Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
My version of Southern Accents was mostly a Tom Petty's Greatest Hits Before Full Moon Fever. Sure, I snuck on a few tracks that weren't singles or Classic Petty Tracks, and I may have left off a single or two, but it was mostly the crowd-pleasing Petty Played Them Until He Died songs that he wrote in the 70s and early 80s. But I'm not ready to put up Full Moon Fever yet.
Towards the end of my Southern Accents, Petty's sound started to evolve. More piano-focus, cleaner vocals, a ballad. Petty was starting to branch out from his particular brand of Southern Rock. But while I don't think that was evident in his hits of the 70s and early 80s, I do think his B-Sides and outtakes were already vastly different from his pop hits.
This album is named after Petty's pre-Heartbreakers band, Mudcrutch. It doesn't feature any songs from the band, I just like the name, and think it works for describing Petty's less radio-friendly tunes. Most of these songs I originally encountered on Playback, Petty's mid-90s box set. There's also a Traveling Wilbury's song (a supergroup of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne). There will be more Wilbury songs as the discography continues.
This version of Mudcrutch is a weird Petty album, but I like it as An Album more than I enjoy listening to Southern Accents, even though that has all the hits on it. This feels less like "Oooh, I want to hear that one song I love, and then the other songs I know from the radio" and more like "Huh, this is really cool."
I'm not advocating the message of the first track, but the beat, and the overall atmosphere it creates. Peace In LA was written during the LA Riots of the early 90s. I support that Petty is advocating for peace while condeming the completely corrupt racist cops of LA in the early 90s, but sometimes you do need burning and looting so that murderers and abusers in police uniforms don't continue to keep getting away with their disgusting criminal behavior. (Don't at me with arguments about The Police, unless it's about Gordon Sumner, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland. It would be a waste of your racist breath.) The song is a slow scorcher. Honkytonk piano, electric guitar tearing across the stereo, and then a weird ending that bubbles straight into
You Come Through. Lyrically, this is more familiar Petty territoty. A baby, honeypie, sweet thing song about love and loneliness. But Petty moves more across his range. This is a more interesting version of "Refugee". It's a similar instrumentation with much cooler vocals, better lyrics, and a slightly funkier lead guitar. There's even a fake fade out that was so en vogue in the late 70s/early 80s.
A strumming acoustic guitar and a guitar rise out of the fade out, and the lower-toned Petty, somewhere around his vocals on "Spike" sings the very bluesy Big Boss Man, where he relays his feelings about his boss, who thinks he's so big, but is actually just tall. This is a cover of a Jimmy Reed song, and actually Does sound like it could be from Petty's very early catalogue. I love the stretch into blues here, Petty has a better voice for blues than he does for rock, and I wish he'd done a whole album of songs like this.
Travelin' is more similar to Petty's mainstream jangle rock but the drums are straight out Bob Dylan's playbook, and overall the song, which was recorded for Full Moon Fever, sounds more like an excellent cover song rather than a Petty original. It might have been something that made it onto Mojo or, more likely, Highway Companion. It's just a fun folk rock song.
Oooh, Petty takes the Dylan voice back out of the box for I Don't Know What To Say To You. It's a weird little B-side from the late seventies with a country rag feel. The lyrics are all over the place, a kind of frenetic "Desolation Row". It makes you want to make a funny face and bop your head around to the bassline breakdown.
Cracking Up wears its New Wave meets Southern Rock sensibility proudly. It's almost Devo/Carsish in its sensibility and keyboards. But it still has Petty's twang and his riffiness (even if it's buried further in the mix than usual). We get all the way to the end before he breaks out his rock and roll screeching that was so prevelant in his 70s and 80s tracks. Then he Jeff Foxworthys his way out of the track.
There's a real traditional rock sound to God's Gift To Man. Petty is back to his usual vocal styling. It's a typical man changes things for a woman, and it doesn't end well song that makes incels nod their hateful little heads. Not his best work, lyrically, but it's a super catchy southern rock riff.
Can't Get Her Out is almost a follow-up to the previous track. This is a a battling guitar, jangly keyboard, roackabilly piano song with super generic lyrics about a "dangerous girl" Petty can't forget about. Move on, Tom, you were a rock star when you wrote this go find someone who loves you.
