Neil Young News
The collaboration between Neil Young and Pearl Jam dates back to at least 1994 when Pearl Jam played the Bridge School Benefit Concert. Since then Neil & Pearl Jam have recorded and toured together.
From New Musical Express article "Reflective Glory" (07/15/95) by Steve Sutherland & Kevin Cummins on recording "Mirror Ball" (listen to music track clips here) in the aftermath of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain's suicide:
"Mirror Ball" is an album about these mighty contradictions and more, themes Young has hacked at throughout his whole career, articulating them as best he can but endlessly arriving at the only possible conclusion: that there is no solution. So live with it.
On "Mirror Ball", though, the natural incompatibility of these forces has been raised into shocking relief by one disciple choosing an unfeasibly extreme interpretation of Young's message when Kurt Cobain quoted, "It's Better to burn out, than to fade away." In his suicide note, citing Young's lyric as artistic justification for ending his inconsolable anguish, Young was shaken to the bone. Always an advocate of allowing the listener his or her own individual path through a record, he was so devastated by Cobain's personal reaction to a song that was basically written as a celebration of Punk that he was impelled to record the 'Sleeps With Angels' album in lament."
From MOJO Magazine:
The whole record was recorded in four days and all the songs, barring Song X and Act Of Love, were written in that four day stretch. I played Act Of Love with Crazy Horse in January at The Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame. Then, the following night, I played it with Pearl Jam at a Pro-Choice benefit concert and the version was so powerful I decided there and then to record it with them as soon as possible. On a purely musical level, this is the first time I've been in a band with three potential lead guitarists since The Buffalo Springfield. Plus there's Jack Irons, their drummer, who was just unbelievable. He just played his ass off on every take at every session. I can't say enough good things about him. "
For more on the musical collaborations of Eddie Vedder and Neil, see Pearl Jam and Neil Young page with details on Bridge School concerts, the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame induction, and more.
Another musical connection on "Mirror Ball" involves Led Zeppelin. When Young was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 13, 1995 he joined Led Zeppelin onstage for an all out guitar duel with Jimmy Page. Performing a 10 minute "When The Levee's Gonna Break", Page and Young traded licks in what turned out to be a remarkable moment in TV rock. Later that year, Neil wrote the song "Downtown" about that historic night in New York City. From the lyrics "Downtown":
Rock critic Dave Marsh, who has been rather hard on Young and his music over the years, writes on Mirror Ball:
Think you'd still be listening to that one today? Well, this collaboration with Pearl Jam, on a set that evokes acid rock as much as Young's usual folk and blues, is that mythical album's modern, real life equivalent."
Check Neil's interview with Dave Marsh discussing the meaning of the song "I'm The Ocean" lyrics.
Here's a collection of reviews of their collaboration on Mirror Ball.
Houston has a weekly arts and entertainment newpaper called the Houston Press. The current issue has a Mirror Ball review by Brad Tyer. Brad used to be the music editor of this paper and IMHO is one of the best writers and critics writing today, anywhere. He is in his mid-twenties so his perspective is often different from many other mainstream writers. Here's his review. The typos are mine.
On the surface it seems like a fine idea, this crossbreeding of Neil Young and Pearl Jam, two generations of foot-stomping guitar rock heroes meeting to exchange ideas and a little inspiration. NY may have many years and abundant eclectism over his younger idolators in Pearl Jam, but it is still the proto-grunge grunt rock of "Hey Hey . . ." that cements Y's chameleonic image in the rock pantheon. Pearl Jam, for its part, has perfected its role as a backing band by spending the last five years supporting EV's intolerably hammy front-man schtick. I, for one, alsways hoped I'd live to see the day when Pearl Jam split, with Vedder pursuing his solo destiny as a second-rate Joe Cocker, and remaining PJammers Jeff Ament . . . making their own better-than-competent way in the world as something very much along the lines of NY's support group.
