Friday, July 13, 2007

319. Neil Young - On The Beach (1974)

Track Listing

1. Walk On
2. See The Sky About To Rain
3. Revolution Blues
4. For The Turnstiles
5. Vampire Blues
6. On The Beach
7. Motion Pictures
8. Ambulance Blues


Neil Young does it again, by now you know how much I love Neil Young and he brings us another beautiful album here. Gone are the slight excesses of After The Gold Rush and Harvest and there seems to be a shift back to the days of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.

This album is not , however, as immediately appealing as any of those three previous albums, but it does reward repeated listenings. From the first two tracks you think you are listening to classic young, but from then on the "blues" tracks kick in and they are interesting to say the least. They sound as if Neil Young and Crazy Horse were really stripping down their sound into to something folksier but also more primeval.

The lyrics are some of the hardest hitting that Young ever committed to record, with an highlight going to Revolution Blues with its slightly misguided Charles Manson apology. Still it is a great song, but an even better track comes right at the end with Ambulance Blues, sounding almost like a Dylan ballad, but with a sense of beauty very particular to Young. It is never an album which astonishes you as much as his previous entries on the list but it is still something that I am sad to let go and that is going right into my Creative Zen. So get it from Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Ambulance Blues
2. Revolution Blues
3. Walk On
4. See The Sky About To Rain

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Recorded after (but released before) Tonight's the Night, On the Beach shares some of that album’s bleakness and crude production –- which came as a shock to fans and critics alike, as this was the long-awaited studio follow-up to the commercial hit Harvest -- but also included hints pointing towards a more subtle outlook, particularly opener "Walk On".

While the original Rolling Stone review described it as "One of the most despairing albums of the decade", later critics such as All Music Guide’s William Ruhlmann used the benefit of hindsight to conclude that Young "Was saying goodbye to despair, not being overwhelmed by it". The despair of Tonight's the Night, communicated through intentional underproduction and lyrical pessimism, gives way to a more polished album that is still pessimistic but not so much so.

Much like Tonight's the Night, On the Beach was not a commercial success at the time of its release but over time attained both a cult following and high critical regard. The album was recorded in a haphazard manner, with Young utilizing a variety of session musicians, and often changing their instruments while offering only bare-bones arrangements for them to follow (in true Tonight's the Night tradition). He also would opt for rough, monitor mixes of songs rather than a more polished sound, alienating his sound engineers in the process.

Throughout the recording of the album, Young and his fellow musicians consumed a homemade concoction dubbed "Honey Slides", a goop of sauteed marijuana and honey that was, in manager Elliot Roberts' words, "...much worse than heroin. Much heavier." (Shakey: Neil Young's Biography, Jimmy McDonough). This may account for the mellow mood of the album, particularly side two of the original LP. Young has said of it "Good album. One side of it particularly - the side with "Ambulance Blues", "Motion Pictures" and "On the Beach" - it's out there. It's a great take." (Shakey)

Not a bad cover of Ambulance Blues by some guy on Youtube! I love the internets:

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