This discography analysis is written by contributer JT of Perth, Australia (follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter).
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Arc (1991) Spotify
1) 'Arc' - Here's the deal if you don't know. One album, live. One track, long. One collage, lots of feedback. Basically this is a mesh together of the feedback drenched codas of many of the songs from the Weld tour. There's lots of drums and general Crazy Horse shenanigans, and of the many criticisms I could level towards this album, the over-riding one is that it isn't long enough. That's right - you heard me correctly. This doesn't go for long enough. Not saying that this 35 minute track is too short, but there are definite times where you want it to lead back into 'Like a Hurricane', and just kick up that extra gear. As it is, this can't be taken too seriously and is no more than a curio. But remember to crank up the speakers every April Fool's Day and let this baby ring, because April 1 is 'Arc Day'. And I can't think of a more appropriate time to let this puppy ring out.
ALBUM RATING: 3.5
VERDICT: Said it in my 'track' review.
Unplugged (1993) Spotify
1) 'The Old Laughing Lady' - OK. Unplugged, time to pull out those songs you'd never thought you'd hear in the acoustic arena. Time for Neil to find another audience and time for Neil to pull out his most beloved song and butcher it in acoustic form that will seemingly make radio stations forget the original and infinitely superior version even exists (Hi, Eric... Hi 'Layla'). But Neil seems to play it safe here. OK - so this isn't his most well-known song, but he doesn't go for any of that 'reinterpretation' claptrap. Still not my favourite song at all, but at least the mid-song vocal breakdown is missing. On the other hand, Neil sounds like he would rather be somewhere else. Not a fabulous start. 5.0
2) 'Mr. Soul' - Well, this is a bit better. Neil turns this into something very dark indeed, that bluesy harp work helps out with the doom and gloom. But still, for all the darkness and stripping of the song to its core - Neil still seems to be elsewhere, as though this is merely a run-through for the real thing the next night. Do you think they released the wrong night??6.0
3) 'World on a String' - Not bad. Maybe Neil isn't playing it safe after all? I'm going to try and stop mentioning how lacklustre Neil is, because it will get to be like a broken record. Would've loved a different song from Tonight's the Night, 'Albuquerque' perhaps, but I'm just nitpicking. This here's not too bad. It suffers when compared to the original because it's almost played too well, and the drunken backing vocals are missing, but it's still a step in the right direction. 6.5
4) 'Pocahontas' - Right-e-o! Here's the song I was waiting for, one of my favourites - a masterpiece if you will. Unfortunately, this isn't a 10.0 performance. Again, Neil seems disinterested and when we're talking about one of my favourite songs, that tends to greatly disappoint. But still, the greatness of the song shines through and still amounts to the best thing on the album so far. 8.0
5) 'Stringman' - Wow, Neil and the piano - it's been a long time between drinks. And cranking out a previously unreleased tune? That's what I like to hear. Apparently this is about Stills and how he 'lost it', turning himself from someone destined to be one of the greats into someone who was good for a couple of years once. Not sure which seventies album it would've fit on, but it's still a very good song. 8.0
6) 'Like a Hurricane' - Damn, I hate that fuckin' pump organ. I really do - but here it somehow works. Could be that the song he's playing it on is completely unfuckwithable, but props for trying something a little different. Makes you wish for a screaming Old Black though. 8.0
7) 'The Needle & the Damage Done' - Pointless, really. Neil can perform this as often as he likes, but is there a real reason as to why he keeps releasing lives versions of essentially what is the very same performance (albeit a few years apart)? Sooner or later it all gets boring, walk on. 6.0
8) 'Helpless' - 'Helpless' at the piano? Full band? Sweet. Pity my criticism of the performance is going to sound like a broken record. It's just not happening for ol' Neil. The best versions of the song are where Neil is practically pleading when he sings. Needless to say - that isn't happening here. 6.5
9) 'Harvest Moon' - Did someone just put the Harvest Moon album on? I'd swear they did - I can even hear the fuckin' broom! Not sure what the point of this performance is - as fine as it is. It just seems a bit pointless to pretty much duplicate the album version only a year after its release. Oh well. It's not a bad performance at all - far from it. This just seems a waste, that's all. 7.0
10) 'Transformer Man' - OK, so you probably already know that this is the highlight of the album. For many, this was the first time they actually listened to this song, and they realised how sweet a song it was. For once, Neil sounds like he gives a damn, and the band actually know when to provide that perfect kick to the song. Just as good as the original version, and I doubt I can say that about anything else on this album. 9.0
11) 'Unknown Legend' - See 'Harvest Moon', excluding the broom comment. 7.0
12) 'Look Out For My Love' - Great song. Always has been, probably always will be. Neil actually puts everything into this. I miss the simplicity of Crazy Horse on the song, but this band does their best. Goes a long way to redeeming the album just that little bit, offering up another reason to listen to it once 'Transformer Man' has finished. 8.0
13) 'Long May You Run' - aka 'Unnecessary Renditions #10'. Or maybe not! This is actually very good. Slows the tempo down a fraction and the band find the groove nicely. Was never my favourite song to begin with, but this isn't bad at all. 7.5
14) 'From Hank to Hendrix' - See 'Unknown Legend'. 7.5
ALBUM RATING: 6.5
VERDICT: At times inspired, but for the most part uninspiring, Unplugged is not only a missed opportunity, you can easily call it a waste. There are glimpses of brilliance here, but the overall impression I get is that it's Neil just cruising in about 3rd gear, never really wanting to offer up too much. His song selection is baffling also. Do we honestly need another live version of 'The Needle & the Damage Done' (our third)? Do we really need versions of 'Harvest Moon', 'Unknown Legend' and 'From Hank to Hendrix' that are no different to the album versions which were released only a year earlier? Kudos for pulling 'Stringman' out and obviously any rendition of 'Transformer Man' is going to be appreciated. But apart from the latter two tracks - where's the soul? When Neil's uninterested, then you know we're in trouble.
NEXT: Too late, too soon.