This discography analysis is written by contributer JT of Perth, Australia (follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter).
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Ragged Glory (1990) Spotify
1) 'Country Home' - Masterpiece #28. Honestly, can you think of a better start to any album by anyone ever? Sure, there may have been better songs, but there hasn't been any more perfect. Within five seconds of Neil's guitar ringing out, you can tell what you're in for. And here it is - loud, long, joyous - not necessarily at the same time, but forever brilliant. The Horse are loose and on fire - playing with a carefree passion that hasn't been heard from since Zuma. People make mention that the song dated back to the mid-70s, but honestly, that's information that means nothing whatsoever. It was recorded for this album, it opens this album and it announces its greatness to all listening right from the first breath. Reviewing this album is hard when you've gotta go back and listen to songs over and over again (pardon the pun). But damn, it's fun. 10.0
2) 'White Line' - And it doesn't let up. Another song from the mid-70s, and another song that has found it home right here. Neil isn't the star as much as the rest of Crazy Horse. Ralphie and Billy lay down the groove, Poncho wanders in and out as only he can, and all three kill the background vocals. This album is only two songs in and already it's laid claim to being great. 9.0
3) 'Fuckin' Up' - What can I say? Despite the fact that I know too many people who think of this as a Pearl Jam song... despite the fact that it's been played in concert too many times while other classics are left to rot in the vaults... and despite the fact that it's probably never been played as good as it is here - this song still rules. The snarling backing vocals on every single "why do I??" line, the way that Neil & Poncho's guitars sound like there's three lots of each... and man, that two note groove which runs throughout the song!! Fuckin' up?? Fuckin' unbelievable. 9.0
4) 'Over and Over' - Masterpiece #29. Neil's not known for too much sentimentality is he? Well, he blows that to hell here with one of the most rawkus love songs we've ever heard. From the intro that suggests the guys could've just kept on playing, to Neil's vocal entrance where he seemingly leaps into the fray, desperate to get his message across. This may not be the 'best' song on the album, but it's easily my favourite. How could you honestly dislike it? A little personal note - this song's never been as good as it was the day that I was driving to the beach with the windows down and the stereo blaring. There's something about the song which reveals itself with the sunny blue sky, wind in your hair and the blue horizon which stretches on forever. Right at that moment, there was no other song that could be playing. Since then, this song's always been (and always will be) a 10.0.
5) 'Love to Burn' - Well, here's the first less-than-glorious track from the album. Not saying it's not great (because it is), but the mood of the song is more than a couple of rungs below the rest of the album ('Fuckin' Up' included). Great singing by ol' Neil throughout the song, and great playing (as on the whole album) by the equine boys. But there's something missing, something that it could use to get those extra points from me. But as always, if I knew what they were I'd be able to mark the song a bit higher. 8.5
6) 'Farmer John' - Not much else to say except this is raggedly glorious trash and a great fit for the album. 7.0
7) 'Mansion on the Hill' - Another song that's not played nearly enough. Neil's got this awesome catalogue of songs that would just kill live, and he barely trots them out any more. Without looking, I can tell you that this wouldn't have been played with any regularity since 1997. I do know it came out for one Greendale show in 2004, but not much else. And why not? What's not to like or love about this song? Great melody? Check. Great groove? Double check. How awesome a show opener would this be? 9.0
8) 'The Days That Used to Be' - Written on the same night as 'Ordinary People' and 'Sixty to Zero' (aka the full-length 'Crime in the City'). If it doesn't reach the greatness of those two, then that's fine because this is still its own great song. Obviously taken from 'My Back Pages', but if anyone's allowed to rip off Dylan, it's Neil. One of Neil's greatest vocals. There's something in his voice that suggests he had a fuckin' ball while working on this song. He gives his all, and as a result he raises up the value of a song which could've been something a lot more ordinary than what we got. 9.0
9) 'Love and Only Love' - Masterpiece #30. This is like an optimistic version of 'Love to Burn', and since the over-riding mood of the album is one of joy (for lack of a better word), this one gets my higher mark. Not to say 'Love to Burn' isn't a great song, it's just that what elevates this into the top echelon of Neil songs is its simplicity, Billy Talbot's awesome bassline, the fact that the song doesn't care if it ever gets to the vocals but when it does Neil knows how to knock them out of the park. So many things make this a masterpiece, least of all the chorus. "Love and only love will endure, hate is everything you think it is. Love and only love will break it down." Simple. Brilliant. Masterpiece. 10.0
10) 'Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)' - Not much else to say except this is raggedly glorious trash. Nah, not really. This is a fine song - it just doesn't belong here at all. It would be like taking 'Hot Dog' off Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door and putting it on Led Zeppelin II. It just doesn't work. Doesn't mean it's terrible though. 6.0
ALBUM RATING: 10.0
VERDICT: Of course it's a 10.0. It was never going to be anything else, even with the sub-par song to finish, and an average that works out to something less that 9.0 per song. This album isn't just a collection of songs - it's 9 brothers and sisters (with the annoying cousin thrown in - ala Mike Love). 22 years after his first solo album, Neil Young cranks out a masterpiece that must've left his contemporaries shaking their heads, wondering what the hell this guy was on that they could be left so far behind by someone who was moving side-by-side with them for so long. No one has ever made as good an album this long into their career, and for someone to beat it will have to be a very special album indeed. This album is so joyous, it's a one-album distillation of everything that the amalgamation of Neil Young and Crazy Horse means. The Horse are fresh and play better than they have in years, and Neil sound 15 years younger and plays guitar like a child that's been told they'll lose their favourite toy in the morning when they wake up. But it's the songs that need to get the credit. There's masterpieces here - and if they don't reach the storied heights of something like 'Down By the River', well that doesn't deny them a well-deserved 10.0, because there aren't many songs written by anyone that can match up to that.