With Pearl Jam's continuing fickleness threatening to splinter the band (or at least the band's audience), my pipe dream may yet come to pass, but in the meantime, it's safest to view MB's pairing as a one-shot experiment. And as experiments go this one has to be called a success: Pearl Jam injects Y's fragile melodies with a stadium-shaking roar, and Y gives Pearl Jam a frontman with something more to offer than self-indulgent angst.
Pearl Jam brings to the table a wall-of-guitar sound that backs Y's RNS throwback compositions with a fuller noise than he has had to work with in years. If the beauty of sometime Y backers Crazy Horse lay in the jagged slop of an amateur band with too many amps, Pearl Jam's beauty comes from filling in the holes with fat, full anthemic completion. Vedder is credited with background vocals, but said vocals must be relegated to some subsonic wavelength, because hell if I can hear them.
But MB is, afterall, Young's album, and he brings an aged wisdom and savvy to the collaboration. He knows for instance, the value of a squealingly wrong note in de-perfecting the sort of too glossy rock in which Pearl Jam specializes. He's also got enough sense to keep his own vocals low in the mix, emphasizing the rough give-and-take feel of a genuine garage band--a texture Pearl Jam has never convincingly managed until now.
But if Y and Pearl Jam benefit from each other's specialties, the songs that receive their dual-boost remain a distinctly mixed bag. "I'm the Ocean," Peace and Love" and "Scenery" all earn deserved slots in Y's riff-rock catalog, while "Song X"--- a Generation X work song that sounds like the chanting troll scene in the Lord of the Rings movie--- is soaked in the imimitable guitar tone that made Y's "Cortez the Killer" such a rarely covered epic. But elsewhere the uninspired riffs are jammed into the ground with pointless passion, making it seem that Y. for all his continuing appeal, is just stomping old turf with a new boot.
Play it really loud, listen really high and MB may well sound, for 55 minutes and 19 seconds, like the greatest goddamn thing you ever heard. What's left when the room stops spinning is a good NY CD, and probably the best work of which Pearl Jam is capable, but still a CD that is, somehow, inessential.
Well, Neil made the cover of August's CD Review. MB has been selected as the disc of the month with a rating of 9 for performance, 8 for sound quality. The scale is 10. IMHO these guys don't usually have a clue about what Rock music is all about but I'll modify my opinion just this one time ;-}
Here is the article:
Jam 'n' Glory
Neil Young with Pearl Jam
(Reprise 45934-2; 1995, 54:26)
performance 9/8 Sound Quality
More than just a summit meeting of the minds, Mirror Ball, Neil Young's eagerly anticipated project with Pearl Jam, raises the bar for all future all-star collaborations. The big surprise is not that this 11-track disc rocks with the snarling relentlessness of a rabid rottweiler - what, you were expecting Vedder, Stills, Nash, & Young? - but rather that it comes across like a jam session between the godfather of grunge and his volatile disciples, and more like the fierce but focused work of two uncompromising artists.
The roots for this project can be traced to Sept.2, 1993, the night Young and Pearl Jam goosed a tepid MTV Video Awards with a torrid rendition of "Rockin' in the Free World," reminding us that the old guard/new school can be a volatile combination (See Bob Dylan's 1986 tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers or 1987's R.E.M. - backed Warren Zevon album, Sentimental Hygiene.) The news this past January that Young and Pearl Jam were holed up in a Seattle studio with producer Brendan O'Brien raised expectations but also raised a question: Both acts had faced their toughest challenge on their most recent albums - channeling their anguish over the death of Kurt Cobain into cathartic meditations on youth and mortality. How much juice could they possibly have left?
