Thinkin’ about what a friend had said
So, with “After the gold rush” the ever-changing nature of Neil’s is on display. It’s a journey with Neil. If Bowie was like a chameleon adapting to the new trends quickly, Neil is like a volcano, sometimes calm and soothing (acoustic and country), sometimes violent and loud (the Godfather of grunge).
“Everybody knows this is nowhere” was fairly homogenous, “After the gold rush” is more diverse. It has a mix of soft acoustic songs and more up-tempo team efforts with the band. All three guys in Crazy Horse play on the album but we also get different constellations when musicians like Jack Nitzsche, Nils Lofgren, Greg Reeves and Stephen Stills join in for some of the songs. Stills sings backing vocals on “Only love can break your heart”. Most of the album is performed by Neil, CSNY bassist Greg Reeves, Crazy Horse drummer Ralph Molina and 18-year old Nils Lofgren on piano.
The album is started with two mostly acoustic songs. “Tell me why” is a softish first song; delicate, lovely and almost naïve. “After the gold rush” is often played by Neil solo on a piano. It is a lament over the environment and a dreaming man. It is melancholic like most of Neil’s songs. “After the goldrush” is a fan favourite, maybe due the mention of “getting high” in the lyrics. Oh my, the single-mindedness of a rock audience… I do love the horn. Is it a horn?
The classic songs come one by one, next up is “Only love can break your heart”. It is such a nice track, played by a full band but still of the mellow kind. It is about the fact that your heart can only be broken by love. Yeah, it is all too true.
The energy level is risen by the fourth track “Southern man”, the angry song about the history of inequality in the south. There is a fabulous version of this song live on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young live album “4 way street”. On the studio version there is some great guitar play by Neil. The live version is almost three times the length and Neil and Stephen have a groovy guitar duel. Not to be missed. I guess it must be heard to be understood.
The two Neil songs “Southern man” and “Alabama” induced Lynard Skynard to write “Sweet home Alabama” in response. Good for them.
The last song on the first side is the throwaway “’Till the morning comes”. It is loved by die hard fans, but maybe acquired taste and not for the casual listener? I really like it, I think it’s a hidden gem actually.
The album cover is of the iconic kind. A black and white distorted picture of Neil. But it is the photo in the inside of the gatefold that is the thing. Neil slouching on a sofa backstage in a club or in the recording studio, I don’t remember. It is one of the best album covers. The cover is made of a thick recycled papery material that is so thick tight and slightly too small so that it is almost impossible to insert the record again. He uses this material and this tight album cover on several of the remastered reissues as well as some of the Performance Series.
The second side is also great but slightly less filled with instant winners.
“Don’t let it bring you down” stand out, played with the band but it’s a mellow and a rather sad song. “Birds” is a very soft piano ballad. Neil’s singing is always up or down, here he uses the fragile high-pitched one, as on “After the goldrush”.
“When you dance I can really love” is the Craziest Horse we get on this album. Note the stellar version on “Year of the Horse”. I love it, it is slow, but it gets my heart pumping and gives my legs jolts.
“I believe in you” is a somewhat forgotten song, very heartfelt, strong in the piano. And last, a short little song “Cripple Creek ferry” that is more lovely and fun than that super-important song in the discography.
This is one of Neil’s best albums. It packs both classics and hidden gems. No track is boring, the vinyl can always be played all through.
- Tell me why
- After the gold rush
- Only love can break your heart
- Southern man
- ‘Till the morning comes
- Oh, lonesome me
- Don’t let it bring you down
- When you dance I can really love
- I believe in you
- Cripple Creek ferry
Best songs: “Tell me why”, “After the gold rush”, “Only love can break your heart”, “Southern man” and “When you dance I can really love”
Hidden gems: “*Till the morning comes”, “I believe in you”