Ragged Glory

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Reprise, 1990


REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


If there were one word to describe the twists and turns that have comprised Neil Young’s career, that word would have to be unapologetic. There is no other way to define the discography of a man who flouted conventional wisdom at every turn and defied commercial success for damn near a decade, simply because that was what he felt like doing.

In the 1970’s, Neil became a household name through albums like Harvest and Comes A Time, before closing out the decade with the critically-acclaimed Rust Never Sleeps. ‘80s Neil, meanwhile, dropped off the face of the earth, releasing bewildering experimental records in Vocoder technology (Trans) and rockabilly (Everybody’s Rockin’). If not for the streamlined, commercial power of “Rockin’ In The Free World,” Young would have exited the Reagan era as a footnote.

With a measure of a hit on his hands, Young re-charted course and revived his successful partnership with Crazy Horse, the backing band to end all backing band debates. Thus, Ragged Glory was born, a fitting title for a man and a group who had been through so much throughout the years. After the quirky output Young had released during the ‘80s, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ragged Glory comes as a breath of fresh air, and reminder of Young’s rocking prowess.

The highest praise I can offer this album is that one could place it anywhere amongst the finest Neil Young & Crazy Horse records of the 1970’s and it would fit in perfectly with its brethren. When Young & Co. get together, the formula rarely changes; it is just a question of how strong the material is. With this album, though, there is no doubt that Young was at the top of his game, utilizing Crazy Horse perfectly once more.

As if to directly remind people of the good ol’ days, Young saw fit to leadoff Ragged Glory with two tracks that had been performed since the early ‘70s, floating around in the ether before finally being put down on tape. “Country Home” and “White Line” are both built around incredibly catchy central riffs that continue on throughout the song while allowing, of course, the requisite time for Young and Crazy Horse to build off them. In the age of grunge, it must have been nice to hear two songs with such a timeless quality to them.

Truth be told, there are legitimate reasons why Neil Young is considered the godfather of grunge. There are the obvious Cobain connections that have been discussed to death, but when one actually listens to the heavier Young material, the similarities begin to grow. Young’s material was always more firmly planted in the classic rock era, but the relatively basic riffing and bare bones production are merely a few shades different than say, Nevermind. A track like “Fuckin’ Up” shares an attitude with the best of what grunge had to offer (which admittedly, in this reviewer’s opinion, was not much).

Ironically, despite the raw, heavy sound that Ragged Glory has to offer, there are some rather tender, sweet moments here. Lest we forget, Neil Young came to prominence in the 1960’s, and rest assured, his hippie tendencies have not dissipated over the years. You have Young reminding us that “Love and only love will endure,” while not forgetting to close out the proceedings with a genuinely beautiful ode to “Mother Earth.” It’s not Chaucer or Keats, but the sentiment is what we have come to expect from Young.

Ragged Glory would be followed by Harvest Moon, a return to a different form for Neil Young. But the combination of these two records served notice that Young was far from done being heard by the ‘90s, and would continue to keep on doing things his way. Twenty years later, that is still the case.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.