Keeping Me Alive almost sounds like an 80s Bruce Springsteen track with Petty on background vocals. I can understand why he didn't put it on an album, even though I really enjoy it. Finally, it's an upbeat song about love where some woman is "keeping (him) alive". I suspect this is closer to the narrative of his real life than the previous two tracks.
Starting somewhere between "Stand By Me" and "I Won't Back Down" is the Very Floridian laidback Casa Dega. It's a B-side from Damn The Torpedoes that I enjoy more than almost any song that made the album.
Waiting For Tonight sounds like it came off Petty's Into The Great Wide Open. Lyrically, it has a bit of a "Free Fallin'" feel, but the background vocals, provided by The Bangles, and the production sound like they came from later in Petty's discography than it does.
The beginning of Down The Line sounds like a reimagining of King Floyd's "Groove Me". This is not a complaint. I love the added funk, and the horns. I also appreciate Petty's almost restrained vocals on this. It's not quite his Dylan voice, but it borders on it.
If "Down The Line" shows Petty's 70s funk influences than Depot Street shows that Petty had a love of reggae that mirrored The Clash, Blondie, and, to a lesser extent, The Police. It has the same Nice Try But No This Isn't Reggae Despite Your Clipped Nasal Delivery as a bunch of late 70s/early 80s reggae influenced tunes. I like it on its own merit but I wouldn't put it on an actual reggae mix. Despite the copious amount of weed Petty smoked, you get the idea that he didn't spend quite enough time in Jamaica to perfect this musical style.
The Traveling Wilburys, like most supergroups, weren't equal to the sum of their parts. I rarely want to listen to more than one song by them at a time. Wilbury Twist is a very 50's Nostalgia Rock Song. I do like the song, and enjoy the way it helps flesh out this weird little album even further. But would I rank it in my top fifty Tom Petty songs? Probably not. It is another White Gu Sshoulder Dancer, though. But everything about this song is derivative nostalgia, which isn't relaly my thing. But here, we actually have Bob Dylan doing vocals on this track, along with Petty, Lynch, and Harrison.
Closing out the album is A Very 1970s ballad, Since You Said You Loved Me. The trilling piano sweeps and softo rock drum beat barely made it out of the 1970s. I think it's a completely fitting end to this eclectic little album.
I've mentioined this before, but growing up, my parents were lost in the 50s and 60s. Almost all of the music they listened to was Motown, Doowop, Soul Music, and Nostalgic Country. There were Some 80s albums in our house (by the mid-80s anyway). But you were more likely to find a Mousercise album than anything New Wave or even pop. We did have a copy of Thriller mixed in with my Stories on Record (mostly Disney movie synopsies), but I'm pretty sure that was legally mandated at the time. We had more stand up comedy albums than we had top ten music albums.
While my parents' collections were all on vinyl, I eventually started using my newspaper route money to buy tapes. My collection was pretty much all Broadway musicals and Ronnie Milsap until, hanging out with friends I was introduced to Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses, Poison, and Def Leppard. One of those things was not like the others. But I kept listening to the music that my friends thought were cool. Until one day, visiting my neighbor's house, I heard two albums that I thought my friends might like, but also my parents might not hate. Because they Hated my tape collection from Phantom Of The Opera to Anthrax. Those two albums, Juice Newton's Juice (which was eight years old at that point) and Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever. I only ever bought the one Juice Newton album, but from Full Moon Fever, I built my Tom Petty collection backwards until I had every tape of his I could find, and I bought Into The Great Wide Open, Greatest Hits, Wildflowers, the Playback box set, She's The One, and Echo the weeks they came out. It took me longer to get his 21st century output, but I did get it all, usually within a few months of release.
I wore out several of his tapes. He was one of the first artists I bought on CD. Until I got all hopped up on buying bootleg albums in high school, I had more Tom Petty albums than any other artist.
Now, my Petty love is very specific. I *like* almost all Petty, but the era between Full Moon Fever and Wildflowers is my jam. The other eras of this discography will be akin to The Cars and Queen, where I smoosh a few albums together to make a super album, but the mid-era Petty will be similar to the U2 and Pearl Jam where I actually make the albums longer by including B-sides, rarities, and more.
