Review Summary: When most people think of Crazyhorse, they think of Neil Young's "darker" side. Distortion soaked guitars, thumping bass, and thunderous drums that predated the grunge sound by nearly 20 years. In this album, Young shows why he is in fact the Godfather of
While 1970 was a busy year for Neil Young, he found the time to squeeze in two dates at the Fillmore East with hard rock/country outfit Crazyhorse between touring and recording with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
His appearance at the Fillmore was divided into two segments. One night he played solo, accompanying himself with only an acoustic guitar but don’t look for that here. In this album, he straps on the Les Paul and joins Crazyhorse onstage for a night of hard-rocking, twelve minute songs. Dueling distorted guitar solos with Crazyhorse guitarist Danny Whitten, Young cranks up the gain and let’s loose some of his best material. From the brief “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” to the sixteen-minute “Cowgirl in the Sand,” Young shows that one note never sounded so good.
The album kicks off with Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, a catchy song about escaping the norm of everyday life and boredom. Whitten and Young share vocals on this song, the guitar work is great, no solo, but there will be plenty to come. Overall, a solid opener to a great album.
Next up is Winterlong, which features great lyrics, like the last song, if just a little sappy. The solo, which mainly follows the vocal melody, isn’t all that spectacular, but still sounds good. At about the 2:20 mark in the song, there’s a little chord progression that sounds out of place, but that’s about as sloppy as they get on this album, even with all the improvisational solos on Cowgirl in the Sand. A good song, if a little repetitive.
Down by the River follows, the crowd cheers after the first chord as this is one of Young’s best, and most recognizable songs. Already a lengthy song in the first place, Down by the River is extended by a couple of minutes as Young and Whitten both add extra improvisations to their solos. While it doesn’t feature Young’s most imaginative lyrics, around the two minute mark, Young embarks on one of his trademark idiosyncratic solos, unintentionally giving birth to grunge in the process. After a couple of minutes, Whitten joins him for a bit then the band kicks into another verse. After the song’s signature refrain: Down by the River/I shot my baby, Young and Whitten embark on a journey into the far reaches of one-note solo paradise. The guitar interplay is fantastic on this song. Probably the second best song on this album and one of the best in Young’s repertoire.
The band turns down the distortion on Wonderin’, a new song (at the time.) The guitar is repetitive but the lyrics are catchy. If anything, the song is too short. It’s listed as over three and a half minutes but about a minute and a half of that is Neil Young talking about the next song and introducing Crazyhorse. From there they go into their next song Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, which is the weakest song on the album. The guitar work is good but I’m not that huge of a fan of Danny Whitten’s voice, as Young only does background vocals on this song. But it also took me a while to listen to Neil Young’s voice so this could be my favorite song next week.
Cowgirl in the Sand is by far the best song on the album. Extended six minutes past its original length, this song literally kicks ass. The guitar interplay is phenomenal. It begins with a dueling guitar intro, before Young begins singing. After the first verse, Whitten provides the song’s signature riff and from there it’s solos galore, with Young and Whitten trading solos, doubling each others solos, and throwing down the dueling leads reminiscent of many southern rock bands to come. This song is a great closer to one of the best albums of the year.
In my opinion, Neil Young was at his best with Crazyhorse. No matter how many albums he makes solo or with different groups, I will always think his material with Crazyhorse will be his best and this album proves that. There’s two Neil Young’s, I like to call them Electric Neil and Acoustic Neil, if you’re a fan of Electric Neil, this album is essential, if you prefer Acoustic Neil, you still might want to buy this album, but don’t look for Heart of Gold or anything on here.
-Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
-Down by the River
-Cowgirl in the Sand