September 3, 2016

So it’s 1978 (or maybe 1979?), and I’m deep in planning for my very first trip to California with my friend Paul. You have to remember, I was just a Massachusetts guy at the time. To me, California is all about The Beach Boys, surfing, and San Francisco during the “flower power” days. Paul tries to convince me that to really appreciate California I need to listen to more Frank Zappa – an iconic figure in his own right whose studio, BTW, served as a proving ground for a great many surf bands in their time.

Around the same time we went to some movie theater in Cambridge and saw Neil Young’s “Rust Never Sleeps”, and I was captivated, to say the least. Not that I hadn’t heard of Young or his music before: my cousin Don had introduced me to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Deja Vu several years back. I thought it was OK in a kind of hippy-pretentious way, but then again, my own tastes back then were Top 40 AM radio, The Beatles and (early) Pink Floyd. But I had also picked up Young’s Harvest album when it came out and enjoyed that immensely. So seeing Young in movie/concert was really great – while I enjoyed the acoustic stuff that started it all off, it wasn’t until his band Crazy Horse joined him for some truly vintage psychedelic hard rock that I really got stoked.

And that’s where my upcoming trip to California and Live Rust intersect, and why it’s on the list of my top ten all time favorite albums – I just remember it and the time so fondly. Young’s acoustic performances of “After The Gold Rush”, “I Am A Child”, the haunting “Sugar Mountain”, “Comes A Time”, and “The Needle And The Damage Done” are all poignant and lovingly rendered, illustrating the best of the beauty and expressiveness of Young’s kind of “troubled soul” songwriting. As good as those are, once Crazy Horse gets involved, you get Neil at his electric best, sounding every bit the guitar hero with a fuzz box throwing out distorted chords and leads like anyone who had ever picked up an electric guitar ever wanted it to sound like.

I love the noise (meant kindly) poured out by Young and the three members of Crazy Horse. “Like A Hurricane” captivates from the very first growling, distorted chords. And then there’s “Powderfinger”, with its intriguing, sad storyline and equally melancholy chord structure, and “Cortez The Killer” and, of course, “Hey Hey, My My” – all delivered in a wild, crashing mass of distorted, bone-crunching chords that bely the general sadness and loneliness of the subject matter. It’s all great, the kind of music I enjoy revisiting from time to time when I just want to crank the volume up and get lost in the music.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments Off on The Great White Shank’s Top Ten: #7: Neil Young “Live Rust”
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