Funhouse Album Reviews
Neil Young News
The cyberzine of degenerate pop culture
vol. 1 - no. 5; October 20, 1994
1989 - Reprise 20P2-2651 (CD-EP, Japan and Australia only)
Cocaine Eyes / Don't Cry / Heavy Love / On Broadway / Eldorado
by Steve Vetter (Farmer John)
Eldorado is the 21st release from Neil Young, one of the most prolific artists
around today. Released as a special EP in Australia and Japan, and running at
only 25 minutes, Eldorado is not much of a value. However, in that 25 minutes
there is some of the hardest rocking music that Neil had put out, pre-Ragged
Recorded with the Restless (making for the joke, Neil Young and the
Restless), this is a wonderful accomplishment for only three players. The
other musicians on the record are Chad Cromwell on drums and Rick "The Bass
Player" Rosas, who both also appear on the album This Note's For You. One of
the great things about Neil is that after playing with people such as Cromwell
and Rosas (and more recently Booker T and the MGs), he gets a great idea for
what would be fun to do next and does it.
Unfortunately, this is the only time
that Neil ever did anything like release less than a full album. The opening
cut, "Cocaine Eyes," is perhaps my favorite track on the disc. It has a real groovy thing happening at the beginning that basically sounds like they threw
it together in the span of five minutes. Neil plays a little riff-intro type
of thing and says, "Let's try one like that," then breaks into the song like
he had it all in his head the whole time. Cromwell's drumming is very punchy
and fits very well.
"Don't Cry" is the next track on the CD, and is also found
on Freedom. I like this song for its music and lyrics. It has the words of a
love ballad, but then Neil and the Restless break into a wild solo / power
chord trip that scales up and down more times in the span of thirty seconds
than an elevator does all day. "Heavy Love" is next, and has a sort of Ragged
Glory-type Crazy Horse to feel to it. If you like the stuff on Ragged Glory,
you will probably like this track. Personally, it is my least favorite on the
disc, but do not take that as a professional opinion.
"On Broadway" is next,
which is a cover of the old sixties tune. Neil does a stock version, with the
electric guitar and the rhythm section falling nicely into place. Then
something changes, as Neil does a short solo and then seems to get angry,
screaming "On Broadway" at the top of his lungs and breaking into another
wicked guitar solo, until finally topping it off with "Gimme some of that
crack! Gimme that crack! Aggggg!" It really sounds like he got pissed off
on his way to the Hit Factory studio in New York City, where this was
The title track is presumably Neil's favorite off the disc, being
the only one that he performed with any regularity on the Freedom tour. It is
interesting because Neil plays some Spanish guitar riffs that I find
particularly enjoyable. At one point, he breaks it wide open with his guitar
and fills your ears with wild distortion. I think that on this song you can
also see some of the influence of the Bluenotes sessions. Mixed in with the
riffs is some melodic, blues-type playing, however this track would have been
out of place on the Bluenotes album.
This EP is one of the most important
pieces in Neil's career because it shows the beginning of the Freedom to
Harvest Moon era of his popularity. I also think that it is one of those
projects that we will look forward to more of in the future (but may never
get). If you can find a copy (it's not readily available but is attainable),
I don't think there's anyone who has regretted buying it.
Eldorado - Another review by Allan Jones
1989 - Reprise 25899
Rockin' in the Free World/ Crime in the City (Sixty to Zero Part I) / Don't
Cry / Hangin' on a Limb / Eldorado / The Ways of Love / Someday / On
Broadway / Wrecking Ball / No More / Too Far Gone / Rockin' in the Free World
by Jeff Dove
Freedom is Neil Young's Odds and Sods. His return to Reprise, with This
Note's for You, found him still in his "odd" period, but this second return
effort for The Chairman of the Board's label put him back on friendly ground
with old-style fans and radio programmers alike. This isn't to say that
Freedom is an easy album to evaluate, in the fashion of something like Ragged
This collection is in fact quite eclectic, and while that is a trait
that we expect from Neil from album to album, it is never found within the
boundaries of any other single release quite to the extent that it is here.
Freedom seems to be culled from several sources.