The first album is definitely a pre-Full Moon Fever Greatest Hits. The radio definitely influenced which early Petty songs I learned, consumed, and sang along with. I don't think there are any true surprises on this album, it's just a really solid collection of Tom Petty writing catchy three-minutesish pop rock.
If you're going to start setting up tracks for a Tom Petty discography, and you don't start off with some jangly guitars, you're doing The Heartbreakers, Tom, and anyone listening to the project a huge disservice. There are going to be a ton of jangly riffs, so why not start off with one of his best? The title of American Girl may give you the impression that we're starting with something at least vaguely political but, no lyrically this song gets as deep as Oh yea / all right / take it easy baby / make it last all night / She was / an American girl. So, fun and jangly, not so much critiquing the mores of modern American society. It's a pretty sweet opener.
Similarly, you might take a look at the second track and think, Refugee? Is this going to be vague early U2-like political rock? Nahhhh. It's really just appropriative lyrics in a love song. But generically appropriative. You cold modernize the word and imagery of like a refugee to in the closet, and it would make more sense. You don't have to live in the closet just doesn't have the easy rhyming of the word refugee.
We manage to get to the third song of the album without any drug references, and shockingly, he's not talking about weed but the cocaine of the impending '80s jerk who's trying to steal the object of his affection in Listen To Her Heart. But if she's done any of that cocaine, you're not going to have to listen very hard to hear her heart. I wonder if the drumline in this song is meant to be her frantic heartbeat.
I love the lone drumbeat that starts Breakdown, as well as the way the guitar creeps in, politely, to take over the lead.
Another drum intro, followed by some more jangly guitar riffs, and then, one of my favorite rock tropes, the lead singer speaks the beginning of each verse before falling into the melody. Here Comes My Girl. Growing up, I thought the chorus was Yea, she looks all right / she's all I need tonight. Turns out it's Yea she looks so right, which is a much more complimentary line but makes me enjoy the song just a little less.
Fooled Again (I Don't Like It) is the first song on this album that wasn't a hit. It's vocals are too weirdly straining, almost like Bob Dylan doing a David Byrne impression, or vice-versa. This song wasn't on my radar until I started doing a writing project where I wrote a poem for the title of every Tom Petty track. Something about the alternating dark, spacey verse backing (for Tom Petty, this ain't The Cure) against the usual happy fuzzy Petty guitars just stands out against his other early work. I also love the I don't like it mantra outro.
Unlike most of my discographies, I don't blend the songs into each other much on Petty albums. His songs don't really lend themselves to fading. But I do like the progression from "Fooled Again" to this other Not A Hit track, You're Gonna Get It. I love the multiple breakdown structure, how it both does and doesn't sound like the 70s album rock that dominated the rock and roll that was being overshadowed by disco. The background vocals are pure disco, but his vocals and the piano and guitar are pure album rock. There's also the open spaceiness, spilling over from the previous track.
You Got Lucky brings us back to the classic Petty hits. But it's incredibly synthy. This could almost be a track from The Cars. The twangy bassline is also a nice touch.
The cover for this "album" is from the video for Don't Come Around Here No More, a lovely weird track that Dave Stewart, from the Eurythmics, wrote about and for Stevie Nicks. The background vocals are completely unlike anything Fleetwood Mac and add a surreal touch to what would otherwise be a pretty basic Petty song.
The natural pairing for "Don't Come Around Here No More" is Stop Dragging My Heart Around, another song by Dave Stewart, this one on a Stevie Nicks album. But the track is just drenched in Heartbreaker. Even without Petty's vocals, it would be hard not to hear the guitar on this song and not imagine Petty playing it.
The Waiting is the only song I've taken from Petty's Hard Promises album. It's not lyrically amazing. It's a song that I heard so many times on classic rock radio in the 90s that I may only enjoy it through some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Petty's sound especially goofy during the verses, which makes the trite lyrics more palatable.
The drumline intro and building bassline, followed by the It's just the normal noises in here always throw me. What Tom Petty song is th---ahhh, Even The Losers. This is another song that I have heard so many times that I know all the lyrics. Is it one of his best? I don't know anymore. But it does make me want to do the White Guy Shoulder Dance.
It's been awhile since we've had a Billy Joelesque piano lead in. Don't Do Me Like That falls into the triumvirate of the Generic That songs, along with Hall & Oates's "I Can't Go For That" and Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)". Unlike those songs, I understand his Generic That.
