Neil Young – Hitchhiker (2017)

Looking for the D.J.’s daughter

Recorded during the full moon night of August 11, 1976, at Indigo Ranch Recording Studio in Malibu, California, Neil sits alone with a guitar. Old friend David Briggs at the mixing desk. During one of Neil’s most creative periods ever, the songs poured out of him. Sometimes a song was created on the spot right in front of David’s eyes (“Pocahontas”). In between recording songs Neil only stopped to consume beer, weed or coke. Ahh, those were the times.

Released in 2017 this unreleased album from 1976 is part of Neil’s “Archives Special Releases Series”. These Archives releases of live material and also unreleased studio stuff is a marvel. Adding his magnificent NYA website, strangely Neil is leading the pack of modern music business management.

This particular session would seed tracks to many coming albums. All except for two songs were released on coming albums, mostly re-recorded in new settings. Neil wanted to release it back in 1976 but the record company man said no. Now we harvest it some 40 years later instead. The wheel turns.

Ok, But let’s look at the songs. We have some tracks released almost untouched on other albums, some tracks that were re-recorded for other albums and then we have a couple of previously unreleased tracks.

Two never before released songs! Yay! “Hawaii” is a nice song but still my least favourite on the record. He rarely played it live, so it says something about Neil’s feeling about it too. The other unreleased song, “Give me strength” I have heard on a large number of bootlegs. When I hear it now I am thrown back to those old records, many which I have parted ways with since long. It is a nice song and I am happy that it is now released “for real”.

“Pocahontas”, “Captain Kennedy” and “Campaigner” are released on later albums but taken from this very session. “Pocahontas” got som overdubs and was included on “Rust never sleeps”. I do like the final product more. “Captain Kennedy” is the same as on “Hawks & Doves”. Lastly an edited version of “Campaigner” was included on “Decade”. Here we get the full version. Nice for reference.

The five remaining songs were re-recorded for release on later records. “Powderfinger” was of course included in its full electric glory with Crazy Horse on “Rust never sleeps”. It is very nice to get to hear this stripped down “demo”, but it sure is better in the full version. Neil has performed it live on acoustic guitar some times, so I have heard similar versions before. “Ride my llama” on the same album was taken from a live concert in 1978. I think the version on “Hitchhiker” is better. 

“Hitchhiker” is a classic song in the fandom, it was considered one of the highest rated unreleased songs until it was included in the somewhat bizarre album “Le noise” in 2010. This is a much better version, by a mile. I never liked the version Neil did in the session with Daniel Lanois.

“Human highway” was a small surprise to me, as it was written when he played with CSN sometime in 1974. At the time in 1976 it was still unreleased though. There have been several versions of that song, and the officially released is included on “Comes a time”. I love this stripped down acoustic version but the best one is still when he play it with the buddies in CSNY. 

Lastly we have an acoustic version of “The old country waltz” which is included on “American stars n’bars” played with Crazy Horse and The Bullets. This is a nice alternative version.

This album is most enjoyable as a complete piece. The ambiance of the full moon and Neil high as a house seeps through the performance. The sound quality of the vinyl is stellar. Playing the album in the middle of the night it’s like having a young Neil in your living room. It truly is like a refreshing fountain.

My rating: 8/10

Side A:

  1. Pocahontas
  2. Powderfinger
  3. Captain Kennedy
  4. Hawaii
  5. Give me strength

Side B:

  1. Ride my llama
  2. Hitchhiker 
  3. Campaigner
  4. Human highway
  5. The old country waltz

Best songs: “Human highway”, “Hitchhiker”, “Powderfinger” and “The old country waltz”

Released on September 8, 2017

Media: Neil Young Archives Special Release Series 05, gatefold vinyl, mono

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