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Sunday 22 January 2017

The Music Of Neil Young: A Journey In Print Through The Iconic Musician's Back Pages

A half-century long career can be a minefield to dissect, especially when there's a back catalogue that boasts as many twists and turns as a Formula 1 track, and just as many cohorts discarded in the never ending search for 'the muse'.

Neil Young meet your match. Chris Wade, a writer/musician from Leeds, who churns out top class books like Young fires off album releases, has put together The Music Of Neil Young, a comprehensive and thought provoking guide to the musician's fifty-plus years in music. 

Having been hooked by Young's work some six-or-seven years ago, Wade caught the bug big-time and delved deep into the folk-rocker's musical back pages.

He introduces the subject of the book by stating that he struggles to think of another musician 'who has consistently written as many good songs and made as many top quality albums as Neil Young..'

Wade then uses the rest of the two-hundred and forty pages to skilfully prove his statement.

Young himself has said: "I follow the music .. ' And by acting on that truism he has spent many of his half-century in the music business leaving many-a-bitter musician in his wake. 

Young's career has continued to evolve and flourish while others have been waylaid in his slipstream.

In The Music Of Neil Young we enter during the now. The year is 2016, the month June and the venue the First Direct Arena, in Leeds. 


Young is in town with his latest bunch of reprobates, Promise of the Real; young guns backing up the old-timer. 

Through a twenty-one song setlist, Wade reports that the band moved up in stages ofenergy and velocity. Young didn't disappoint.

Wade states that a few lines into set opener After The Goldrush 'the tears were flowing from my eyes, the hairs were up on my arms and that iconic tone was sending shivers down my spine.'

Wade identifies Young contracting Polio at the age of five as big a reason for the musician turning inwards.  

Another reason could also lie at the door of his father, the writer Scott Young, who, as the result of an affair, left the family home when Young was just twelve.

Following the early bands The Squires, Mynah Birds and Buffalo Springfield, there came the early solo albums 

Young's lack of confidence in his vocal abilities had it buried in the final mix of his much overlooked debut solo album.

But it was the meeting with Crazy Horse that sparked something truly magical between the man, his muse and confidence in his musical abilities.

His years with Crosby Stills and Nash and Young (CSYN ) were tied to a time, and to'egos, drugs and misunderstandings', and were only ever thought by Young to be a sideline.

What's unique abut the book is Wade brings his musician's (Wade records under the moniker of Dodson and Fogg) eye focus to proceedings - pointing out on what he considers Young's seminal album, After The Gold Rush, that it"s not the oft mentioned words or unique vocal delivery but Young's piano style that stands out. 

Wade then goes into a track-by-track breakdown of the 1970 album to convince the reader of his argument.

Musing on one of his most popular albums, Young said of Harvest: "A lot of people liked this album; but it was no better that the others though."  


Wade counteracts this by pointing out that 'all Young's records are his children, his babies, and the masses expressing preference for one over the others is bound to hurt, or at least sting, just a little bit'.

Time Fades Away, On The Beach  and Tonight's The Night mark Young's 'dark days'. A period marked by the effects of drugs, death and broken hearts. 

On The Beach is one of Wade's favourites from Young's vast catalogue.  An album Wade describes as 'wild, often aimless and plain intriguing'.

Young was soon back on course with the 1977 release of American Bars n' Stars. Plus Wade reveals that another album recorded around this time, Chrome Dreams, was shelved. 

"This is where things get obscure" Neil said of much of his 1980s output. But Wade defends this period of a multitude of musical styles and quality of output, calling him "a journey man, a maverick who dives from one genre to the next".

There then comes the 'comeback' album, Freedom. An album on which Young sounds"defiant and free"

Wade then covers all stops; the grunge years, the more "commercially acceptable" acoustic sets and the unappreciated gems.

There's even a comprehensive look at Young and his dalliances with film making.   

There are many more insights and revelations than we have space here for. But The Music of Neil Young's finale brings us right up-to-date with this year"s thirteen song live collection, Earth.

Young described the songs on the album as: "Songs I have written about living here on our planet together. Animals don"t have this uptight vibe. They don't have the hatred and everything".

Neil Young's journey is incomplete. What comes next is probably as big a mystery to him as it is to us. But, in The Music Of Neil Young, Chris Wade has made sense of the journey so far. New fans or old, this book will floor you with its insights and revelations.Buy it HERE now.

Read an interview with Chris Wade about 'The Music Of Neil Young' HERE


by: Mike Cobley


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