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I know I just skipped eleven years by jumping all the way to Neil's 1978 classic Comes a Time. And those were some pretty great years - Harvest, Tonight's the Night, On the Beach, Zuma - those are some of Neil's strongest records. Harvest was a cultural touchstone, while Zuma contains one of my favorite tracks of all time, Cortez the Killer.

But if Neil could ever be accused of having an underrated album, I think this would be it.

Comes a Time was precursed (and pre-cursed) by American Stars 'N Bars, a bizzare record in which Neil's attitude is best illustrated by his pose on the album cover - I rest my case. Needless to say, it was not well received. So when Comes a Time was released in '78, everyone was thrilled that Neil had returned to the tone he nailed with Harvest. Countrified rock with senitmental lyrics, a worldliness with a sense of weariness, vintage Neil Young.

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But lost in the excitement over Neil's return to form is how strong this collection of songs is. They take Harvest and add six years of maturity, complexity, and the smallest dash of bitterness. Take, for example, Look Out For My Love:

[ mp3 ]: Neil Young - Look Out For My Love

It's not romantic, more haunting. The love Neil is singing about is a burden, an unknown quantity. I'd say that's what I love most about this album. The songs are not sunny blue skies, nor growing storm clouds. They are that calm, humid, overcast sky that could go either way.

Another one of my favorite tracks is the only cover on the record. Neil was a huge fan of Ian Tyson, and his cover of Four String Winds is up there with Bobby Bare's as my favorite version.  If you love this song, don't miss Neil playing with The Band on The Last Waltz.

[ mp3 ]: Neil Young - Four Strong Winds

Enjoy! May your Neil-mas continue!

-N.W.
12/16/2009 02:15:44 pm

I agree with you that Cortez the Killer is one of Young's best songs, but I find the version on Live Rust much stronger than the original on Zuma.

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12/17/2009 12:08:08 pm

Thanks for pointing that out - I just listened to that version again and was blown away. The back up vocals add a ton. And the guitar work is freer and hits like a ton of bricks. I also love how it gets a litte 'reggae' in the middle. Unbelievable!

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12/18/2009 06:01:17 pm

After listening to these tracks I remembered it was Nicolette Larson singing backup to Neil, and thought "whatever happened to...?" So I looked her up, and found out she died young (45) many years ago now - a shame.

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12/19/2009 03:28:15 am

Funny - I looked that up too. And her most critically acclaimed solo record was the one she did for her daughter and other kids - Sleep, Baby, Sleep, in 1994. Would love to hear that sometime...

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