I Need To Know feels a bit like Refugee but the vocals are buried a bit deeper between the jangle and the spare piano notes. Petty gives a great Waaaaaaaaaaah! before The Heartbreakers hit a guitar solo and keyboard sweep. Pure 70s rock and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.
The original Southern Accents was the first Petty album I bought after Full Moon Fever (again, I built my collection backwards). Spike struck me as such a weird, dark, echoey song for Tom Petty. I loved it instantly. I love the doot-dooo d'doo-doo doos and how they counterbalanced his less-nasally-than-usual vocals. Plus, who doesn't love a heavy panting dog outro?
The final track is the title track for this album. Southern Accentsis the first real ballad in this discography. The soft drums, the chord-focused piano. I think these final two songs are a great way to signal that there is an evolution taking place in Petty's music, and it's about to sound very different, while still sounding very ... ummm ... Petty?
Putting together this reimagined discography has been more difficult thatn I imagined, but more fulfilling to suss out. This is my third, and I think final, attempt at the second album in the discography. Unlike the first album, which sprawled over Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and Youg's solo work, this album is 100% Neil Young. It contains both his most successful period, and then his darkest period. I've shrunk four of his solo albums into an album that I love. I haven't changed the tracks much since my first draft, but the order has had to be rejumbled as the first draft didn't quite click for me, and the second draft seemed wonderful when I was mixing it but when I listened to it the next day it sounded awful.
This collection sounds, to me, like the prototype for Tom Petty's late 80s and 90s work, as well as the best Ani Difranco albums. They're not fully acoustic, but most of them sound like they were originally played on an acoustic guitar and then slowly expanded into fuller sounds. The songs are all pretty short, and they're catchy. When there are background harmonies, they sound sometimes fun, occasionally haunting, but always necessary, and not the result of overproduction.
The crux of this album is, of course, Harvest, which is the strongest popular Young album of the era. Personally, if I had to choose a full actual 1970s album by Young to listen to, it would be Tonight's The Night, but I understand why Harvest is more popular. What I don't understand are the people who told me I would enjoy After The Gold Rush. Even the "classic hits" on that album just sound off to me. Politically, I definitely fall on the Neil Young side of the Neil Young/Lynyrd Skynyrd divide (Which actually lasted only about a year before Young and Lynyrd reached an agreement that "Southern Man" is politically well-intentioned but kind of a garbage song. "Sweet Home Alabama" slaps) but musically I just don't enjoy the production or the lyrics from After The Gold Rush.
I don't know for sure, because, again, I'm learning what I like about Young as I make this discography, but I *think* this will probably be my favorite of the Neil Young albums, with the possible exception of his mid-90s output. It just Sounds like the mid-90s rock that I listened to in high school, even though it was made in the early and mid-70s.
The kick of the drum, the harmonica, the laid back vocals. Out On The Weekend could have been the first track of Tom Petty's Wildflowers, my favorite Petty album. It's got the country twang in moderation, over the soft acoustic rock. It's just a summer day drinking lemonade (or beer, should you choose) on a porch. Not your porch. The porch of someone you enjoy spending time with, but also enjoy time away from. This is a breezy conversation before you get up to shake hands, maybe hug, and then leave.
Old Man is one of Young's first super hits. Linda Rondstadt and James Taylor (who also plays bajo on the track) are his background vocalists for a catchy, navel-gazing song. This is one of those songs that I don't know if I like it because it's got a really catchy melody or because I've heard it in the background of movies, TV shows, and playing on the radio when I was younger, many times. I couldn't have told you that I even knew this song until I was putting the album together and thought "How do I know all the lyrics to this song?" I also enjoy how it
flows directly into Tonight's The Night, which embodies everything I love about Southern rock. As with Young's best work, the harmonies, provided in this track by The Santa Monica Flyers, are exquisite, the bassline is a touch too ferocious for the soft vocals, but somehow it works. The raggedy piano coming in is divine and makes me wish I was at a piano bar in Memphis. Young's lead vocals waiver back and forth toward the microphone and he plays around like he's at an open mic, not at a recording studio. I was completely unfamiliar with this song (or anything from the album it comes from) when I started this project, and it's now one of my absolute favorite Young tracks.
