The second incarnation of my blog
Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.
At number 74 is After the gold rush by Neil Young, the second album by Young following Harvest at number 82.
Recorded with some of Crazy Horse and session musicians, mainly in Neil Young’s basement, it became his third solo outing and was released in 1970. It also featured 18 year old Nils Lofgren and typical of Neil Young, he asked the young guitar virtuoso to play piano, an instrument he hadn’t played much before!
The album starts with a twee few chords before getting into Tell Me Why which sets the scene well with it’s acoustic approach. It’s an odd opener however as it’s not the strongest of tracks.
The title track is a piano-led stripped-down song that talks about the environment. The simplicity of production is fine, but I wonder if this song could have faired better with a broader sound.
We get a waltz with pretty Only love can break your heart which has the backing vocal style that would be used a lot on Harvest.
The electric guitars kick in for Southern Man, a fan favourite and is a definite dig at American southerners and the perceived racism of the region. Side A ends with the filler track, Till the morning comes that seems more like an “idea” than a proper song.
Oh Lonesome Me is the only track not composed by Young and is a country-ish song that sounds fine, but doesn’t do much for me. However, Don’t let it bring you down is a classic song. It is slow and laboured, with strained vocals and simple arrangement, but don’t that put you off as it’s a well crafted piece of songwriting that hits the mark. Check out Annie Lennox’s cover version, it’s great!
When you dance you can really love is missing something. It’s another track that is close to being a rocker, but doesn’t quite achieve it. I believe in you is a pleasant love song.
There are a couple of fillers on the album that I didn’t mention, but overall it achieves what it sets out to do: an acoustic based album of (mainly) original songs. The production is lacking for me, but despite that, I do like the album. It would be a 7/10 but as an album as a whole, it’s let down but a handful of lacklustre tracks.
My rating: 6/10
Standout tracks: Southern Man, Don’t let it bring you down
Listen to the album here.
See the Top 100 here.