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Rock - Released June 19, 2020 | Reprise

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Neil Young's "lost album," Homegrown, gets its debut 41 years late. Young shelved it because he "just couldn't listen to" the heartache, which followed the collapse of his romance with actress Carrie Snodgress. Meant to fall between Harvest and Comes a Time, the 1974 time capsule fits neatly in that space. "Separate Ways" and "Try," both featuring drums by Levon Helm, truly feel like an extension of Harvest: the former a noir-country lament and the latter an ambling plea for love lifted aloft by Emmylou Harris' backing vocals. Throughout, train-whistle harmonica is a Greek chorus, popping up on the gorgeous and hopeless "Star of Bethlehem" ("All your dreams and your lovers won't protect you") and stripped-bare "Love Is a Rose"—which would be made famous in '75 by Linda Ronstadt and here ends with urgent guitar chords like exclamation points of warning. There are moments of indulgence—you're safe to skip any title that's the name of a place—but also songs that stand with his best. The blistering "Vacancy" ("You poison me with that long, vacant stare") and high-lonesome "White Line," with Robbie Roberston, aren't to be missed. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Rock - Released June 19, 2020 | Reprise

Neil Young's "lost album," Homegrown, gets its debut 41 years late. Young shelved it because he "just couldn't listen to" the heartache, which followed the collapse of his romance with actress Carrie Snodgress. Meant to fall between Harvest and Comes a Time, the 1974 time capsule fits neatly in that space. "Separate Ways" and "Try," both featuring drums by Levon Helm, truly feel like an extension of Harvest: the former a noir-country lament and the latter an ambling plea for love lifted aloft by Emmylou Harris' backing vocals. Throughout, train-whistle harmonica is a Greek chorus, popping up on the gorgeous and hopeless "Star of Bethlehem" ("All your dreams and your lovers won't protect you") and stripped-bare "Love Is a Rose"—which would be made famous in '75 by Linda Ronstadt and here ends with urgent guitar chords like exclamation points of warning. There are moments of indulgence—you're safe to skip any title that's the name of a place—but also songs that stand with his best. The blistering "Vacancy" ("You poison me with that long, vacant stare") and high-lonesome "White Line," with Robbie Roberston, aren't to be missed. © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Country - Released December 8, 2004 | Rhino - Warner Records

Nicolette Larson first came to public attention when she backed up Neil Young on his American Stars 'n Bars disc. She went on to duet with him on his much anticipated Comes a Time album, which was the genesis for Nicolette. Using an even wider-ranging style than friends Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris, Larson hit it big right out of the starting gate with Young's "Lotta Love," a super Top Ten smash. From there, she broadens her approach to include a soulful "You Send Me," the Louvin Bros' "Angels Rejoiced," Motown's "Baby, Don't Do It," and a hard-rockin' "Can't Get Away From You." No matter which genre she aspired to, she seemed to have the chops to do a fine job. Nicolette was a surprise for many when it first came out and is still a pleasure to listen to today. After this, her first effort, the sky was the limit for Larson. © James Chrispell /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1983 | Geffen

When it was released, Trans was Neil Young's most baffling album. He had employed a vocoder to synthesize his voice on five of the album's nine tracks, resulting in disembodied singing, the lyrics nearly impossible to decipher without the lyric sheet. And even when you read the words, "Computer Age," "We R in Control," "Transformer Man," "Computer Cowboy," and "Sample and Hold" seemed like a vague mishmash of high-tech jargon. Later, Young would reveal that some of the songs expressed a theme of attempted communication with his disabled son, and in that context, lines like "I stand by you" and "So many things still left to do/But we haven't made it yet" seemed clearer. But the vocoder, which robbed Young's voice of its dynamics and phrasing, still kept the songs from being as moving as they were intended to be. And despite the crisp dance beats and synthesizers, the music sounded less like new Kraftwerk than like old Devo. A few more conventional Young songs (left over from an earlier rejected album) seemed out of place. Trans had a few good songs, notably "Sample and Hold" (which seemed to be about a computer dating service for robots), a remake of "Mr. Soul," and "Like an Inca" (an intended cross between "Like a Hurricane" and "Cortez the Killer"?), but on the whole it was an idea that just didn't work. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1987 | Geffen

