This discography analysis is written by contributor JT of Perth, Australia. Follow him at @thesonofnoone on Twitter.
Prairie Wind (2005) Spotify
1) 'The Painter' - I should probably just give up now. Neil's never going to sound like he did before. His vocals are just too weak now. But having said that - this song has got something going for it. There's some little middle melodic passages that make me crack a smile and think that the guy hasn't completely lost it. But then again, a Neil Young that's completely lost it is still better than 50% of anyone else at the top of their game, so I'm not one to argue. Good on' Neil for getting back after the aneurysm and getting back so soon after. This isn't earth-shattering but it's pleasant enough. 6.5
2) 'No Wonder' - Unexpected song, especially with an album that's got such a shit cover. This definitely sounds like something Neil would've written in the mid-to-late 70s and would've just cut sitting on a rug somewhere. I don't get the insistence with the choir-like backing vocals though. Why polish a turd? People can still see it's a turd. The turd being Neil's voice obviously. And by turd I mean something that will never approach Sam Cooke's levels (or something like that). Oh, and I owe $20 to the dude who bet me that Chris Rock would get a mention in a Neil Young song. Anyway, I digress. Neil should've recorded this by himself in the 70s. 6.0
3) 'Falling Off the Face of the Earth' - Sounds like it belongs on Silver & Gold. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Do I think it should be there because it'll blend in with the blandness, or do I want it there because it will make that album just that little bit better? Who the fuck knows... 5.0
4) 'Far From Home' -
Me: "I'll take latter-day Neil Young albums for $200 please Alex."
Alex Trebek: "The horn section on Prairie Wind's 'Far From Home'. Campaigner?
Me: "What are the most unnecessary instruments on a song, ever?"
Alex Trebek: "Correct."
P.S Not that bad a song. Horn section blows chunks though. 6.0
5) 'It's a Dream' - Wow - this is awkward. Neil really strains to get this song doesn't he? Those verses are kinda painful. The chorus is gorgeous though. Definitely angling for the Jack Nitzsche influence with the string section. Neil really is holding back on the vocals though - and that still disappoints. 5.0
6) 'Prairie Wind' - OK - this is getting better. Neil puts some balls into his vocals and the horn section doesn't stick out nearly so much on this one. This album is at least much better than I remember it being, I'll give it that. The backing vocals are even tolerable. Maybe I've misjudged the bloke - I don't think I give his new stuff the time it deserves. You know what? This is actually a really fuckin' good song, all things considered. 7.0
7) 'Here For You' - Or maybe I haven't misjudged him, 'cos this pretty much sucks. Sounds like the worst Harvest Moon outtake. If you ever managed to get a chick to sleep with you by singing or playing 'Harvest Moon' for her, singing or playing this would guarantee your dick will grow old and wither away, companion-less like the kid at school no-one wanted to be friends with. 3.5
8) 'This Old Guitar' - Not too bad, but I would've much preferred just Neil's voice and his guitar. Everything else in the song is a waste. 5.0
9) 'He Was the King' - So bad. So, so bad. Nothing much more needs to be said, because this is horrendous. 1.5
10) 'When God Made Me' - 'Long Walk Home', Take 2. And that's not a bad thing - it kinda fits here. Although, after the monstrosity that was 'He Was the King', I suppose even a Graham Nash song would've been OK in my books. 6.0
ALBUM RATING: 5.5
VERDICT: Honestly, I'd never made it all the way through this album from start to finish prior to reviewing it for this thread. Maybe it's a little bit of ADD slipping in, but if it doesn't grab me from the get-go, then it's going to be a struggle. After all, haven't we learned that Neil's best albums kick off with a bang... a brilliant song that announces the album's greatness for you? Prairie Wind doesn't do that. It finds Neil, post brain aneurysm, seemingly praising the virtues of life. Pardon me for being rude, but that's never been Neil's forte. He can speak about the lives of others ('Transformer Man' for example), but not so much about himself. Glad he's alive though because holy shit, what the fuck would we do in a world without Neil Young?
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Live at the Fillmore East (2006) Spotify
1) 'Everybody Knows This is Nowhere' - I'm fuckin' drunk and Neil's such a fucking God. For years he talked about his Archives series and when it arrives, it's not with one of the box sets, it's with a six-song CD. What the fuck? I haven't waited years for six fucking songs. But fuckin' hell - they are great aren't they? Kicking off with one of his underrated gems (and probably his best ever title track), Neil and Crazy Horse show that in the live setting they kick everybody's asses. They may not be completely tight, but holy hell are they good. Thought Danny Whitten was an unsung hero on the studio album? Listen to him here. He's as much a part of this album as Neil is. These aren't backing vocals - he's a co-lead singer on this track. Oh to have been at these shows. This is history folks. 9.0
2) 'Winterlong' - How could I give my favourite Neil Young song anything less than a ten? Especially with Whitten providing the extra layer of vocals on top? I can't call this a masterpiece because it isn't as much of a ten as the version released on Decade, but I don't mean that as a slight. This is grand... majestic... regal. This will kick your ass into next Wednesday if you're not careful. One of the greatest songs ever written, I kid you not.10.0
3) 'Down By the River' - Masterpiece #39. It takes someone special to take what you thought was one of the greatest things you've ever heard and turn it into something so much more. This is so good that I can't find the words to express how much this knocks me out. 'Masterpiece' dopes not justice to it. Not a bit. This isn't to say the original studio cut isn't great, it's just that this is a masterpiece elevated to mythic levels. Neil's vocals. his guitar playing. Danny's vocals and his somewhat random guitar playing, Billy & Ralphie's rhythm section... all unreal. Sympathies for those who don't enjoy. 10.0
4) 'Wonderin'' - What the Everybody's Knockin' cut could've been, should've been and would've been if Neil's head were on straight. Look, this isn't an earth-shattering song and no-one's gonna confuse it for some of the tems on this album, but for what it is, it does it better than most others. If that makes sense... 7.5
5) 'Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown' - What might've been. Danny was so good that it breaks your heart to know what happened to him. It's a goddamn shame. You don't have to mourn, but know that there could've been so much more. 8.0 (yeah, my thoughts have changed on this, although it fits better here...)
6) 'Cowgirl in the Sand' - Masterpiece #40. I didn't think it could get better than the studio cut of this and boy was I wrong! This is otherworldly shit right here. It's impossible to listen to this just once because it sends you into a trance, floating you along. Neil's guitar playing, needless to say, has hardly ever been better. He's in the zone that very few (if any) have ever entered before. Even if you're not a Neil Young fan, or you are but you prefer another side of him... you have to listen to this song. This shit'll make you weep. One year into his solo career and he's already set a watermark for eveyone else to live up to. Unbelievably great. 10.0
ALBUM RATING: 10.0
VERDICT: About time!! But so worth the wait. This is over a decade of promises distilled into six tracks. I can't say much more than I've already said in this review. This is as legendary as the legend itself and about as important a live document as there's ever been. Who the fuck cares if 'Cinnamon Girl' isn't here? Love what's here and don't worry about what's not.
NEXT: Shrink-wrapped, for your protection.