One of Young's absolute classic hits is Heart Of Gold. The soaring harmonica, the kick drum, the ... you know what ... everything I said about the first track, it's like that, only up another couple of notches. Its association with Zaphod Beeblebrox and infinite improbability also makes me love it even more than the harmonica riffs. And once again, we have Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor in the background.
Borrowed Tune is a sweet piano ballad that just sounds like every mid-90s ballad, but it arrived twenty years early. Hearing it now makes me want to listen to his contribution to the Philadelphia soundtrack. I think it's a thousand times better than "Lady Jane", the terribly clanky Rolling Stones song it borrows the melody from.
If you like a good, moody song played on a Wurlitzer, then hoo buddy, See The Sky About To Rain was written for you. I could see an instrumental version being in pretty much any 1990s Indie film. It could almost have come from REM's Automatic For The People.
Motion Pictures on the other hand, sounds like a slightly countrified version of pre-Kid A Radiohead. A B-side of OK Computer at least. If I'd encountered it, I definitely would have been listening to this song with the lights out in high school, being sad for the sake of being sad. I think much of this album appeals to me because it sounds like the type of music I might have put on when I was feeling down as a teenager/early twenty-something, but I would have felt better after the album is over. There's a real hope to these moody downers.
While I'm comparing Young's 70s output to the 90s work it inspired, Don't Let It Bring You Down is a Screaming Trees masterpiece released out of time. I bet this one more than one of Anthony Bourdain's mixtapes in the 80s and 90s.
Getting back to the piano rag with the scorching Southern guitar, Speakin' Out has The Most 70s lyrics I've heard in a long time. This is a stoned hippie jam with a 70s piano undertone that's polite enough to cut itself off after about five minutes.
Albuquerque gave me the most trouble with this album. I couldn't figure out where to put it. This is the dirty track on a quiet Tom Petty album. Or so I thought. It's really only the opening bass crunch that made it so hard to place. So I buried it in the mix as the outro of "Speakin' Out" fades into it. The song ascends into something between a Southern Rock jam and a Progressive Rock jam. The chorus is almost alien, as it just doesn't seem to fit over the melody, even though it's just echoing the guitar pattern.
I let New Mama cut through the ending for another straightforward acoustic song that could have been a Crosby Stills Nash And Young song. I let it fully play out to its gorgeous ending before
Lookout Joe lopes onto the album. This is definitely a late-album sing-along tune. It feels like a moment about to end. It's a fun Stray Gators song.
The penultimate song brings us back to harmonicaland, with Young lamenting about how he's not joining in his friends who are out having fun. Although, as we've heard throughout the album, his friends' fun is killing them while Oh Lonesome Me is sitting sadly, but alive, at home.
Closing out the album is another absolute classic, the song from which this reimagined album takes its name, The Needle And The Damage Done was a song I'd seen/heard referenced dozens of times before ever hearing the actual song. It was the name of a Nirvana bootleg I owned. It's a gorgeous song about loss, and it allows us to fade out with some audience applause, as it's from a live performance.
So far, my reimagined discographies have been catalogs of some of my favorite artists. People I've listened to since high school, or, in the case of The Weeknd, since I first heard their music. I'd listened to their albums repeatedly, and had a pretty good handle as to which songs would flow into which other songs, what shared a key, or a beat, or which syncopation would make a cool transition. While I was working on the Pearl Jam discography, there were several tracks that they made with Neil Young. I *think* I like Neil Young. I like what I've heard from him, but I'm far from an expert. He comes from the time period where my dad was really into music, but my dad is more Motown and the Beatles than Righteous Brothers and Buffalo Springfield. Also, when I was in middle school one of the classic rock stations had an ad that swung at the other classic rock station, playing snippets of Neil Young, America, and Simon and Garfunkel while a voice said something akin to "Some classic rock stations think these songs rock. Not us, we only play Real Rock And Roll not your dad's wuss rock." And then they'd play Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" or Nelson's "After The Rain". I wondered if the DJs were making fun of the idea of Testosterock, but then I never did hear Neil Young, America, or Simon and Garfunkel on that station. But so much Rush.
I keep meaning to give the Young discography a focused listening but I've never gotten around to it.
That ended Saturday. I had all of the albums already on my harddrive, including his work with Crosby Stills and Nash, and Buffalo Springfield. It was just a matter of sitting down and absorbing it.