The answer: plenty. Guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, bassist Jeff Ament and drummer Jack Irons - who sometimes sound as if Eddie Vedder's long shadow has left them in the dark - loosen up considerably with Young at the helm, infusing such workouts as "Peace & Love" (which features Vedder singing lead on the bridge) and the jaw dropping trilogy of "Act of Love," "I'm the Ocean," and "Big Green Country" with a thrash-and-burn intensity that roars but never ruptures. Imagine the dynamic tension of "better Man" matched with the bone-crunching, anthemic clout of "Like a Hurricane" and you'll remember why Pearl Jam is a refreshing respite from the howling, feedback-fueled flailings of Crazy Horse.
The 49-year old Young, meanwhile, has written his angriest music since 1989's Freedom. Some of his inspiration appears to come from the neo-hippie movement that embraces all of the tie-dyed trappings of it '60s predecessors but little of the commitment. "There's a place called Downtown were the hippies all go/ . . . cuz they want to be see/It's like a room full of pictures/It's like a psychedelic dream," Young bristles on "Downtown," which boasts a crunchy, barroom- boogie arrangement that parodies the party-on attitude that you'll find at Spin Doctors shows. As an antidote, that tune is followed by three tersely worded numbers - "Peace & Love," "Throw Your Hatred Down" (a bracing rewrite of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower"), and a bluesy tirade against the illusions of the American dream called "Scenery." Taken together, the songs don't preach so much as probe.
In an era when much of rock tends to follow the pack, Young knows the only true course is to follow your heart. "In the wrong lane/Trying to turn against the flow/I'm the ocean/I'm the giant undertow," he declares, his craggy voice bolstered by Vedder's harmony vocal and Pearl Jam's savage instrumental assault. Mirror Ball is more that just a shotgun marriage of experience and youth: It's a landmark example of the difference between moving heaven and Earth, and merely making waves. ---- David Okamoto
Reprinted From CD Review Magazine, August, 1995, p.55.
This column appeared in the 'The Age', one of Australia's leading newspapers, on July 8th.
It is reprinted without permission. **********************************************************
Check Your Age At The Door
by Shaun Carney
Every week or two, I find myself at the eastern end of the Bourke Street Mall. I stop for a second or two and remember - the moment. It was ten years ago, a sunny weekday afternoon and it was there, just across from the grotesque parapet above Bradman's, that I saw - him.
He looked just like one part of a young family that might have caught the train in from Merlynston. There was his wife - long straggly hair, dressed down. He was pushing a stroller, and wearing nearly-deceased jeans and a faded yellow sleeveless T-shirt. This is how Neil Young gets around town when he is on tour.
I have never been one for celebrity sightings. I have never been one for wanting to meet famous people nor wishing I lived someone else's life. But I have to tell you, there is one part of me that fantasises about being Neil Young. Just for one night, you understand.
I'd just like to turn up at the Olympia in Paris or the Hammersmith Odeon in London, shake hands with a three- piece backing band, strap on the black Les Paul and play for three hours just as he does - like there's no tomorrow. This pointless little dream is a hangover from adolescence, of course. But the truth about adulthood in our age is that society makes few demands on post-adolescents to abandon the ways of youth.
Take Mr Young, for example. He turns 50 next year and yet he has just released a new album, a blistering hour- plus of beautiful melodies ground out at top volume with the help of the hottest young group in the world, Pearl Jam.
Young decided in his early 30s that he did not want to rust away (he named an album, perhaps as an advisory to his generation, _Rust Never Sleeps_), so he has kept his life and work interesting by playing around with musical styles. But he regularly returns to his Gibson guitar and his stack of Marshall amps. In other words, to that adolescent state. I dream it; he does it.
On _Downtown_, the centrepiece of his new album _Mirror Ball_, Young has cannily topped and tailed the song with some definitive rock'n'roll studio banter. At the beginning he can be heard telling his bandmates: "I think I f---ed up. Let me just play the groove for a minute." At the end, he declares" "Heh, heh. Okay, well we know that one. That's funky."
In the song, Young describes "a place called downtown where the hippies all go/ And they dance the Charleston and they do the Limbo". In Young's _Downtown_, Jimi Hendrix is playing in a back room and Led Zeppelin is on the stage. A note from guitarist Jimmy Page is "like a water-washed diamond in a river of sin".
