Neil Young

Neil Young

Reprise, 1969

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Neil Young has always been an artist who followed his own muse, whether or not it corresponded with the direction that popular music was taking at the time. Such a stand would sometimes pit Young against his own record label and/or his own fans, but he cared little, as long as he was being true to his own musical self.

His self-titled release from 1969 should have been the first warning to listeners that being a fan of Young’s music was not going to be an easy path. It hardly suggested the greatness that Young would achieve later in his career—or even had achieved as a member of Buffalo Springfield—and proves to be a difficult album not only to listen to, but to get into.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At times a California-country album, at times an acoustic folk album, and at times suggesting the rock direction Young would take just one album later with Crazy Horse, Young seems to try to tackle too many genres and cram them into a 35-minute album. It’s a strategy that, unfortunately, does not work.

The closest that Young comes to the style that he would become known for is on the disc’s closing track, “The Last Trip To Tulsa”—a weird stream-of-consciousness lyrical jumble that leaves the listener wondering just what kind of trip Young was actually on. It’s hardly his best work, but shows the artist in development. If only it wasn’t such a painful excursion to undertake.

One would be hard-pressed to call any of the remaining songs on Neil Young evidence of what he would grow into as a songwriter and musician. Tracks like “The Old Laughing Lady,” “I’ve Loved Her So Long” and “The Loner” don’t have any of the flashes of brilliance that Young would showcase in just a few short years. If anything, they feel like underdeveloped works that just might have been something to write home about, had some more work been done on them.

The inclusion of two instrumentals—“The Emperor Of Wyoming” and “String Quartet From Whiskey Boot Hill”—only add to the confusion, the latter definitely not fitting any style that Young tried to emulate during the course of this album. (Maybe, had it been tacked onto Harvest a few years later, it would have made more sense.)

Neil Young is a musical experiment, and one that does not end well for the artist. Had this been the only album that Young released as a solo artist, it would have undoubtedly been forgotten about through the passage of time. It’s because of the success Young has experienced over the course of 50-plus years of recording that it’s even recognized today. Approach this one with extreme caution.

Rating: D+

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