In the fall of 1978, Neil Young undertook a North American tour with Crazy Horse, then added overdubs to new songs recorded on the tour for one of his best albums, Rust Never Sleeps. In the fall 1986, he did the same thing, but Life, Young's first album with Crazy Horse since 1981's Re-ac-tor, was not one of his best albums. It was, however, better than most of the other albums he had made in the 1980s, and it was the first really interesting album he'd made in a long time. Despite the return to Crazy Horse, Young continued to use some of the production techniques from Landing on Water, especially the loud drums and the synthesizers. But he mixed things up, including acoustic-based songs such as "Long Walk Home" (which recalled "After the Gold Rush") and "Inca Queen" (the third in his series of long, atmospheric songs about the Incas) and rockers like "Prisoners of Rock 'n' Roll." The last, with its attacks on "record company clowns" and chorus "that's why we don't want to be good," seemed intended as the theme song for the Rusted-Out Garage Tour on which it was performed and served as a reminder that Young was still at odds with Geffen Records, which he left after releasing this album. Despite the criticism he had endured for his support of President Reagan's military buildup, Young had foreign policy on his mind in the action-movie-in-song "Mideast Vacation" and in "Long Walk Home," which addressed military misadventures from Vietnam to Beirut. It could be argued that Young was repeating himself on much of this material and that the album was typically uneven. But Life was an encouraging step back to the tried and true for an exploratory artist who finally seemed to have realized that he had experimented too much for his own good. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released November 12, 2019 | Polyvinyl Records

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Folk - Released February 12, 2008 | American Laundromat Records

This two-disc, 21-track compilation of women artists covering early era (1969 to 1979) Neil Young songs is an intriguing concept, even if the results seem just a bit less intriguing than the idea itself. Young, with his high, reedy voice and wounded-bird-in-love-and-life persona, practically created the template for the singer/songwriter school of rock in the late '60s and early '70s, and the best of his songs, for all the deconstruction and recasting and genre hopping he's done since, are beautifully written remnants from the fragile land of the heart, and a good deal of that heart of glass approach translates well here. The problem is how to improve or at least find a new path to Young's own versions of these songs. Part of his appeal has always been his restless, enigmatic nature, and as these artists no doubt discovered in covering his songs, much of what makes his work shine is in what he doesn't say. So while Young's songs are musically simple in structure, getting to the heart of them isn't an easy thing to do, and in no case here is Young's own version of the song ever completely banished to the shadows, which, come to think of it, is usually the problem with these kinds of tribute albums. Still, there's a lot to like here, including Lori McKenna's haunting and atmospheric take on "The Needle and the Damage Done," Jill Sobule's banjo-led "Down by the River," Luff's lushly reconstructed version of "Tell Me Why," and Heidi Gluck's ragged, shuffling, and appropriately feisty rendition of "Walk On," making this set well worth investigating, particularly since the proceeds go to Casting for Recovery, a non-profit charity specializing in breast cancer education. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1986 | Geffen

Backed only by co-producer Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Steve Jordan on drums, with all three playing synthesizers, Neil Young turns in an album that attempts to mix the raunchy rock thrust of his Crazy Horse-style music with contemporary trends in pop, especially the tendency to turn the drums way up in the mix. It's an uneasy combination in which Jordan's forceful drumming dominates the tracks, with Young's vocals nearly buried. But that only means that the production has ruined a group of songs few of which were any good anyway. The only one that offers the promise of being one of Young's better efforts is "Hippie Dream," a sober criticism of what became of '60s idealism in general and Young's erstwhile bandmate David Crosby in particular. But if Landing on Water was not a good album, at least it seemed to point Young away from the stylistic dabbling of his last three albums and back toward the kind of rock he did best, and at least some of his fans returned as a result, giving him a slight uptick in sales. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Jazz - Released October 26, 2018 | ACT Music

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Rock - Released December 8, 2017 | Fantasy Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1987 | Geffen