A careful listening, and
perusal of the liner notes,
places the tracks into a few sort of fuzzy
categories. "Rockin' in the Free World," which opens and closes the album in different versions,
recalls Rust Never Sleeps. The parallel goes beyond the
similar tactic, used in "Hey Hey, My My (Out of the Blue) / My My, Hey Hey
(Out of the Black)," but the styles of the two recordings on Freedom match
Rust Never Sleep's live acoustic A-side and Crazy Horse-raging B-side. As
with "Hey Hey...," and for that matter as with "Tonight's the Night" on the
album of the same name, the two versions have some lyrical differences. The
opening version of "Rockin' in the Free World" is a live solo acoustic version
from a Jones Beach, Long Island, NY show, while the closer is an electric
ripper that is right in there with the best of the Horse.
"Rockin'" can be grouped with "Hangin' on a Limb," another solo number, this
time done in the studio with the vocal backing of Linda Rondstadt. The
rocking "Rockin'" falls in with another pair of tunes recorded in Neil's Barn
studio, "No More" and "Crime in the City." These are all up-tempo recordings
that recall Neil's work with Crazy Horse. "Crime in the City's" aggressive
acoustic guitar riffs are backed with subtle bass and drums, and "No More"'s
guitar lead recalls that of "Cortez the Killer." While these are a little
cleaner and more subtle than Crazy Horse tunes, their style was reminiscent
enough of past glory to quickly get FM rotation, and gain the status of being
amongst Neil's most liked and well known songs. Poncho Sampedro contributes
to them all.
Although "Rockin' in the Free World" recalls Rust Never Sleeps, other Barn
recordings, "The Ways of Love" and "Too Far Gone," could be off of American
Stars 'n' Bars. Each has a country-rock feel, complete with Ben Keith's pedal
steel guitar, and each works. In fact, "Hangin on a Limb" sounds like a
Comes A Time recording, and "No More" would fit right in on Everybody Knows
This Is Nowhere.
The other distinct grouping of tracks are those recorded at
New York's Hit Factory with the Eldorado line-up. "Don't Cry," "Eldorado,"
"On Broadway," and "Wrecking Ball" are done with a guitar-bass-drum trio, with
the exception of a little acoustic work by Poncho on "Eldorado," and all but
"Wrecking Ball" also turn up on the Eldorado CD EP. These three songs have a
somewhat distinct sound from anything else in Neil's body of work. In "Don't
Cry," he delivers a soulful vocal plea which is interrupted by crashing and
dissonant guitar chords. The show tune cover "On Broadway," which could very
well elicit a gasp upon first seeing it listed on the cover, actually succeeds
by using a similar technique.
"Eldorado" accompanies its tale of drug dealing
south of the border with music with a Latin feel, carried by Neil's beautiful,
crisp leads, and occasional Spanish guitar and castanet sounding
interjections. Unfortunately "Wrecking Ball" doesn't work. It's a piano
driven ballad that is a little too typical of such songs by lessor artists. It
lacks the Neil "edge," musically and lyrically, which make songs such as
"After the Gold Rush" and "Helpless" exciting and distinct from MOR dreck.
a record this varied you can expect some misfires; however, one track falls
below, way below "Wrecking Ball," and that is "Someday." It is rehashed Bruce
Springsteen at best, and like theme music to some lame Hollywood "formula"
film at worst. With its tinkling piano, and tempo which mimics the Boss'
"Thunder Road," you keep waiting for a Clarence Clemons-styled sax lead to
interject itself, and towards the end it finally does. Come on Neil, this was
recorded in 1989...and it's a Barn track also!
Freedom represents the first
step in Neil's commercial come back, and as such there are a number of good,
and some great, cuts included. Its shifting style makes for a unique
listening experience, and while fans have seen such shifts in style in the
past on records from one side to the other, notably on Rust Never Sleeps and
Hawks and Doves, be ready for changes from track to track on this one.
More on the album Freedom with reviews and analysis.
1990 - Reprise 26315
Country Home / White Line / F*!#in' Up / Over and Over / Love to Burn /
Farmer John / Mansion on the Hill / Days That Used to Be / Love and Only
Love / Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)
by Kurt "The Hangman" Blumenau
The turn of a decade has often proved a fertile time for Neil Young. 1969-70
brought us Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, while 1979
saw the release of Neil's clearest and most enduring cri de coeur, Rust Never
Sleeps. The pattern continued into the nineties with Neil's 1990 release of
Ragged Glory, recorded with longtime backup band Crazy Horse in his barn in
California. The moods in this ten-song set range from giddiness (a hilarious
cover of "Farmer John") to scathing self-flagellation ("F*!#in' Up"), but
overall the mood of the album seems to be the sort of guarded optimism for the
future as expressed in "White Line:"
"Right now I'm thinkin' bout these things that I know / And the daylight
will soon be breakin'"
Ragged Glory is not one of Neil's dark albums, even with the inclusion of
"F*!#in' Up" and the shimmering noise-guitar-and-choir environmental warning,
"Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)." The lyrics are too optimistic and not as
barbed as Neil's words have been in the past ("Days That Used To Be"
effectively comments on the passing of hippiedom without being TOO cutting).
