Monday, 4 December 2017

Neil Young and The Promise Of The Real "The Visitor" (2017)


Neil Young and The Promise Of The Real “The Visitor” (2017)

Already One/Fly-By-Night Deal/Almost Always/Stand Tall/Change Of Heart/Carnival/Diggin’ A Hole/Children Of Yesterday/When Bad Not Good/Forever

‘You’re looking at one of the lucky ones, came here from there to be free’ or ‘My friend Al got the message!’

At last, the backlash against the backlash against immigration and Donald Trump’s disastrous policies begin to hit home. The same week we have the second Paddington film (immigrant brings innocent pleasure to millions and gets smeared with assumptions he must be a terrorist – well, that’s the subplot of the film as I see it) we get another immigrant challenging the idea that people are doomed to live in the tiny boxes they were born into all their lives. The opening lines of ‘The Visitor’ are that ‘I’m Canadian by the way’, Neil straight away under-cutting all the usual criticisms that he doesn’t deserve to talk about American policy because he’s only lived there for, what, fifty years now? Neil has by now become as American as apple pie, The Eagles and dodgy foreign policy this album to the point where many casual fans have assumed he was born an American, but for the first time in half a century the man who crept illegally over the border to play with Buffalo Springfield (and only retrospectively got a visa to do so when the band became a hit) feels threatened. Suddenly, with a dim-witted egocentric orang-u-tang as president, nobody feels safe anymore. Many of my American friends are feeling it, this sense of oppression that even though they’ve lived perfectly peacefully and happily for decades without being under threat, suddenly something indefinable has changed and they’re under attack for being dual citizens, black, poorly, Muslim, Jewish or simply poor. Trump broke all the rules when he got into power, including actually having any political experience whatsoever, and suddenly the unthinkable is becoming thinkable. Who could be next for deportation or prison or exile or torture? Which minority group is going to be taunted as being ‘Un-American’ next, even though technically only a small handful of American Indians count as fully American. Neil is, of course, unlikely to get thrown out, but only because he still earns a huge amount of money. He’s clearly thinking on this album, though, how life might have turned out if he was not Neil Young the famous musician but a failed Canadian musician struggling for a living, especially one still reeling from his third divorce and taking up with a (technically) out-of-work actress twenty years his junior. Neil once rallied behind America in a way few other rock and roll musicians ever did being famously pro-Reagan before the shock of the Gulf War gave him a different point of view), but now he feels less a vocal and more a ‘Visitor’. There’s even a police car on the front cover, the man inside about to arrest somebody. But is it innocent immigrants like Neil or Trump himself in the wake of the Mueller investigation? This album isn’t quite sure how the future will play out yet.

One thing you can guess about the future is that there will be a Neil Young album rush-released just before it. The first week in December has become his traditional slot now, with a variety of albums that show promise (some of them with backing band The Promise of The Real), all of which have begun to seem like summaries of the year. ‘Storytone’ was about the world losing control, ‘The Monsanto Years’ explored the rise of big business and how they were taking over the world with malpractice, last years’ ‘Peace Trail’ was about the rising protest of the liberal left and the confusion as the majority under Obama adjust to becoming a sizeable minority under Trump. This year ‘The Visitor’ nails better than any other how 2017 felt to live through it: the battle was lost last year in a snarling display of drums and politics and this year is more about numb shock, waiting for something bad to happen. Lots of bad has happened, of course, and there are plenty of pot-shots throughout one of Neil’s most politicised albums since the 1980s. But ‘The Visitor’ isn’t what we fans thought it might be after last year’s American Indian protest half-concept album by being a fully political beast attacking Trump the same way ‘Living With War’ called for the impeachment of George Bush Jnr for being, well, thick basically. Instead it’s a confused album that doesn’t quite know what’s going on, lurching blearily-eyed from crisis to crisis as the musical world keeps shifting beneath out feet. ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ protests the opening song and leading single ‘Already Great’ which wonders why Trump is trying to make America great again when it is already, in the eyes of a Canadian immigrant. ‘Stand Tall’ urges Neil’s listeners to stand together and be proud of what they’ve achieved, even if Trump tears it down. ‘When Bad Not Good’ taunts Trump with the same cry he once gave Hillary Clinton (‘Lock ‘em up!’) by wondering if he’ll be next. ‘Children Of Destiny’ urges the listener to ‘stand up for what you believe’. If you read the lyric sheet you would assume this was an upbeat, positive album about how there are too many of us to ever be squashed, but that’s not quite how the record sounds somehow.

The feel of this album is one of muddied confusion, with Neil branching back for a few genres we haven’t had for a while – cod blues, over-dramatic orchestrations, a first real use of gospel on a Young record with lots of choirs, even – mercy! – rap on ‘Fly By Night Deal’  and in ‘Carnival’ a whole new genre all on its own of ugly circus music, Neil chuckling like a bandit on laughing gas as he watched the world go to hell. Everything on this album sounds slightly out of kilter – usually Neil’s records are well programmed, bouncing from one extreme to another, but this album feels particularly weird, with the longest songs stacked nearly together, the short songs coming in a row and the weirdest and heaviest going song right in the middle rather than tucked at the end. Sometimes Neil  uses The Promise Of The Real the same way he did on ‘Monsanto Years’, as young hungry bucks creating a wall of noise that’s going to knock bullies over; at other times he uses them as washes of colour over smaller or bigger arrangements, fragile enough to sound as if they’re the ones being bullies. Nothing feels ‘safe’ on this album anymore, with everything and everybody under attack or so it seems. Even Neil doesn’t feel safe, concerned that America has gone to hell on ‘his watch’ and the other thread of this album fits with the theme of his other recent albums stretching back to ‘Psychedelic Pill’ in 2012 and beyond: if this was the early 1970s CSNY could have stopped it all with a single and a tour, but those days are long gone. So what good is Neil as a single figure trapped in the headlights shaking his head and going ‘no’?! He sounds vulnerable here in a way he didn’t sound even after his health scare on ‘Prairie Wind’ suddenly aged him twenty years, unsure if everything he’s saying is worth it or not. Young’s song structure has been going weird for some time now, but its particularly strange here: sometimes songs are all long choruses, at other times we get a random phrase he likes so much he just repeats it over and over as if it’s a full verse (‘Earth is like a church without a preacher’ takes up the entire last five minutes of the album). Sometimes he’s direct and to the point and sometimes he’s poetic, using imagery and often surrealism to get his point across. Sometimes Neil does the same thing in the same song, switching lyrical gears even while the music is doing the exact same thing across the whole track! This makes for a really disorientating listening experience – the strength and weakness on ‘Storytone’ ‘Monsanto’ and two-thirds of ‘Peace Trail’ was their directness and bravery, but ‘The Visitor’ sounds as if its taken a back step, as if Neil is looking with one eye over his shoulder, unsure anymore as to whether a majority of his fanbase even think like him any more in a year of white supremacy, thick Nazis and terrorist attacks. This is an often ugly album about an often ugly world and Neil’s usual response to how to go about his music has deserted him.

