This discography analysis is written by JT of Perth, Australia (follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter).
Tonight's the Night (1975) Spotify
1) 'Tonight's the Night' - Is it sacrilege to say this isn't my favourite song? Who gives a shit if it is or not - this isn't my favourite song. Or maybe it's just this version I don't like. I prefer the live Crazy Horse renditions that pummel you into submission. Having said all that, you can't deny the song's power and you can't help that if time weren't a consideration... this thing would've gone on for half an hour before anyone thought that they should probably move onto something else. Needless to say, this album couldn't start (or end) with any other song.8.0
2) 'Speakin' Out' - Hell yeah, this is the shit. It's like the intro to a bar room brawl from a great Mel Brooks film, one where people come running down the stairs to get involved in... except the one dude, sitting lonely at the bar - ignoring the fuss around him and nursing his beer, wondering where the fuck he went wrong. And look! Someone other than Neil Young gets a guitar solo - take it Nils! 8.0
3) 'World on a String' - Lightening the mood a little - this isn't my fave song on the album, but that's not to say it's bad. Great backing vocals, by the way. whoever (Ralph, Billy, Ben Keith) that's offering them up is just tops in my book. 7.0
4) 'Borrowed Tune' - Damn, this is a hard song to listen to. Doesn't mean it isn't fantastic - but you just can't help but feel pain when listening to it. "I'm climbing this ladder, my head in the clouds." Couldn't possibly be on any other album. Anywhere else and it wouldn't have half the impact it has here. Second best song on the album. 9.0
5) 'C'mon Baby, Let's Go Downtown' - I understand the reasoning behind this song's inclusion on the album, but I don't think it's a very good fit. Not saying it shouldn't be here, but I don't know... something about it being on the album, something about such a joyous-sounding song about scoring your next fix, sung by the guy who died of a heroin overdose seems a bit wrong maybe? I don't know - or maybe it's the one song on the album that must be here. Either way, a great performance and a goodbye to a great talent. 7.0
6) 'Mellow My Mind' - Brilliant. Obviously, I should probably talk a bit about the cracked vocals, out of key singing and all that and say that despite all this, the song shines. Fuck that - the song is the cracked and out of key vocals. They're at the heart of this gem and make it what it is. 8.5
7) 'Roll Another Number' (For the Road)' - Goofy fun. Which is what the album could use by this point. Interesting that of all the songs on the album, this has been played live more than any other except the title track. As with songs of this ilk, there are just times where you could take it or leave it, but it's still a bit of fun nonetheless. 7.0
8) 'Albuquerque' - Masterpiece #12. Almost too good to be on this album. Almost. This track just kills me every time I hear it. It starts out straight away too, with the "well they say that Santa Fe..." intro telling you right from the get-go that this song is one of the very best. Isn't it funny how some songs are like that? You're hardly into it at all yet you know that you're listening to something special. 10.0
9) 'New Mama' - Another great song. Actually listening to this as I write all this down is making me appreciate the album a little bit more. Why this hasn't been played more often than it has is beyond me. I can just picture the Crazy Horse guys coming out for an acoustic set, be huddled around the one microphone while cranking this one out. Instead, they do version #3,786 of 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' (fine song that it is). C'mon Neil, remember how good this is?? 8.5
10) 'Lookout Joe' - Oops. Decent-ish song - does not belong on this album. Would've fitted much better on Time Fades Away, which was the time it was recorded. Sticks out like a sore thumb here. As much as this album and Time Fades Away are brothers, they're the kind of brothers that Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes were in 'Money Train'. Doesn't fit here at all and screeches the album to a halt. 6.5
11) 'Tired Eyes' - Another great song. Unlike some of the others though, this song's greatness is tied directly into the greatness of the other songs around it. I've tried to listen to this song separately and it just doesn't work (unlike, say, 'Albuquerque'). But maybe that's the beauty of it. It's like the soundcheck for the whole album, but that's not a bad thing. Again, it's the piano which soars, although Ben Keith kills it on the pedal steel. 9.0
12) 'Tonight's the Night' - Haven't we heard this somewhere before?? My feelings haven't changed, although you hear the song differently the second time you hear it, having heard everything else in between. Still an 8.0
ALBUM RATING: 9.0
VERDICT: [Plagiarising myself here] This album's not a masterpiece. Not to me anyway, not yet. We all know that Tonight’s the Night is not a fun listen. It is the sound of a man doing only what he knows how to do, simply because it’s the only thing he’s able to do in order to stay sane. Tonight’s the Night is to be listened to and appreciated, not enjoyed. I’ve never really been able to fully indulge myself in this album, simply because I’ve never been so down that I’ve felt the need to wallow with this on the stereo. But I do know that if ever that day arrives, I’ve got this album to keep me company.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Spotify
