Neil Young – Homegrown (2020)

Plant that bell and let it ring

It is very entertaining to be a Neil Young fan. He change his mind as often as he makes plans. It’s a roller-coaster with a lot of waiting for albums that may or may not come out on time. It will be released in July is always the answer.

Recorded finished albums gets shelved and new stuff is done in days and released in a rush. He has an archive of unreleased stuff, both highly sought after studio material as well as a mother load of live stuff. One of the most famous unreleased albums is “Homegrown” from 1975. It was finished and almost out the door… The story is that when he was to play the record for the Band, he instead played songs from another album, “Tonight’s the night” that was recorded in 1973. So instead of releasing “Homegrown” in 1975 “Tonight’s the night” was let loose on the world. Neil said in an interview that he felt the “Homegrown” album was to personal…

Anyway, now some 45 years later here we have one version of “Homegrown”. Eleven wonderful songs. Three songs have already been released from these sessions, the same takes. “Love is a rose” was added to the compilation “Decade” in 1977, “Little wing” the short delicate one is the first track on “Hawks & Doves” from 1980 and “Star of Bethlehem” with the wonderful Emmylou Harris on backing vocals was released on “American Stars ‘n bars” from 1977. These three songs are among the strongest on the album, and even if we could see them as unnecessary duplications, I for one love to hear them in their right environment or setting.

Next up there are three songs I have heard before but here we get completely different and original versions. “Separate ways” was played live on the 1993 tour with Booker T and the MG’s. This version is played with a band but it is completely different to the version we had in 1993. I only recognize it via some of the lyrics. I love this song in the setting we have here. It reminds me of the “Harvest” sound combined with the laid back feeling from “On the beach”.

“Homegrown” the title track is also completely different than what we are used to. It was re-recorded with Crazy Horse and included on “American Stars ‘n Bars”. I totally love this version. Squeaky guitars and Neil’s voice very close to the listener.

Lastly “White line” was picked up at the “Ragged glory” sessions with Crazy Horse in 1990. That version is superb. This one is a duett with Robbie Robertson and it is likewise superb but totally different. It’s like magic. Neil is a master at this, using the same songs in different settings, electric, acoustic, country or grunge. Genres and styles all over the place. It’s never boring to be a Neil Young fan! I adore Robbie’s guitar on this track.

Six songs remaining.

“Try” has apparently been played live but I had never heard it before. It is a funny little song. It is like a cowboys song, it could have belonged in the Coen brothers film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, don’t you think? Well, it is a nicety anyways.

“Florida” is the craziest thing. An apparently stoned Neil gives some spoken words that makes little to no sense. Neil and Ben Keith are making chilling sounds drawing a wet finger on the rims of glasses. Is this what an LSD trip sounds like?

“Mexico” and “Kansas” is solo performances by Neil, piano and guitar respectively. They are soft tentative songs. I expect them to grow on me.

Finally “Vacancy” and “We don’t smoke it no more” are two rockers with full band. Both songs could easily have been included on “Tonight’s the night”. The latter is even a slow blues song, not common coming from Neil. His guitar play is as always stellar so the song is worthy.

Overall a very interesting album. I love to hear the well known songs in their right place and it is of course extremely nice to hear some new music. However the six songs I have heard before are clearly the gold on this album. Coincidence? Due to familiarity? Or did Neil simply picked the cherries from the sessions when he assembled the other albums? Tell me why!

My rating: 7/10

Side A:

  1. Separate ways
  2. Try
  3. Mexico
  4. Love is a rose
  5. Homegrown
  6. Florida
  7. Kansas

Side B:

  1. We don’t smoke it no more
  2. White line
  3. Vacancy
  4. Little wing
  5. Star of Bethlehem

Best songs: “White line”, “Homegrown”, “Star of Bethlehem”, “Love is a rose” and “Separate ways”

Released on June 19th, 2020

Media: Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, RSD edition, Neil Young Archives Special Release Series – SRS 02

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