Monday, 27 November 2017

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds "Who Built The Moon?" (2017)




Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “Who Built The Moon?” (2017)

Fort Knox/Holy Mountain/Keep On Reaching/It’s A Beautiful World/She Taught Me How To Fly/Be Careful What You Wish For/Black and White Sunshine/Interlude (Wednesday Part One)/If Love Is The Law/The Man Who Built The Moon/End Credits (Wednesday Part Two)

‘If you’re waiting for the rapture, the day will never come’

Hey, it wasn’t me Noel, don’t look at me like that!

I had such a good introduction to this review planned, dear readers, I really did. Something intellectual about how Noel was now an astronaut at a distance to the planet who was now trying to work out how to function as a satellite to how he used to be in Oasis, or how being on the moon is sometimes the only way to see your life on Earth properly. But then I caught Noel’s performance of some songs on Jools Holland’s interminable ‘Later…’ shows where he was backed by a girl playing a pair of scissors as a backing track to his new songs and like many fans I just can’t get over it. I mean, cut it out Noel, you’re a legend, you don’t need to have gimmicks behind you on stage. I don’t understand this new musical world Noel’s fallen into – and the fact that I’ve been left behind cuts me like a knife. I mean the music these antics inspired isn’t exactly cutting edge is it? It’s more like The Scissor Sisters! Brother Liam had fun with it, responding to an interviewer that his next gig was going ‘to blow people’s minds…I’m going to have a man on stage sharpening a pencil!’ Actually Liam changed his mind and ‘auditioned’ potato peelers at his next gig, a stunt that went down rather well, especially as he out-stared the audience with intense glare while surrounded by potato peelings. All of which only adds up to one thing: didn’t Noel learn as a musician that you weren’t supposed to play with scissors?

Alright, that’s enough cutting remarks now because the scissors is just a distraction from what’s really going on in this album – it isn’t actually very good. Or, if I put it another way, it isn’t very good if you’ve lived and breathed Oasis for two decades. Once upon a time, in 1994 to be exact, Oasis were the band who brought music back to the people, real live people playing real live instruments and making rock and roll cool again. They were aptly named, an oasis of ‘real’ music in a landscape that had forgotten how to play and Noel and his guitar were so intertwined I don’t know if I ever saw a picture of the two apart in the 1990s. Noel was also one of our most erudite ambassadors for rock and roll, someone who looked as if he would always stay true to the sheer oomph that rock and roll brought the world. But in his solo career it feels as if he’s realised that rock and roll truly is dead and buried and he’s sought to reinvent himself as the sort of musician his teenage children look up to. Which is all very well if you like that sort of thing, but there are other bands who do all that sort of thing – and to be honest they all sound the same. Be it a new band, an old band or an even older bands trying to keep in with the kids, pretty much all modern music sounds the same: the tinny drum sound, the synths that play notes rather than chords, the dodgy mixes that leave the vocals turned down low, the trance mood that means songs come without hooks, choruses or verses and good luck trying to find an instrumental break or a middle eight in any song by a ‘new’ band in the past twenty years (since Oasis stopped being cool, not coincidentally). For all I know this might be very good modern music. But its still modern music. Other bands do that stuff already and nobody is going to be listening to any of it in thirty years (apart from a few people who grew up on it and don’t know any better). To hear one of our ‘own’ giving up the only art-form that makes you live and breathe and dance and sing and rock and roll for some dodgy synths and empty droning tracks is a bit like asking Leonardo Da Vinci along to paint your garden fence: it’s a waste of your time and theirs when there are a million other people around to do that in the Yellow Pages and they could be getting on with something better. Like making actual music.

My original review, before the scissors routine, was to have started with a joke too. There have been two major new developments since Noel’s last album in 2015. One is that Noel turned outside songwriter, writing a song for the Monkees reunion album ‘Good Times’ in 2016 along with collaborator Paul Weller (though the resulting ‘Accidental Birth Of A Hipster’ doesn’t much like The Monkees, Oasis or Weller’s work at all, despite having all that history to play with – still a good song though, better than any here). Another is that Noel has healed the long-standing music press-boosted row between rivals Oasis and Blur, something which peaked in 1996 when ‘Roll With It’ came out the same week as ‘Country House’. Neither are the band’s best work – Damon Alburn was sadly right when he declared the former sounded ‘a bit too much like Status Quo’ on the radio and Oasis would have been within their rights to say that, for all their Beatle ‘influences’ down the year, none had ever been as blatant as Blur completely missing the message of Kinks song ‘A House In The Country’ and recycling it almost word for word. The whole thing got blown out of proportion, leading to fights between the ‘posh boys’ in Blur who actually went to university and thought deep thoughts and the working class kids in Oasis from Manchester who grew up in the slums (even to a posh London club, where Damon was chatting with Stephen Fry when a chair landed through the window as thrown by a drunken Liam in horror that anyone rock and roll would even be in a club). Noel and Damon have long since put their differences aside and have now started working together, on this album and Damon’s next, which in musical terms is akin to Keith Richards joining Paul McCartney’s band as a guitarist. Which is good for the idea that peace and love and forgiveness will work in music. But bad for the music itself. Damon long ago jumped ship from Britpop to the dodgy electronica of the millennium and Noel, you sense, has long been jealous of the freedom his new friend was enjoying. For suddenly, after a year when he was trying to be a wannabe Monkee, Noel has become a wannabe ‘Gorrillaz’, the ‘fake’ cartoon band Damon created as a joke which ended up outs-selling every Blur album since 1996.

Noel is one of life’s natural blaggers. He’s walked the walk and talked the talk so well on chat shows and in publicity for the album that a lot of fans have believed him, that he loves this new musical work and has never sounded so at home and isn’t it fabulous that he doesn’t have to wear a guitar round his neck anymore. He’s clearly been looking on at Damon’s success and thinking ‘I’ll have a bit of that’ and he’s hired all the right people who seem to know what they’re doing, delivering an album that I could well believe was crafted by a talented eighteen-year-old unknown in his bedroom, given a few expensive overdubs in a posh studio to beef up the sound. Of course he was going to go in a big way for guest artist Charlotte Marrionneau when he asked her to turn up with him to play on Jools Holland’s awful patronising show and she looked annoyed when he handed her a tambourine (‘I won’t play that, but I can play the scissors’ she’s meant to have said to him, although the phrase that most tickled Noel came five minutes before filming when she said ‘hang on, I’ll just go get my cape…’) Noel needs a Yoko figure and seems to have found one – like Lennon, his playful mind was always going to love this way of thinking out the box and he’s pretty good at ‘acting’ a role himself. But that happens too often across this album. To these ears at least Noel sounds hopelessly adrift and lost, a half-decent actor playing a role to sound youthful and trendy rather than someone who actually believes what he’s singing. The problem was there in his two solo albums, the best of which tended to be the retro stuff: ‘Noel G’s High Flying Birds’ only really worked on the Oasis outtakes, while sequel ‘Chasing Yesterday’ only worked on the jazz tunes Oasis once mocked. This third album, though, is the ‘Be Here Now’ of his solo years, tipped hopelessly over the top in one direction and with songs over-extended to the point where even the most interesting of them are in danger of being boring. There is, to be fair, greatness on both albums that often got overlooked on ‘Be Here Now’ and I sense there’ll be a lot more in a hundred playings’ time when I get to know this record better: already the playful pop of ‘Black and White Sunshine’ (which sounds like The Stone Roses doing disco) and the acoustic strum of ‘God Help Us All’ (which sounds like an old fashioned Oasis B-side) stand out nicely. But most of this record is one big splurge of noise which doesn’t seem to change from track to track. There’s no excitement over the brave new musical future here, just a sense that Noel’s covering up the fact that he’s forgotten how to write a decent melody.

The fact that this album was delayed, by a month, to allow the fuss over Liam’s return to rock and roll on ‘As You Were’, is interesting (this record was first announced for October, then November 9th, then delayed to the 24th). Noel’s loyal fans and friends, Paul Weller included, have spoken up over how exciting it is that the elder Gallagher is working with a whole new musical repertoire while his brother is going backwards, but that suggests loyalty to me rather than any sense that they’ve actually heard the record (hey Weller’s going deaf anyway these days – his last two albums are similarly modern and disappointing for such a rock and roller). Liam’s album was surprisingly un-Oasisy in parts, with the non-rocking acoustic songs working best. The fact that it made #1 in the album charts and won over a lot of new fans who assumed Liam was a new act (eyebrows are in this year!) proves that there is a market for music played on ‘real’ instruments though. Noel seems to have bolted down a rabbit hole he didn’t need to escape to because a full rock and roll album from the elder brother released in 2017 could have big too. We need to have proper musicians back again, people who know how to play their instruments rather than programme them. It doesn’t mean we have to go backwards, because suddenly, after twenty years of every song sounding the same, it’s ‘Who Built The Moon?’ that sounds oddly backwards and out of step with where music is heading.