1) 'Don't Cry No Tears' - There's that sound we've been missing. Brilliant isn't it? Not just ragged glory, but something more. Primal joy, simplistic brilliance. It's a relief to hear Neil in a different headspace.. and I guess that the hiring of Poncho to the Crazy Horse ranks helps that greatly. A re-write of one of Neil's oldest songs ('I Wonder') turns into a welcoming party for a new age, one that continues to this day. It's such a knack that he's got - choosing the perfect song to open his albums. The songs aren't necessarily the best songs on the album, but there's nothing else that can be in the #1 spot. It's as if the album would die without them there. 8.5
2) 'Danger Bird' - Masterpiece #13. You see, this is a different kind of gloom. This is forboding... like 'Words (Between the Lines of Age)' only with whatever promise and potential it had finally being fulfilled. There's also only a handful of songs which are 'Crazy Horse-only' specials. Sure, Neil's played this solo at the piano (and everyone already knows my feelings on how awesome that combo is), but even then - this needs Crazy Horse. "I can fly... fly away". Sure you can... but only if you promise to be right back. 10.0
3) 'Pardon My Heart' - Would've fit right into the On the Beach playlist, but I won't begrudge its place here. It fits, and is a great song. One of those songs that you listen to and can't help but feel that it's a first take. Almost as if playing it more than once and trying to 'perfect' it would ultimately render the song sterile. Great playing, great vocals. Nothing wrong with it all.8.5
4) 'Lookin' For a Love' - On a personal level, I'll defend this song until the day I die. Yes, I know it's slight - but that doesn't diminish its impact. Sometimes the slight and simple are exactly what's needed, and the main message of "lookin' for a love that's right for me... I don't know how long it's going to be" is a message that most people can relate to (not that NY songs are about relating to some message!). Obviously not a masterpiece, but it's no dud either, not by a long stretch. 8.0
5) 'Barstool Blues' - This is medieval Crazy Horse. This is the beginning of the current Crazy Horse, the one that would never have been able to record 'Cowgirl in the Sand', but the Crazy Horse that could run rings around the Danny Whitten-era CH when it comes to the garage rockers. "...And I might live 1000 years before I know what that means" is the perfect line. Who says that songs need to say something? Do they even need to say anything at all? The best songs are the ones where you take from it what you will, not what the artist wants you to know, or feel. Underrated song. 8.0
6) 'Stupid Girl' - Fuckin' fantastic. Where did these backing vocals come from? Neil? Ralphie? Poncho? Whoever they came from, they knocked them out of the park. Not often that you can say the backing vocals help make the song, but this is definitely the case. 9.0
7) 'Drive Back' - Not as fantastic. As a straight ahead rocker - it's fine enough, but then again - Neil was never at his most intriguing or impressive when he was straight ahead. He likes the curves, the twists and the intriguing. 'Drive Back' has no twists, no curves and definitely no intrigue. But does that make it a bad song? Fuck no - there are no bad songs on the albums, just some that are less interesting than others. What worked well for 'Barstool Blues', doesn't work as well here. 7.0
8) 'Cortez the Killer' - Masterpiece #14 (as if it wasn't obvious). Probably too much has been written, or said about this song for anything I write here to seem interesting or profound. So I'll just say that I've never been motioned to stop what I was doing the first time I heard a song. Except for 'Cortez the Killer'. I don't think there's any way that this song can be considered less than perfect - unless of course you were to say that it was better on Weld, and then I might agree with you. But until then... 10.0
9) 'Through My Sails' - Completely unexpected (to say the least). Neil reigns in the three-headed beast that is CSN and gets from them what he never got when he was in the band with them. Beautiful song, beautiful harmonies, simplistic playing (which fits the album like a glove) and a great way to end the album, which at the end of all things - turns out to be one of his very best. 8.5
ALBUM RATING: 9.0
VERDICT: Zuma is the album Neil Young needed to make, and he needed to make it with Crazy Horse. Even though he'd recorded with Ralph and Billy numerous times since Danny Whitten's death, they were never Crazy Horse. The added element of Frank Sampedro gives the album its humour, a beating heart, and the ramshackle-ness that it requires. Not saying he doesn't know how to play, just that he knows how to not overplay something, knows how to wind his way through a track to help make it great. Home to some of my favourite Neil songs, this album will always be one of my favourites.
NEXT: The valleys below (with the mountains on the horizon).