Original Release - 1970
I was so excited to find a 1970's pressing of this album last weekend. It has just been re-released on vinyl, so I am looking forward to comparing the two in the coming weeks. First things first, Neil Young is one of my all time favorite artists, and he is one of Rock & Roll's most important living artists. Rock & Roll as we know it, would never have been if not for Neil Young. You know that thing called "Grunge" that supposedly originated in Seattle? Yeah, that started with NY. East Coast/West Coast rap wars, yep NY did it first (Confused? More on that later). And before Rage Against The Machine made "protest rock" cool again, all you have to do is look back to the great protest rock songs penned and preformed with passion by NY in genesis era of Rock & Roll.
"After The Gold Rush" was released during one of NY's most prolific writing and performing periods from 1968-1972. During this time period, NY released four of the most important Rock & Roll albums in history: "Neil Young" in 1968, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" in 1969, "After The Gold Rush" in 1970, and "Harvest" in 1972.
"After The Gold Rush" like many other NY albums, features an all star line up of musicians including Stephen Stills, Nils Lofgren (of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band fame), Danny Whitten, and Ralph Molina. This group of musicians recorded this album in NY's basement in the spring of 1970.
This album is a mix of folk rock and classic guitar rock. However, the majority of the album's tracks are of the folk variety, featuring some of my favorite writing by NY. In the title track NY sings "I was lying in a burned out basement, with the full moon in my eyes. I was hoping for replacement, when the sun burst through the sky. There was a band playing in my head, and I felt like getting high". My favorite track on the album is "Southern Man" which is NY essentially giving the middle finger to the social and economic foundations of the southern American states during the slavery era. "Southern man better keep your head, don't forget what your good book said. Southern change gonna come at last, now your crosses are burning fast". This is the most passionate song on the album, a scathing indictment of what some still refer to innocently as "Southern Culture". "I saw cotton, and I saw black. Tall white mansions and little shacks. Southern man, when will you pay them back? I hear screamin' and bullwhips cracking, how long? How long?". Not everyone was a fan of this song, especially the band Lynyrd Skynyrd who struck back at NY in their classic song of Southern pride "Sweet Home Alabama": "Well I heard Mr. Young sing about her, Well I heard ole Neil put her down. Well, I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don't need him around anyhow". I grew up in the midst of an East coast/West coast rap war, but this was definetly a North/South rock war.
My favorite, and the most beautiful song on Side B is "Don't Let It Bring You Down": "Old Man lying on the side of the road, with the lorries rolling by. Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load, and the building scrape the sky. Cold wind ripping down the ally at dawn, and the morning paper flies. Dead man lying by the side of the road, with the daylight in his eyes." NY was not born in America, he is Canadian, but I love how his songs can capture the American experience so clearly, not only in this album but in all of his work. I don't think any artist has captured the American experience in song lyrics between 1968-1980 as well as NY has, he has an ability to transform the simple, normal events of life, either good or bad, into beautiful folk rock songs that have stuck with me for years.
Album - A
Vinyl - A (Does anything NY records sound bad? The guy is a sound nut, and my stereo and ears appreciate the effort).