Saturday, 17 March 2018

"Decade" by NEIL YOUNG (July 2017 Reprise Records 3LP Set Remastered onto 2CDs in Card Slv - John Nowland and Neil Young NYA Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Both Feet On The Ground..."

When I worked in the Rarities Dept. of Reckless Records in both Islington and Soho's Berwick Street - Neil Young's "Decade" was the kind of booty you hoped would be in a collection sold in across the counter. Once out in the racks - it had a shelf life of point six of a par-second or two electrons in a geo-dimensional quantum entanglement (whichever is quicker). And on hearing this 1977 triple-LP set transferred onto these shiny-new 2CD remasters in 2017 - it's easy to know why. What a winner...

"Decade" referred to 1966 to 1976 but was delayed because Young changed two songs and it eventually arrived in the autumn of 1977 as a 3LP set in an elaborate gatefold sleeve complete with inner flap and (barely legible) handwritten liner notes. While retrospectives and anthologies are passé nowadays - back in the kick-em-in-the-goolies one-chord wonder of Punk and New Wave's 1977 - a triple album roundup by an old fart might not have seemed to be the wisest move commercially. But Neil Young's combo of new versions, rarities (five unreleased), fan faves, latest stuff and clever sequencing made for more than an impressive listen (even the critics at the time thought so). I can remember £25 being the price for this set secondhand (when others barely pushed £15) long before such sums became commonplace. Expecting to fly indeed, let's get to the AADs...

UK released Friday, 21 July 2017 - "Decade" by NEIL YOUNG on Reprise 9362 49154-5 (Barcode 093624915454) offers a 35-Track 3LP set Remastered onto 2CDs (without extras) in a gatefold card sleeve with Insert and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (74:24 minutes):
1. Down To The Wire - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (Previously Unreleased, features BF's Stephen Stills and Richie Furay with Dr. John as a Guest)
2. Burned - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (from their 1966 debut album "Buffalo Springfield")
3. Mr. Soul  - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (from their 1967 second album "Buffalo Springfield Again")
4. Broken Arrow - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (from their 1967 second album "Buffalo Springfield Again")
5. Expecting To Fly - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (from their 1967 second album "Buffalo Springfield Again", only Neil Young plays on this)
6. Sugar Mountain - NEIL YOUNG (non-album B-side to the 1969 7" single "The Loner", recorded Live at Canterbury House, Ann Arbor in Michigan)
Tracks 1 to 6 made up Side 1 of the original triple album

7. I Am A Child - BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD (from the 1968 third and final album "Last Time Around", features Neil Young and Dewey Martin only)
8. The Loner - NEIL YOUNG (from his debut 1968 solo album "Neil Young")
9. The Old Laughing Lady - NEIL YOUNG (from his debut 1968 solo album "Neil Young", full version at 5:58 minutes, previous 2Cd set used an edit)
10. Cinnamon Girl - NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (from the 1969 album "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere")
11. Down By The River - NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (from the 1969 album "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere", full 9:19 minutes version)
Tracks 7 to 11 are Side 2 of the 3LP set

12. Cowgirl In The Sand - NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (from the 1969 album "Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere")
13. I Believe In You - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1970 album "After The Gold Rush")
14. After The Gold Rush - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1970 album "After The Gold Rush")
15. Southern Man - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1970 album "After The Gold Rush")
16. Helpless - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG (from the 1970 album "Deja Vu")
Tracks 12 to 16 are Side 3 of the 3LP set

Disc 2 (71:21 minutes):
1. Ohio - CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG (non-album June 1970 7" single with "Find The Cost Of Freedom" on the B-side)
2. Soldier - NEIL YOUNG (from the 2LP 1972 Set "Journey Through The Past", an edit - see notes below)
3. Old Man - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1972 album "Harvest")
4. A Man Needs A Maid - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1972 album "Harvest")
5. Harvest - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1972 album "Harvest")
6. Stars Of Bethlehem - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1977 album "American Stars 'N' Bars - recorded 1974 - features Emmylou Harris)
Tracks 1 to 6 are Side 4 of the 3LP set

7. The Needle And The Damage Done - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1972 album "Harvest", recorded live)
8. Tonight's The Night (Part 1) - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1975 album "Tonight's The Night" - recorded in 1973 featuring Nils Lofgren)
9. Tired Eyes - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1975 album "Tonight's The Night" - recorded in 1973 featuring Nils Lofgren)
10. Walk On - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1974 album "On The Beach")
11. For The Turnstiles - NEIL YOUNG (from the 1974 album "On The Beach")
12. Winterlong - NEIL YOUNG (Previously Unreleased)
13. Deep Forbidden Lake - NEIL YOUNG (Previously Unreleased)
Tracks 7 to 13 are Side 5 of the 3LP set

