John’s Blues Picks Dec 2015 – Neil Young
Neil Young Bluenote Café (Reprise) | neilyoung.com
In 1988, during a period of experimentation with different genres of music, Neil Young released an album called This Note’s For You, featuring Crazy Horse and a large horn section and some surprisingly bluesy songs. The album sold poorly and received poor reviews but he took the band on the road anyway and the latest release in his archive series is this two-disc set of recordings from that tour – playing the songs live has clearly made a world of difference.
After a rather desultory 12 bar blues, “Welcome To The Big Room”, we get a stunning “Don’t Take Your Love Away From Me”, with a “Thrill Is Gone” guitar intro and excellent lyrics well-delivered. Young’s guitar solos go with a wonderful unison horn chorus and a solid sax solo. Even at nine and a half minutes you don’t want it to end. My favourite from the original album was “Ten Men Working” and the live version is far better. The album title is the name he’s given these ten men, not a place and they do work very hard. There’s room for social commentary as well with “Life In The City” a powerful comment on how life there isn’t good for everyone. Apparently written while still in high school, “Hello Lonely Woman” is another fine blues, with an uptempo Jimmy Reed feel. It sounds like Neil himself takes the harmonica solo. “Soul Of A Woman” is one of seven previously unreleased songs here, you’ll find yourself wondering why it’s taken 27 years for it to see the light of day. Another fine slow blues, “One Thing” is introduced as ‘Does anyone here have trouble at home?’ and a tender lyric about a coming breakup follows. “I’m Goin’” was a non-album B-side, the far better live version is taken from the CNE show on the tour, it’s a straight 12 bar with some punchy horns and a slide solo. There are several of these on the program, “Ain’t It The Truth”, Married Man”, “Doghouse”, songs with relatively minor (for Neil) lyrics on top of some amazingly robust structures, everyone is clearly having a good time, including the audience. Several non-blues songs will keep Young fans happy, including the atmospheric “Twilight” and a 20-minute version of “Tonight’s The Night”.
Mr. Young’s isn’t the first name that comes up when talking about blues singers but you’ll be impressed at this outing, I certainly was. At a budget price for two and a half hours of music, this might be the deal of the year.