Neil Young – Zuma (1975)

I know she’s living there

Released late 1975, this is mainly Neil and Crazy Horse. There are some great Crazy Horse tunes here folks. And then, Neil ends the album with a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young track. Curious indeed.

I have always liked the album quite a lot, but it has never been a top favourite of mine. Still, my gut feeling told me that it would be quite enjoyable to listen to. When was the last time I actually listened to it? Don’t know. On closer inspection it is better than I remembered. Slow, soft and heavy. Wooden music, country and garage rock, all mixed together. This album has some of his greatest live tunes around. Neil’s seventies is stellar all over!

Now time for an anecdote. I love vinyl, it was gone for a while, but now I have started collecting records all over again. We all need to support the small businesses, the brick and mortar record shops that are selling physical products. I went in to a nearby record shop, the place that should have been my local seller. He had only one copy of “Zuma”, he said. I wanted the remastered re-released vinyl, ORS 08. The problem was that the new sealed copy he had was dented in one corner of the cover. I was about to skip it and order it on-line, but I wanted to do the right thing and buy from the guy, even if it was slightly more expensive AND dented. I asked, again, if he had another, without the dent, but no. I bought it and felt ok with my decision. The day after I happened to pass the store and I popped in to browse through the bins again. And now I see he had several pristine copies of this damned record. The feeling of being played was an unhappy one. I don’t shop from the guy anymore.

The first side of “Zuma” is great! Damned, how long since I have listened to this. Bummer! “Don’t cry no tears” is a simple rocker that is better than they say. “Dangerbird” is a slow heavy piece made to perfection in a live version on “Year of the Horse”.

“Pardon my heart” is a beautiful low-key lullaby. “Lookin for a love” is the hidden gem. Great county rock pre-dating his magnum opus “Ragged glory” by more than a decade. “Barstool blues” is another track made even better on the live shows. Isn’t it the cousin to “Roll another number”, what do you think?

“Stupid girl” has never been a favourite of mine but I guess it is alright played live. “Drive back” is an up-tempo rocker, often played live, think the “Rusted Out Garage” tour in 1986. I like it a lot. It could have been from “Re·ac·tor” a few years after “Zuma”. The song ends with a prolonged solo crescendo, Neil, Billy and Frank in electrical induced guitar heaven.

Oh my, “Cortez the Killer” is such a great song. It’s one of those songs that are almost played too often. You know like Bowie’s “Heroes”. But I still enjoy it. It is a revelation to hear the original studio version for the first time in a while. I listen to live versions mostly. The extended intro is so good, Neil’s guitar solo like a boat steaming ahead on a river. Ralph’s monotone drums are all of a sudden not as bad as they can be. Sure, Neil is super romantic with the lyrics. His feelings on the subject can’t be misunderstood. The song was actually forbidden in Spain for a while, yeah? I love the pictures he is painting in my mind. Especially the line “and I know she’s living there, and she loves me to this daaay”. He sings about the Aztecs as a peaceful tribe, and the Spanish atrocities done hundreds of years ago, but he also somehow connects it to today on a personal level. It warps my mind, how beautiful he is, uncle Neil. The record ends with “Through my sails”, an acoustic song with the beautiful harmonies by CSNY. Total confusion? Disillusion? I love songs about boats.

Yeah, dented cover or not, this is a really great record. It must be listened to more often, and pushed up the ranking for sure.

My rating: 8/10

Side A:

  1. Don’t cry no tears
  2. Danger bird
  3. Pardon my heart
  4. Lookin’ for a love
  5. Barstool blues

Side B:

  1. Stupid girl
  2. Drive back
  3. Cortez the Killer
  4. Through my sails

Best songs: “Cortez the Killer”, “Dangerbird”,”Pardon my heart”, “Lookin’ for a love”, “Drive back” and “Through my sails”

Released on November 10th, 1975

Media: Reissued remastered, 2015, Official Release Series 08

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