The first solo LP (I forgot to take a picture of the label…)
Listen – Neil Young – The Loner – MP3
The new week is dawning, and in a surprise twist that nobody (especially not me) saw coming, all of a sudden it’s summer in New Jersey.
I just came in out of the heat, while my two sons soaked themselves in the sprinkler.
This is the time of year when I enter into one of the great conflicts of my life, wherein my extremely pale, Irish/Swedish self wants to crawl into a chaise lounge and bake in the sun, the catch being that were I to do so, I’d be trading a week in a burn unit for a few moments of delicious sunshine.
So, I bake under an umbrella, watching everyone else have fun in the sun, keeping a close eye on my equally transparent children so that they don’t end up little Irish briquettes, repeating a cycle that probably goes back to the very day some Viking savage stepped off of his longboat and grabbed himself a lovely Irish girl to take back to the fjords.
That said, I sit here now, comfortably ensconced in the air conditioning, tapping away at the ole laptop, feeding the blog again.
The tune I bring you today is by an artist who at first glance would seem a little too “big” for Iron Leg (though he’s occupied this space a few times before inside of other bands).
The man I speak of is the mighty Neil Young.
I’ve said it here before, but to reiterate, aside from Arthur Lee and Love, no American band looms as large for me as the Buffalo Springfield, and next to Stephen Stills, no member of that band was more responsible for its greatness than Neil Young.
Young’s self-titled solo debut was recorded in 1968 and released at the beginning of 1969. ‘Neil Young’ is, like much of his first few solo records a direct stylistic continuation of the foundation he put down with the Buffalo Springfield, mixing an acid-tinged brand of country rock, Laurel Canyon sunshine and Young’s special brand of Canadian bitters.
The track I bring you today has been a favorite of mine for literally decades, a cornerstone of my stoner mix tapes and still near the top of the list years after the last tendrils of weed smoke blew out the window.
That may be one of the reasons Young’s music is so enduring for me, in that while he was always – to a point – of his times, he was also consistently far ahead of the pack.
While bits and pieces of the Sunset Strip were still bobbing in his wake, he was charging ahead, the lonesome whine of a steel guitar winding in and out of his fuzzed out leads and overmodulated organ. Though he employed elements of a ‘country’ sound, compared to the kinds of things Richie Furay was doing in the Springfield, it was clear that he was wrestling with something else entirely.
‘The Loner’, opening with an organ fanfare almost immediately drops down into a what sounds like a slower version of ‘Mr Soul’, firing his leads out in every direction, dueling with the Hammond, grooving alongside some tight drums. The strings – arranged by Jack Nitzsche – manage to augment the track in an almost cinematic way, never softening the impact of the electric guitar as well as providing a bed of sorts for the acoustic guitar as well.
If you haven’t heard the entire ‘Neil Young’ LP, grab yourself a copy. Though ‘The Loner’ and ‘The Old Laughing Lady’ were included on ‘Decade’, it remains one of Neil Young’s worst selling albums, which is a shame since it’s uniformly excellent.
I hope you dig the track, and I’ll be back later in the week.