Reprise Records, 1979
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/26/1998
While a live album can often capture the sonic ferociousness of the concert experience, the difficulty comes in if a show features strong visuals. In the case of Neil Young's Live Rust, how do you translate the image of Young being dwarfed onstage by oversized Fender amplifiers and road cases? How do you translate Jawa-like characters coming onstage?
Unfortunately, you can't - and unless you own the video which captures these images, you're left with the grainy pictures on the album jacket and dust sleeves. Be this as it may, if you take away the visual images from the tour supporting Rust Never Sleeps, Live Rust turns out to be a pretty decent effort from Young and Crazy Horse.
The first portion of the album opens with just Young and an array of instruments performed solely by Young. Going from the guitar and harmonica of "Sugar Mountain" to the piano of "After The Gold Rush" to the incredibly powerful acoustic guitar work on "My, My, Hey, Hey (Out Of The Blue)," Young acts kind of as an opening act to himself, the audience yelping with delight all the while.
Crazy Horse - guitarist/keyboardist Frank Sampedro, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina - enter the picture not long after, quickly running through songs like "Lotta Love" (which the late Nicollette Sheridan made famous on the AOR circuit), "The Loner" and "The Needle And The Damage Done". Surprisingly, this portion of the show is the weakest link of the chain. Songs like "When You Dance I Can Really Love" just fail to inspire, and the overall energy takes a serious dip.
Fortunately, the energy level gets back to above the boiling point for the second half of the album - the times when Young and Crazy Horse can actually stretch the music out a bit. It is these extended songs like "Powderfinger," "Cortez The Killer" and "Like A Hurricane" that show the true power and potential of this pairing.
Despite the definite electric sound to the show, there is one surprising disappointment: the lack of distortion on the guitars. I recognize that Young could use it to excess, as evidenced by some moments on Weld, but the sound almost is too... well, pure, in the case of Young.
Live Rust is a decent example of the power that Young and Crazy Horse had in concert in the late '70s, and remains a very solid follow-up to Rust Never Sleeps.