Why is the album called that anyway? Noel spent most of the publicity for his last album cringing over the fact that it was called ‘Chasing Yesterday’ because he hated the title and claims someone else at the record company thought it up. I can’t wait to see who he blames for his new title because it’s one of the oddest, ugliest, ill-fitting names for an album I’ve heard for a long time. There is, you see, a frame of thought amongst conspiracy theorists that the moon was indeed built rather than formed. Scientifically, it really shouldn’t be there – of all the many solar systems we’ve mapped now, no other planet has a satellite that big next to it. Evolutionists reckon that the moon was integral to the development of life on this planet as it created what was so needed for life, with what is now increasingly looking like the strongest tide in the universe causing us to move out of our primordial soup. People (some people anyway) are increasingly coming to the conclusion that the moon wasn’t formed, but ‘parked’, while analysis of the moon landing footage reveals some really weird discrepancies that suggest that, rather than being formed out of rocks with the same make-up as our own planet, it sounds distinctly hollow. There’s a whole triple album prog rock concept work in there somewhere – and I am drying to hear Noel write something with that kind of scope one day, because he has the talent and work ethic to make one, a ‘Quadrophenia’ for the Britpop generation about growing older and growing up enough to see through the con of The Spice Girls, for instance, or he could do a Moody Blues and make a sequel to ‘Our Children’s Children’s Children’ about how the optimism over our progress in space came a cropper after deaths and mistakes and recessions.

Instead we get just another album which, if I’ve read the lyrics right (it’s not as if you can hear many of them) is all about love. Only that’s actually the album’s most interesting feature, given that Noel isn’t a writer whose ever really done ‘love’ before, preferring to write in general poetry for a specific generation or how his life either did or didn’t turn out the way he dreamed of as a kid. Noel has been married to one-time Oasis publicist, Sara McDonald, since 2000 (that’s her in the distance on the album cover) and finally has the family life he always dreamed of as an unknown aspiring wannabe in the early 1990s, without as many musical commitments to get in the way. Oasis song ‘Waiting For The Rapture’ is said to be about their meeting and with its similarly hazy quality, weird song structure and tinny drums sounds more like this album than anything else in the Oasis songbook. The title is referred to across this album more than once too, suggesting that at least one of the love songs on this album is definitively for Sara. The other songs sound like they come from a similar place too, which is lovely as that goes – there aren’t nearly enough straightforward love songs in oasis’ catalogue and most of those were written by Liam in their final days anyway. But the trouble is that Noel is so determined that he wants to sound young and trendy that the lyrics sound more like fumbling teenage love than a man with a past and a realisation of the risks when love goes wrong. Every time Noel sings about ‘stormy seas’ and how ‘there’s nothing left for me’ we’re not sure we believe him (even if ‘If Love Is The Law’ does feature the best lyric on the album, suggesting everything isn’t always that idyllic at home). It’s an easy jibe to say that musicians get fat and middle aged as they have families of their own and lose the need to make their mark they did in their younger hungrier days, but Noel was never like that – old before his time, he yearned for the family life, the domestication, the security. Even a joke like ‘Married With Children’ wasn’t really a joke, but what Noel wanted – warts and bad vibes and arguments and break-ups and all. But now he’s found it, he doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. He spends this album recounting how he met his wife, how much he loves her, how much other people ain’t got what he’s got and how much he’d hate to lose it. There’s even, on a live acoustic track hidden away near the end of the deluxe edition, a song about how much he still misses his ex, Meg Matthews (unless it’s about first girlfriend Louise again, like much of ‘Definitely Maybe’ was). The standout track by a million light years (not least because the annoying backing isn’t here, with just a guitar and piano), Noel sings this one from the heart and it’s lovely. Why oh why couldn’t the rest of the album have been more like this? Why did Noel have to hide his feelings behind a backing best described as forgettable, frequently described as ‘noisy’ and one that’s going to sound more dated than the entire Oasis back catalogue in about five years or so.

My guess is he’s working with the wrong people, who don’t ‘get’ his music the way a rock and roll backing band would. His producer David Holmes is actually only two years his junior (and thus two years older than Liam), but he’s made a name for himself working with modern acts, indeed all but inventing a whole new genre of electronica, partly on film soundtrack scores like the memorably titled ‘The Film’s Crap So Let’s Slash The Seats!’ and the ‘Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen’ series (personally I’m looking forward to ‘Ocean’s Eighty’ when they’re all OAPs and George Clooney gets lost in the crowd scenes). He’s very good at what he does and the fact that he was working with Noel at all won some extra quizzical comments in the press and back-slapping from music journalists who like their oldie acts to act young and trendy. Job done – but there’s a sense that the producer and artists don’t understand each other on a basic level. The only other musician who ‘gets’ his music is Gem, from the later Oasis line-ups, and even he’s overshadowed by the sheer noise of the synths and drums (played by Chris Sharrock of Beady Eye, incidentally, where he sounds badly miscast. Then again so does Noel’s longstanding hero, Johnny Marr of The Smiths, whose inaudible on ‘If Love Is The Law’). There are five seconds on the deluxe edition of the album that reveal everything to me. Seconds after singing his heart out on ‘Dead In The Water’ – a really committed, full-on vocal that’s dripping with sincerity and desperation – the producer asks him ‘is that it?’ ‘That’ll do won’t it?’ Noel asks, eager-to-lease and perhaps not quite understanding how good that take was. The fact that it appears only on the deluxe, rather than the straightforward edition, reveals a lot too about the attitudes of the people making this record, where production matters more than performance or songwriting. For all his bravado (because of his bravado?) and punch-ups in the press Noel has a much thinner skin than people realise and doesn’t always know what his best work is or where to go with it. He really needs someone he can rely on as his ‘mirror’, to tell him where he does well and does badly and to bring the best out of himself. I can’t help but worry that, ever since Alan McGee got sick on drug addiction and abandoned him out of necessity in 1997, that Noel has never had that direction. I’m sure some fans will like this album and its already getting stable reviews, if not stellar ones. But to these ears Holmes is not the right person and the backing band made up of session musos are not his people. Noel needs rock and roll with a few dashes of something else – covering his music up with pure noise just drowns out the melody and lyrics that are Noel’s stock in trade and leaves him sounding nervous, doing what he’s told because other people think it sounds good rather than because he believes it.

The result is an album that’s disappointing not because it’s awful, but because so much of it is so nearly good. Traditionally in their later days Oasis would hire trendy remixes to go over their latest work and make it sound different – bigger usually, more trance and dance like, more repetitive. What I’d love to hear is an ‘un-remix’ version of this set where all that huge noise and endless repetition and overdubs (there are twenty-nine musicians credited on the sleeve, with all but three of them appearing on pretty much every song) are shorn away to leave the often quite interesting songs underneath. For an album that’s built to sound big and bold and expressive, even aggressive (the horrid ‘Holy Mountain’ is Noel’s ‘demand’ that his future wife fall in love with him and is about as unromantic a depiction of a first date as you can get), you can’t help but feel that, underneath all the surface, there’s actually quite a sweet series of fragile songs in here. ‘Who Built The Moon?’ should be an album about second thoughts, whether it’s the guilty songs wondering why a marriage entering its second decade doesn’t feel the way it did when the love was new, that a career is sliding away or that somebody really did build the moon (red herring as that subject matter might be). Instead it’s an album that isn’t allowed to sound weak or feeble at all, with cries of ‘you gotta get yourself together!’ turned from a personal cry into an angry attack and where the brash and arrogant public demeanour of Noel in public has come to overshadow the vulnerability of his actual songs. I would love to know who built ‘Who Built The Moon?’ because most of the time it doesn’t sound like Noel. He’s in there, somewhere, but nowhere nearly enough. But maybe this ‘failure’ is the album he needs to really spurn him on to do what we fans know he really can do – and that on album four, just maybe, it will be ‘Here Comes The Sun’. 

‘I guess some people would rather we stay in 1995. But those of us who lived through it don’t want to go back there – you want to go somewhere new’ said Noel on the eve of his album. Err, no. Absolutely nobody who ever lived through the years 1996-2017 ever said to themselves ‘yippee I’m living in a golden musical age and I hope we stay here!’ All the best albums of the intervening twenty years have harked back in some way to music from the years before. To be honest most of us who were around in 1995 weren’t going yippee either but responding ‘well, it ain’t up to 1965 or 1975 but it’s the best we’ve got and it doesn’t us too ill, it’ll kind of have to do’. Opening song ‘Fort Knox’ is good evidence as to why nobody in the distant future history of mankind will be downloading an album titled ‘The earth’s greatest hits 2002-2017’. It has a screechy synthesiser opening that’s clearly meant to invoke tension and mayhem, but just sounds like so much noise, like hearing ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ from the fourth Oasis album played on a loop with a truly awful drum pattern over it. This is the debut of the mass choir of nine backing vocals, but they don’t get much more to do than some ‘hey hey hey’s. This doesn’t sound anything like Noel’s usual style, the only give away being the helicopter sound effects at the beginning and the sound effects of the ringing alarms that run like a spiky backing track through the whole thing. The official lyric seems to consist of the following: He-e-ey, He-e-ey, keep a hold on, keep a hold on, he-e-ey, he-e-y, keep on holding out, holding on, he-e-e-y, uhhhh!’ ‘Fort Knox’, of course, is about one of the world’s most impenetrable prisons. The song is aptly named because this is one of Noel’s most impenetrable tracks and a daring opening to a new work. The courage of releasing it alone has brought out raptures of ecstasy in some fans, but it’s all so mangled and directionless and pointlessly noisy to me. I would rather listen to flipping scissors!

