans right down the middle no matter what.

We’ve included some audio from the San Luis Opispo show below to let you judge for yourself. You can also check out a snippet of the new video for “Rock Starbucks” over at Democracy Now (where the video was previewed this past Friday).

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They say celebrity deaths tend to happen in threes, but this is all starting to seem just a little too tragically familiar lately.

Dallas Taylor, best known as the drummer on Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s classic Deja Vu album, passed away this past weekend at age 66. Taylor’s death was first disclosed by his wife Patti McGovern Taylor on her Facebook page, but has since been reported by numerous sources including Rolling Stone and Ultimate Classic Rock.

Although Taylor is perhaps best remembered for his stint with CSN&Y, he also made memorable music with Stephen Stills brief “solo” band Manassas, as well as with Van Morrison, Paul Butterfield and others. The cause of Taylor’s death has not been disclosed at this time.

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Taylor’s death comes less than a week after the passing of bassist Tim Drummond, who worked with Neil Young on most of his classic 1970s albums including Harvest, On The Beach and Comes A Time. It also follows the death of Rick Rosas, who passed away last fall. Rosas worked with Neil Young on and off for three decades, in bands including The Restless and The Blue Notes, most recently filling in for Billy Talbot on Crazy Horse’s European tour dates last year.

Besides his work with Neil Young, Drummond was also one of Bob Dylan’s closest collaborators during his infamous gospel period, co-writing the title track to Saved (the second album in Dylan’s gospel trilogy), and also touring with him during the same period. Rick “The Bass Player” Rosas was a more recent partner, performing with Young on a variety of Neil’s solo projects, and well as on the most recent reunion tours of CSN&Y and Buffalo Springfield.

RickRosasl

Neil Young has not commented publicly (at least as far as we know) on this most recent tragic news involving Dallas Taylor. Young is reportedly already at work on a new album, where he is collaborating with Willie Nelson’s sons.

Aside from the eerie timing of all three musicians – arguably best known as “sidemen” with Neil Young – passing so close to each other, it serves as yet another reminder (along with the recent death of Joe Cocker) that for those of us who grew up during Rock’s “Golden Age” in the 1960s and 70s, we seem to be losing more and more of our heroes these days.

And that yes, Time Fades Away. Goodbye and Godspeed, Dallas, Tim and Rick.

NeilStorytoneLeave it to Neil Young to throw us yet another curve ball this late in his career. By now, most Neil Young fans have long since become accustomed to those occasionally odd artistic whims Young has been known to chase from time to time, in his ever-stubborn pursuit of the muse.

But even judged against such legendarily off-kilter recordings as Trans and This Note’s For You, Neil Young’s new album Storytone comes across as one of the stranger, more unexpected bumps along that twisted road. Much like those infamous genre experiments, the problem here isn’t so much with the songs, but rather with the arrangements – at least on the symphonic versions which take up one of the two discs here.

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Although it has the most memorable musical hook of these ten new songs, the environmental call-to-arms “Who’s Gonna’ Stand Up” is weighted down by an overuse of syrupy sounding strings that overwhelm what is otherwise one of Neil’s catchiest chorus lines this side of “Rockin’ In The Free World.”

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Despite some heavy-handed – and occasionally clunky – lyrical wordplay (“End fracking now, save the water, and build a life for our sons and daughters”), the stripped down version which appears on the solo disc works far better.

But the blistering, curiously unreleased Crazy Horse take that tore down the house nightly in Europe earlier this year, is far superior to either.

The bluesier outings “I Want To Drive My Car” and “Say Hello To Chicago” – besides feeling oddly out of place on this album – likewise fall somewhat flat, and here again, it’s largely due to the arrangements.

In the case of the latter, the best point of reference would be the sort of horn driven, big band bluster you’d expect to find in a dance routine from a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical.

“I Want To Drive My Car” works slightly better, with a feel that recalls the Blue Notes. But the most curious thing about these two songs – other than the fact that they stand out like a sore thumb on this album – is the use of Waddy Wachtel on lead guitar. Wachtel is of course a fine guitarist in his own right, but a little shredding from Neil could’ve taken these songs to another level.

What saves Storytone however, are the two songs which close the record.