Young seems to be saying that there is not really such a thing as "cool", that each generation has its own idea of fun. Just to prove the point he mixes 1960s youth with 1920s forms of recreation. This has resonance because Young, wizened and looking every minute of 49, himself transcends "cool" by being totally savvy about contemporary trends (to wit, recording with Pearl Jam).
The world from here on is likely to belong to those who aspire to be, above all, savvy. Just wait a couple of years when Australians start falling over themselves - as they will - to get hooked up to pay-TV. It is not just technologies that are converging. Soon we won't know the difference between entertainment and information.
Entertainment is fast becoming referential and a long way from being reverent. What's funny and engaging is what you can recognise in one entertainment that has been appropriated from another entertainment. In the movie _Casper_, for example, the most amusing moments are the cameos involving non-cast members: Rodney Dangerfield, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Dan Aykroyd.
The coolest television shows, _The Simpsons_ and _Seinfield_, do it all the time. In recent weeks, we've seen references to _Midnight Cowboy_, _Rear Window_, the arrest of O. J. Simpson, _Pulp Fiction_, _Saturday Night Fever_ and _Superman_.
The shock of recognition - the heart of art - is shifting its focus from our life experiences to our entertainment experiences,. And we can all be docile child- adults watching our television telling ourselves we are in the know. Or dreaming of being Neil Young. **********************************************************
The following is from today's U.S.A. Today (June 26th), the cover story in the Life section:
The art of staying Young Cover Story --------------
A Restless spirit reflected in 'Mirror Ball'
On his new album, guru of grunge joins forces with rock's young lions
Woodside, Calif.---Neil Young steers his weathered 1960 white Lincoln Continental Mark IV out of the parking lot at Mountain House, a restaurant tucked high in the redwood forests south of San Francisco and 30 minutes from his home.
The beloved car, purchased two years ago, lumbers loudly along Skyline Boulevard, the breeze whipping Young's long wispy hair while his German Shepard, Bear, sleeps, undisturbed by the motor's roar.
"It gets 14 miles per gallon, downhill," says the flannel-clad rocker before he's suddenly startled by the sight of Rollerbladers careening down a sloping curve just ahead.
"These people are completely breaking the law," he says, craning his neck out the window to yell "You're nuts!"
At 49, Young is careening uphill with fuel to spare. Look for the master of guitar feedback and distortion to resurface Tuesday behind the wheel of another nosiy vehicle, Mirror Ball, recorded in Seattle five months ago with Young disciples Pearl Jam. Expected to premiere in Billboard at No. 1 and reign in critics' year-end lists, the album of pile-driving guitar rock got a boost at Saturday's sold-ot Pearl Jam show in San Francisco when Young took command after ailing singer Eddie Vedder exited. Revered by teens and boomers, Young held young fans rapt with Throw Your Hatred Down and Truth Be Known, examples of Mirror's generation spanning idealism.
"In some ways, Pearl Jam seems older than I am," Young says, dismissing notions of a generation gap. "There is a certain ancient wisdom in the way they fill the spaces and leave other spaces. It's not something they learned in this lifetime. In Pearl Jam, I have been given a great gift."
The inevitable musical marriage of rock's current sensation and the forever-young guru of all things grungs sprang from a two-year courtship. Pearl Jam opened for Young's 1993 tour with Booker T and the MGs and joined in his nightly encore of Rocking in the Free World, a song they did together on the MTV Music Video Awards.
At January's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies, Young broke in a new song, Act of Love, while Pearl Jam's Vedder (there to induct Young) surreptiouslu recorded it at his table. After Young and Pearl Jam played Act of Love the next nigh at an abortion-rights benefit in Washington D.C., they agreed to record it together.
