Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Weld (with Crazy Horse)

At two hours for only 16 tracks, with several songs expanding past the 10-minute mark, this Ragged Glory era live album is probably insurmountable to those who aren't already sympathetic to Crazy Horse's overarching style. For the rest of us, I think this may be the best CH live album, one entirely focused on rocking hard and never quitting. The performances here, perversely drawn out as they may be, are electrifying. It's probably most comparable to Live Rust (they perform six of the same songs from that album), but with all the quiet songs removed, a liberal dose of Ragged Glory tracks (5), and a sprinkling of classic hard rock songs he had penned between those two albums. And, I would argue, stronger performances than on Live Rust, despite the fact that this was recorded 12 years later. Live Rust was energetic and playful, but, in its best moments, Weld is white-hot.

Not much else to do but list the highlights. Most unique is an electric cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind," which borrows the ambient, rhythm-section-free sound of Neil's "Mother Earth" and adds in some other weird touches, like air-raid sound effects. The album's biggest "redemption" is a seven minute version of "Welfare Mothers," which imbues my least favorite song from Rust Never Sleeps with a new found sense of energy and improvisation. There's a kick ass electric version of "Crime in the City," in which Neil changes the lyrics so he now flips off his bible school preacher, instead of just talking back to him.

Neil ends the album with two songs from Tonight's the Night. His version of the title track manages to shake off the original's existential funk and transform it into a rousing celebration of the life of Bruce Berry. Even better, though, Neil closes out with "Roll Another Number (For the Road)." It's a sad fact that a few too many of the same songs pop up on Neil's live albums, so it's always exciting when a great version of one an under-represented favorite turns up.

There aren't any weak links on Weld except, shockingly, for a tepid 9-minute rendition of "Rockin' in the Free World." How they managed to strip such an inherently awesome song of its power is beyond me, but it goes to show you that sometimes Neil and the Horse can wreck a song by dragging it out too long. Usually not, though, and otherwise, Weld is a minor classic that highlights latter-day Crazy Horse at their best.

Rating: B +. Doesn't exactly make Live Rust and Ragged Glory obsolete, but does what they did, and better.

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