Which is not to say that this album is bad. After a pretty awful low at the beginning of the 21st century, Neil has slowly worked his way back to strength, with this album moving on again from the promise of the last four LPs. Maybe its that I’ve got used to it or maybe Neil has by now, but suddenly his ‘first thought, best thought’ attitude doesn’t sound as off-putting as it used to. Given that everything on this album is so unsure of itself, it makes sense to have a few frayed edges in here. ‘Already Great’ is a powerful song already causing something of a minor fuss as I write, challenging the idea that America needs to change and ending with a rally ‘borrowed’ from the Civil Rights movement as the public try and reclaim ‘their’ streets from the apprentice politician (in both meanings of the word). The Johnny Cash ‘American’ style ‘Change Of Heart’ is a whole new way of approaching songwriting for Neil, as he recounts his first experiences of how politics change and challenge people and his desperate need to escape his local district – its quickly becoming one of my favourite modern-day Neil Young songs, even if it’s the most low-key moment on a low-key album. ‘Carnival’ is demented and very hard to love, but easy to admire, as Neil walks a high-wire act between being fire-eater and clown on a song so different to anything he’s done before, stretching himself like never before ‘held by centrifugal forces’. Closer ‘Forever’ is pretty astonishing too, one of those ‘On The Beach’ style magnum opuses where nothing happens but everything changes, a ten minute ramble of consciousness that sounds like a state of the union address – or warning. Neil can’t bring himself to confront the way the world is becoming head on, so he comes up with endless similes instead about how rudderless the world is and how much her people struggling. It’s a fascinating intense outpouring of grief turned into a personal story, all the more intense because of how low budget and low key it seems. My response to Neil Young albums often changes over hundreds of playings so I’m not sure yet, but on its first week of release I’m tempted to say that this is the best Neil album since ‘Living With War’ in 2006 –in many ways this album’s polar opposite, getting by on sheer power and nerve, not this album’s subtlety and thought.

It is, however, still lacking something to make it truly great. The songs that haven’t been mentioned yet aren’t just bad, but abysmal. Ever wanted to know how a rapping Neil Young might sound? Me neither, but we hear the results on ‘Fly By Night’ deal anyway, Neil using a near-fly by night genre that dropped out of relevance a decade ago to express sympathy and outrage on a song that’s clumsy in the extreme. ‘Almost Always’ is the one song here that sounds the way Neil always does, with elements of country, folk and rock passing through on a sleepy song that says nothing, badly. ‘Diggin’ A Hole’ is the single worst laziest blues song Neil has written yet – and dear God, this is a catalogue that includes ‘Vampire Blues’ and ‘Motorcycle Mama!’ ‘Children Of Destiny’ is a great song that’s given a truly awful arrangement, switching from fake brass band national anthem to equally fake posing arena rocker by turns, overwhelmed by a choir that makes the one on ‘Living With War’ sound muted and strings so treacly Mantovani would be allergic to them. ‘When Bad Not Good’ isn’t even a song, as Neil mocks ‘lock ‘em up!’ for two minutes and throws in some random words on a band jam gone wrong.

Actually the band is what’s ‘wrong’ with this album most, more so than the patchy songwriting. I got into big trouble for saying this last time out, so I’ve buried it here near the end of the review but…The Promise Of The Real are no CSNY. I hear what half my readers are saying: they’re yesterday’s news, they slow Neil down, they hate each other etc etc. But when the cause is good enough for them to put their differences aside, CSNY are great. Everything matters, everything hits home, everything sounds amazing, as hippie utopian idealism meets cynical realistic politics head on – I have never been nor will I ever be as moved as when listening to CSNY sing with angelic voices about how great the world could be and with an angry passionate sneer about how bad it currently is. ‘The Promise of The Real’ have promise, or at least they did on ‘Monsanto’, with an attack and a crunch but also an extra melody that makes them sound like Crazy Horse with a university degree. But they’re badly miscast on this album, which is too subtle to be reduced to their big chord crunch and key of C stomp. Neil seems to have realised this and limited their use to only part of the album, but even so the only songs where they sound at home are the two that sound like ‘Monsanto’, rallying cries that are simple enough to be sung along to on first hearing. They don’t have the raw commitment of the Horse, or the angry but musical zeal of CSNY. Only on the darker-tinged ‘Carnival’ do they show well they can work and even then eight minutes of lurching chord changes is an experience that’s not quite as high-wire and dangerous as it could be. The band still show promise and Neil’s worked with far worse bands over the years – but this is not their natural home.

Even so, there’s more on this album to praise than criticise. Neil seems to have taken it personally that Donald Trump once asked to use ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ as his ‘campaign’ song. He should perhaps have let Quasi Doda, The Hunchback of Notre Shame (as Trump is known in these parts) use it, because it is after all an ironic, bitter, sarcastic song: how can we keep rocking in the free world when so many of us aren’t really free? What impresses most about ‘The Visitor’ is how direct everything is, even the metaphorical stuff cuts to the bone. Neil once said in 2006 that he wished he didn’t have to make songs about illegal wars and hoped the younger generation would do it for him and he could stick to writing songs about his family, but that he only had a chance of touring with CSNY or The Dixie Chicks (‘I should have gone for the Dixie Chicks’ he sighs on the documentary of the tour ‘Déjà vu’). Once again he steps into the breach to fill the hole of a spokesperson for the beleaguered radical left and nails his colours to the mast, even though in times gone by Neil’s flag often flew to the right too, because he’s doing what he feels is ‘right’. He got endless flack about it a decade ago when Bush brought the average IQ in the White House down by about thirty points – he’s still fighting the fight a decade on now the IQ level has dropped again. What he does differently to ‘Living With War’, though, is that he’s far less specific about dates and details throughout: there’s no actual mention of Trump for instance, no mention of Russia or the ‘real’ president of the Disunited States (Putin), no sideswipes about a Mueller investigation or impeachment or a bigly idiot with tiny hands, just a single reference to ‘hiding behind a Wall, that will blow your mind!’ This album won’t age or date in the same way that ‘Living With War’ became old news within months after the rise of Obama – and yet somehow all its shots ring true, with a bravery no other artist has yet matched in the Trump age (perhaps because Neil is so prolific he’s got his Trump protest album out quicker than most). ‘We’ll set off for oblivion’ sings Neil on Change Of Heart’, ‘but wait – not so fast!’ This is an album caught right in the middle, between despair and hope, with the good and the bad more or less equally poised to take over. ‘I can’t predict what happens next – I love a future I don’t expect’ sighs Neil. Neither do we at the time of writing. Neil, then, might not have made the perfect album but he has summed up the schizophrenic confusing scary year that was 2017 pretty darn well – a time when we nearly lost everything but came out fighting, against a madman, his prejudice and a cabinet that’s more like a revolving door. This album, right here, is why we need to celebrate not denigrate immigration: we learn from our visitors as much as they learn from us. We still don’t know if that police car is here to arrest ‘us’ or Trump yet. We don’t know if here’s here to stay or a Mueller-banished fly-by-night. But we’re not going to go without a fight. And if we’re the ones that come in tolerance and peace, we’re the ones who are right. I still say the best album named ‘The Visitor’ and written by vulnerable outsiders is by Abba at their disintegrating peak though…