The worst track on the album though is surely the first single ‘Holy Mountain’. Noel sings, no shouts, a lot of cringeworthy lines about how he forced his girlfriend to fall in love with him. There’s a contradiction here that you can’t force someone to love you or it isn’t love – but that isn’t the song. Instead it’s one of the noisiest five minutes of your life as Noel yells ‘she fell, she fell, right under my spell!’ and offers some of the worst lines of his career: ‘Come and be my baby doll, come and know me like the back of my hand!’ Or how about this from a later verse? ‘Do your thang on the beat of the bang, I’ll put a melody inside your head!’ Err, no you won’t Noel because there’s virtually no melody here, just a staccato rant that keeps going, like a drunk who doesn’t know when to shut up. The backing is at least slightly more interesting than the last track, with its manic Beach Boys falsetto whoops (Noel really has been spending a lot of time with Paul Weller lately hasn’t he?) and there’s some nice use of saxophones as grit and muscle, rather than the usual artificial romantic way they’re used. But everything else is all synthesisers left over from the 1980s and drumming that’s louder than everything else in the room despite being the single most boring part Chris Sharrock has played on record in his career. The fact that Noel is singing all this through a megaphone doesn’t help either. This horror is surely the worst song any member of Oasis has ever ever released, right up there with ‘Get Your High Horse Lady’ as a real ‘what the hell is going on?!?’ moment. Making this the first single from the album when it’s about as catchy as support for Donald Trump at the moment is a bold move, bordering on stupid. Oh and Noel also continues his practice of pretentious song titles, with the idea of a ‘Holy Mountain’ a far more interesting idea than anything we get in the lyrics of Noel’s ugliest, noisiest and -unfortunately given the times of sex scandals – most mysognistic song.

The album improves with ‘Keep On Reaching’, which is the closest thing to a ‘sleeper’ on the album. The rhythm guitar blushes that keep sliding in and out of a catchy synth riff by Mike Rowe adds up to a great groove and the backing singers and huge scale make more sense here than elsewhere. The song is almost Motown as people demand en masse ‘can you keep a secret?’ and Noel’s only response is to shout out his heart as he succumbs to the pressure, denouncing ‘the bogeyman’ and how ‘I’m gonna write that in a song!’ It feels as if this lyric has had a lot more time laboured on it compared to the other sketches on this album and sounds very much to me as if its Noel’s response to his brother Liam’s pokes and digs on twitter over the past few year. ‘You’ve spilled your guts but you got no one!’ spits Noel, as he keeps trying to keep the rising bile in his throat down and instead of reacting tries to reach for ‘higher ground’. This is surely Liam given lines like ‘I can reach for my old guitar, you can sing it like a monkey man’, but unlike Liam’s songs (which take aim, fires but then offer an apology and a hand of friendship, questioning where things went wrong) this is just so much shouting and doesn’t really represent the ‘higher ground’ the way kinder Liam and Beady Eye songs like ‘The Beat Goes On’ ‘For What It’s ‘Worth’ ‘Come Back To Me’ and even ‘Don’t Brother Me’ do. That’s a shame because we do get a hint at brotherly concern underneath all the shouting, hidden away towards the end of the song when Noel sees his brother’s face ‘on the cover of a magazine’ and instead of the usual Liam arrogance sees eyes that are bruised and hurt ‘and wore a face I have never seen’. Alas this ends up as pointless shouting again: ‘You spill your guts but you got none!’ Not to take sides in the Oasis battle, but I get the feeling that if nothing else Liam is being honest about his feelings, while Noel is hiding behind a smokescreen of all his ‘heavy’ friends and noise instead of singing from the heart (well, not till the bonus tracks anyway!) Noel is legendarily a song-nicker extraordinary. From The Beatles to a court-case brought by Stevie Wonder, he usually nicks from the best sources. However ‘Keep On Reaching’ steals from an unlikely source: The Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’ crossed with the theme tune from Disney series ‘Duck Tales’. Seriously, go and have a listen, it’s the ‘you can’t try to understand…’ middle eight part of the former crossed with the ‘woo-oohs!’ of the latter!

‘It’s A Beautiful World’ adds some psychedelia to the sound, which is something I’ve longed for Noel to do since hearing his spot-on approximation on ‘Who Feels Love?’ (an under-rated Oasis song if ever there was one). But this song is so busy trying to sound trendy and modern that it loses all the mystical ethereal feel that it should have had, burying the main idea behind another clattering drum part and another vocal line that isn’t sung so much as it’s shouted. This is another of the better songs on the album though and has been really growing on me, especially the way Gem’s harmony vocal suddenly arrives to soar in tandem with Noel’s for a few precious verses. Had the song kept up the air of mystery there was on the verses and with the psychedelic swirling effects I could have truly loves this song: Noel is trying to sum up how love feels to him and he can’t find the words so instead embarks on metaphors: love is a ‘song’, a ‘prayer’, a ‘dream’ and in homage to ‘Eleanor Rigby’s face in a jar by the door a ‘face you’ve never seen before, that you keep with a key you’ve found’, a startling image that proves Noel’s still got it. But alas his latest Beatle fixation leads him into very rum territory indeed. Paul McCartney’s ‘Beautiful Night’ is the single worst song the ex Beatle ever wrote – its patronising, insincere and has all the charm and depth of an advertising jingle. Noel rips off practically all of it for this song’s chorus and is even more blatant about it than normal. I can forgive him ripping off ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and all the great Beatle songs out there, but does he really have to rip off the bad ones too? Things get weirder for the ‘Yoko’ moment towards the end when Charlotte Marrianneau, she of the scissors, gets to do what she really came to do and starts speaking in French over the track. It seems oddly perverse and yet somehow right to hear a cod-Yoko moment over the top of such a McCartney moment, as if Noel is out to claim that he was both Lennon and McCartney in The Beatles. But Yoko always had a reason to be there on the record, even if many fans wished she wasn’t – she always had some extra emotion to convey, be it love or terror. This passage adds nothing and translates as roughly ‘Attention ladies and gentlemen, hold on tight and say goodbye, mankind is now melting at the poles, watch out! Borders close, inhale exhale carbon monoxide’. Don’t worry Noel, Charlotte’s only looking for mankind in the snow, but the elder Gallagher is walking on very thin ice here and the result sounds patronising and false, even though the song started for a few seconds there with the most ‘real’ and ‘alive’ moment on the album.

‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is another love song. The most Oasisy moment here, with its triple-tracked guitars and groovy rock beat, it’s hypnotically catchy and is the one song from the album that you’ll actually remember by the time it stops playing. However once again its all but ruined by an insistence on making it all sound modern – where once Noel would have really made this song rock, instead it gets a trance hypno beat makeover that makes it sound awful. The pat-a-cake drums are so loud, the synths don’t play notes so much as swash about between chords and the bass is so loud its giving me ear-ache. There’s a great song in there somewhere, but we need a mix to hear it – or perhaps a future deluxe edition with what will presumably be a typically Noel sweet and charming guitar demo attached. Once again the lyrics are clearly written in a hurry and can barely be heard anyway. For all the many fans falling over themselves to proclaim this album’s greatness, I have to say this is flimsy stuff when you look at the words away from the riff: ‘The one I love, she is divine, she’s out to blow my mind’. Also, what the hell does this ungrammatical verse even mean? ‘’Don’t matter what your name is, she around all the time, you lost your mind and your maqke-up, your money too, I don’t mind…’ I’m willing to bet that this song is about Noel’s wife Sara when he first met her, working as a publicist for the good, the bad, the famous, the unknown and the ugly, but like so many tracks on this album the idea is sound but gets mangled somewhere along the way. There’s no real story in this song, nothing really of substance, just a riff that would have worked a lot better had it been kept as an instrumental. Even in 1967, at the height of this sort of thing, a band would have hidden a lyric like that away on the B-side of their latest release, not made it the sort of lyric to accompany the big ear-catching song on the album. At least the riff is a good one though and still gives me hope if we can ever get Noel to admit defeat and go back to making ‘proper’ music again. Sigh…

At last we get a chance to catch our breath with ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ for thirty seconds at least. This latest Lennon-loving song rips off ‘Come Together’ and comes with the same slow swampy blues feel and an almost identical riff. At least the backing band are better at sounding claustrophobic and menacing than they do sounding joyous and the song comes off as another ‘Gas Panic!’, a self-deprecating song of terror and paranoia that has some interesting ideas. ‘You can play the game song, but they’ll never let you in!’ grins Noel, before he sings some wordless vocals that really sound like crying while the backing band chant in the background what sounds like some exotic voodoo curse. The song brightens up considerably with a shimmering Pink Floyd-style instrumental solo, but the rest of the backing sadly stays much the same throughout, a dull thud rather than the shimmer a song like this demands. Even so it’s easily one of the best things on the record, with a fascinating revealing lyric that, ironically, is all about the art of hiding your true self behind a barrier (‘behind walls’ in Stephen Stills parlance). ‘Never let them bear witness to the tears in your eyes’ Noel concludes, while ‘you’ve fallen like an angel. Stranded on the earth’. Oddly enough it sounds like ‘Born On A Different Cloud, the Liam song I’m still convinced was written in solidarity with his brother, as if Noel has been listening to his old records and remembering better days. It suits Noel here to sound like an alien in a mad old world he doesn’t understand – a song like that makes perfect sense of the cold austere backing which sounds nothing like Noel has ever given us before (even if I wish he’d also chosen a tune The Beatles hadn’t done before either). Noel’s smug grin, so obviously a surface smile making small talk with us and pretending that he isn’t revealing his inner thoughts, is also his best work on the album – his best in a couple of albums I would say. Our review of all three Noel solo albums now have been making the claim that he’s been ‘hiding’ something from us, suffering writer’s block as he tries to work out who he is after some personal crisis he doesn’t want to admit to – this song seems to back that up, as its surely too ‘real’ to be as ‘fake’ as much of the rest of the album. Even so, though, like much of the record it lacks the variety it needs to be a classic, something that made the best of the last album ‘Chasing Yesterdays’ so special (‘The Right Stuff’ and ‘Riverman’ particularly).