I'm still not at an expert. This is going to be a discography for people, like me, who want to know more Neil Young music, but are okay with not listening to all of the over fifty albums that he's been a part of. I had to really skip around his early discography because I really don't enjoy the soft rock of that period. Whether it's the lingering effect of that radio ad from the early 90s or that it's the sort of music from the soundtracks to a million terrible movies. The three Buffalo Springfield albums made me wonder if I even liked music anymore. But there were at least two tracks from each album that I really enjoyed. This first album is what I've cobbled together from them.
I am going to skip a ton of "classic tracks" and hits. I'm sorry. If you're already a Neil Young fan, you know them, and don't need me to tell you what's good and what's not. This is for the people who feel like they should know more about Neil Young but aren't 100% sure that they need to.
The Beatles weren't the only group making experimental rock and changing the game, but they were so successful at their endeavors that any time I hear a 1960s band being creative with production or string overdubs, I think of it as being Beatlesque. Expecting To Fly is a Buffalo Springfield song that feels like it would fit right into a White Album B-sides collection. It's fake fade out then resurgence of strings before it properly dissipates is like a symphonic easy listening "Helter Skelter". I think it's a pretty good intro track, even though it is Not Indicative of the rest of the album's sound.
Crunching out of that track is Neil Young's greatest achievement. Ohio. Not appearing on an official album until it the Greatest Hits collections started, Young recorded this with Crosby Stills Nash And Young when the Kent State shooting was fresh. I tend not to enjoy protest songs, as they usually have sentimentality or else a false call for a revolution that they're not prepared to be involved with. I didn't know anything about the Kent State shooting when I first heard this song. But it made me ask questions. The guitar is way to hard for the vocals (and it's not really that hard) but you can feel that, at least in Young's vocals, he's more interested in the urgency and sincerity of the lyrics than the harmonies.
Keeping with the CSNY era, but with more a of a focus on the harmonies, we get Deja Vu. Young is only on guitar and background vocals here but that was one of his main roles in his early career. He was only the occasional frontman, often for Stephen Stills (in both Buffalo Springfield and CSNY). I'm not going to put many non-Young fronted songs on this album, but I enjoy this one, and it is fun to hear Young slightly further down in the mix.
The Last Trip To Tulsa is the first pure Neil Young song on this album. Stephen Stills isn't anywhere on this track. Just Young and his guitar, when he's at his most intimate best. I do have a hard time hearing this and not thinking of Jimmy Fallon cosplaying as Neil Young in the early 2010s. But this is classic Bob Dylan style singer songwriting. There's a distinct narrative focus rather than verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus. He even goes meta with talking about being a folk singer, which is the most folk singery thing folk singers do. Also, like several Dylan tunes of the 1960s, it could be cut in half and be a much more interesting song. But folk singers tend to be novelists compared to pop singers' flash fiction. The quality of recording makes this feel like a particularly good open mic performance rather than an album track but this contributes to the authenticity that Young seemed to always strive for.
We move from guitar to the piano but we keep the ballady storytelling as Here We Are In The Years builds us back into a full band (though it is from Young's first solo album). It almost feels like a Carole King song, and the paino pushes us right into the next track,
Our House. This is one of the few CSNY songs that I'm very familiar with, although I did not know it was a CSNY track until I listened to their first album this weekend. I put it on because it was so familiar and catchy, if very cheesy, and didn't notice until I was writing this paragraph that Neil Young is completely absent on this track. No vocals, no guitar. He sat this Graham Nash song out. Oops. I really enjoy Young but I guess, if I'm going to subscribe to his authenticity, I should include at least one song from this period that feels like a snub. I promise that all future albums will contain Neil on every track. This song is catchy but it ain't "Ohio".
Returning to the focus of Neil, is The Loner. This was Young's first solo single. It doesn't have the breathiness of some the other Young vocals so it feels more in-step with the guitar here. This is a more relaxed song than "Ohio" both in its writing and performance but it's clearly the same artist.
Neil Young and his contemporaries are often credited with creating the Southern Rock genre. Not country but adjacent to the already existing country scene but with more of a Rock focus. I Am A Childis a pretty good indicator of that style. It's a Buffalo Springfield track with Young on lead vocals, and a twang to the guitar, and a bit of country sounding harmonica.