“When I Watch You Sleeping” is one of those beautiful, pastoral sounding love songs that Neil Young seems to literally pull out of thin air every now and then. It is also one of the few places on the symphonic side of this album, where the string arrangement simply augments the song with touches of color, rather than threatens to swallow it outright. “All Those Dreams” likewise lays off the classical gas, closing the album with a song reminiscent of the warmest sounding jewels found on Harvest Moon and Prairie Wind.

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There is some discomfort in getting to these two gems though, and if you read between the lines, perhaps a bit too much information regarding the present status of Neil Young’s love life. If I were Pegi Young, I certainly wouldn’t want to be reminded of “the glimmer of everything I once saw in you” that Neil is apparently viewing from his rear view mirror these days, and as a fan I probably didn’t need to know that his current squeeze is nicknamed “Tumbleweed.”

But Neil continues to do as Neil does, and God bless him for it. We don’t always have to like it, but more often than not, we seem to eventually come around. For the record, solo Storytone tops symphonic Storytone by a hair.

But the latter does have its moments.

NeilStorytone

With a press release issued earlier this week, Reprise Records confirmed that Neil Young’s new studio album will be released on November 4.

In addition to revealing the album cover art, Reprise also finally settled the million dollar question about the title:

It’s Storytone (not “Storeytone,” as mistakenly reported in an earlier statement from the label, and reprinted both here and elsewhere).

neilstoreytonestorytone

As expected, the album features 10 brand new compositions recorded live in the studio with a 92-piece orchestra, choir and Young. A two-disc deluxe edition of Storytone will also feature solo versions of the songs (in addition to the full-on orchestral treatment on the standard edition). The album reunites the Volume Dealers production team of Young and Niko Bolas, who have previously worked on such notable albums as Freedom and Living With War.

From the original press release:

In addition to the new single available on Soundcloud, other standout tracks from the album include the bittersweet album opener “Plastic Flowers,” the bluesy swing of “I Want To Drive My Car,” the aching “Tumbleweed,” or the heartfelt “When I Watch You Sleeping.” Each song evokes an entirely different feel within the context of its presentation.

Here is the track listing from the press release for Neil Young’s Storytone:

Plastic Flowers
Who’s Gonna Stand Up?
I Want To Drive My Car
Glimmer
Say Hello To Chicago
Tumbleweed
Like You Used To Do
I’m Glad I Found You
When I Watch You Sleeping
All Those Dreams

In other breaking news, the followup to Neil Young’s 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace has apparently been given a release date. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, the second memoir, titled Special Deluxe: A Memoir of Life & Cars will be available on October 14.

Special Deluxe: A memoir of Life & Cars  by Neil Young

Neil Young also made news this week, by apparently putting any rumors of a CSN&Y reunion this year – or any year – to rest, when he quite unexpectedly announced to a crowd in Philadelphia that “CSNY will never tour again, ever, ” before adding “but I love those guys.”

So for now, it looks like Broken Arrow again. But if history is any indication, never say never. Stay tuned.

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New West Records has announced details on Pegi Young’s fourth album, to be titled Lonely In A Crowded Room.

The album, officially credited to Pegi Young And The Survivors, features a mix of original new songs by Pegi Young, as well as a selection of covers from Allen Toussaint and Irma Thomas (“Ruler Of My Heart”); Spooner Oldham (“Lonely Women Make Good Lovers”); and Jerry Ragovoy (“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely”).

The album will be released by New West on 10/27/14. Here is the complete track list:

I Be Weary
Obsession
Better Livin’ Through Chemicals
Ruler Of My Heart
Lonely Women Make Good Lovers
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
Feel Just Like A Memory
In My Dreams
Walking On The Tightrope
Blame It On Me

PegiYoung-Lonely_Cover

Pegi Young And The Survivors will also be supporting the release with a handful of West Coast shows, with more sure to follow.

Here are the tour dates announced thus far:

10/30/14 Seattle, WA Rendezvous Jewelbox Theater
11/02/14 Vancouver, Canada The Media Club
11/07/14 Los Angeles, CA THE MINT
11/09/14 San Juan Capistrano, CA THE COACH HOUSE

nystandup

Earlier this week, the release of Neil Young’s new single “Who’s Gonna’ Stand Up?” was announced both via Neil Young’s official website and in a press release issued by Warner/Reprise Records.

A typically barn storming, “rusty” sounding version of the new song was first previewed for European audiences this summer on Neil Young’s tour with Crazy Horse, and was also performed in an acoustic version at this year’s annual Farm-Aid benefit show.