One song snowballed into a full album on Young's label, Reprise. Mirror reflects '60's psychedelia, 70's punk and 90's hardcore rock, but Young, leery of genre tags, jokingly calls it " a techno buzz beat record."
The studio experience was "like cinema verite or maybe audio verite, just a snapshot of what is happening," he says. "Sometimes I didn't know who was playing. I was just conscious of this big smoldering mass of sound that doesn't ever relent."
Young penned all 11 songs and dominates on vocals and guitar, but mega-popular Pearl Jam's support on nine tracks should radically hike sales, even though the band's name appears nowhere in the liner notes, as stipulated by its label, Epic.
When Young joined the band for a recent show in Seattle, "we did 80% new songs, stuff I'd never played live before," he says. "This is good for me. Playing my old songs would be a defeated thing to do. There would be nothing meaningful in an oldies celebration with Pearl Jam."
Though the Toronto-born musician is finally completing a long planned multi-disc retrospective (the first volumes could be issued by early 1996), his 30-year career has been one of restless exploration. Mirror is 39th in a discography that embraces stints with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Crazy Horse.
After low-profile solo forays into country, techno and rockabilly, Young kicked into creative overdrive with 1989's Freedom. He's been on a roll since 1992's Grammy-nominated Harvest Moon was his biggest seller in a decade ( 3 million coies worldwide); in 1993, he issued Unplugged to wide acclaim and was named hip Spin's magazine's artist of the year; 1994's Sleeps With Angels drew praise for its haunting treatment of Kurt Corbain's life and death.
Young refused to promote the album. "It was too personal to talk about, and I didn't want to do publicity for a thing like that," says Young whose My My Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) was quoted in Cobain's suicide note ("its better to burn out than to fade away").
As a result of Young's Gen X credibility, he was invited to headline this year's Lollapalooza tour, a celebration of alternative music and youth culture.
Organizers said Young backed out because of low pay.
"There never was a problem with money," Young says crisply. "That's a complete fabrication. I never even met any of them. One day, I started thinking: 'If I do this gig, is it going to be the end of Lollapaloooza? These kids have this really cool idea, and it's turning into just another commercial thing, and I'm the dinosaur coming in to ruin it, right? They might as well get Neil Diamond'. I didn't think I'd be comfortable."
His cachet with youth evolved as much from his compassion and rapport as his grunge-blueprint music. While others his age are perplexed by the bleak themes of Nirvana, Young gets it.
"It's much harder to be a teenager today than it was in the 60's, because people now don't believe things are going to be all right," he says. "They're living with the fruits of what we created. Back then, we felt great about what we were doing. Kids now know it's not going to be all right. They're realists".
But an empowerement is emerging from current rock's cynicism.
"In the 60's, there was a bond between the audience and the artist," Young says. "It's harder to see now because so much is purely image projection. But today's pessimistic bands have an attitude that us unifying the generation."
That union often faces threats form society's watchdogs, which is why Young was disturbed by Sen. Bob Dole's recent remarks about a growing deviancy in pop culture.
"The only thing as bad as (offensive) music and movies is the politicans themselves and the things they do in the name of public service," Young says. "It's a dirty business with elections getting ridiculously filthy. Politicians are not in a position to be criticizing the arts.
"But they can say whatever they want to say. It's a free country. As a matter of fact I like Dole for saying what he thinks. I would probably still shake Dole's hand if I saw him. 'That was a hell of a pitch you made there, Bob, for cleaning us up.' But I'd also say 'Take a good look at your own business, buddy'. "
Meanwhile Young is consumed by his own business. He plans a Europe tour in August, is recording an album with Crazy Horse and hopes to sign acts for a label he founded with his manager. But the tireless rocker, who as a child survived diabetes,polio and epilepsy, seeks balance in his life. He tinkers with computers and electronics and lavishes time on his youngest son, Ben, severely afflicted with cerebal palsy.
"He's my assistant, my tester," says Young who's designed mechanisms to help Ben operate his computer and wheelchair. "He's getting the knack of it but he's kind of hairy driver right now."