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Oh the irony! ‘Let’s make America great again!’ said Trump at every opportunity he could, even though America’s troubles stemmed from a worldwide recession and not the actions of his predecessor Obama, who’d spent most of his career unable to make America greater because of a Republican congress. Only Trump took the few ways that America could still be great and took them all away. ‘Already Great’ is Neil’s snide attack on the blonde-haired-buffoon, a hymn to his adopted homeland that ‘you’re already great, you’re the promised land, you’re the helping land’. Neil is quick to point out his unique abilities to see whether America works or not as a ‘visitor’ to these shores himself (‘I’m Canadian by the way’ is this album’s unlikely starting point) and attacks the idea of a country built on immigration kicking out immigrants. Neil is quick to point out that this isn’t just his view either, quoting that this is ‘the word on the streets’ and using a mass gospel choir and a rally who demand ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ throughout the song. Though Trump isn’t mentioned by name, Neil compares the current rhetoric to how America used to be, mentioning Roosevelt’s response to The Great Depression (the ‘New Deal’ which gave a boost to the poor and unemployed and avoided what may well have been another civil war) and he struggles to ‘put myself in your shoes’ to see what Trump does what he does. But he can’t work out why, for the life of him, Trump is so cruel and sighs that ‘I’m just one of the lucky ones’ – it’s his less than millionaire friends he worries about. Throughout the song doesn’t so much rock as waddle, a slower version of some very Neil style chords he’s used a lot before. This gives the song a lot of menace and his guitar and Lucas Nelson’s chase each other around the song, the actuality of America trying to catch up with the ideal. The guitarwork brims over with real passion, switching from a slightly comic riff to something much darker and uglier, before breaking off for a particularly inspired burst of gonzo soloing at the 4:30 mark, sounding like a man hurling himself off a ledge and struggling to climb back on again. Slowly across the song a solitary response to a dark time has turned into a mass march and Neil isn’t even singing lead anymore, instead playing back up to a mass protest who chant ‘No wall, no ban, no fascist USA…Whose Streets? Our streets!’ If Trump isn’t feeling scared right now, he’s an even bigglier idiot than we thought he was. The result is a striking opener, one that’s deliberately provocative and damning and courageous and yet isn’t as specific or as time-orientated as ‘Living With War’. You sense this is a song of outrage that will live on long after the monsters behind it have been forgotten. The Promise Of The Real were born for crunching sloganeering songs like this one too and turn in the best performance on the album, while Neil’s taunting vocal is delicious, revelling in both the sunshine of the chorus and the stormclouds of the verses.

I’m less keen on ‘Fly By Night Deal’ which starts with a clumsy xylophone version of the main riff and then comes on like a killer rocker, with jagged pawing guitars and a real grit and raw attack that, like the best Neil songs, is actually slow but has so much going on it all sounds really fast, like a train in perpetual motion. And then it’s all ruined as M C Neil puts on a baseball cap and gets down with da kids, rapping away like a department store assistant at Christmas time. ‘Celebrate, celebrate as it ain’t too late!’ he barks, ‘Try to be nice and be sincere, even though my blood is boiling in here!’ This isn’t even good rapping, with nothing really to say except a lot of shouting as the ‘real’ story is being told in the musical bits, which would have made for a better song. When Trump got elected he became the first ‘businessman’ to become president. Naturally most of his choices have been businesslike rather than political – cutting deals, saving money, squashing expensive but integral libertarian pursuits. What the people don’t seem to realise as much as they should is that he’s a failed businessman – having inherited millions from his dad and being declared bankrupt several times, Trump still has less money in the bank than he would have done if he’d kept the family money in the bank and done absolutely nothing with it. In this song America is being auctioned off to the highest bidder, the united states being cut up again in the name of greed and profit. The Promise Of The Real intone like a ghost that ‘this ain’t no fly by deal’ as they taunt Trump with the fact that he’s got his sums wrong – being the leader of the free world does not equate with getting the highest price and Trump is going to be trumped, seen for the crooked conman he really is. Neil’s rap switches between being ‘himself’ and being Trump, angrily castigating ‘move those animals outta here!’ However the most interesting moments aren’t what he’s barking at us but what he’s saying with music. Neil’s been playing with the settings of his harmonica for a while now and it’s never sounded better than here as it drips with distortion, anger and betrayal, something so tough and strong that the ‘Trump’ theme played on a child’s xylophone sounds ever more hopeless and unfit for the presidential role it’s been cast in. There’s a great riff too, mocking and mischievous, but we can’t sodding hear it because of M.C. CSNY up there. So nearly Neil, so nearly. Don’t use a fly by night genre on what could have been one of your greatest songs! Note how similar drummer Tato Melgar’s count-in sounds to Stephen Stills by the way!

‘Almost Always’ is the one album song that feels like we’ve been here before, especially on ‘Harvest Moon’. The melody recalls ‘From Hank To Hendrix’ and the acoustic guitar riff is identical to ‘Unknown Legend’ (is 1992 where Neil is up to revising his ‘Archives’ by now?)  A slow smoky ballad, this song finds Neil looking back even further to his childhood, spending his time with ‘a game show host’ (his mother Rassy) and his time in Canada. Neil remembers when he first got political, when he realised the gulf between the haves and the have-nots of the world and he wondered why his friends were often mistreated for who their parents were, not who they were and what they stood for. At the time America seemed like the ideal, urging Neil to ‘do what’s right’, as he believed in the promised land that he could aspire to one day. ‘Maybe just a feeling things are bound to change’ Neil looks forward to the day he too can become an American, feeling the pull of ‘just that crazy searchlight lighting someone’s way’. There’s no ‘after’ picture to go with this song – I guess the rest of the album is instead – and Neil rounds off the song by comparing himself with Trump. Both are ‘crazy birds out on a limb’ doing their own thing, but Neil’s drew him to where he always longed to be and Trump wasted his time when he could have been making the world a better place ranting on twitter (something other reviewers have picked up on thanks to the ‘crazy bird’ logo). The result is low-key but likeable, a song that always feels as if it’s about to drift into something else but never quite gets there – fitting, really, given this lyric of America never quite matching the ideal young Neil had in his head. The Promise Of The Real sound hopeless though, unable to have anything big and bold on this song to get their teeth into and they lack Neil’s use of dynamics, where he steals the song with a harmonium part similar to the one Poncho played on ‘Like A Hurricane’ (but heard here without the hurricane on top to keep things interesting!)

‘Stand Tall’ starts off with a point about fake news and whether people would believe ‘unicorns are real’ if they were told it. Neil instinctively ‘knows’ what is and what isn’t real and believes his own ears – he’s astonished that so many people are taken in by Trump’s lies (though again he’s not named in song) just because he says they’re true. One of those big, bold, charity single type songs, this song sounds like it should have come out in the mid-1980s though the mood is very much ‘now’, confused and distracted. Neil’s melody line is overtly simple, his most basic in decades, because it needs to be to cut through all the distractions of the rest of the song (and in the rest of the world) as we hear chatter, hear random guitar parts and get some harmonies from Promise Of The Real best described as ‘frazzled’. Throughout it all Neil tries to urge us to ‘stand tall’. The result doesn’t work quite as well as the similar ‘Walk Like A Giant’ from ‘Psychedelic Pill’ though and the words seems confused as to what it’s trying to be, stretching out from kicking Trump to being a ‘Monsanto’ outtake with some very basic ecological pleas (Mother Earth is ‘the dawn of our day, the light of our way’!) Neil fits in some groovy guitar soloing near the end, sounding more like Hendrix than his usual style, but the song itself feels as if its lacking something and is rather over-written, a little too basic for its own good (‘Don’t you get me wrong, ‘cause we’ve got to be strong’).