The music, as befitting the album title, is beautifully fast and loose,
expressing great emotion in its simplicity. Crazy Horse is, for my money
anyway, Neil's most simpatico backing band; here they bash and clang
merrily away, creating a ragged groove that a lot of modern grunge bands
would kill for.
Many of the songs are stretched out in the fashion of
earlier NY/CH epics like "Cortez The Killer" and "Down By The River,"
allowing plenty of room for interplay and Neil's characteristic passionate,
spasmodic solos (the songs average about six-and-a-half minutes, and two or
three top the ten-minute mark). Ragged Glory represents a return to form
for Neil, a smart, tough, yet fairly optimistic view of the turn of another
decade from a true survivor of the rock-and-roll wilderness. A taste for
loud, sloppy rock is essential to appreciate Ragged Glory, but if you've got
it, then get it. It's a triumph, comparing well with any of Neil's electric
work, even the hallowed Rust Never Sleeps. Stay tuned for 1999-2000...
1991 - Reprise 26769
by Tom Henke
Arc is one of the most strange sidelights in Neil Young's long career of sonic
experimentation. The set-up is, in this case, half the story. Young had
finished the noisy, cranked sessions that resulted in Ragged Glory, and had
taken Crazy Horse back out on the road for a mammoth tour, which emphasized snarling distorted Gibsons (for the first time in years). As an intriguing
generational prelude, he had Sonic Youth opened the tour. Apparently, SY's
Thurston Moore was talking with Young and told about a habit he had cultivated
of making random, collage-type tapes out of different parts and performances
from SY's tours - jigsaw puzzle tapes of noise, feedback and songs. This
idea intrigued Young and he kept it in the back of his mind for later use.
When the tour was over, it was announced that a live album, Weld, was on its
way. It would be packaged in a limited edition with a piece of experimental
noise, as Arc-Weld. These editions proved impossible to find, but Arc did
appear as its own single CD. It turned out to be, more or less, Moore's idea
filtered through Young's conceptual framework. Specifically, it is a collage
of extended outros from several songs on the tour, especially "Like a
Hurricane" and "Love and Only Love." These songs were stretched out during
the tour until their ends became freaked-out noise collisions all their own,
sometimes lasting an additional five to ten minutes. Young took recordings of
several of these long endings and wove them together into a 34:57 minute epic
of surge and crash, splatter and hum. He was very proud of this work at the
time and claimed it had a definite logical structure. This supposed structure
is hard to fathom.
Rather than a complete composed piece, as it seems Mr.
Young viewed the document, what it appears to be is something far more oceanic
- a connected series of swells and crashes leading to times of relative calm.
The piece begins with some rather random clanks of picks upon clean,
undistorted electric guitar strings, then comes the sound of a plug hitting
its socket - a prelude creating anticipatory tension. Quite suddenly, we are
washed into a rampant distorted storm - a shriek of guitar noise, cymbals run
amok, a cheap-sounding synth chord from Poncho, and this rumble-rumble-rumble
shooting through it all. This is the general sound of most of the piece.
Cymbal crashes, guitars, and that distinctively dense rumble of random tom
toms and bass cut through most of Arc like a verse melody. At 3:07 we hit the
first words, most of a verse from "Like a Hurricane." The phrase:
"Once I thought I saw you, in a crowded hazy bar / Dancin' on the light
from star to star"
comes through clearly and beautifully while the rumble subsides to hum and
echo. Surreal blips of noise peek through, then squeaks and burps, then a
crash and a buildup into a dive bomb of feedback. This word portion of the
piece serves as a coda and is repeated at ten minute intervals - at 13:00 the
same verse returns and at 23:05 it is back again. Between these bits of
"Hurricane" and their associated crashes, sung lines of "I want love," and
"...love and only love..." appear and fade into the din like some strange
bobbing memory. At times these phrases are strangely vulnerable, like a plea,
and at other times they are more strident and declarative. When the noise
dips to a whisper (every eight minutes or so) the crowd suddenly appears like
a breath of fresh air, screaming over the top of everything, only to be
deluged by the next burst of swooping whammy-bar dive bombs. Things really
freak out at the very end of the piece.