‘Black and White Sunshine’ is better yet though, the anger and power and oomph of early Oasis peeking through a song that has its 1960s roots on show far more than the modern noise. Obviously it’s going to be my favourite song on the actual album, then, (with better yet on the deluxe edition) as it’s the one made for fans like me rather than people who mistake noise for music and it’s a joy to hear Noel actually connecting with his music and singing to us direct instead of behind a smokescreen. Noel is depressed, ‘the weight of the world dragging me down’, aware that he has to change leading him to the idea of ‘shedding my skin like a snake’. But what’s left behind when he does that? Noel doesn’t know, coming up with this very Pete Townshend esque song about identity and how he only feels he can be himself when he sees himself through other people’s eyes. I wondered for a while if this was another love song – it probably is, but I have a sneaking feeling he’s writing for Oasis fans here too. My guess, what with all the Britpop overtones (this song is the bounce and harmonies of ‘She’s Electric’ meeting the power and riffing of ‘Morning Glory’), is that this is Noel’s response to seeing the ‘Supersonic’ documentary on early Oasis and remembering just how great it felt to be at the peak of his powers, the most recognised and loved songwriter on the planet, uniting a generation all too briefly. ‘These are the glory days for waifs and strays’ he sings, amazed at the power he feels uniting all the lost, lonely people who ever felt like he used to in some massive movement of optimism and hope. However that was a time long past (‘Qu’est Ce Que C’est, where are they now?’ he wonders) and he doesn’t see his ‘people’ as vividly anymore now, admitting it’s been so long ‘I’ve forgotten your name’. Even so, though, he feels a power tugging him to this particular generation of Oasis fans, adding ‘you give me love – I give you praise’, before summing up the power of the Gallagher brothers with the line to Liam ‘you got the nerve – and I got the brains!’ The song is joyous, the chorus unfolding into a hopeful anthem – is this Noel’s first truly happy song since ‘She Is Love’? All the more extraordinary, then, that it’s bookended with one of the most revealing moments yet, as a weary and disillusioned Noel wonders if it’s even worth his while getting out of bed as he ‘feels the heat’ and ‘can’t get a break’ in a world that’s forgotten him. This leads to an odd conclusion with one last moment of arrogance and ego: ‘We got them crawling on their hands and knees!’ Noel gloats, before he ends up right back where he begun and its him whose crawling on his hands and knees, searching for a way. A fascinating song and the best thing on the ‘actual’ album by a zillion light years. Noel is a natural for songs like these – he needs to write them more, sticking to the generation he understands more than anybody instead of trying to appeal to a whole new one who don’t care who he is and whom he clearly doesn’t understand.

‘Interlude’ is two minutes of, well, what is it exactly? When Paul McCartney ‘pretended’ to be The Fireman and did similarly weird stuff under a pseudonym, it still somehow managed to sound like him, his alter ego fooling no one. But no one would possibly have guessed that this was a Noel Gallagher track without looking and is he even on it? Even the guitar sounds more like Gem to me. The guitars aren’t as important as the aah-ing choir the very 1980s slap-bass anyway, never mind the twinkling synths that are trying to be all calm and peaceful or the very noisy drums that are anything but. At least there’s a tune this time though and it’s a good one in a ‘Pink Floyd have forgotten to write some words again’ kind of a way, making this song far more deserving of a place on the album than the opening instrumental. In many ways its hypnotic beauty finally achieves the sort of thing Noel had been aiming for since at least ‘Heathen Chemistry’ in 2002, a sort of floaty moody piece that conveys emotion by atmosphere alone (the untitled instrumental that ends that LP is the closest in sound and scale and scope out of the whole Oasis canon). But typically for this album it all fades away after two minutes, just as it was getting interesting.

Most fans have been jumping up and down over ‘If Love Is the Law’, a weird combination of Motown, Christmas singles, Bavarian Eurovision entries and some drunken guy shouting through a megaphone on top of a rooftop. There is a great stomping hook in there, with a beat similar to ‘Lyla’ and a melody similar to ‘Live Forever’, but away from the bits that sound recycled from gems of old, what’s new is pretty ordinary. Noel is alone in a town he doesn’t know well, presumably on tour, on a lyric to a song that’s juvenile and one-dimensional compared to his brother’s ‘Chinatown’ (the definitive Oasis ‘getting lost’ song). Liam had a whole gameplan over how to get back to town and used the metaphor of a town for his career. Noel’s just getting upset that he isn’t home and venting his feelings by ranting to us. Cross the song ‘time’ rhymes with ‘crime’, there are ‘things left unsaid while lying on my bed’ and the odd central idea that ‘if love is the law then this a crime’. My guess is that he’s had a falling out with his missus, perhaps over the strain of being so far away just as their family life is getting cosy, but that as a born musician this is what Noel is meant to do – to travel the world, connecting to fans with music and touching base occasionally to stay normal and sane. That would have been a great song – Noel, the hero of a generation for his music, aware that to his family his music is what keeps him apart from them, something they can never quite share in. But we don’t get that song – we get this confused mess of metaphors instead. Noel also spends the whole song shouting, which is wearing when it’s on a bed of similarly shouty artificial synths and drums rather than actual pure guitars. Still, the second half of the album is a lot better than the first isn’t it?!

‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ is a big epic scream of a number, something akin to all the songs I love the most in the Oasis catalogue: ‘Fade-In Out’ ‘Gas Panic’ ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’ It even sounds not unlike ‘Little By Little’ in terms of melody. But alas it sounds like all those past epics without actually being as good as any of them. In terms of lyric this is another of those ‘ah, I’ll fill it in later’ songs that don’t do much except follow the song’s repetitive rhythm, another ‘It’s Getting’ Better Man!!!’ rather than another ‘Wonderwall’. Lyrically it seems to be yet another song of the day Noel met his future wife and his world changed, leading him to question all sorts of things about the universe and fate and how it’s made (although his only actual reference to the title is that the man who built it ‘arrived on a maggot horse’. Make of that what you will, because I certainly can’t). Alas this is no ‘Masterplan’ but another jumble of garbled poetry: ‘You and I, spider and the fly, we eat where the shadows fall’. Noel also comes across the song as a deeply unsavoury character, a wolf out to woo a girl against her will because he can see how important she’ll become to him – but he’s already regretting his big move the minute he makes it and is trying to get out of it. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize if you want it all!’ he urges himself, but he’s full of doubt and worry, aware that if he does accept this challenge then he will become like everyone else, sucked into the ‘rat race’ of family and small talk. Far from being celestial and other-worldly this weird song is just too earth-bound and smug to work as well as it should. As ever, though, Noel knows how to make a good stomp beat and this song’s slow icy march does have a certain something that keeps you listening, it’s just a shame that a better lyric and tune couldn’t have been placed on top.

The album then ends on ‘End Credits’, which is basically just a reprise of ‘Interlude’ (confusingly both songs are subtitled ‘Wednesday’ Parts One and Two). We’re clearly meant to think of this album as a movie, with this the moody music that plays underneath the closing commentary, the punchline to the rest of the album. Except that it just repeats an instrumental that wasn’t that interesting in the first place, albeit with added eerie ‘I Am The Walrus’ strings which work rather well. The tune sounds a little like the title track too, but that shows just shows up how much the album has run out of ideas, with this riff not good enough to hold up three songs without variation. The song is also wrong for the big finale of an album – it doesn’t so much end as kind of give up, fading away into the darkness. As bad as the other two Noel solo albums were, at least he knew how to end them – this album just comes to an abrupt halt.

Most fans surely own the ‘deluxe’ edition anyway, which is the must-have one to buy courtesy of two of the better songs that are by far the best recordings, as Noel and an acoustic guitar does so superbly what a whole thirty-odd string of session musos and a powerhouse production fails to do: move me. Both ‘Dead In The Water’ and ‘God Help Us All’ are strong songs from the heart. But if you own the basic version of this album you don’t get those: instead you get nine songs of a man shouting and no less than three instrumentals, plus maybe two songs that are kinda listenable. This is hopeless for a man of Noel’s credentials and I still can’t help but feel that he’s hiding his ‘real’ self behind something (the surface production mostly) and that we’ve only seen peeks of the ‘real’ Noel on his solo projects so far. I fear that one day we’re going to see a nervous breakdown of the ‘what was I thinking? This isn’t really me’ sort in a few years’ time when this whole trilogy will be abandoned As a bad idea. Indeed, Noel’s already doing that with his first two solo albums, which in publicity for this third one he said weren’t really ‘on it’, even though they were both greeted as his ‘best work since Morning Glory’ and blah blah blah. Noel can talk the talk like nobody else. I almost believed him in the run-up to this album as he talked about being groundbreaking and revolutionary and how he wanted to keep moving on in his career, without any need to sound like his old band to hold him back anymore. But take away those guitars and what have you got? Certainly not melody, certainly not the wit and charm of the old days and most definitely not the subtlety. Instead you have a man shouting for nearly three-quarters of an hour, some trendy modern music that comes with a best-before date of round about Christmas and a girl playing the scissors. Noel has surrounded himself with a whole new world of people who make modern music and asked them to put him at the heart of it – the problem is, he doesn’t belong there. He’s not a poetic mystical figure writing in metaphors and doing crazy things for the hell of it, he’s a realist, one of the people, who knows how to tap into the social conscious like nobody else of his era (except Belle and Sebastian, anyway). This album, though, is more about hiding from the need to write for or recognise anybody, with Noel literally as far removed from planet earth as he can be given the album title, not even writing much about himself anymore these days. Noel has talked in interviews too of how people who diss him all love John and Yoko and can’t see the hypocrisy in loving a man whose daring to be different. But that’s the problem: John, with Yoko pushing him, was genuinely trying to be different for most of the time (and he did mess up on occasion: this album is the ‘Double Fantasy’ of the Oasis catalogue). Noel sounds like every other awful band around with a casio keyboard and an amplifier; he just has a bigger budget than most that’s all. Like the third Oasis album everything is just so overblown and big and huge that its forgotten how to tell a story – of the whole album there are only two songs that have anything in them really to discuss. There’s nothing like the invention or courage of Liam’s album, made against his will because he would much rather pretend that its 1995 and he’s still part of a band and brand name, but who dug deep into his psyche and cobbled something together about how he was feeling (betrayed and confused mostly); Noel quit the group, a few Satsuma throws later, so that he could do something different. But was the risk really worth it, ending a band who still had so much potential and so much to offer for this messy noisy rambling album of nothing? Surely not. It’s hard to know how Noel feels at all on album that seems to have been designed purely as a smokescreen to hide his real self behind. The result is one small step for Noel, but a huge calamity for Oasis fans who can hear this sort of stuff made better by any amount of unworthy bands. Noel has been many things, but he’s never been quite so boring before. Who built the moon? Who cares. I care more about planet Earth and the musicians on it. There is no dark side to ‘Who Built The Moon?’ really. Matter of fact it’s all dark (and impenetrable).