And while we're on Buffalo Springfield, you can not have an album with any Buffalo Springfield and not have For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey, What's That Sound) on it. Young isn't on vocals here, but his echoey guitar is what makes this track a classic. Those two reverberating notes make up for the fact that whatever is happening in this song ain't exactly clear.
The guitar intensifies as Young retakes the vocal spotlight in the Buffalo Springfield track Mr Soul. I believe it's illegal to even make an imaginary Neil Young album that doesn't have a song where he talks about how dissatisfied he is with the music industry. It would be like me working a shift in a comic book store without complaining about the kind of people who buy comic books. I haven't included every Neil Young Buffalo Springfield song, as some of them are ... not his best work. But this one is head nodding good. I even let it fully fade out.
Cinnamon Girl is another crunchy guitar riff song. This is the first song on this album with Crazy Horse as the backing band. Young's tenor is such a weird contrast to the guitar on this track (as is often the case with his earlier, electric guitar focused songs) but I love that disparity enough that I'm including this song, despite its really forgettable This Is About A Girl lyrics.
I say that, and then immediately include another song about a girl. This time it's a Country Girl, and it's a ballad instead of a rocker. It's got Crosby, Stills, and Nash on backing vocals and other instruments but it's definitely a Neil Young song. It doesn't have the narrative focus of his solo work. It's more about evoking a feeling than telling a story, but I like it as a bit of an echo of the opening track, even though it's a completely different band (except, well, Young and Stills). I find the background vocals get really sour near the end, and I'm not sure whether its intentional. THis is another of the rare songs where I allow it to completely fade out before the next track, though this is more because I couldn't find a track that meshed well with the ending rather than that I thought listeners needed a moment to bask in the ending.
Another CSNY song, Carry On carries us toward the closing track. It's actually the opening track from the first CSNY album, and is made up of two unreleased Buffalo Springfield songs. I'm not sure how much Young is involved in this track. If he is present vocally, he's buried in the mix.
We close out with a solo piece, The Old Laughing Lady. This is along the lines of "Last Trip To Tulsa" as there is a clear narrative to the story, and Young gets his sentimental croon on. It also ends with background vocalists singing the word "Ohio" which feels like a callback to the second track, though it was written a couple of years earlier.
I enjoyed putting this together, but I'll admit that I'm more excited about the next few reimagined albums, as I think Young got better as his career went on, which is rarely the case with musicians who find early success. Next up is the era where he was most popular, and I'm guessing it will result in a much more focused album.
Yesterday, the Super Deluxe version of Sign O' The Times was released. Nine honking discs worth of 1987ish Prince. It was, of course, Too Much. Yea, yea, yea, Prince has a vault's worth of unreleased material. Sure, he was a perfectionist and control freak, so there are a ton of alternate versions not just to the songs we already love, but to songs we haven't even heard. And, ok, so there have been bootlegs of a ton of songs that needed to be officially released with better mastering. But there is some absolute chaff on these albums that you don't need to sift through.
This album is intended to show Prince in transition. Goodbye Revolution, hello inklings of The New Power Generation. There are a ton of different ideas for albums that run through this. It's not as All Over The Place as The Vault or some of the albums coming up in this discography. I think this has an album feel to it, but it's an album evolving. I will be listening to this more often than the later Prince albums, even though it's filled with songs that Prince didn't deem worthy of releasing. It is an album that slaps. Right in the face.
In a few entries, I'm going to start trash talking Yoga Prince, the soft music with the occasional inspirational mumbo jumbo lyrics. Flutes, sound effects, rattling noises. It's insufferably bland. This album starts out with many of those elements BUT not in a bland way. Visions is a jazz piano luller but it's engaging, and leads us into Prince informing the Revolution-era band how their next song is gonna go down.
Power Fantastic starts off in a 1940s noir mode that Prince will attack again several times in the future. The instrumental here is perfection and leads us into the falsetto Prince the world needs. He's breathy and ballady and, because this is a live in the studio recording, not supported by a guiding track or overly produced. This is just his voice at its purest with a noir funk track supporting him. It's glorious. It's probably the best use of flute in any Prince song.
Climbing out of the chillfunk is the much heavier riffage of Witness 4 The Prosecution. The lyrics are almost completely forgettable but the heavy guitar and the background chorus screaming Witness! are here to save us all. There is some serious NPG energy being amassed in this song.
