Monday, April 19, 2010

After The Gold Rush

If I had to recommend one Neil Young album as the best entry point into his discography, I might have to go for After The Gold Rush. Not just because it's a great album, but because it works as a nice sampler of Neil's predominate musical styles. Harvest, being his most popular album with some of his best known songs, seems like a more likely candidate for an introductory album. But I dunno, it's maybe a little too set in its way; it picks a folk rock sound with a slight country twinge and mainly sticks with it. It doesn't give you a sense of variety. After The Gold Rush gives you not only some pretty folk-y tunes ("Tell Me Why") and a classic, blistering hard rock jam ("Southern Man"), but also some melodic rock songs that split the difference ("When You Dance You Can Really Love"). You get weepy ballads ("Birds"), upbeat party songs ("Till the Morning Comes"), even an offbeat piano number with horn solos and oddball lyrics about Mother Nature and space ships (the title song). (Side note: is "After the Gold Rush" perhaps the first song to address Neil's environmental concerns? It will become an important theme on several later releases.)

This is the album that Neil Young should have been: an eclectic, supremely satisfying rock album that draws on a large number of Neil's influences. After the relatively pared down sound of Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, this one has a far more layered, rich production. Unlike his debut, however, he doesn't overdo it with effects or throw in unnecessary instruments or vocal tracks; every song is produced and arranged in a manner that suits it perfectly (well, "Birds" lays it on a little thick in the chorus, but I forgive it.)

Front to back, there is not a weak song on here. It's not his best known album with his best known songs, but that doesn't stop it from being fucking classic.

Rating: A

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