I don’t get it! Why leave your best stuff on the ‘deluxe edition’ of an album? Almost the only thing Noel has in common with Liam is that the best stuff from both their projects came out as ‘extras’. [  ] ‘Dead In The Water’ was recorded in a studio in Dublin with producer David Holmes listening to Noel singing to his acoustic guitar and a little bit of piano from Keefus Cianda. An aching, gorgeous revealing song about wehat happens when you used to be one of the most famous musicians on the planet but you have to move on with the rest of your life, it reveals a lot about why parent album ‘Who Built The Moon?’ turned out the way it did. Noel once had an ‘empire’ but he built it on sand and he’s watched it ‘disappear under the waves’. As it sinks, he thinks back to a time when that empire never existed, back when he ‘had no money’ but at least he had hope back then and time to make things happen. Now he has neither and he wishes that he’d paid more attention to his riches and fame and enjoyed it more when he had the chance. Now he’s left trying to scratch a living to earn enough for a treat, to buy his loyal wife a ‘bottle of wine’. He also pleads with her to understand his desire to keep moving, to keep playing, his desperate need to rebuild that empire and find the ‘promised land’ he’s felt calling to him his whole life through. For now, though, he’s doing all he can just to survive, aware that he is ‘dead in the water’ but promising to fight back, to ‘die in the waves’ as he swims against the current of his career going nowhere. The performance is gorgeous so you can see why it was kept from what was basically a demo: Noel’s vocal is fabulous, a great mixture of bravado, arrogance and fragility, the sound of a king dethroned who doesn’t know whether to go quietly with the revolutionaries or fight back. This song’s latest Beatles reference: ‘I’m fixing a hole in my head where the rain gets in’. Superb. More like this please Noel! Find it on: the deluxe edition of ‘Who Built The Moon?’ (2017)
Less revealing but every bit as special is a second acoustic song taped live in the studio and featuring Noel’s vocal unadorned by extra at last. [  ] ‘God Help Us All’ sounds at one with the under-rated Noel B-sides from the last eight years or so of Oasis’ lifetime. Noel is distraught, he sees confusion and hopelessness everywhere he goes and it feels like the end of days are coming. He may even be contemplating suicide (‘Don’t wait for me if I’m not here when you return!’)  and admits he’ll ‘go insane’ if ‘you don’t speak my name’, desperate to be relevant, to be important the way he used to be. The title is, of course, ironic: there is no God to help us and if there is one he’s ‘crashing while we burn’, as if we’re in a computer programme that’s suffering a glitch. There’s a gorgeously haunting refrain that comes from someone howling like a werewolf treated with echo, which adds an eerie coda to the song. Like many a Noel track, though, it’s still looking to be happy and resolve itself from this minor chord prison. ‘Sing it out, sha la la la la’ Noel sings joyously, like Paul Weller covering The Kinks, but this little bit of oasis in a storm of life’s making isn’t fooling anyone. Unlike most of ‘Who Built The Moon?’ this is a track that knows just how hard life is and is pretty darn good at conveying that emotion in song. Again, more like this please Noel! Find it on: the deluxe edition of ‘Who Built The Moon?’ (2017)

Other Oasis-related articles you might be interested in reading:

'(What's The Story?) Morning Glory' (1995) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/oasis-whats-story-morning-glory-1996.html
'Be Here Now' (1997) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2013/11/oasis-be-here-now-1997-album-review.html
‘Heathen Chemistry’ (2002) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/oasis-heathen-chemistry-2002.html

‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/oasis-dont-believe-truth-2005.html

'Dig Out Your Soul' (2008) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/05/oasis-dig-out-your-soul-2008-heavily.html

'Different Gear, Still Speeding' (Beady Eye) (2011)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/news-views-and-music-issue-93-beady-eye.html

'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (2011)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/news-views-and-music-issue-119-noel.html  
'Chasing Yesterdays' (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds) (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/noel-gallaghers-high-flying-birds.html
As You Were (Liam Gallagher) (2017) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/liam-gallagher-as-you-were-2017.html
The Best Unreleased Oasis Recordings 1992-2013 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/oasis-best-unreleased-recordings-1992.html
Surviving TV Clips 1994-2009: http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/oasis-surviving-tv-clips-1994-2009.html
Compilation/Live/Solo Albums: 1994-2010 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/oasis-compilationliveb-sides-albums.html
Non-Album Songs Part One: 1993-1998 
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/oasis-non-album-recordings-part-one.html

Non-Album Songs Part Two: 2000-2015
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.nl/2016/08/oasis-non-album-songs-part-two-2000-2015.html


Neil Young: Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1977-2016





Non-Album Recordings Part #8: 1977

'Decade' included just one 'new' track - ironically one still older than the 'new' tracks from the first side of 'American Stars 'n' Bars'. Though I've always challenged the idea of Richard Nixon having 'soul' (well at least Neil didn't sing 'heart' or 'brains'!) [111] 'Campaigner' is a fascinating song and a much more nuanced sequel to the strident anger of CSNY classic 'Ohio'. Neil had been troubled by the coverage of 'Watergate' on TV - not just the lies the Government were up to but how many careers and lives it wrecked. Neil was particularly moved by watching Nixon - the 'monster' Neil had been campaigning against for so much of the past decade - bursting into tears as he walked out of the White House for the last time on his way to see his dying father in hospital. 'I hardly slept the night you wept' sings Neil guiltily, aware that he more than anyone has been calling for Nixon to be hung drawn and quartered but only now has he seen him as a 'man' rather than a politician. Kicking Nixon out the White House has solved nothing: injustice still prevails and 'people steal from their own kind', while all the rhetoric about the 'good' Nixon did during his time has made Neil think again about his legacy and how no one is all saint or all sinner. His conclusion: there are many things wrong with America as heard across 'On The Beach' - 'The beach got too crowded for a stroll' and Neil vows to pick his targets with care from now on (which he will, George Wallace-supporting 'War Song aside, all the way up to the Bush-baiting 'Living With War' in 2006, with Young even breaking a musician taboo by coming out in favour of Reagan in the mid-1980s). Neil was never a natural political animal unlike his CSNY buddies and rarely spoke out on behalf of the down-trodden the way they did, with 'Ohio' (and the more vague 'American Dream') rare exceptions. This song reveals why: Neil identifies even with the baddies in politics and ultimately he understands Nixon's 'campaign' and what he was standing for - just at the moment when Nixon has been impeached and won't be around to campaign for it anymore; allowing that even for all his hatred and distrust of the man even Richard Nixon is a human being who deserves a second chance - and that he maybe even has soul. Neil still sings his last repeat of that line dripping with sarcasm, however, so as ever there may be more to this song than meets the ear...Find it on: 'Decade' (1977)

Non-Album Recordings Part #9: 1982

The alternate first pass at [154b] 'Sample and Hold' is generally agreed as the superior take - so how it never made the 'Trans' album in favour of the more 'normal' shorter version is anybody's guess. Weirder, harsher, more electronic and a lot more desperate-sounding than its record-mate, this career stand-out sounds good in either version but particularly this one. An extra three minutes are added to the running time and most of this is repetition - but somehow the repetition is important, with several extra repeats of the chorus really adding to the paranoia and fear of the track. Never has the number '110!' been sung with so much loaded meaning as a computer sadly rejects a planned 'baby' for being underweight. The biggest change: instead of ending the song kicks back in on another gruelling 'not the lonely one, a new design new design' verse before playing out with two minutes of criss-crossing guitar riffs and a few more falsetto 'you know will be happy's. There's also a very different mix on the guitar, which is up loud in the mix instead of being buried under the dreams and you can really hear the 'holes' in the riffs Neil play, as if forcing his guitar to play in binary code, all '0s' and '1's - Neil later does the same to his voices. There's an impressive opening noise that sounds like a psychedelic Dick Dale pushed through a blender too that has to be heard to be believed, while the peak roar of the guitar going into the final 'push' is phenomenal. Geffen got a real coup when Neil dug this alternate take out for them and - ironically - this abandoned version is now by far the most common, having 'replaced' the original on all known CDs (why not have both? You can't have too much of a good thing, right?) Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992) and the CD version of 'Trans' (where it's labelled as being 'taken from the Lucky Thirteen' compilation on the rear sleeve)

