Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Reprise Records, 1969
REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/31/2010
Neil Young's solo debut was considered by many a lackluster affair, and Neil has commented to that effect. Displeased with that effort, largely because of the extensive overdubs, Neil recruited a band. Adding three members of the L.A.-based The Rockets -- Danny Whitten on guitar, Billy Talbot on bass, and Ralph Molina on drums -- he renamed them Crazy Horse. It would be the beginning of a long and fruitful collaboration. From this album would come three of Neil's most powerful and enduring songs.
You only need to listen to the first track on Everybody to hear the growth and difference in style. “Cinnamon Girl,” the first of the three cornerstone songs that would debut on this album, opens with a gritty guitar riff that would become a template for the loose, heavy arrangements that would become a hallmark of Neil's sound. If you want to hear the birth wails of the Grunge movement, look no further. The simple romantic song with an infectious three-chord riff would become a classic rock staple, and Neil's most recognizable hit.
The interplay with his band really brings up the level of his playing. Crazy Horse provided Neil with a solid foundation to stretch out as a musician, establishing him as both a top-notch songwriter, and as a creative and expressive guitarist. His electric guitar work is possibly the most unique of any practitioner of the instrument. With Crazy Horse, Young expanded his sound beyond the spare folk-country of his debut. The sound is more reminiscent of his heavier songs from the Buffalo Springfield days, and would become a staple of his career. On Everybody that approach is highlighted by two heavy psychedelic trips featuring some superb interplay between Young and Whitten, “Down By The River,” and “Cowgirl In The Sand.” Both tracks have a dark dreamy quality, and lyrically are highly metaphorical, stream of consciousness narratives. This type of song would become a fixture of Young's songwriting. Also in both cases, the songs serve largely as a foundation for extended jams and guitar solos.
With three songs of that caliber on one album, it might be easy to overlook the four other songs here, but that would be a shame as they are much more that filler. The best of the four is the twangy title track. The gentle “Round And Round” and “The Losing End” reflect more of the sound we had come to expect from Neil, the gentler, more folksy side. “Round And Round,” a duet with Robin Lane, is especially pleasing. “Running Dry” is a little on the dark side, and makes a nice lead in to the finale, the 10 minutes of grungy bliss that are “Cowgirl In The Sand.”
Looking back, this album was a major career juncture for Young, establishing a sound and a creative presence that would launch his already successful career into the lofty heights of super-stardom, and set the mold for much of his work for decades to come.