Such distractions from music are healthy he says.
"If you have a good situation and can make music whenever you want with a whole bunch of people who are cool and you have nothing else to do, then it's going to be shallow, because there's not enough challenge."
The article is accompanied by a picture of Neil with an acoustic guitar. Also on the same page of the newspaper is a story about Pearl Jam maybe cancelling their tourand how Neil took over for Eddie Vedder when he fell ill with the stomach flu---I'd type it in, but I'm burnt out from typing in the above-- maybe later today.
It's nice to see the the archives "COULD" be out in early 1996 (and then again, maybe they can't!)
One comment about something Neil said of how today's teenagers have it harder today---I say BUNK---every generation has it tough in some way--in the 50's it was the constant threat of nuclear war and attack from the Russians, in the 60's it was the Vietman war etc---I just totally disagree with this theory that things are so much worse and hopeless today--if things are so bad, try using some energy to change things---thats what Neil and his peers tried to do, sometimes successfully, sometimes not---at least they tried! How about less whining about how terrible things are, and more effort expended to help change things for the better. And as far as artists not connecting with their audiences, I don't think thats so true either--just ask a Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Metallica fan--and of course there's ALWAYS the Grateful Dead--they still connect with their fans, and not just burned out hippies like me--half of the Grateful Dead audience is under 25 years old. The above are just my opinions, I'd be happy to hear what others think!
Sept issue: By Mark Rowland
JAMMIN' WITH NEIL -----------------
Neil Young is a modern man, which is to say, he's aware of his disconnections. In an era when past and future pass each other at warp speed, all of us - even pop stars - wrestle with the need to discover new frontiers without severing emotional roots. Without the first, you petrify, without the second you risk losing your humanity.
For Young, the frontiers are the musical canvas he paints his pictures on, which change dramatically with nearly every record he makes. The roots are the themes which course through each - of love vs. hatred, vitality vs. passivity, compassion vs. judgement. By constantly jogging himself into new modes of expression, he's managed to mature as a musical craftsman without losing touch with how he really FEELS - which is all that makes expression matter.
Mirror Ball, much anticipated as a collaboration with Pearl Jam, remains very much a Neil Young record, which is not to discount the band's impact. Their sound here invites comparison to Crazy Horse, obviously, but where the Horse's power grew out of their raggedness and slack understatement, Pearl Jam's power comes from POWER - they're a taught, lively band. You really sense the contrast on "I'm The Ocean," as Jeff Ament's bass lines counter the melody while Jack Irons shoves the beat forward instead of lagging behind. At the same time, Young alchemizes their sound by layering in an acoustically plinked guitar, and producer Brendan O'Brien's saloon piano. The result is a kind of impressionistic time-travel to match the song's imagery, which veers from the real violence of 19th century frontier life to vicarious chills filtered through contemporary TV screens.
Part of what makes Mirror Ball so moving is that the sense of being unstuck in time, not so much musically - though the combination of Pearl Jam's uncompromised attack with Young's folk melodicism and plaintive tenor suggests the spanning of generations - but by Young's vision. Unlike many an aging rocker, his journey's through the past are less concerned with literal than emotional truths, and he tends to mingle the joyful with the sinister, whether setting the scene in the Middle Ages ("Song X," featuring a dark dungeon-like chorus) or with hippies cavorting "Dowtown," as a leering doorman surveys their collective bliss. By the Time the band roils to a climax on "Throw Your Hatred Down," you're at once elevated by it's anthemic chorus and astonished at it's weight. As the best Neil Young songs keep reminding us, in an age of disconnections, the simplest truths matter most.
End of Article
This came out of the Ottawa (Canada) Citizen. Normally a very conservative city, this review is one of the best I've seen/heard. I normally wouldn't post it directly, but it covers a lot of what the list has been discussing lately, and is pretty accurate.