The lovely ‘Change Of Heart’ makes up for this though, as Neil does a Dylan and speak-sings in a gruff voice over a lovely backing and speaks to the people who votes Trump in looking for change, urging them to admit their mistake. He wants them to shift their position, to ‘move a mountain, or move a mouse’, whatever it takes to make them rescue America before it’s too late. Young compares Trump supporters to Donald’s own plans for a wall on the Mexican border, cutting themselves off from the rest of humanity in their own little world. Neil’s learnt the art of subtlety in his political polemic now, though, and turns in a moving story about how sometimes a little change is all it takes. He again remembers a childhood that was once so different, when he cared for nobody but himself, before he had the kindness of a ‘pastor when I was nine or ten’ who showed him the responsibilities that come with actions. ‘Don’t be angry and spill the cup’ Neil urges, so close to tasting liberty and freedom, desperate to right the anxiousness and helplessness he feels in his adopted homeland. ‘Change of Heart’ is a good title too – it of course means feeling something different in context, but it also means actually getting a heart, of reaching out and accepting that you going without a little bit is better in the longterm than a majority of people going without a lot. ‘You can’t use hate’ he urges the world, ‘even as cement’ – walls should come down between us, not be built up. This sweet folky song suggests Neil has been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd, with this ukulele-driven folk song coming with the same bounce as ‘Outside The Wall’ and the song is no worse for that. Neil has never sounded more like a kindly Grandad spouting wisdom to a younger generation who hasn’t lived the busy life he has or seen the consequences first hand (this song recalls the head-hanging songs that came with the ‘doom trilogy’ in the wake of Danny Whitten’s death and the end of the original Crazy Horse). The Promise Of The Real meanwhile have never been more childish, singing in falsetto and playing cutesy parts on their instruments. It kinda works though, for one song at least, and the result is a really lovely song that reaches out to ‘them’ with the love and peace they won’t afford to ‘us’. This low-key subtle song is quickly growing on me as the best Neil song of the decade so far, intelligent and heartfelt with some great metaphors in the gruff vocal, telling it like it is but with just the right dash of hope!

I’m getting quite fond of ‘Carnival’ too, even though I haven’t got a clue what it’s about and I feel an extra slice of my sanity disappearing every time I hear it. I think it’s another reference to how helpless the world suddenly feels with so many of the ‘wrong’ people in charge, with what should be the scene of ‘the greatest show on Earth’ turned inward until it sounds evil and terrifying, an unfair instead of a funfair. Neil laughs and cackles throughout the song like he’s been possessed (he would make a great Bond villain), while The Promise Of The Real whoop and cheer him on, turning ‘Carnival’ from a barker’s cry into something other-worldly and threatening. This feels, though, as if its not just about the world crises but a return to the personal outpouring on ‘Storytone’ about the breakup of Neil’s three-decade marriage to wife Pegi to be with Darryl Hannah. Throughout the song the narrator is driven on by a strange lust and attraction he doesn’t understand (although his vision with ‘flaming red hair’ doesn’t sound much like Darryl or the fact that ‘the devil himself may have been her father’, his view of her as the only person who ‘gets’ him in a ‘pot pourri of nature’s mistakes’ rings true. He sings about all his wives in turn though, adding ‘I loved her dearly at the time’ and recalling ‘the sugar in her eyes’ – each romance is a leap into the unknown that risks leaving him looking like a clown. Life is suddenly a freak-show and Neil is flying through the air on a ‘giant trapeze’ to get away from it, using his faith to convince himself to jump off and catch him, although he knows he might too fall to an ugly demise on the ground down below. We think for a moment that’s what’s happened too as the song hovers in mid-air before the same insistent tune keeps playing and Neil’s inner demon laughs him on to make another leap. Other verses are less clear though and sound like Neil is having fun playing at being his new mate Jack White for a track that The White Stripes would have had fun with (what is the elephant of enlightenment exactly? A reference to their biggest selling album perhaps?) The result is a fascinating song that never quite goes where you think it will, with shades of the bullfight from ‘Eldorado’ but aside from that no recognisable things from Neil’s past at all, with everything turned weird, even his vocal which is treated as if its being heard through a megaphone and which is manic and possessed throughout. An experiment that won’t be to everyone’s taste, especially stretched out to eight minutes, but it’s great to hear Neil stretching himself and become a fire-eater after ten years of having him portrayed as a clown – even if that means we the audience get singed a little too. Cue manic evil laughter…

Alas ‘Diggin’ A Hole’ is a lazy derivative blues number that makes Neil temporarily sound as if he’s joined Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. It takes a full forty seconds in this one hundred and fifty second song before we get any words that aren’t either the title or ‘woooooooah’. The second sentence, stretched out across the next thirty, is worth waiting for at least: ‘My grandchildren gonna need a long rope!’ Trump is taking people’s freedoms away, the world is turning from the liberal left to the righteous right and we are ever further from the 1960s hippie spirit (which Neil seems to believe in now, though he was one of the few baby boomer musicians who hated it at the time). The millennial generation, born into a world that is already groaning from the weight of too many workers and not enough jobs, doesn’t know what to do with them so it villainises them, dismisses them as being whiny and lazy, when all they really are is unlucky. Neil recognises that life for the young isn’t like it was in his day, so seems to wish for them to have a future where they’re not so controlled, or worried about doing something ‘wrong’ to haunt them in a career when there’s nothing to choose between so many great able students. The world, though, is going to need them and is ‘diggin’ a hole’, falling into a trap of its own making, whereby in the future nobody will have any skills or any chance to think outside the box. This is how empires end, but sadly its not how the song ends and it simply fades suddenly on another agonised cry of ‘wooooooah’ just as the track seemed to get going. Did one of the band play a mistake? Was this song just a band jam that got out of hand? Or was it cut before it was too boring? In which case why did we get the preceding two minutes at all?!? Neil isn’t terribly good with blues and this song recalls ‘Blue Eden’ anyway, a far more inventive improvised cut.

‘Children Of Destiny’ was picked as the album’s first single. Of course it was: it’s so designed as a singalong song that sounds like people imagine Neil always does nowadays that it sounds as if it was created for that purpose from the get-go. Similar to the overblown ‘God Bless America’ that rounded out ‘Living With War’, it’s a tortured failed re-make of ‘Give Peace A Chance’, with a similar stomp and a familiar sense of trying to get the audience to actively take part. But like many a song reduced to its bare bones it’s so simple it sounds stupid: ‘Preserve the ways of democracy so the children can be free!’  The song also insists on going backwards just as its got going, turning from a swampy boom-chikka beat to a sweeping orchestral part that’s big and bold and sweet, before that too swells back to where we began. That might be deliberate, the song structured to be like The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ so it keeps going round in circles, caught up in a cycle of entrapment, freedom and entrapment again. But it’s all so clumsy – you spend the song bracing yourself for when the snarling guitars are going to crash in again and they do, three times the song’s three minute running time. The brass score is also way too over the top and the return of the mass choir – the weakest element of ‘Living With War’ – is a true backwards step. The Promise Of The Real, meanwhile, sound as if they can’t work out if Neil means this song or is pulling their leg so they end up with n uneasy hybrid of both. Oh dear. This may be your destiny Neil, but it ain’t mine. ‘How would you act on that new day? ‘he asks. Personally I’d just celebrate the fact that things have improved to the point where I don’t have to listen to empty protest songs like this one. Bring CSNY back, please!

‘When Bad Got Good’ is another oddly empty song and surely the result of another band jam. ‘Lock ‘em up!’ Neil intones over a bluesy backing as Willie Nelson’s kids kick up a screaming guitar riff behind him. A stream of consciousness take on the Trump year (surely it won’t be years plural?) it mixes random images: ‘he lies, you lie, lock ‘em up!’ This is, of course, a taunting cry from Trump’s twitter feed, used against everyone from rival Hillary Clinton (‘but those emails!!!’ is looking like an ever more fragile argument in the wake of the Mueller investigation) to immigrants. Neil uses the phrase back on Trump (again not actually named here) as he has fun purring his vocal and letting the lines drip with irony. At the time of writing it very much looks as if Trump is going to prison; the question is just how many people will be in jail with him when the time comes. Neil is surely allowed his brief wry chuckle after a year of hell, although this song is as thrown away as his triumphant take on Nixon (‘Goodbye Dick!’ improvised at the night’s gig following his resignation and heard on ‘CSNY ‘74’). It’s a serious subject that deserves a better response than muttering ‘lock ‘em up!’, a phrase that – fingers crossed – won’t mean anything in the wider world for much longer.

