Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Six years ago a bunch of writers got together to consider The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear. Not long after it rolled off the presses and into bookshops some of the albums had already appeared.
Among their “lost” albums was Neil Young's Homegrown recorded in late '74 – early '75 which he already had finished and even had the cover art done for (by Tom Wilkes who designed the earlier Harvest sleeve).
Then he shelved it.
But given Young's relentless release schedule of albums and things from his vaults it was inevitable it would appear at some time . . and that time is now.
At the time Young set aside Homegrown because he felt it was too nakedly honest. Carrie Snodgrass, the mother of his son Zeke, had left him (which he documented on songs like Separate Ways) and he admitted to Rolling Stone “it was just a very down album, a lot of the songs had to do with me breaking up with my old lady, it scared me”.
“Plus I'd just released On the Beach, probably one of the most depressing records I've ever made. I don't want to get down to the point where I can't even get up.”
He also released Tonight's the Night instead of Homegrown, which was even more bleak, prompted to do so by Rick Danko of The Band.
Neil was in a dark place.
A few of the Homegrown songs have appeared on other albums, compilations or bootlegs, but here – with the exception of Deep Forbidden Lake which was apparently in the original sessions and was on the Decade collection – is the acoustic country-rock album Homegrown (in Wilkes' original cover).
And okay, it is about his break-up and there is a weird spoken word story of death at the centre (Florida). But Young had been more bleak and although some of these quieter songs are suffused in heartbreak, maybe many of us have become more immune to emotional pain than we might have been when we were 45 years younger.
For those who like Young as the man with the guitar and harmonica – and Elsewhere's preference is mostly when he plugs in and get noisy – then Homegrown is one of the more interesting, if sometimes a pretty maudlin, album pulled from his vaults.
There are some familiar tropes here: Love is a Rose sounds to these ears like a dozen other Young acoustic songs; the title track (done later with Crazy Horse) and We Don't Smoke It No More seem pretty lazy efforts albeit a bit more cheery than the others, however the latter is elevated by the players which include Stan Szelest in piano and Ben Keith's terrific slide.
White Line is a nice duet with Robbie Robertson and Vacancy is Neil in a more angry rock mode.
This was an immensely productive and interesting period for Neil Young and even Elsewhere – which listens to much Neil Young with a sceptical sensibility – is prepared to concede this is one many will warm to with, despite some previously released material, mostly good reason.
For his many fans this has maybe been worth the wait. And it is a welcome release.
But it still won't be one of Elsewhere's go-to Neil Young albums.
You can hear this album at Spotify here.
There is a considerable amount of Neil Young at Elsewhere starting here.