Now, Here's The Feel Of Body Heat
by Mike Blanchard, Ottawa Citizen
[b/w picture of Young screaming into mike] caption => Neil Young: His red-hot album is fun, loud and beautiful
Young, Pearl Jam make great music
It doesn't take much to get caught up in the mythicalness of this union between fiftysomething Neil Young and grunge rockers Pearl Jam. Even the circumstances of their recording have the makings of a myth:
Young goes up to Seattle with five guitars and a pump organ; He [author's capitalization] jams for four days with Pearl Jam, and they produce a red-hot rock album.
Young (not Neil) meets old? The passing of the rock 'n 'roll torch? Death to those old rock adages of "hope I die before I get old"?
Maybe. Symbolism overlode aside, there is an undeniable aspect to this project: it's a great rock record, in spirit and substance.
And despite this much-hyped meeting of two great rock entities, this remains, first and foremost, a Neil Young record.
As a band, Pearl Jam is not credited here, but individual members are. Eddie Vedder's trademark vocals can be heard on only a couple of tracks, including one in which Young credits him for addtitional lyrics.
The cheesy packaging smacks of Young's dry sense of humor. The standard plastic jewel box is replaced with a brown cardboard gatefold with a pocket for the disc that recalss vinyl packaging. The droopy lettering is straight out of the psychedelic '60s. Another symbolic statement?
Musically, Young's voice is buried a bit in the mix. Out front is his crunching guitar, those chunky combinations of minor and major chords you swear you've heard before but still sound as new as the day they were pumped through a distortion pedal.
'I'm The Ocean' is seven minutes of Dylanesque lyrical pile-up under a really simple riff that relentlessly builds - oops, here's a simile - like the rising tide.
It's a rant against violence, technology and how we can become desentitized by it. But it will probably be remembered by the line that sums up this project: "People My Age They Don't Do The Things I Do/They Go Somewhere While I Run Away With You."
'Act of Love' recalls the forceful 'Rockin' In The Free World', which got this whole thing started when Pearl Jam backed Young on the hit at the 1993 MTV Music Awards.
'Downtown' is a little funky (don't get excited, it's still nowhere near Isaac Hayes). It's only three chords, but it's how you play them.
So how's the band? Pearl Jam sounds damn fine. Yes, they could kick Crazy Horse's ass in a battle of the bands if all the judges were from the Royal Conservatory fo Music. But don't forget, it was Young and Crazy Horse's ragged jamming that helped free a generation of grunge rockers from the garage.
Here, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready can be heard occasionally noodling like well disciplined guitar gods back in the mix (Neil gets most of the solos, and they're way up front).
But it's the rhythem section of drummer Jack Irons and bassist Jeff Ament that drives the sessions with a taunt, muscular beat.
Overall, this a fun, loud, - really good music - and quite beautiful. Beautiful? Well, we do have to resort to symbolism after all.
It's hard not to recall last year's masterpiece 'Sleeps With Angels', Young's meditation on the suicide of Kurt Cobain. On 'Fallen Angel', Young closes the disc, alone at a mournful pump organ, addressing an absent friend: "Where's The Big Drum/Where's The Feel of Body Heat?"
Cobain may not have hand an answer to that one. Young and Pearl Jam found theirs while making music for four days in Seattle.
The latest issue of BAM has arrived -- it's the San Francisco (and L.A.) area freebie music rag -- and it really has turned into a rag, but that's another story... The title used to stand for Bay Area Music, but now it's Attitude and Music (I forget what the B stands for, probably Balls).
Anyhow, the latest issue has a front piece on the Neil/PJ San Francisco concert, but what I really want to mention is the review of MIRROR BALL.
Thought his review might interest you (Jason, are you out there?):
Neil Young, MIRROR BALL/Reprise [five out of five stars!!]
If there's one constant in this life, it's that Neil Young has not only seen God, he does a damn good job of impersonating him. This is not mere rock-crit hyperbole. I swear. Just listen to MIRROR BALL. Listen hard. Then listen to it again.