At around 26:34 it begins to tatter
with a smash of Poncho noise, a crash and a distant echo that sounds like
"Aww...I'm sorry...so sorry...," then noise and another crescendo, then back
down again. There are whammy-bar swoops and noises through 28:00. At 28:30 a
regular insistent bass line picks up, easy drums come behind, Neil noodles
with a spacy guitar sound then gives a "Yeah!" in the background. All gets
very phased and weird and the crowd comes through again for a moment. There
is a cut in the sound and another crash, then more "Sorry man...sorry..." from Poncho(?).
More crashes into more "Love and only love..." choruses occur, now
like a mantra of strength.
At 30:57 some real melody notes are played,
recalling the figures from "Like a Hurricane," then finally a coda of "Take a
chance, take a chance on love...," and a fade down.
It seems over, until at 32:00 there is a thrash of one chord, crashes, and a
buildup to a chant of "no more pain!" Then it's off again with a shout of,
"Hey mom, hey mom, I'm hungry mom!" The music gets martial again, with Neil
jamming away on real notes while Poncho slams chords. The rant goes on with
"Get in the car...go to the post office..." The whole thing comes to a jammy,
slamming, rumbling close. There is a brief final repeat of "I want love," a
distorted explosion, a couple of clear bass chords, and a fadeout - end. The
overall effect is, again, mostly tidal. Noise lifts you like a wave only to
smash apart. There are moments of calm, then all hell breaks loose.
conclusions from this piece seems nearly impossible. Not exactly an
experiment in tolerance and irritation, like Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music,
Arc is more of an organic piece reflecting the chaos of life, or at least of
The real meaning here is anyone's guess. A soundtrack for the
growth of fractals? A sonic portrait of a Gulf War annihilation? Nothing at
all? Arc is a strange beast. Not a piece for the casual listener, it seems
only recommendable to completists and those out for a weird, joyless,
difficult experience. Arc is in the end interesting, but not much fun.
1991 - Reprise 26671
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) / Crime in the City / Blowin' in the Wind /
Welfare Mothers / Love to Burn / Cinnamon Girl / Mansion of the Hill /
F*!#in' Up / Cortez the Killer / Powderfinger / Love and Only Love / Rockin'
in the Free World / Like a Hurricane / Farmer John / Tonight's the Night /
Roll Another Number
by Gary A. Lucero
"Sparks Be Flyin'"
Weld is one of those incredibly wonderful albums that comes along rarely.
When it first came out, I happened upon it by chance. I didn't listen to the
radio, I wasn't a member of the N.Y.A.S., and I didn't belong to Rust@Death,
so the only way I was able to find out about new releases was from the CD
store where I bought my music. The place I used to buy CDs, a big book store
in Albuquerque, also sells books, software, newspapers, and other stuff. My
wife worked there, and in the afternoon, when I would come to pick her up, I
would rummage around in the music department. I would check out the Neil
Young section every day, even though it almost never changed. I guess I hoped
a new CD would be released, the Archives would ship, or something.
one day I walked into the store, wandered over to the music department, and
checked out the Neil Young section. Arc-Weld was sitting there. I was blown
away. I couldn't believe it, a new Neil Young CD. And actually not just one
CD, but three...incredible! I could not believe it. I of course bought it
I liked Arc-Weld right away. I thought Arc was a good CD, and I
thought Weld was too, but I didn't like either of them then as much as I do
now. "Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black)" opens, and Neil and Crazy Horse thunder into this staple. The crowd comes up, and then "Out of the Blue," the
song, begins. It is performed with as much energy as in its original version
or the Live Rust version, and its musical and vocal qualities seem clearer
than in those versions.
It's brighter, and Neil's voice seems more solid. It
is an outstanding rendition of a great song, and a nice way to kick off the
One of the real highlights of Weld is "Crime In The City." The Freedom tour
boasted the acoustic version of this incredibly moving song, and the Freedom
album gave us a Bluenotes-influenced rendition. But Weld gives us a
rock-and-roll version, complete with driving guitar work, clear drums, and
screaming vocals. Crazy Horse proves to be an excellent band to back Neil on
one of his most delicate and sincere songs. From there it moves to "Blowin'
in the Wind," the Dylan classic. Sirens, machine gun fire, rockets flying by,
explosions, and Neil's lone guitar begin the song.
It is reminiscent of
"Mother Nature (Natural Anthem)," except with special effects and Neil's
feedback-drenched guitar looming overhead while he belts out the lyrics. The
backing vocals work well to provide synergy, and to hone the otherwise
unweilding song. The real standout for this reviewer is "Welfare Mothers."