Against all odds Buffalo Springfield flop 'Mr Soul' was re-recorded and released as a single a second time, a full fifteen years since its first release. Always a Neil favourite you can see why he would want to demonstrate to the world his 'after' shot to go with the 'before' one and the 12" only single version came with several variations to the version on Trans'. For a start the song was re-titled [155b] 'Mr Soul (Part II)'(it's just plain ol' 'Mr Soul' on the record) and like many a 12" mix comes with an extended running time (six minutes rather than three) and lots of long instrumental passages where not a lot happens. The biggest changes are the 'drop-out' of the 'main' voice for part of the track which just leaves the vocoder-part hanging in the air, the dead-end stop that now interrupts verse and instrumental, a lengthy instrumental finale that thuds it's way to a slow conclusion and a 'false' second verse that just has Neil going 'aaaaaah' while the backing vocals occasionally chime in randomly (...'Trick of disaster!') It's no more convincing than the original Trans mix, but it's still worthy of a listen of you like the song or the album (personally I can never get enough of vocoder Neil) and would make a fine addition to the 'Trans' CD one day. For now it's one of the few Young recordings never to have appeared in the digital age - which is rather ironic given that 'Trans' is meant to be an album celebrating them... Find it on: the original 12" single (1982)

Non-Album Recordings Part #10: 1983

I'm not the first fan to point out that 'Everybody's Rockin' would have been substantially better had Neil actually included all the songs he wrote for the album and resulting tour. It might have lasted longer than your average single with this seven minute song attached too. By far the best song from the whole sorry project is...'Betty Lou's Got A New Pair Of Shoes'. No, I'm kidding of course. It's  [167] 'Get Gone', a fake autobiographical tale about the imaginary 'Shocking Pinks' band. As Neil puts it in his introduction which gets so into character you grow a little concerned, this is 'what happened to 'em and why they ain't playing for you today'. On the one hand it's the same old boring tale of bandmate does badly at school, bandmate buys car, bandmate meets bandmates, band makes wild passionate music together, band gets overworked to death by cruel managers (David Briggs must have giggled himself silly at that verse!) and an unexpected fiery death in a plane crash. However as generic as this is - and as familiar as the overworked guitar riff sounds (it's a sped up 'Not Fade Away' - the Stones arrangement of it) - this is a whole lot of fun, certainly a lot more fun than the 'Rockin' album ever was. Neil nails his slurred-vocal teenage high school dropout who fell into music simply so he could buy a Buick and  enjoying it by 'having a lot of fun and a lot of kicks!' He slips in a sly dig at drugs again, peddled by his own manager ('Gonna take a lot of drugs, gonna feel no pain!') and how they ended up crashing, 'a little low on fuel' in body, mind and especially airplane engine. An affectionate look at the 1950s that's neither reverential or stupid (unlike most of the record) this clever song is another track on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation that's a lot better than anything that could have been taken from the 'real' record! Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

The slow and brooding [168] 'Don't Take Your Love Away From Me'was taped on the same Shocking Pinks tour and though much more serious would also have been a highlight of the 'Everybody's Rockin' record had it ever been included. Actually it's more soul than rockabilly, with an early use of the horn section that will blossom into full bloom on the Blue Note sessions in about five years time as Neil sings with a commitment rare for this era about all the bad things that are going to happen to him if he's ever stupid enough to let his missus walk out on him. Lyrically this song isn't up to much that can't be heard better elsewhere, but the slow dramatic unfolding of the melody and the sudden punchline of the horns is an unusual format for Neil and it sounds mighty good here. Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

[  ] 'Depression Blues' is from an entirely different project - the original, abandoned version of 'Old Ways' -  but once again it's superior to anything that made it onto the finished album (with the exception, perhaps of 'Misfits' which as the title implies didn't really 'fit'). Neil was found of the track and toyed with releasing it as the lead number on an EP to benefit Farm Aid in 1985 but that too got cancelled by Geffen so it ended out coming out on 'Lucky Thirteen' instead (lucky for some, indeed). A depressed maudlin backing track full of country fiddles and honky tonk pianos, this should sound dreadful, but instead there's a real pathos and emotion about this song which puts it several notches higher than the album itself. Neil is a poor farmer, his heart broken by watching his poor family struggle right along with him. His pretty wife is 'all dressed up with nowhere to go' while his farm is 'being bought up by somebody nobody knows', his family business ending up in the hands of a faceless (handless?) corporation (if this was a later album you'd assume it was Monsanto). It's happening to all the narrator's pals too - the high street is a ghost town - and there's competition as he tries to learn a new trade and find a different source of income. However what makes this song work is that it's not all bad - 'we still got the kids' warms Neil, adding that they're 'going out to the movies right after this!' as if this is a vox pop of American farmers taking place and he's about to spend his last dollar on giving his family some entertainment while he can. A moving performance makes good use of Anthony Crawford's backing vocals especially and the mood is sombre but never bleak. An impressive song that's clearly from the heart, even if 40-year-old Neil can't resist an old-timer dig at young people's music tastes as per most of the rest of the 'Old Ways' album! Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)

Non-Album Recordings Part #12: 1988

Geffen had agreed to let Neil go when he was partway through the 'Blue Notes' album but they clearly considered it one of 'theirs'. As a result they 'claimed' an early live tape of the band in action and argued that it counted as a Geffen recording. As a result live renditions of a snazzy 'This Note's For You' ended up on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation alongside oddity [216] 'Ain't It The Truth?' This track may well be the oldest of any Young has yet released (it's on a par with 'The Sultan' and 'Aurora' anyway) being an early Squires highlight Neil performed with the band around 1962-1964 and even recorded, though sadly the tape was passed over for release on 'Archives'. This is a silly inconsequential song based around a simple blues riff and it comes with some of the daftest lyrics Neil ever wrote ('Eat watermelon, eat peaches and cream, eat tomatoes if you know what I mean!' Was he hungry when he wrote it?!) However it's worthy of release on something, especially this fine band performance that cooks up a storm as Neil's guitar, the bass and drums chugs along and suddenly the Blue Note horns burst into full colourful life. I'm not sure any of this song is 'the truth' somehow (Neil may have been thinking of the Lena Horne song of the same name, which is a little like this track slowed down) but it's not bad a for a seventeen-year-old novice that's for sure. Find it on: 'Lucky Thirteen' (1992)


[  ] 'I'm Goin' is interesting too, not so much a song as a riff, full of drama and tension. In many ways it's just the riff from 'Ten Men Workin' (the A-side to this B-side - they should have been the other way around!) without all the shouting, as this one feels far more real and more heartfelt. Neil hollers that his life is going wrong and he's on a 'downward slide', Old Black rigidly stuck in place as Neil tries to lift up his weary body and move on, before ending in a sting of 'Eldorado' style noisy chords. No one seems to have told the horn section though, who keep leaping into the song full of beauty and optimism, as if trying to cajole Neil out of his blues. They never sounded prettier and while the song itself isn't the most beautiful thing Young ever made the tension between the two halves is quite something. Neil also sounds far more 'real' here than he ever did playing the part of a band-leader: he's no longer having fun writing blues songs, he means every word - and his guitar never fitted into the genre more. Only a pathetic middle eight prevents this song from being the best of the era and this song should have made the album not been kept as a little-heard flipside. That said, the easiest version to track down today (the live take on 'Bluenote Cafe') is even better after a few months of extra work and living on the road. Find it on: the studio version is the B-side to 'Ten Men Workin' and the live version is on 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Proof of Neil's prolific writing output in this era comes with the large quantity of tracks left off the 'This Note's For You' album and only played on the resulting 'BlueNotes' tour. Like 'A Treasure' and its post-'Old Ways' output almost all of this is better than what came out on the album and sounds better too thanks to the simpler arrangement of the road, plus the Blue Notes have had more than a few hours to get to know each other here (and the songs!) Audaciously Neil even starts the gig with a new song nobody in the audience had heard before - or would hear again unless they went to another night on the tour. [  ] 'Welcome To The Big Room' is more ratpack than anything that made it to the album, as Neil plays the part of a sleazy MC a little too convincingly for comfort. This isn't much of a song, just a chance for more 'Life In The City' horns and Neil to act out a character. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

[  b] 'Hello Lonely Woman' is better, despite being a full quarter century old! Like 'Ain't It The Truth?' this is another early Squires song recorded in 1964 but never released at the time and it works well here as a cute innocent song featuring lots of corny chat-up lines ('Do you want to grab a bite to eat?) which an older but still horny Neil sings with a sly sneer. The horns really earn their money on this song and this track features perhaps the greatest arrangement of the whole bunch, as well as a groovy drum 'n' bass groove that's played really well. I'm not so sure about Neil's harmonica playing but when the breeze in the room is this strong you can overlook the odd mistake! Neil really should have released this track, if not on the 'This Note's For You' album then certainly on the 'Lucky Thirteen' compilation! You can hear an early version of the song, performed by Neil and pal Comrie Smith, on 'Archives Volume One' (2009) where it sounds pretty spiffing too! Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Hot on the heels of 'Crime In The City' on the album comes [  ] 'Crime Of The Heart'. Alas the song is timid and inward looking where that track was aggressive and outward looking, seemingly based around the lesser Beatles B-side 'This Boy' with Neil noodling around the chord changes. The lyrics are stronger than the music even if they are depressed and bluesy again, as Neil gets into a state about being at the 'crossroads' of a relationship and wondering which road to take. 'There's two kinds of love - one is love and one is right' Neil sings, but he doesn't know which lover represents which. Is this an early song about the stability of Pegi v the allure of Darryl Hannah? The fact that Neil throws in the detail about having 'three children to feed who think the world of me' (which is true!) suggests it is. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