It's an album that could have been riddled with excess -- a collaboration with alternative deities Pearl Jam that had the potential to trot out the Christ Child (aka Eddie Vedder) to fling about attitude, piety, and rock- star vibes like so many communion wafers. Instead, all the parties involved chose to transcend the hype and deliver an album that does more than resonate -- it stands on its own as pure genius, creating the sort of epiphany that makes a person wonder why we don't all quit our jobs and stay home all day, just listening to music.
I swear I am not making any of this up. I am not exaggerating. This album is the culmination of a life in the spotlight, a life, like all of our lives, that has real pain, real joy, real shit to be slogged through. But, unlike so many of us sorry humans, Neil Young has a knack for turning feces into gold, for weaving trial and tribulation into a tapestry of breath-taking beauty, unleavened by sentiment but permeated with real emotion. It's heartbreaking and exhilarating, concrete brilliance that's more than a little daunting.
Because if Neil can do this -- has done this, again and again -- what's our excuse? (Oh, right. We're not geniuses. Never mind.)
MIRROR BALL is as good a Neil Young album as there's been to date, and that's saying a lot. It holds its own next to RUST NEVER SLEEPS and EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE; in other words, it's an instant classic that gets better every time you listen to it. I'll admit that I had my doubts when I heard that Pearl Jam was involved with this project; it seemed like superduper-band overkill somehow. But all the players -- Jeff Ament on bass, guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready, drummer Jack Irons, and backing vocalists Brendan O'Brien and Eddie Vedder -- are just as tight as Crazy Horse ever were, clearly reveling in the joy of working with the best damn songwriter modern rock has to offer.
Every one of the 11 tracks on MIRROR BALL has something to recommend it, but the epic song "I'm the Ocean" evokes as many chills as "Like a Hurricane." When Neil sings, "People my age they don't do the things I do/ They go somewhere while I run away with you," he proves yet again that how many fingers old you are can mean that you just get better and better at your craft.
In an interview that came out in conjunction with HARVEST MOON, Young talked about getting older with clarity and grace. He said then, "What this album is about is this feeling, this ability to survive and continue to grow and get higher than you were before. Not just to maintain, not just to feel well. Not just 'I'm still alive at 45.' You can be MORE alive."
Amen, brother. Amen.
- Julene Snyder =============================================================
Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did typing it in! Cheers, - marty
Subject: Neil News from New ICE
NY is mentioned twice in the current issuse of ICE:
First, under the "CD Watchdog" column wherein people write in to complain about stuff, a guy wote in upset that MB had been released on vinyl as a two record set at a price of $18 when it's only 55:19 long. His point was that if NY prefers vinyl, why make those who share his beliefs pay more when it could have fit on one LP? ICE went to Joel Bernstein. His response:
"'Warner Bros. was going to issue Mirror Ball as a single LP,' Bernstein tells ICE in response. 'Over their objections, we insisted on two LPs. Yes, you could have fit Mirror Ball onto one LP; however, you would have drastically reduced the bass response. While it is certainly true that you can get an hour onto one LP, the ideal time for one side of an LP is roughly 18 minutes. You can go as far up as 22 minutes per side without any serious technical deterioration. How many one-hour LPs have there been, ever? Only cheesy classical records, where they tried to speed up Beethoven's 'Ninth" and put it out on a single LP, instead of three sides. Obviously, from the viewpoint of Warner Bros.' marketing department, their motivation was to keep it to a single LP. Unfortunately, the LP was devised as a 45-minute format. We're now at a 72-minute format. It's a technical propblem which, basically, no one is addressing.'"
For more on the musical collaborations of Eddie Vedder and Neil, see Pearl Jam and Neil Young page with details on Bridge School concerts, the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame induction, and more.
Also see: Black - Pearl Jam Fan Site
Neil Young Album Reviews
A Neil Young Archives