Never before had this song affected me so much. I've always loved Rust Never
Sleeps, and enjoyed "Welfare Mothers," but I never understood it until Weld.
The song begins simply enough, and isn't really any different than the
original version for several minutes. It is not until it begins to wind down,
and Billy Talbot and Neil Young begin their interchange of dialog, that the
song takes on real new meaning. Neil sings "beautiful" at the end of every
chorus, and his guitar screams out the lead. Then the song begins to slow up,
and Neil says "take care." You hear "no more pain," and when Neil asks Billy,
"Where's the check Billy?," the classic response is "The check's in the mail."
The message conveyed is the cycle of starvation, child abuse, false love, and
the false relief brought when the check comes. Chaos takes place, with the
guitar and drums sounding wildly, and then it dies into the crowd. Before you
know, it another song starts. "Love To Burn" is one of the most gorgeous
songs from Ragged Glory. Neil does it justice here. The guitar soars,
reminiscent of "Cortez The Killer" or "Dangerbird," but the lyrics are surreal
"Why'd you ruin my life? / Where you takin' my kids?"
The rest of the first disc, "Cinnamon Girl," "Mansion On The Hill," and
"F*!#in' Up," are standard fare. They are good versions of good songs, but
let's move on to disc two.
"Cortez the Killer" is slow and plodding, careful and meticulous, almost like
a prayer or incantation. Each words carries forth the emotion of a man who
seems in awe of the Aztecs and the Incas. Neil's guitar work is beautiful,
and the drums and backup vocals are clear and concise. Neil Young and Crazy
Horse provide us with one of their most moving versions of this song.
Neil sings "killer!" it just about rips out your heart. It is followed by
"Powderfinger." This has never been one of my favorites, though the lyrics
are entertaining and the song is a lot of fun to listen to. On Weld, it is
sung well, and Neil and the band do an excellent job. "Love and Only Love,"
another of my favorites from "Ragged Glory," is also performed beautifully.
Like all of the songs on Weld, it is sung with clarity and feeling. "Rockin'
in the Free World," "Farmer John," and "Roll Another Number," the fourth, sixth and last song of disc two, are all performed well, but I want to discuss
the remaining songs, "Like a Hurricane" and "Tonight's the Night." These
songs are standards, and the versions presented here are exceptional.
Hurricane" has some of the most outstanding guitar playing since the Berlin
version. Neil squeezes sounds from Old Black that are incredible, and brings
the song to an orgasmic level. After the first verse, the guitar is slow and
careful, and then with each subsequent verse it becomes more chaotic and
fierce. Chords and notes are sounded with feeling, and though they are
familiar to anyone who has heard more than one version of this song, they are
yet new and revealing. This is the best rocker on the album, and one that
should be remembered for a long time to come. There is no way Neil Young can
top the version(s) of "Tonight's the Night" that appear on the album of the
same name, but on Weld he provides a good electric rendition.
original had Neil's great piano work, Nils Lofgren's solid guitar, a great
bass line (which you hardly ever hear in Neil's music) by Billy Talbot, and
wonderful harmonies coming from the group, on Weld it is quite different. The
bass is distinguishable at the beginning, and the drums are clearer - you can
hear the tom toms and the cymbals. Neil's guitar sort of wails, even as his
voice does, and what starts out as a slow rocker soon becomes a scorcher.
Again, the emotion in his voice is undeniable. He sings the song with
feeling. When it takes off, after a couple of verses, Neil sings "oh Bruce"
and launches into a frenzy of guitar solos. They start off slow, but soon,
after a bit more vocals, some being improvisational, and some great bass
playing by Billy Talbot, it really begins to fly. The drums are pounding, the
guitar is screeching, and you can hear screaming in the background ("oh Bruce,
oh Bruce, oh Bruce").
The song then dies out, and Neil gives his thanks with,
"And a word of thanks for all of our families, and for the great crew that we
got out here for the last fifty-four shows; the best; thank you." The show,
and the album, finish with "Roll Another Number."
I have not compared Weld to bootlegs or concert tapes, but only to officially
released albums and video tapes. You may know of unofficial concert
recordings which have superior versions of many of these songs, but for the
money there is no better live CD than Weld. I'm not saying there aren't
better LPs, cassettes or DAT tapes, but on compact disc you will not find a
better value. Weld is an incredible album, and if you can find Arc-Weld, buy
that - it is even better.
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