[  ] 'Doghouse' continues the theme and the fact that it might be about Pegi v Darryl; is re-enforced by the fact that it's the only song of Neil's that Pegi has sung herself! Neil's been a naughty boy, he's been up to something he shouldn't have been and his wife is mad at him, so he guilty slinks off to sleep in the kennel. Though Neil sings this song like a guilty confessional, everyone else seems to be in on the joke and this is a fun track, full of a great stinging horn riff, some fiery guitar and lots of deep-throated yells of 'doghouse!' Neil sees the funny side by the end of the track too saying that the party was worth the price of living in the dog house! Not very substantial but this song is right up there as one of Neil's funniest songs. Find it on: 'Bluenote Cafe' (2015)

Eldorado would been one hell of a noisy LP. Even at EP length is sets your ears ringing for a long time afterwards, without any of the lighter 'Freedom' songs to get in the way. Unusually for Neil, he really did choose his better material to add to a 'proper' album and neither of the two 'Eldorado' songs released strictly on the EP are up to the standards of those that made the LP ('Don't Cry' 'On Broadway' and 'Eldorado' itself). Neil might have had reason for hiding  [217] 'Cocaine Eyes' from view - a sequel of sorts to 'Hippie Dream' (where Crosby's failing health and addiction summed up the wasted potential of a whole generation), 'Cocaine Eyes' is reported to have a target even closer to home: Stephen Stills. We fans aren't quite sure how bad Stills' dependencies got - he never made the news public or served prison time like Crosby and seems to have kicked his habit by the mid-1990s, but we do know that the others were 'cross' with him for something during the sessions for 'American Dream' in 1988 and 'Live It Up' in 1989 (originally just a Crosby-Nash album because they felt Stills was 'unworkable' till Atlantic insisted. Having gone through this so recently with Crosby, Stills' friends were worried that it might happen again to Stills. This surprisingly nasty song (more savage even than 'Hippie Dream', which was more sad than angry) probably didn't help.  'You got cocaine eyes, can't hide your face,  it's no surprise you lost the race again!' squeals Neil on top of one of the angriest guitar sounds of his career, adding for good measure that seeing his un-named friend in such a state 'burns a little bit of my soul'. The song then remembers other fallen friends (no do0ubt with Danny Whitten amongst them) who have left Neil 'behind' along the way: 'Some go mad for poison, and some for too much love, some just go to sleep at night and are too fucked to wake up!' he explodes. The result is a powerful song deserving of its status as the 'one that got away' for all of Neil's fans who didn't know a good record shop in Spain, although it's still less intense and rather clumsier than both 'Don't Cry' and 'Eldorado'. Find it on: the EP 'Eldorado' (Released in parts of Europe 1988)

[218] 'Heavy Love' is more noise, a shade less intense than 'Don't Cry' and 'Cocaine Eyes' but still pretty relentless. Chad Cromwell and Rick Rosas hit a metronomic beat above which Neil sings - no, hang on, screams is a better adjective - how he's mystified by his lover and her mysterious eyes. It don't sound like Pegi so I'm willing to bet this is an early song about Neil's obsession with Darryl Hannah. For all the cocksure bravado and noise Neil sounds painfully vulnerable here, pleading with his lover that one day she might find a  reason to date him and that surely they'll end up together one day. Neil sounds unable to wait though, putting his all into a turbulent noisy thrash guitar solo that's more feedback than tune. Still, this song isn't quite as fun and unhinged as some of the others from the same EP and was probably the right one to drop from 'Freedom' when EP became LP. Find it on: the EP 'Eldorado' (Released in parts of Europe 1988)

Non-Album Recordings Part #14: 1990

[240] 'Don't Spook The Horse' is a rare non-album B-side (the first in eight years!), a self-referential spoof cowboy song recorded during the sessions for Crazy Horse get-together 'Ragged Glory'. Neil said he chose to release the song as a single rather than album to take pity on all the reviewers and radio DJs ('so that they could get everything they needed about the album from that one song without having to listen to an hour!') As it happens, 'Horse' couldn't be less like most of 'Ragged Glory' - it's not ragged for a start, with a pretty tune that's a little heavy-handed but is played much tighter than other tracks o the album (at only 15 seconds as opposed to two or three minutes, even the ending is 'normal'!) It's also funny, like 'Farmer John' was supposed to be but wasn't, with Neil offering sage advice in life with a series of cowboy phrases (the first verse is about the horse, the second a woman, both handled in much the same way, both of them ending in the straight-faced comic line 'make sure they ain't rolled in shit!') The guitar playing is much more like 'Nowhere' vintage Neil Young, weaving round Sampedro's rhythm in nicely telepathic style, both guitarists breaking out for the odd mini-solo, while Billy and Ralph's rhythm section just about keeps the song going. While light by Neil's usual standards, this delightful comic number deserves to be better known - now that the 'Ragged Glory' CD is a quarter century (or so) old, why not re-issue the disc with this song on the end and let more people delight in its whimsy? Find it on: the CD single 'Mansion On The Hill' (1990)

Recorded as part of the 'Ragged Glory' sessions but only released on the vinyl double-disc version of 'Broken Arrow' in 1996, the lovely [  ] 'Interstate' seems a little too mellow for either company and should perhaps have been left until 'Silver and Gold' in 2000 (where many songs share this song's wigged out weary beauty). Like many of Neil's best songs of the decade it's based around themes of travel and has Neil's future laid out not as a long and winding road but a criss-crossing interstate full of possible routes and plans for the future.  Neil's scratchy guitar lines are kinda distracting but the tune is lovely, blossoming slowly over six carefully controlled minutes. The lyrics too are great if surreal, as Neil hears children laughing but knows he can't join in because he's got a much harder road to run down. He's leading a double life, presumably the one split between wife Pegi and mistress Darryl, but here it manifests himself as an extrovert performer on stage with bright lights and loud music and the quiet introverted stillness he feels when he's alone. A 'voice' calls Neil to 'bring his guitar home', which might be his muse urging him to move on fro the crunch of Crazy Horse in 1990. If so he seems to have ignored the voice for the moment, preferring instead to release his noisiest album yet with live CD 'Weld'. However this revealing song about Neil working out what genre to do next already hints at the beauty of 'Harvest Moon' to come the year after. This lovely forgotten song deserved a much wider release and would make a lovely addition to the CD re-issue of whichever album wants to call it home. Find it on: 'Broken Arrow' (vinyl edition) 


Non-Album Recordings Part #15: 1993

When Neil announced he was recording an 'Unplugged' concert for MTV, fans were excited: surely this would be a chance for Neil to drop in a few of those unreleased nuggets we'd been waiting for now for years (sometimes decades?) In the end the sweet piano ballad [253] 'Stringman'  - a song reportedly recorded for the unreleased 'Chrome Dreams' album in 1977 - was the only rarity in a set list high on classics. However 'Stringman' blew most of the more famous songs away: it's Neil back in his 'Dylanesque' poetic mode (best heard during the early Springfield years), with memorable lyrical images that might mean everything or nothing. The stringman himself is one of Neil's greatest characters, easily manipulated without realising it, but loved all the more for it. Legend amongst CSNY fans has it that the 'Stringman' is none other than Stephen Stills - a figure 'not like he was so long ago', taking charge and acting like a 'Sergeant Major' whether he's needed or not and who recently 'lost his wife' (Stills and third wife Veronique Sanson - his most stable shot at a life partner in the 20th century - split in 1976). If this is true (knowing Neil he had a few other people in mind too and 'the hippies' didn't exactly 'tear down everything that he was fighting for' as it says in one line) then it points to just how spookily close this love/hate relationship has always been: 'There is no dearer friend of mine that I know in this life'. Certainly the middle eight is very Stills, a musician unable to articulate his deep feeling in words so he writes them into his songs instead ('On his shoulder rest a violin, for his head where chaos reigns'), so different to Young (whose songs, this one included, are cryptic and poetic rather than - usually - powerfully honest like his partner's). Even if 'Stringman' is just about Neil's postman none of us know, however, 'Stringman' would be a powerful song, poignant and warm in a style that Neil doesn't use very often (no wonder he kept this song unreleased - it's not a natural 'fit' with any of his other works and even the 'Chrome Dreams' version sticks out like a sore thumb), another of those classic Neil Young songs that anyone else would have turned into a hit single, relegated to the vaults on a whim. Find it on: 'Unplugged' (1993)