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Weld (1991) Spotify
Note: There's some tracks here which I don't actually think there's any need for me to say anything about. Not that I don't dig them, or anything like that - I just don't feel as though I can add anything else to what's been said before. Sorry if that seems slack.
1) 'Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)' - Still great and a great kick-off. 9.0
2) 'Crime in the City' - Masterpiece #31. So here we go. There's three distinct variations on this song. There's the original, unabridged version from 1988 that ran about 20 minutes and had just as many verses. There's the abridged version that got released on Freedom, and then there's this - the furious live take with Crazy Horse. To know that all three variations are great isn't stretching anyone's capabilities, but to think that this isn't the king motherfucker of them all? Well that's just plain stupid. This here is a modern marvel and should rank right up there with 'Powderfinger', 'Like a Hurricane' and 'Danger Bird' as one of the finest things someone's ever put on disc. Just listen to the way Neil spits these lyrics out, as though there was some guy sitting in the front row the whole night with a "I fucked your missus" t-shirt, staring into Neil's soul and saying "yeah buddy, I'm talking about you". 10.0
3) 'Blowin' in the Wind' - Well, that came from somewhere! I can't imagine how awesome it would've been on the first night that this was played. It would've been such a fuckin' trip, almost as though it weren't even planned. Perfect for this album. 9.0
4) 'Welfare Mothers' - 8.0
5) 'Love to Burn' - 8.5
6) 'Cinnamon Girl' - 9.0
7) 'Mansion on the Hill' - Still underrated, still underplayed. Always great. 9.0
8) 'Fuckin' Up' - Is it just me or is this at a slower tempo? Either way - I don't think I'm as much of a fan of this take than I am of the original. 8.0
1) 'Cortez the Killer' - Masterpiece #32. "Wait a minute - hasn't he already called this a masterpiece before?" Well yes, you'd be correct. But you know what - I don't give a crap. This here's a masterpiece and it needs to be known as such. You know the studio take on Zuma and how it's all kinds of awesome? Yeah, well that's 'Rocky V' to this one's 'Rocky III'. There's just no way to keep them on an even keel. Not saying the original's bad (it never stoops to 'Rocky V's' levels - it's still a 10.0 after all), but this one just takes the original, flushes it away and spits out a tour de force. Love the way the dude at the start yells for 'Powderfinger' and then gets his ass blown apart by 'Cortez'. Love the guitars, love the singing - especially on the "how I lost my waaaaaaaaaaaaaay" and "what a killer.... KILLLLLEEEEERRR!!!". Love it all - every fuckin' second of the song. 10.0
2) 'Powderfinger' - Didn't you read my Live Rust review? As I said there... there's no way this song could ever not be a 10.0. It's too perfect for that. Dig the backing vocals on here - I think it's Ralph and Poncho stepping up to the plate. Home run guys, home run. 10.0
3) 'Love and Only Love' - Takes the masterpiece from Ragged Glory and improves on it. I won't bring out the masterpiece tag with this, because it's not a revelation on the scale of 'Crime in the City' or 'Cortez the Killer', but it's still worthy of the highest mark possible. 10.0
4) 'Rockin' in the Free World' - You see - I'm not too sure on this. When I first read about Weld and I saw there was a 9 minute 'Rockin' in the Free World', it was like some teenager's wet dream come true in the middle of the day, but then when I heard it... and it was slowed down, I felt let down. The furiousness of the original was its greatest weapon, it wasn't the riff and it wasn't the lyrics. The thing that saved it from being a song that was too anthemic was that it was so vicious that you couldn't help but be blown outta your seat. Here, the song is turned into something that's too aware of its own popularity. Not saying it's bad, but I am saying that it's nowhere near as good as the original was. 8.0
5) 'Like a Hurricane' - Almost my favourite version of the song. Doesn't touch the version from the Werchter Festival in 1996, but is still completely and utterly brilliant and reminds you how awesome and special it is to be a Neil Young fan. We really are spoiled, aren't we? 10.0
6) 'Farmer John' - Once is charming, twice is starting to grate. Shoulda stayed left in the can and the electric take of 'Campaigner' from this tour should've got a run (not that I'm biased or anything). But oh well, no use crying over that anymore... 6.0
7) 'Tonight's the Night' - Masterpiece #33. I finally get it. I see what the fuss is about. I take it back - this song kicks all kinds of ass. White ones, skinny ones, black ones, fat ones, old ones, young ones and any other ones too. For some reason, I don't think this song should be mournful... it should be as powerful as it is here. 10.0
8) 'Roll Another Number (For the Road)' - Neil said it best - "now here's some more trash for you". I think he meant it in a good way. Better than the album version. 8.0
ALBUM RATING: 10.0
VERDICT: OK, this kicks so much ass. About 50 times better than Live Rust simply because the electricity runs all the way through, and there's some renditions here that just make you collapse and think you're listening to someone talk for the first time. Neil and the Horse are simply inspired, all the way throughout this album which (apart from the Archives series), is Neil's finest live album. I could listen to 'Crime in the City' and 'Cortez the Killer' from here for hours on end and not only wouldn't I get bored, but I would probably hear something new every time I heard them. Man, I was way too young to be into Neil Young at this stage, but I would love to venture back and see one of these shows - they'd definitely be something special.
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