14. Like A Hurricane - NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (Previously Unreleased version)
15. Love Is Like A Rose - NEIL YOUNG (Previously Unreleased)
16. Cortez The Killer - NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE (from the 1975 album "Zuma")
17. Campaigner - NEIL YOUNG (Previously Unreleased)
18. Long May You Run - THE STILLS-YOUNG BAND (Previously Unreleased mix that features all of CSNY - the 1976 "Long May You Run" album version excluded David Crosby and Graham Nash on Vocals)
Tracks 14 to 18 are Side 6 of the 3LP set

By now everyone will know of Young's insistence on 'exact' replicas of the original packaging - but here the 2017 gatefold card sleeve and the gatefold insert maybe sweetly repro'd but are unreadable making them somewhat useless and irritating. This is absolutely one of those occasions where someone in NYA should have gone the extra mile and filled this with a separate booklet - a brilliant release that deserves it (way better than the single disc "Greatest Hits"). In fact - although these are part of the JOHN NOWLAND and NEIL YOUNG ARCHIVES (NYA) CD Remasters - it doesn't tell you that anywhere on the packaging - you're left to guess. What's not in doubt is the AUDIO - amazing on every song after 1969. Re-listening to the "American Stars 'N Bars", "Tonight's The Night" and "Zuma" tracks anew like this is hair-raising stuff - AAD baby. Let's get to the music...

While this set allowed fans and curious newcomers alike to re-appreciate forgotten songs like "Cinnamon Girl", "The Old Laughing Lady", "Cowgirl In The Sand" and "Down By The River" - it also reminded punters of his distinctive contributions to Buffalo Springfield and CSNY. His sequencing worked. The 'Neil Young' lone acoustic rendition of "Sugar Mountain" done live in Michigan (the non-album B-side of "The Loner" 45) ends Side 1 - but is followed perfectly by Buffalo Springfield's "I Am A Child" as it opens Side 2. You don't jump back - yet they match and suit. Things start to cook as he rocks it out with "The Loner" and the nine-minute wig-out "Down By The River" offered here in its full album version of 9:19 minutes and not the nine-minute edit used for the first 2CD reissue of "Decade" back in the Nineties. "Cowgirl In The Sand" sounds fantastic too - beautiful Bass clarity and those guitars chugging and soloing. But its songs like "The Old Laughing Lady" that remain so moving - a gorgeous melody and observation of life even if it is sad - "I Believe In You" is exactly the same. Although I find "Southern Man" overplayed - I'm always moved by his "Helpless" on CSNY's magisterial "Deja Vu".

Young wrote the 'four dead in' "Ohio" as a stand-alone 7" single for CSNY with the fabulous Stills composition "Find The Cost of Freedom" on the flipside. "Ohio" opens CD2 perfectly - their collective rage at Nixon and his Vietnam heavy-handedness screaming out of the lyrics (still such powerful stuff). A hissy but haunting “Soldier” follows it from the 1972 double-album "Journey Through The Past". Famously edited down to 2:27 minutes from the LP's 3:39 minutes - and given that their is space - it's odd that Young hasn't taken the chance to reinstate it fully here like he has done on those other unnecessary chopped-to-fit tracks? But I suspect he likes this version - maybe the "Jesus I saw you walking on the river...' edit is all the more powerful for being shorter. Certainly when the studio brilliance of "Old Man" kicks in - the contrast between it and "Old Man" is both stark and effective. Speaking of "Harvest" - the four from it featured on "Decade" only hammer home his brilliance at that time - each one sounding spectacularly good. Emmylou Harris guests as a second-vocalist on the lovely "Star Of Bethlehem" - forgotten on 1977's "American Stars 'N Bars".

The acoustic slightly stoned ramshackle miserable-git feel of 1975's "Tonight's The Night" was in fact recorded in 1973 (most of it in one day apparently but only released two years later). Featuring Grin's Nils Lofgren (Guitar and Lead Vocals on the title track), Crazy Horse's Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot alongside multi-instrumentalist sessionman Ben Keith - "Tonight's The Night" is all the more potent for its Ryan Adams sloppiness. Along with On The Beach's stayed-up-all-night "Walk On" (Neil rocks out) and the fabulous plucker "For The Turnstiles" (Ben Keith on Dobro with Neil on Banjo) - the combo of that early to mid Seventies material makes for a fabulous listen that still somehow feels new and fresh. Those are smartly followed by a previously unreleased double-whammy - an Americana Alt-country rocker called "Winterlong" and a beautiful Acoustic Guitar and Pedal Steel ballad called "Deep Forbidden Lake" - both cuts surely being the big prizes here and both sounding huge without being over-trebled for the sake of it. "...Even Richard Nixon's got soul..." Young sings on the campaigned-all-my-life towards-that-goal song "Campaigner" - another unreleased winner. It ends on the four boys harmonising on "Long May You Run" - beautifully rendered here.

"...We missed that deep ship on the long steep climb..." - Neil Young sings on "Long May You Run" with his old sparring partner Stephen Stills.

At a frankly paltry eight pre-Brexit quid on Amazon - don't miss out on this 2CD Reissue of new Remasters. It's a balls-to-the-wall mountain of goodies...a Harvest indeed...
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