At least the album is saved by ‘Forever’. I’ve been reading that many fans don’t like this rambling ten minute track and it does indeed feel like it goes on ‘forever’. But to these ears it’s a welcome return to the sort of lengthy unstructured songs from ‘On The Beach’, the album that wondered why the world was going to hell with Nixon in charge. Neil’s been here before so rather than tell us how to get out of it or the bright future we ought to have, he just describes what he sees around him as it happens again. He sees America, the world he once longed to move to as a Canadian, full of people trying to escape it, with everybody seemingly talking of moving where he lives and with boxes of possessions piled up on their driveways. A first verse mixes nature and religion: there’s no God to save us, ‘the people have to pray for themselves’ and we’re just a bunch of planets ‘floating in space, like bubbles’. One of Neil’s biggest issues with Trump has long been his careless approach to climate change and he reminds us here that the trees that are keeping us all alive are ‘no use’ because they have ‘nothing more to sell’. There’s also a repeat of Cat Stevens’ ‘Where Do The Children Play?’, with contractors taking over kids playgrounds, big business in a competition with imagination that can only have one winner in the short term and the opposite winner in the long run. ‘That’s how it ends in the beginning’ Neil sighs, as he ‘plans to say goodbye’, imagining his own at the point where he’s still creating rather than taking, adding to the world not going away. Neil slips in the line that ‘Al got the message’ – apparently he’s an intelligent neighbour thinking of leaving, but maybe Neil’s been reading this site heh heh heh. The song isn’t that literal though: in his imagination Neil also sees ‘sea creatures’ and ‘galleons of old’, watching his adopted nation’s history built up over several centuries crash into the shore in a massive blitz of self-destruction. The songwriter who more than any was gung-ho about America during the cold war has now watched capitalism ‘lose’, not because of war but sabotage. Like CSN song Wooden Ships Neil tries to imagine the future, but his idea is so much bleaker: Americans go back to living ‘like tribesman’, each one sticking to their own town, their own race, their own ideology, state pitted against state. The hippies are no longer escaping in sailboats because there aren’t any left – instead everything happens inland, with America turning inward, isolated in individual bubbles. Somehow, though, this song is not bleak – well not as bleak as ‘Motion Pictures or ‘Ambulance Blues’ anyway. Neil knows that things will get better, that bad luck and good luck swap over in a merry dance between left and right. Though he admits the bad luck has come ‘in torrents’ he still sees ‘clover’ under the grass, watered by the storms that batter it. He knows that the liberals will come good again, eventually. As with so many of Neil’s long and most rambling songs we get one image that gets repeated over and over, in lieu of a chorus and thankfully it’s a good one. ‘The Earth is like a church without a preacher’ Neil sighs, the perfect vehicle for peace and love and humanity – but the people who believe in that are never the ones who get into power. Back in 2006 Neil once sang that America was ‘Lookin’ For A Leader’ and may as well have added the caveat from ‘Lookin’ For A Love’ that ‘I haven’t met her yet and she’ll be nothing like I pictured her to be (but I hope that she’ll be kind and won’t mess with my mind)’. Here he is, eleven years on, still looking: the future is uncertain and Neil doesn’t know where the answers are coming from, but he does know that they are out there – and that, in turn, the good will turn to bad again sometime down the road. That’s a big subject for even a lengthy song and the sleepy backing does its best to convince us that not much is going on. But it is – this may well be one of the most significant works of recent Neil Young albums, as ignored now as ‘On The Beach’ was at the time of release, a song of weary resignation rather than angry action. But it matters. And in its own quiet way this song is beautiful, in a doomed kind of way.  

Overall, then, ‘The Visitor’ is a fascinating album. It will almost certainly be an unpopular album, pissing off the few right-wing voters Neil still has in his fanbase (Croz was crucified for telling a similar fan to go listen to some other band on twitter the other day, but it’s not like they don’t have enough of their own to listen to, eh, Ted Nugent?) But that’s kind of the point: Neil’s sales have been slipping a lot the past twenty years and every time he tries to run after them he’s only really made things worse. With so many Neil Young albums coming out like clockwork nowadays, it’s hard to keep up with them all so fans aren’t getting excited the way they used to. Neil can afford to write and sing from the heart again and he does on his bravest work in some time. Young is no longer on auto-pilot, well not much, but looking for new ways to express what he feels has happened so many times in our past. There are, though, no shortcuts: some songs are too long, others are too short, others are just ugly (or on ‘Carnival’ downright scary). Sometimes Neil offers us these albums just for the hell of it (‘Greendale’ seemed to exist only to annoy old fans like me). But sometimes, just sometimes, he makes these albums because there’s no other way to make them; like ‘On The Beach’ (an album that was also hated or at best ignored on first release) the album turned out ugly, defensive and repetitive because that’s the way the world was at the time. Everyone is depressed, hopeless, confused. Only Neil feels like he knows that’s going on because he was there for Watergate in 1974 and has dedicated his career to teasing out the ups and downs of human existence. But even he gets scared and frustrated by just how unprecedentedly bad everything is, almost always. There is, though, just enough quiet hope staring out between this album’s eyes filled with tears to make ‘The Visitor’ worth visiting. ‘I’m Canadian by the way’ the album begins, as if Neil is distancing himself from all the problems Americans have with their public image around the world. But by the end Neil sounds more American than ever, determined that no deranged orange cretin with silly hair is going to kick him out of his country to make a quick buck and instead determined that he’s going to say put in his homeland ‘forever’. Through a combination of attack, defence, gloating, misery, stream of consciousness rambles and whatever the hell ‘Carnival’ is all about, Neil offers up one of his most rounded responses yet about what that means for him – and leaves us still unsure whether that police car on the front cover (so like the corvette buried in the sand on the front of ‘On The Beach’) is here to take him away or Trump. And which of them, in an era when everyone whose been happily in America for fifty years being no trouble suddenly finds themselves being deported, is the real visitor just passing through. I know who my money’s on (Neil always wins) and will pack his bags myself if it will get trump out of The White House any quicker…

There are now about a million and fourteen other articles about Neil Young up at this website. Here's a list!


'Neil Young' (1968) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/neil-young-1968-album-review.html

'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' (1969) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-everybody.html

‘After The Goldrush’ (1970) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/neil-young-after-goldrush-1970.html?utm_source=BP_recent


'Harvest' (1972) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/neil-young-harvest-1972.html

'Time Fades Away' (1973)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/neil-young-time-fades-away-1973.html

'On The Beach' (1974) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/neil-young-on-beach-1974.html


'Zuma' (1975) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-zuma-1975.html

'American Stars 'n' Bars' (1977)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/news-views-and-music-issue-70-neil.html

'Comes A Time' (1978)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/04/news-views-and-music-issue-29-neil.html

'Rust Never Sleeps' (1979) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/01/neil-young-rust-never-sleeps-1979-album.html

'Hawks and Doves' (1980)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03/news-views-and-music-issue-26-neil.html

'RelAclTor' (1981) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-re-ac-tor.html

'Trans' (1982)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-84-neil-young-trans-1982.html

'Everybody's Rockin' (1983) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/01/neil-young-everybodys-rockin-1983.html

'Old Ways' (1985) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/10/neil-young-old-ways-1985.html

‘Landing On Water’ (1986) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/neil-young-landing-on-water-1986.html


‘This Note’s For You’ (1988) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/neil-young-this-notes-for-you-1988.html