Non-Album Recordings Part #16: 1994

I tell you, I was robbed! There I was at the million pound question  on the online version of now-defunct UK quiz 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' when I thought I'd hit the jackpot. The question was 'which of the following had a 'hit' with a song from the soundtrack of the Tom Hanks film [254] 'Philadelphia'? 'Aha', I thought, 'no fooling me - I even bought the film soundtrack album - it's obviously Neil Young!' Alas it turns out this song wasn't a hit even though it was a single (with 'Such A Woman' and the Unplugged 'Stringman' unusual B-side choices) The answer's Bruce Springsteen's 'Streets Of Philadelphia' if you were wondering - his song of the same name is so forgettable I don't remember it at all even though he won an award for it and I still say as the song title includes 'Streets Of' I was write and the game was wrong (Bruce peaked at US #9 and Neil at #62, it so should have been the other way round). You see, 'Philadelphia' should have been a hit: came at just the right time for Neil, at the very end of his '90s crest' when he could do no wrong and the one and only Neil Young song written for a film he didn't also write the script for is a popular one amongst fans (we all think it's a hit', don't we?) Like the film itself (the first blockbuster to talk about HIV and Aids, with Tom Hanks never better - he even got the 'Toy Story' films as a result of doing this, which must be one of the oddest spur-of-the-moment castings for a children's film!) Neil's song is moody and intense, just about staying polite and reserved but clearly with lots of drama and emotion bubbling up inside. A pretty tune that's more complex than most Young songs written on the piano is enhanced nicely by a synthesiser full of sweeping emotion. While Young, typically, steers clear of the plot in the lyrics (he needs this song to work in his concert set-lists without an explanation of the film), his words are a pretty accurate portrayal of what's going on, writing about the city rather than the people in it. Once a 'city of brotherly love' (in all meanings of the word), Philadelphia has since turned its back on the people who need companionship most, the 'place that I call home' now treating the people who 'created' it as strangers. This leads Neil on to reflect once more over 'what love's all about' and comes to the conclusion that it's about having a supportive home there, no matter what he's done in his life and that flying in to Philadelphia should be a happy occasion, but isn't anymore. Neil's vocal is nicely suffused with shock and barely concealed hurt, with the feeling that the world is a messed up place common to many Young songs, but in common with the forthcoming 'Sleeps With Angels' CD the mood is confusion rather than outrage. The result is a pretty, sophisticated ballad from a writer at the top of his game that is a hit, whatever the charts and online games say (Bruce owes me a lot of money - or at least my name somewhere in the top end of the online scoreboard!) Find it on: the original CD single or the Various Artists film soundtrack 'Philadelphia' (both 1994)

Non-Album Recordings Part #17: 1995

The deal with Pearl Jam over their collaboration was that Neil, as the more famous and established artist, would get the LP ('Mirrorball') and the younger band would get left-overs for a tie-in single with their name first (released as 'Merkinball' in December 1995, six months after the album and with similar packaging). The single is clearly less interesting for fans, not least because Neil features purely as guitarist and doesn't sing but also because Pearl Jam are clearly flinging anything into the pot and trying to use Neil's own 'first thought only thought' mantra and they really aren't that kind of a band (to be fair nor are most of Neil's bands but he makes them work like that anyway). [277] 'I Got ID' is also known colloquially by fans as 'I Got Shit' (it's working title but also a reflection of how bad it is). Eddie Vedder warbles his way through a track about young people wanting more out of life than their elders are prepared to give them but even by 'Mirrorball' standards this sounds more like a rehearsal for a demo never mind a finished track. Neil's big sturdy fat guitar in the right channel is the highlight of the song, but even that is under-used and only joins in midway through. In concert Eddie joked that he'd 'learnt' songwriting firsthand off Neil and got a 'B+' for this effort. That's probably more generous than what I'd have given him here.  Find it on: 'Merkinball' (CD single 1995)

[278] 'Long Road' is more interesting, at least at first. The song starts with the same wheezy drone of the pump organ familiar to Young fans from the 'Unplugged' and 'Mirrorball' period and is quieter than the bulk of the album. The lyrics are a little basic though despite being heartfelt - they're Eddie's reaction to hearing the news that a favourite teacher of his had died.  Surrounded by memories, the narrator wishes he could go back to the olden days but sadly the lyric gets too obsessed with the usual clichés about 'fallen wings' and 'wishing' the present to be more like the present so it loses the impact it might have had. Most of Neil's 'Prairie Wind' album is a much better place to go to for songs about loss. Find it on: 'Merkinball' (CD single 1995)

Non-Album Recordings Part #18: 2000

First heard in concert with Bluenote horns in 1988,  [297]  'Fool For Your Love' made a surprise revival on the 'Road Rocks' live CD. The song worked ok as bluesy fare, drenched in sax and brass and with Neil pleading his innocence in a way that sounds not unlike 2002's  'Are You Passionate?' However what worked well there rather fizzles out when re-arranged as a simple pop song complete with Neil's wife and sister shouting 'fool!' every so often in a way that's meant to be cute but just comes out as irritating. Like the rest of the album it's as if Neil sifted through his weaker songs and wondered what arrangements he could give them to make them worse. At this point fans had been crying out to finally hear abandoned songs 'Ordinary People' and the original 'Crime In The City' after all (even a few of us wanted to hear 'Doghouse' again) - but nobody was calling out for this one! Find it on: 'Road Rocks' (2001)

Neil's cover of Dylan via Hendrix is best described as lumpy. [298] 'All Along The Watchtower' is too obvious a choice of song to cover and despite it's high-standing reputation in the canon of both artists is actually a pretty average song with some vague metaphors of a 'joker' and a ';thief' plotting their escape. Neil adds some pretty poor Hendrix type stylising and tries to get away with bluster and noise and extended Crazy Horse style soloing rather than cohesion and understanding on another truly mind-bogglingly poor choice of live recording. Neil played this song so much better across the rest of that tour but here even anything would have been preferable for release - including the cleaning lady's whistling! Find it on: 'Road Rocks' (2001)

Non-Album Recordings Part #19: 2009

We haven't included the Ben Keith discography in this book because, well, we've all got homes to go to and you've probably already spent a fortune buying all the 'Archives' sets and I don't want any more completists to get mad at me as I describe something near-impossible to get hold of! However they're worth looking out if you're interested because Ben Keith is like family to Neil - even more perhaps than Crazy Horse he's been the musician the guitarist keeps coming back to and for a while there at the end of his life he even lived on Neil's 'Broken Arrow' estate. Ben's last album before his death was a Christmas record recorded at 'home' there and which featured a whole range of special guest stars - mostly from the world of country music, his original home. Naturally Neil and Pegi turned up too and their vocals on the Keith original [  ] 'Les Trois Cloches' are a rare chance to hear Mr and Mrs Young singing together. Neil has never sounded more conservative and traditional as he puts on yet another 'character' voice, this one an old-time crooner (yep, I can't wait for that 'genre' album either, it's gonna be hilarious...) What with the austere lyrics about 'little Jimmy Brown' wishing for love for Christmas and his parents wishing him 'eternal love' (which he receives when he gets married) and the very 'Old Ways' style backing, this sounds like some giant piss-take of all sorts of traditions, Neil's included. It's also weirdly affecting, with all sorts of Ben Keith guitars and banjos coming and going in the mix, some sweet strings and some spooky mouthorgan. We've heard Neil singing pretty much everything there is to sing - but even so we've never heard him sing like this! Find it on: Ben Keith's 'Christmas At The ranch' (2009). 

Non-Album Recordings Part #20: 2012

Hmmm. Included on the deluxe DVD special of 'Psychedelic Pill' was the 37 minute barrage of noise  [377] 'Horse Back', perhaps the most outré thing Neil had recorded since 'Arc' back in 1991. 'Horse Shit' is probably nearer the word as fans forked out their extra money to hear...37 minutes of the 'Americana' album sped up and played backwards with bits of jamming sessions for rehearsal takes of 'F*!#in' Up' and 'Cortez The Killer' thrown in too. Chances are someone came up with the (admittedly) clever (if crazy) title and thought of the song afterwards. Or maybe Neil was trying a bit of out-there promotion for a record he wanted fans to know or about. Or maybe he had a nervous breakdown or was in a really grumpy mood that day. Whatever the reasons this lengthy collage stretches your patience after the first minute and I still haven't come close to getting all the way through to the end of it yet. I've got better things to do. Like listening to 27 minutes of 'Driftin' Back', listening to 'Re-Ac-Tor' on repeat and working out which of the characters on 'soap opera 'Greendale' should have been killed off instead of Grandpa. Find it on: the download of 'Psychedelic Pill' (2012) - but if you download it just to hear this track after that description than you're crazier than any horse!

Non-Album Recordings Part #21: 2016


The one token new song on live album 'Earth' was [  ] 'Seed Justice', a record that sounds so similar to the scatter-brained politics of 'The Monsanto Years' I hadn't even realised it was a 'new' song at first. Mixing ideas of love and romance with love for one's planet, this song veers between a noisy 'I won't quit!' chorus and a more reflective 'show me the love!' refrain. Neil pours in some more angry lyrics aimed at companies doing the wrong thing and wanting 'justice for the land' and there's a fiery guitar and then a funky bass solo in the middle, but in truth this song is too vague to be up to the standard of the 'Monsanto' album proper. Although the monkey 'laughing' the third solo, followed by a crowing rooster, steal the show! Find it on: 'Earth' (2016)

'On the sacred land there's a battle brewing'. Neil surprised everyone by releasing his first single in fifteen years with [  ] 'Indian Givers' - and surprised even more of us who'd sat through the last few CDs waiting for something good by being pretty darn good. Still performed with The Promise Of The Real, Neil returns to his love of the American Indians and performs a restless song caught halfway between electric and acoustic. Damning the people who gave people small pieces of their own land back ('it makes you sick and gives you shivers!') and inspired by a protest over an American Indian tribe in Dakota over a planned waste pipe being built, Neil wishes someone would 'share the news' although what news this is never is explained in song. Like 'Monsanto' Neil riups into big business taking away natural soil and turning it bad and may well be comparing our present age to the Indians being pushed out of their lands by big business, only now it's happening to a new generation of 'native' Americans powerless to stop them. Thoughtful but light on it's feet and jazzier than any song since the Blue Note days, this is a rather splendid little song and bodes well for the next CD to come (which has yet to be released at the time of writing but knowing Neil there'll be another five before this book's final drafting session!) Note that there are two mixes of this song doing the rounds - Neil made the second when an American Indian fan objected to the use of the word 'squaw' (discussion still rages between historians over whether Indians used 'squaw' to mean 'wife' or simply a female's genitals, with the rest of her being unimportant - chances are it originally meant 'woman' and ended up being used offensively after many centuries of use. Here ends your English language history lesson). Find it on: a single (2016)