Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Reprise Records, 1969
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/02/1998
With the vastness of the Pierce Archives and my constant desire to feature different artists on these pages, often worthy artists and albums get shafted for no good reason. Neil Young has only graced these pages twice in our almost 14 months online, and I really have no good explanation why this is so.
So, into the Archives (where we're still in mourning over Dave Coutts's being fired from Talk Show), and out with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Young's 1969 effort, and his first with Crazy Horse. And while this album features a few rough edges, it still is one of Young's most enjoyable efforts ever.
With a rhythm section like Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot (who still perform with Young), and a guitarist like Danny Whitten (whose drug overdose death prompted Young to write Tonight's The Night), there was little that Young could do wrong. This is evidenced in the opening song "Cinammon Girl," a track which remains one of my favorite songs to hear when I'm driving. Young has rarely sounded this good on vocals, and the harmony work featured here is incredible. Plus, Young is the only person I know of who can get away with a one-note guitar solo and not have critics like me piss on him.
The power continues throughout the all-too-short first half of the album. The title track is an interesting dive into country-fried rock, and while it might not have been a song featured on the radio all these years, it is no less enjoyable. "Down By The River" is a slice of controlled panic and emotion all wrapped up in a nine-minute package. While Young might have been able to cut out some of the guitar noodling, I don't think it hurts to have left it in. And the beauty of Young's songwriting and singing comes forth on "Round & Round" (with harmony vocals from Robin Lane). For almost twenty minutes, Young is able to make you forget he was ever in Buffalo Springfield or ever played with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
But the energy level doesn't quite carry over to side two of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. "Cowgirl In The Sand" seems to try to recapture the glory of excess found on "Down By The River", and while it passes quickly for a ten-minute track, the magic just isn't there. "The Losing End" and "Running Dry" both aren't bad songs, but they don't stand up next to Young's best work.
But in the grand scheme of things, one really can't blame Young or his band. Young has always been an artist in transition, and he was still dealing with the dissolution of Buffalo Springfield while trying to bang out a name for himself. And I know that "Cowgirl In The Sand" is considered to be a classic from Young - it just doesn't light any fires under me. I didn't say it was bad - I'll reserve those cracks for his... whoops, getting a little ahead of myself.
The real danger in any of Young's albums is that you really don't know what to expect when you first drop the needle on the vinyl - you have to be willing to allow yourself to be placed in the passenger seat for Young's wild rides. This is really easy to do with most of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - it's not often I find myself looking forward to listening to a nine-minute song repeatedly.
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere is one of the better choices for you to pick up if you're wanting to find out more about Young than the hits we hear on the radio or you found on Decade. If anything, the disappointments on the second side are still better than the best moments of some flash-in-the-pan bands of today.