Prince has a few songs that flirt with reggae, and with slim exceptions, they mostly don't work. There's Something I Like About Being Your Fool, though, is a nice sunny riff with very 1970s tinny horns and Prince vocals that sound effortless and plain compared to most of his work, but they don't sound uninspired.
Strap in. "There's Something I Like About Being Your Fool" ends with a return to the heavy riff that flows perfectly into Prince screaming about Ice Cream (which, yes, please, every day) during the twelve minute long, James Brown-esque Soul Psychodelicide. I probably should have edited this down, as it's hella repetitive, and I cooked and ate half of my lunch while this song was playing, but it's just such a peppy burner that I don't mind it's egregious length.
But, seriously, it's long. I paired it with the title track, Everybody Want What They Don't Got, because the latter is short and musically antithetical. Where "Soul Psychodelicide" is 1970s James Brown, "Everybody Want What They Don't Got" could have been a late 70s/early 80s Billy Joel song. The production is murkier, the synth and horns sound like they were recorded while floating in a particularly filthy bathtub. But it also sounds like something a teenager who grew up loving 1970's children's cartoon music might have recorded when they were fifteen or sixteen.
Sticking in the 70s, but speeding up the piano, we have And That Says What. An instrumental shoulder dancing rag.
Train pulls out of the peppiness with a definite late-Revolution feel. Prince still loves you, baby, but he won't stand in your way if you need to get on a train to get away from his Purple Creepiness. The near But Not Quite literal train beat in the background, and the literal train horns work in this track's favor in a way that Prince usually can't pull off (I'm looking at you overuse of clock noise effects in his 21st century output.)
We disembark the train to arrive at one of the many songs Prince wrote for Bonnie Raitt in the 1980s. I Need A Man does sound like it would have fit perfectly on Nick Of Time or Luck Of The Draw. As does Jealous Guy, the next track. I would love to hear Raitt tracks on a professionally produced version of these songs (there's a grungey mid-production track floating around Youtube), but the Prince vocals work really well on these.
From Bonnie Raitt to Miles Davis, we go for Can I Play With U. There could stand to be more Miles on this track but I love that the collaboration took place. There are plenty of articles on how much Davis respected Prince, and you should read them. I'm just glad they had a mutual love society going on. This track would have been insane to see performed live.
Rising out of the jazz is the ethereal background vocals of All My Dreams, a very early 90s produced intro to a Revolution-era backing track with some cool Prince vocal effects. This doesn't sound quite like any other Prince song I can think of, but it is unquestionably purple. It's just fun/nothing ethereal before becoming very NPG with the slowed down Prince vocals that he would use extensively on Rainbow Children.
The Undertaker album is one of my favorite Prince side projects that didn't get officially released. I just love the blues feel. Blanche, while not precisely bluesy would have felt right at home on that album. One of the rare Prince songs that I could imagine people line dancing to, and having it make me smile instead of cringe.
Forever In My Life is practically the same song as Blanche but with different lyrics and a more piano focus rather than twangy guitar. I know this song is actually on the real Sign O' The Times album, but it didn't make the cut on my version, and I like the early vocal track from the new release of the album more than I like the original. I usually enjoy the loud fuzzy bass guitar in Prince songs, but it really conflicts with the lyrics for "Forever In My Life". I'm glad this cleaner version of the song did find a home on an album, though.
Wally is probably the oddest inclusion on this album. It's a letter to a friend about a bad breakup. It's not Prince's usual tone when he's talking about his prowress with the ladies, and I love his repeated mention of Wally's glasses. With it's da-dee-dahs and it's cool attitude, it feels more silly than deeply personal. And it's a nice alternative silly to the silliest track on Sign O' The Times, "Starfish And Coffee".
A bunch of songs on the back half of this album would make good closers. Love And Sex is no exception. Eventually sped up and given to Sheila E, I really enjoy Prince's take. Mainly for the guitar's clash with the vocals, and how it's clanging bell ending perfectly segues into
the final track on the album, A Place In Heaven. I've included the Prince vocal version. Not because this is a Prince-focused album but because I don't think Lisa's vocals on this track are very interesting. This is such a great showcase for Prince's voice, and a perfect close to this album.