According to the press release from Warner Bros., the song will also appear on Neil Young’s upcoming Storeytone album (amended from the earlier reported spelling of Storytone), due out this November. Based on everything we have heard, the version that will presumably be appearing on Storeytone is the orchestral version, which we have posted immediately below:

Orchestral Version

Here are the other two versions of “Who’s Gonna’ Stand Up?” – the live, full band version with Crazy Horse, and the solo acoustic version – made available this week by Neil Young and Reprise Records.

Live with Crazy Horse

Acoustic Version

Warner Bros. was also kind enough to post this lyric sheet for this great new song, which the press release goes on to describe as a “plea to end our dependence of fossil fuels and realize our responsibility to protect our earth’s fragile eco systems to ensure the quality of life for future generations.”

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To learn more visit Neil Young’s official website.

First off, we humbly apologize to all of our loyal readers for the lack of recent updates, and want to thank those of you who have stuck it out with us anyway during our self-imposed summer sabbatical.

But at least part of the reason for the inactivity here is that, up until recently anyway, there just hasn’t been that much to report on coming out of the Neil Young camp.

With Crazy Horse performing basically the same exact setlists – with only the rare and occasional minor twist here and there – across Europe most of this summer, any daily tour reports seemed pretty pointless and redundant to us. However, much has obviously changed in just the past two weeks.

seattle-crazy-horse-neil-young-2012

We were also somewhat reluctant to report the sad, surprising news about the impending Neil & Pegi Young divorce.

We like to think of the Neil Young FAQ blog as a trusted, reliable go-to news source for the fans. But we also aspire to be the sort of place that Rusties can find out all the latest about the music, and prefer to leave the sordid details about Neil Young’s personal life to the celebrity gossip sheets like TMZ and the like.

That said, we were obviously saddened, and to be perfectly honest, more than a little shocked to hear that what we had always thought of as one of the more solid, and certainly longer lasting marriages in the entertainment world was, to quote a rather obvious lyric here, “headed for the big divorce, California style.”

There have been very few details about this reported in the press, and truthfully speaking, we’d probably rather not know anyway. One has to assume though that both Neil & Pegi’s ongoing involvement in the lives of their special needs children and in related projects like the Bridge School, would indicate they would be maintaining an amicable, professional relationship at the very least.

Either way, we wish them both the best.

neilstorytone1

In other news, we were much more excited to hear the reports about a new Neil Young album said to be coming as soon as this November. Based on what we know so far about Storytone though, that excitement comes with an equal measure of healthy concern about what may actually be headed our way with this album.

What we know for sure is that anyone expecting what most fans would traditionally call either “Quiet Neil” or “Loud Neil,” could be in for some major disappointment. In fact, based on the reports currently making the rounds out there on the interwebs, Storytone sounds far more likely to be something like “Orchestral Neil.” Early word is that Neil Young has been recording the album with German-born composer and arranger Chris Walden and producer Niko Bolas.

Young has been talking about an orchestral project for awhile now, recently telling Billboard magazine that “I’d like to make a record with a full-blown orchestra, live — a mono recording with one mic. I want to do something like that where we really record what happened, with one point of view and the musicians moved closer and farther away, the way it was done in the past. To me that’s a challenge and it’s a sound that’s unbelievable, and you can’t get it any other way. So I’m into doing that.”

If you think that this sounds suspiciously like a cross between the recent lo-fi approach of this year’s A Letter Home with Jack White, and another of Young’s genre experiments – the big band blues of This Note’s For You – you wouldn’t be alone.

But you might also be forgiven for thinking that Neil may be veering precariously close to repeating his notorious eighties string of unpredictably wild and often wacky releases. In fact, of Neil Young’s last three albums – and four now, if we are counting Storytone – only one, 2012’s Psychedelic Pill with Crazy Horse, has contained the sort of music that most fans might normally expect to find on a Neil Young record.

The involvement of Niko Bolas likewise throws an “interesting” curve into the mix. Bolas has been involved in both your classic Neil Young records like Freedom, and considerably less spectacular sounding efforts like Landing On Water.

So the good news is that Storytone sounds like it will be “interesting” (there’s that word again). While it is obviously far too early to presume judgment on a record no one has even heard yet, and we welcome any new report of Neil Young once again further stretching his artistic muse, we just hope this falls more toward the Greendale side of “inneresting,” than towards something like the Shocking Pinks.

We’ll hold our tongues for now, and see what happens come November.

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