'Freedom' (1988)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-92-neil-young-freedom-1988.html

'Ragged Glory' (1990) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-ragged-glory.html

'Weld' (1991)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-95-neil-young-weld-1991.html

'Harvest Moon' (1992) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/neil-young-harvest-moon-1992.html

'Sleeps With Angels' (1993)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/news-views-and-music-issue-121-neil.html

'Mirror Ball' (1995)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/news-views-and-music-issue-103-neil.html


‘Silver and Gold’ (2000) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/neil-young-silver-and-gold-2000.html

‘Are You Passionate?’ (2002) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/neil-young-and-mgs-are-you-passionate.html

'Greendale' (2003) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2016/05/neil-young-and-crazy-horse-greendale.html

‘Prairie Wind’(2005)  
http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/neil-young-prairie-wind-2005.html

‘Living With War’ (2006) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/neil-young-living-with-war-2006.html

‘Chrome Dreams II’ (2007) https://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/neil-young-chrome-dreams-two-2007.html

'Fork In The Road' (2009) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/neil-young-fork-in-road-2009.html

'Le Noise' (2011)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/04/news-views-and-music-issue-94-neil.html

'A Treasure' (1986/2012)
http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/news-views-and-music-issue-147-neil.html


'Storytone' (2014) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/neil-young-storytone-2014.html

'The Monsanto Years' (2015) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/neil-young-and-promise-of-real-monsanto.html

'Peace Trail' (2016) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2017/02/neil-young-peace-trail-2016.html




Neil Young: Surviving TV Clips 1970-2016












Dear readers, here we are at the 30th and final article delving deep into the surviving video footage of our AAA artists in action. And would you believe it, this is the longest of them all (though that might be more because so many fans have collated this stuff before me already, thanks guys!) Neil was slow to get started with his TV appearances, only really gathering speed during the Geffen years when Young began to appear on more TV-screened concerts and make his own music videos. However Neil did have an interest in film and formed his own production company, the aptly named Shakey Pictures, in the 1980s (with Neil directing many of his own music videos which is, you know, why they're all a bit weird). His 'classic' years of the 1970s are, oddly enough, poorly represented and a sizeable minority of what's come to light come from his own files (and his own rather good official Youtube channel) anyway, with lots of home videos set to the sound of whatever CD he's plugging next. We've tried, as always in these lists, to keep things practical. Pretty much every Neil Young concert of the last fifteen years (certainly the ones with Crazy Horse) were recorded by somebody, many of them looking impressively releasable. However we've stuck to our guns and only included things in this list that were broadcast somewhere around the world - be it an interview, music video or full concert - except in the case of a one-off like the 'Massey Hall' or 'Living With War' clips that have only ever been seen online and thus don't count towards our DVD and video category. We've ignored 'Journey Thru The Past' 'Human Highway' 'Live Rust' 'Berlin 1983' 'Silver and Gold' 'Heart Of Gold' and a zillion other concerts that went straight to video/DVD too, even if they have been screened on TV since because, well, this list was already pretty long (have mercy!) and saved us going over old ground. Similarly any TV clip that featured Neil with his Buffalo Springfield or CSNY colleagues can be found in those respective books - we haven't bothered to go over old ground again here. It also makes complete and total sense that somewhere along the line I've missed dowm late night Australian chat show that never got screened outside ther country or a ten second blink-and-you'll-miss-it awards ceremony somewhere. Please keep your additions to these lists coming in and feel free to correct my running order and dating if you've come across something I haven't. Equally remember this can never be a 'complete' list of what's out there - only the stuff that's survived (I can't review something that was on when I wasn't born and which doesn't exist now can I?!) but that said Neil seems to have survived the years with his legacy more intact than most of our bands.
Even with those omissions that still leaves one heck of a list - and sadly the very vast majority of it is currently unavailable officially anywhere. Even the release of the mammoth 'Archives Volume One' set in 2009 only covered a very small percentage of what's out there (and ended in 1973 anyway) - maybe some of this lot might end up on 'Archives' volume two, three, four and five one day? Anyway until it does you can see mpost of it on Youtube. And to save you tracking every last clip down we've done it for you in our patent pending Alan's Album Archives Playlist (which you can find by typing 'Alan's Album Archives Playlist #30: Neil Young' into Youtube or going straight to https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4FA88A8C86FE2C90 ). Alternatively, if you're reading this at our website, we've got a special gadget so you can watch them all in order at the top of the column. There's a lot here to get through (surprising given that Neil was never the most visual of superstars), with a lot of interviews in particular (surprising given that Neil was never the most talkative of superstars)
So, given that this is our final TV-orientated article, this note's for you all for reading these articles over the years - and for our future selves up in that space station, watching old re-runs of Neil Young on TV ('it was like that Grand Canyon episode!') A while ago I fell in love with the musician - he was singing a part that I could understand...

1.    Cafe Feenjon, Greenwich Village ('The Loner' 'Cinnamon Girl' US Home-Movie June 1970)
Arguably the most fascinating release from Neil's home video store is this thrilling early video of him strumming '#The Loner' with an extended  instrumental opening, whole the cameraman walks round New York and eventually stumbles across him 'playing'. Neil's in proper long-haired, hunched troubador phase and his playing is extraordinary as he runs through just about every variation on the song's opening bars that he can. 'Cinnamon Girl' - taken mainly from a separate gig in Washington Square Park but stuck on the end - is a little more ragged and didn't translate quite as well to acoustic form, but is still pretty good. Included legally in brief form on the 'Archives' box set (2009) or illegally complete on the DVD 'Neil Young Under Review'.

2.    BBC In Concert ('Out On The Weekend' 'Old Man' 'Journey Thru The Past' 'Heart Of Gold' 'Don't Let It Bring You Down' 'A Man Needs A Maid' 'Love In Mind' 'Dance Dance Dance' UK TV February 1971)
Taped about eighteen months after Crosby-Nash's appearance on the show, the BBC uncharacteristicaly got their timings spot on here. Neil is on top form, caught halfway between the success of 'After The Goldrush' and with most of 'Harvest' already in the weeks (much of it premiered here). Neil isn't exactly chatty, unusually commits a few errors ('Ooh' he sings nervously during the verse of 'Out On The Weekend' that runs 'Now I'm running down the road trying to stay up') and barely looks up from his guitar all show and yet this show still deserves to be rated amongst the greats with several future classics given a debut hearing on film with Neil's voice particularly never lovelier. It's not all the hits either, with a couple of real rarities here such as a 'Journey Thu The Past' two years before its release on 'Time Fades Away' and the only known Young performance of a then-new song 'Dance Dance Dance' later given away in embarrassment to Crazy Horse. Neil does throw a few titbits in along the way vocally too, asking the audience if they know about ranchers in his preamble to a  jaw-dropping 'Old Man' ('He's kind of the caretaker who looks after all the cows!') and telling the crowd before 'Heart Of Gold' that he's getting confused by all the different harmonicas he carries around in his pockets with holes in them ('This one's in G if anyone wants to blow along with me!') Apparently the version that was broadcast and is often seen repeated on BBC4 in the UK is an edit, with four songs performed that night that are nearly always missing ('Cowgirl In The Sand' 'There's A World' 'Tell Me Why' and 'I Am A Child').


