If you, like me, were a member of Team Coco, then you were there when Neil Young serenaded young Conan with a stirring rendition of "Long May You Run" as a part of Conan's final Tonight Show. (I would love to link to a video, but NBC has taken down all videos relating to Conan. They will reap what they sow.) My dad and I are two of the worlds biggest Neil Young fans, and when we each saw that performance, even though we were separated by two state lines and 202 miles, we both thought, "I wonder who Neil Young originally wrote that song for?" and "Is the original release on dad's shelf?"

And of course Dad had the record, although it was pretty dust-free; almost untouched. I was very excited to see it, since I had never even heard of the Stills-Young band, instantly removing me from the echelon of 'world's biggest Neil Young fan,' and placing me among 'Neil Young Enthusiasts.'

Well, as my dad explained to me, the song Long May You Run actually debuted as the lead-off track to the only album from the short lived Stills-Young Band, an ephemeral union of Stephen Stills and Neil Young pragmatically thrown together in response to the success of Wind on the Water, an album by former CSN&Y'ers David Crosby and Graham Nash. While the album did make some dough (it went gold), Long May You Run is kind of uneven. Mainly because the two split it right down the middle - it's a Young song, then a Stills song, then another Young song...ad infinitum. And those Stills songs can get pretty mind-numbing. Check out track two:

[ mp3 ]: Stephen Stills - Make Love to You

Um, gross. I'll stick with Barry White if I'm looking for that kind of music, especially these days.

Neil's songs are not great, barring the title track. But songs like Midnight On the Bay still have some charm, while the Stills tunes kind of ruin the album. It's like filling a cup with half Pepsi and half Diet Pepsi; it will taste kind of weird, and you're going to get diabetes and have all the calcium sucked from your bones. (I think that's what PepsiMax is trying to accomplish anyway.)

[ mp3 ]: Neil Young - Long May You Run
[ mp3 ]: Neil Young - Midnight On the Bay

Long May You Run is a classic, undeniably bright eyed yet nostalgic, the perfect send-off to any old friend.  Midnight On the Bay is uncharacteristically funky for Neil, dare I say it's his version of Rupert Holmes' Escape (The Pina Colada Song.) Fun.

Oh yeah - so who did Neil write the song Long May You Run for? Was Conan's plight similar to an old friend, lover, or historical character? Turns out, it was written as an ode to his 1948 Buick Roadmaster, which, as I'm sure you know, is a hearse.


PS - lala has mis-credited this record as a Neil Young solo joint. They are mistaken.

The Moody Blues - Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)

Growing up, my friend Ethan and I had a running joke that went like this:

Me: Hey Ethan, what's the best band in the world?
Ethan: I don't know, but it sure as hell isn't The Moody Blues.

No wonder we're both famous comedians and professional music critics. (Neither one of us is either of those things.)

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is neither Bluesy, nor Moody (though this could be argued). It's, at first listen, a prog-rock album. I think the first word that comes to mind is "lush." For a band that I always thought was a blues band, it's downright surprising. In fact, when my dad first played it for me, I admit that I did not enjoy it. Maybe it was the fact that they were at one point simply a punchline, but I had a hard time taking them seriously. I mean, listen to the first track, Procession, in which nominalizations are eerily shouted, General Zod-like, over an ominous, building orchestration....

[ mp3 ]: The Moody Blues - Procession

But, as Rod Stewart never sang, the first cut is the weirdest, and right after that bizarre opener, The Moody Blues hit you with what might be their best song, The Story In Your Eyes.

[ mp3 ]: The Moody Blues - The Story In Your Eyes

I feel like this song is the true litmus test. If you like it, if you allow yourself to like it, then you're going to like The Moody Blues. It's like that movie Avatar. If you allow yourself to get emotionally attached to blue aliens, you're going to end up getting a lot more out of it than a skeptical friend. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is anything but casual. You need to really listen to it, and if you make the choice to, parts of it will blow your mind. Take the closer, My Song, which makes the Elton John number by the same title seem like a commercial jingle.

[ mp3 ]: The Moody Blues - My Song

It's powerful stuff, but only if you've already downed the Kool-Aid. It's impossible to say that The Moody Blues aren't good songwriters, especially on this record. The orchestrations are incredibly dense, guitar layered on pianos, sprinkles of organ, flute, and ambient sounds. And the middle of this album is full of great tunes as well. Check out Emily's Song and After You Came, both perfect.

Ethan and I may have been right - The Moody Blues may not have been the best band in the world. But not for lack of trying.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

- N.W.