In the fall of 1978, Neil Young undertook a North American tour with Crazy Horse, then added overdubs to new songs recorded on the tour for one of his best albums, Rust Never Sleeps. In the fall 1986, he did the same thing, but Life, Young's first album with Crazy Horse since 1981's Re-ac-tor, was not one of his best albums. It was, however, better than most of the other albums he had made in the 1980s, and it was the first really interesting album he'd made in a long time. Despite the return to Crazy Horse, Young continued to use some of the production techniques from Landing on Water, especially the loud drums and the synthesizers. But he mixed things up, including acoustic-based songs such as "Long Walk Home" (which recalled "After the Gold Rush") and "Inca Queen" (the third in his series of long, atmospheric songs about the Incas) and rockers like "Prisoners of Rock 'n' Roll." The last, with its attacks on "record company clowns" and chorus "that's why we don't want to be good," seemed intended as the theme song for the Rusted-Out Garage Tour on which it was performed and served as a reminder that Young was still at odds with Geffen Records, which he left after releasing this album. Despite the criticism he had endured for his support of President Reagan's military buildup, Young had foreign policy on his mind in the action-movie-in-song "Mideast Vacation" and in "Long Walk Home," which addressed military misadventures from Vietnam to Beirut. It could be argued that Young was repeating himself on much of this material and that the album was typically uneven. But Life was an encouraging step back to the tried and true for an exploratory artist who finally seemed to have realized that he had experimented too much for his own good. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released August 27, 2018 | Covers Inc

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Rock - Released January 1, 1986 | Geffen

Backed only by co-producer Danny Kortchmar on guitar and Steve Jordan on drums, with all three playing synthesizers, Neil Young turns in an album that attempts to mix the raunchy rock thrust of his Crazy Horse-style music with contemporary trends in pop, especially the tendency to turn the drums way up in the mix. It's an uneasy combination in which Jordan's forceful drumming dominates the tracks, with Young's vocals nearly buried. But that only means that the production has ruined a group of songs few of which were any good anyway. The only one that offers the promise of being one of Young's better efforts is "Hippie Dream," a sober criticism of what became of '60s idealism in general and Young's erstwhile bandmate David Crosby in particular. But if Landing on Water was not a good album, at least it seemed to point Young away from the stylistic dabbling of his last three albums and back toward the kind of rock he did best, and at least some of his fans returned as a result, giving him a slight uptick in sales. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Country - Released April 29, 2011 | Camcor Recording

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Pop - Released January 1, 1993 | Geffen Records

Geffen Records seems to have intended a straightforward "best of" compilation containing the singles released from Neil Young's five albums with the label between 1982 and 1987. Then Young himself became involved, and his version of a Geffen sampler naturally turned out to be more unusual. There were four songs never before released on a Young album: "Depression Blues" had been recorded for the first, rejected version of the country-ish Old Ways; "Get Gone" (a soundalike to "Willie and the Hand Jive") and the bluesy "Don't Take Your Love Away From Me" were live recordings with the "Shocking Pinks" rockabilly band that made Everybody's Rockin'; and "Ain't It the Truth" was a live recording from the Bluenotes tour that came just as Young was leaving Geffen. There were also an alternate version of "Sample and Hold" from Trans that ran an extra few minutes and a live take of "This Note's for You," the title song from Young's 1988 return to Reprise Records. None of these were revelatory, and Young's choices from the albums Trans, Old Ways, Landing on Water, and Life (there was nothing from Everybody's Rockin') were not the best he could have made. (Among the missing: "Little Thing Called Love," "Like an Inca," "Get Back to the Country," "Are There Any More Real Cowboys?," "Weight of the World," "Inca Queen," and "Long Walk Home.") Given that Young veered wildly from synth pop to rockabilly to country to rock during this period, assembling a coherent compilation was something of a challenge, and Young didn't even try, just picking his favorites and sequencing them chronologically. There are some interesting songs here to be sure, notably "Hippie Dream" (which runs an extra 15 seconds in this version) and "Mideast Vacation," but this summing up of Young's least impressive, most bizarre era, instead of rehabilitating that era, was itself bizarre and unimpressive, too. (Lucky Thirteen was Neil Young's first album since his debut not to reach the charts.) © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 16, 2013 | Salvo

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Country - Released February 9, 2006 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released May 1, 2008 | TJR Tube Jam Records

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Folk - Released July 18, 2015 | Primavera Records

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Pop - Released April 10, 2016 | LEPM DIGITAL

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Neil Young in the magazine