3.    The Johnny Cash Show ('The Needle And The Damage Done' US TV February 1971)
Neil never picked up as many air miles as did that month of February 1971 as a few days later he's back in the States to appear on fellow country music legend Johnny Cash's show. 'These young mind will be our leaders i the future, our arts, our science, our crafts, our politics' runs Johnny's introduction while Neil adds 'A lot of great artists get affected by it and a lot of great art goes down the drain'. Nobody knew more about the horrors of drugs than Cash but he doesn't comment, with Neil on pre-recorded film singing his haunting anti-drug song a mere nine months before Danny Whitten's sad demise. Though the mood of the Cash show was generally oddly unbeat, this slow sad song really cuts through the showbiz shtick and remains one of Young's greatest on TV performances. Featured on the 2007 DVD 'The Best Of The Johnny Cash Show Volume One'.

4.    Live At Massey Hall 1971 (Home Footage turned into album promos)
In a quirky idea to promote the 'Massey Hall' set, Neil set some of his old cine-film of the night's performances to the soundtrack, filling in the clips his roadies didn't capture for him with photographs, shots of the cine-reels at work and the audience. Sometimes, though, suddenly Neil lurches into life in perfect synch and he's never looked more intense in the near-shadows as he does at this gig. Exhausting but compelling viewing with 'A Man Needs A Maid' into 'Heart Of Gold' coming off particularly well complete with that gig's new tag-line 'A man feels afraid'. 'Old Man' too is almost uncomfortable in its close-up stare of Neil's dark eyes. Not available officially but on Neil's own Youtube channel which is pretty close.

5.    Midnight Special ('Like A Hurricane' US TV March 1976)
I'll be honest, I don't know where this Youtube clip comes from but there's also a Midnight Special show which did feature 'Hurricane' caught in concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon and screened on the Midnight Special series in 1976 so that's where I'm putting it - and yes other footage exists (in black and white it seems) but has never been released before (and this was the only track broadcast on TV). You can see why this song got used though - even this early on in the song's evolution it's clearly something pretty special and the Horse haven't quite got it right yet, with Ralph sounding unusually club-footed on the drums in particular. But this slower, weightier version is pretty close to matching the album version simply because it sounds as if it's taking such effort and energy to keep the slightly slower pace going without everything falling apart - which of course fits nicely with the theme of the song. Once again the Horse play in near darkness but there's an incredibly bright spotlight on a lumberjack-shirted Young. If you're wondering where the wind is coming from, no this wasn't an outside gig and even the Horse didn't play loud enough to blow the roof off: Neil had roadies erect a ten foot fan on stage behind him just for this one track!

6.    Live In Tokyo 1976 ('Mellow My Mind' 'Too Far Gone' 'No One Seems To Know' 'Country Home' 'Don't Cry No Tears' 'DriveBack' 'Cowgirl In The Sand' 'The Losing End' 'Tell Me Why' 'Stringman' 'Human Highway' 'Down By The River' 'Cortez The Killer'
Or 'yesteryear Of The Horse' as bootleggers nicknamed the footage of a pay per view gig in Japan - Budokan Hall to be precise, where the Bob Dylan live album was recorded a few years earlier. For the opening section Neil plays alone in pale blue lighting and he makes the most of being less well known in Japan at the time than he was in American Europe by throwing in some real rarities. 'Too Far Gone', once intended for 'Chrome Dreams' in 1977, appears a full thirteen years before the version on 'Freedom', while 'No One Seems To Know' - a bootlegger's favourite also known as 'Once I Was In Love' - still hasn't appeared on anything official despite being a rather pretty haunting piano ballad. Later Crazy Horse come out and play a typically ragged set (new guitarist Frank Sampedro has literally only played with the Horse in the studio and down the beach by this point in his career!) with a few surprises of their own including a 'Country Home' fourteen years before it appeared sounding almost exactly the same on 'Ragged Glory' and a shambolic 'Lotta Love' two years before it's appearance on 'Comes A Time'. Elsewhere we also get the only known airing for some of the lesser rockier songs from recently released LP 'Zuma' and a slow, dark and brooding 'Cowgirl In The Sand' that's very different to the Whitten-era performances and sounds more resigned than excited. A second show shot in monochrome this time starts with an entirely different acoustic set containing such surprises as a beautifully sweet 'Stringman', a solo 'Human Highway' and an awful 'Down By The River' played so slowly and off-key that you think Neil himself is the one being murdered! Thankfully the Horse immediately make up for it with a mesmerising performance of 'Cortez' that goes on for hours, slow and stately but full of such omens and insecurities as Neil's voice wobbles like never before, back when the song was brand new. This tour will end in disarray just days later when Neil cancels a bunch of booked American shows to rejoin Stephen Stills for an even more ill-fated tour. Some of this footage (but not very much of it, it has to be said) appears officially in the 'Year Of The Horse' film of 1997, while the rest of it would make a fine DVD one day. Additional footage taken from the same tour (and helpfully added to the end of the Youtube clip) features Neil husking 'The Old Laughing Lady' down a subway!

7.    The Last Waltz ('Helpless' Film 1978)
In 1978 The Band were taking a break, Martin Scorcese was an up and coming film director and big indulgent stage shows were all the rage. Dylan's backing band invited all their old friends up to say goodbye and filmed it, with the resulting movie one of the first music films to receive a wide release. Neil appears, stoned out of his mind, to sing his simplest and slowest song with (on original copies) a liberal sized piece of cocaine sticking out of his nose (Neil paid to have the shots removed himself when the film was re-issued, against the wished of the band who declared this shot to be 'what rock and roll is all about!' It's just as well Neil wasn't singing 'Needle' at this gig...) In a sign of even more rockstar excess, though, Stephen Stills was meant to play too but slept in, arriving at the gig to find it was almost over though he does join in the all-superstar jam at the end (where he locks horns with Neil for a fierce guitar duel while Joni Mitchell stands behind them looking bemused!)

8.    Wonderin' (Music Video 1983)
Following a five year gap away from seemingly any TV cameras (unless I've missed something?) Neil got into music videos, plugging one of his silliest and shortest songs from 'Everybody's Rockin' with a video that looks as if it's wandered straight out of a 1950s video jukebox. The Shocking Pinks appear in bright pink tuxedos in the back of a car, a slick-haired Neil sings (but not in a pink shirt - the one on the album cover was embarrassing enough) and sings in front of an unlikely bunch of locations including The Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando and Miami beach (don't worry, it's cheaper than it looks!) Neil seems quite creepy standing stock still in the front of the screen while his backing singers yodel away in the background, but trust Neil's first video to spend more screen time studying the car! There's never been a compilation of Young videos to date so none of these promos are officially available - maybe the time of Archives three?!?

9.    Cry Cry Cry (Music Video 1983)
Another 'Everybody's Rockin' promo features a worse song but a better video as Neil goes up against his three backing singers in a drag race, while simultaneously dancing in a white suit by the side of the road. Trick photography also make Neil look really big as a truck drives through his legs and he picks up an electricity pylon to itch a scratch with!

10. Austin City Limits ('Are You Ready For The Country?' 'Are There Any More Real Cowboys?' 'Comes A Time' 'Field Of Opportunity' 'Amber Jean' 'Roll Another Number' 'Heart Of Gold' 'Let Your Fingers Do The Walking'  'The Needle and The Damage Done' 'Helpless' 'California Sunset' 'Old Man'  'Powderfinger' 'Get Back To The Country' 'Down By The River' US Concert 1984)
'This is the third Tv show in my life and I'm really petrified, can you feel it?' Neil's new band is The International Harvesters, his new genre is country and the new album he's plugging is 'Old Ways' - but not the official version but the abandoned early one that didn't come out. Actually we hear surprisingly few songs intended for that record with only the unreleased-till-2011 songs 'Amber Jean' and 'Let Your Fingers Do The Walking' due for the album. The rest of the songs feature some nicely countryfied extracts from the back catalogue though, such as a much more purist take on Harvest's 'Are You Ready For The Country?', a sprightly 'Comes A Time' and - sounding very out of place - old electric favourites 'Powderfinger' and 'Down By The River' which makes for an uncomfortably downbeat finale. Neil is on good form though and the show reveals the same sort of passion featured on the archive live CD 'A Treasure' a full twenty-five years later - a passion that was decidedly missing from the 'Old Ways' set that made it into the shops. The Nashville audience all seem to like it too, despite criticisms made at the time. Two songs were pulled by Neil for release on his youtube channel to promote the album but otherwise this US pay-per-view show hasn't been heard of since.

