Neil Young - Trans (1982)

When I posted about Trans a few years ago, I was kind of lukewarm about the album.  I assumed that Neil was just playing around with genre, trying to find out what an electronic sound could do for his songs. I did love the robot voice on Transformer Man, that's for sure. 

However, after reading his autobiography last month, I found out that there's a lot more to this album than I previously thought.

 Neil's son Ben Young was born with cerebral palsy. In the early eighties, Neil was having a hard time communicating with him - the disease was affecting Ben's ability to speak. So Neil was experimenting with electronics at the time, seeing if they would give him any advantage in talking with his son. In his book he talks about how Trans has to do with how we communicate in an increasingly digital world.

This album lies smack dab in the middle of the lawsuit Geffen brought against Neil for producing albums that were "unrepresentative of Neil Young." I totally get their case, but doesn't that seem like exactly what went wrong with music labels? I truly believe labels should serve the artists and not the other way around. Especially with voices as distinctive as Neil. But those are thoughts for an (even) more boring blog. Here, just listen to this awesome weirdness:

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - We R In Control

The robot voices in "Computer Age" are just out-of-their-mind. It's really something to be heard. I think what's so weird about it is that Neil's voice is so distinct and human on its own. To process it like this seems antithetical to what makes it attractive in the first place. Also, vocoder sounds insane, but it sounds the MOST insane at high pitches.

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - Computer Age

Also, do yourself a favor and go check out my original post to listen to "Transformer Man." It's awesome. It's an awesome song. It's the kind of song you'd remember for the rest of your life if you heard it when you were 10 years old in your Optimus Prime pajamas. You'd love it. 


3.5 / 5 Dads

4.5 / 5 Sons


Neil Young - American Stars 'N Bars (1977)


Stars 'N Bars kind of snuck up on me. Maybe it's the album art that I found so very NOT-Neil, but I always thought this was one of his mid-eighties albums. You know, the ones he made just to mess with his record company. Not the case at all. 

Turns out Stars 'N Bars actually has some really really solid songs. Apparently it was recorded in four different session spanning a few years. Some with Linda Ronstadt, some with Nicolette Larson, but Crazy Horse all the way through. It's criticized as being "all over the place," and often called "unessential."

I couldn't disagree more. There's a lot of value to be had on this record. Obviously the cornerstone is Like a Hurricane, a fan-favorite which Neil still plays at concerts (hoping to hear it Monday at the Barclay's Center.) And yes, that song is amazing.

But don't disregard the rest of this album. 

Besides Hurricane and the plaintive, seven-minute long Will to Love, the rest of these songs are short - most less than four minutes. And a short song in the world of Neil Young is often a great thing.
I find listening to this album all the way through really enjoyable. "The Old Country Waltz" is a great lead-off track, with sweet backing vocals from Larson and Ronstadt, not to mention a pretty rad fiddle part.

From there, it's a nice mix. The thumping "Saddle Up the Palomino," the light, rolling "Hey Babe," and then what might be my favorite track, "Star of Bethlehem." It's actually really nice to hear these songs demonstrate a range of styles while still within the familiar sonic world of Neil. It's like looking at a family of siblings where every kid looks different, but they all share at least one feature with another. 

So smush your face down on your desk a la Neil on the album cover and enjoy "American Stars 'N Bars." That's what I'll be doing this afternoon.

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - The Old Country Waltz

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - Star of Bethlehem

- N.W.
4 / 5 Dads

4.5 / 5 Sons


Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)


I've already written a little something about Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, which remains one of my favorite Neil albums of all time. His first with Crazy Horse, it's a fitting place to start off the WEEK OF NEIL.

The first Neil Young song my dad every played for me was "Cortez the Killer," which I think is a really ballsy choice on his part. It's like introducing someone to sushi by giving them raw eel. Thank god I loved it. (The song, I mean. I still hate eel. They're the snakes of the sea. Why woud you eat that?)

Obviously Cinnamon Girl and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere are highlights, but if you spend enough time with this record, you realize that every single one of the tracks has something worthwhile in it. Whether it's the haunting violin in Running Dry (Requiem For the Rockets), or the warbly vocals of Cowgirl In the Sand, the epic guitar in Down By the River, or yes, the killer riff in Cinnamon Girl, it's hard not to listen to this thing all the way through once you start.

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)

[ mp3 ] Neil Young - Running Dry (Requiem For the Rockets)

Needless to say, this one gets five out five for both me and my dad. As will most of Neil's stuff. Buy this album here.


5 / 5 DADS

5 / 5 SONS


I've got tickets to see Neil Young and Crazy Horse this coming Monday with my dad. Neil is the patron saint of He's my dad's favorite artist and one of my favorite too. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited about this.

So, in honor of Neil and my dad, this week is going to be to NEIL YOUNG WEEK on That means all Neil, all the time. At least until Monday. Consider yourself warned.

I just finished Neil's autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, and one thing that he kept repeating was, "you can't tame the Horse." Basically saying that when working with Crazy Horse, Neil cannot dictate where things are going. Instead, he must follow the muse. This probably accounts for their recent album, Psychedelic Pill, leading off with a track that's over twenty-seven minutes long. And probably has something to do with the almost seventeen minute "Ramada Inn."

I'm sure we'll hear a lot of the new album, but I'm confident there'll be some old ones in there too.

Buy the new album here.

Preview the new album here: