Graham Reid | | 1 min read
Just as you could argue that on his debut album Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix sketched out the map of sounds and styles he would explore in his short career, so you could make the case that on his first four albums Neil Young did much the same for his long career.
With the obvious exception of the electro-pop Trans, of course.
But from his folksy self-titled debut album in '68 (with Ry Cooder, Jack Nitzsche and others) through Everybody Knows This is Nowhere just six months later (with the band that would become Crazy Horse) to the career-defining After the Goldrush ('70) and Harvest ('72), Young pulled out sensitive singer-songwriter tropes, country, folk, folk-rock and noisy rock in songs which were introverted, extroverted, mystical, yearning, angry, hokey and . . .
Yes, even back then he was an unpredictable character and the span of the music on these albums is pretty much what he has explored, off and on, ever since in his solo career (outside of forays with Crosby, Stills and Nash).
While that debut sounds perhaps rather too much a product of its period, material from Everybody -- notably Cinnamon Girl and the 10 minute Cowgirl in the Sand -- sound like a template for just about every album with Crazy Horse since, probably because when they recorded they'd only been together for a few months and that ragged edge was what Young liked . . . and they remained faithful to.
Then of course Goldrush and Harvest delivered cornerstone songs and/or hits (Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Southern Man, When You Dance I Can Really Love, Heart of Gold, Old Man, The Needle and The Damage Done etc)
After these albums Young got darker (the double whammy from the depths of On the Beach and Tonight's the Night, the latter recorded some years previous, in the mid Seventies) but as a starting point on a long journey, these first four are, literally, where the Neil Young story begins.
All four have been remastered and come in a tidy box and are released through Young's archive programme.