11. Are There Any More Real Cowboys? (Music Video 1985)
Neil is a lot more convincing as an old age cowboy than pal Willie Nelson on this video shot to promote the finished 'Old Ways' album. Elsewhere we get yawn-inducing shots of cowboys and horses. Probably Neil's worst video - and boy is that saying something as you'll see...

12. Unknown (New Zealand 1985)
Neil looks oddly dapper in a white suit as he chats to New Zealand reporter Karyn Hay about being a dad, being a Reagan supporter in an industry that hates him and the fact that this has 'affected the record critics more than it affects me - they're not enjoyers, they're critics as people come to have fun and they come to say where it went wrong or right so for them it's a job and my heart goes out to them!' Erm, thanks Neil! The singer also says that Crazy Horse are 'more emotional and technical and I like that - it gives me a chance to express myself!' Most interestingly Neil talks about his love for EPs because 'you don't have to fill up an album - always everybody likes some of them but not all of them'. He was planning to release an EP for 'Farm Aid' at the time but in fact won't release an EP till 'Eldorado' in 1988. Neil puts on a straight face to discuss 'Rustovision' and say that you can see the aching muscles through the glasses when he's on stage - fittingly, interspersed across this interview is some old footage from 'Live Rust', plus the rarely seen 'Computer Age' from 'Live In Berlin' to illustrate the fact that 'electronic music is like acoustic music if I play it by myself'. A great interview not officially available as yet - but it should be!

13. Live Aid ('Sugar Mountain' 'The Needle and The Damage Done' 'Nothing Is Perfect In God's Perfect Plan' 'Helpless' 'Powderfinger' US Concert July 1985)
Perhaps the biggest Young-related news of 'Live Aid' night was that he also reunited with CSNY for the first time since 1974, with Crosby out on parole and looking very ill. However both shows were non-starters: CSNY were hurried, poorly rehearsed and out of tune while Neil's solo set was longer and more casual but still not one of his best, finding him in preaching mode. Neil was surely the only artist the whole night to play a previously unreleased song from a forthcoming cancelled album ('Old Ways One') with the hokey 'Nothing Is Perfect' very out of step with Live Aid's message of love, peace and unity. Of course, Neil being Neil, that was the song allowed out on the official various artists DVD, though the rest of the set was better with a suitably weary 'Sugar Mountain' played in a stiff breeze (no there isn't a fan playing at this gig!) and an angry 'Powderfinger', the only electric song in the set.

14. Farm Aid #1 ('Hey Hey My My' US Concert 1985)
Willie Nelson's Live Aid set was even weirder. Perhaps missing the point that the people In Africa everyone was raising money for were dying, he proposed live on stage that some of the money should go towards hard-working American farmers in poverty. Neil agreed with the idea though and helped Willie organise a special 'Farm Aid' gig that paid to do just that and which met up most summers (Neil playing most of them but only three of his appearances - apparently - were televised). Here's the first of them with a raggedy acoustic take on the 'Rust Never Sleeps' classic the song chosen for TV.

15. Farm Aid #2 ('Homegrown' 'Comes A Time' 'Are You Ready For The Country?' US Concert 1986)
The following year Neil cheekily snuck in his own song about, erm, farming 'Homegrown' - Neil didn't quite get around to telling the mainly conservative audience singing along it was a track about marijuana! The International Harvesters back Neil as per usual across 1986 but they sound as if they've never met before with some very out-of-tune performances that aren't a patch on the 1984 gig in Texas. Oddly, too, 'Country' is played in an even rockier arrangement than the version on 'Harvest'! Ready for the country indeed...

16. Pressure (Music Video 1986)
Most fans consider the noisy thrash metal 'Landing On water' album a bit of a mistake but Neil seems determined to get a hit from it, releasing four separate videos. This is the best in both footage and song, as Neil reprises his car mechanic character Lionel from his own rarely seen 'Human Highway' film as a put-upon dad in a car full of screaming kids pulling over to the side of the road because he needs the loo. That's how Neil sings the entire song, while apparently having a nervous breakdown, apart from a brief interlude when his kids tie him to a tree! Like the song itself it's so simple it's stupid but good fun all the same. And yes, of course Neil had to get another car into the video! Warning: his head blows up at the end of the video in a parody of video nasties but it's still oddly graphic...

17. Touch The Night (Music Video 1986)
For this video Neil becomes a news reporter, singing into his microphone as he attempts to tell the tale of a big pile-up on the freeway. That's a clever idea for a song that's all about 'bad news' stories but it's all a little bit the same and Neil doesn't really look like Neil so most people watching this on MTV probably thought they'd switched over to CNN or something.

18. People On The Street (Music Video 1986)
Inevitably, 'People On The Street' features lots of shots of, erm, people on the street, although the main plot of the song is much weirder. Neil is a shock-haired dancing tramp in a pink suit left over from the Shocking Pinks days, hitching a lift on the back of a passing car as he dances away down the street and into a passing ambulance. If you've ever wanted to see Neil doing some Fred Astaire type dance moves (mainly thanks to the wonders of special effects and jump-cuts) then here's your chance! Neil will resurrect this character, minus the dancing, for CSNY reunion video 'American Dream'. Once seen never forgotten - and not necessarily in a good way.

19. Weight Of The World (Music Video 1986)
Neil dresses up as a Cuban drugs lord on this video, complete with moustache and afro wig. And that's basically the video, as two American argue in the forefront and Neil gets thrown into the pool in what everyone else thinks is a party but is actually an accident. Neil drowns at the end, making this his second video where he kills himself!

20. 'In A Rusted Out Garage - Live At The Cow Palace ('Mr Soul' 'Cinnamon Girl' 'When You Dance I Can Really Love' 'Down By The River' 'Too Lonely' 'Heart Of Gold' 'After The Goldrush' 'Inca Queen' 'Drive Back' 'Opera Star' 'Cortez The Killer' 'Sample and Hold' 'Computer Age' 'Violent Side' 'Mideast Vacation' 'Long Walk Home' 'The Needle and The Damage Done' 'When Your Lonely Heart Breaks' 'Around The World' 'Powderfinger' 'Like A Hurricane' 'Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)' 'Prisoners Of Rock 'n' Roll' US TV November 1986)
A famous gig sees Neil reuniting with Crazy Horse for the first time since 1981 on a show now out semi-legally, as a CD and DVD set. This two hour show was called 'The Rusted Out Garage Tour' for a reason - like 'Live Rust' it featured the Horse sharing the stage with giant props, this time make them look like a 'garage' band playing in a 'garage' complete with overgrown insects and Neil's 'neighbour' who interrupts the show at half-time to tell the band they're playing too loud and he's going to get the cops! There's also a presenter Joe Benson who explains how this show is broadcast from Neil's garage up to a satellite up in space ('We had a couple of complaints from the neighbours because it's an eyesore!') and back down to your TV, introducing the band as 'the third greatest garage band in the world!' This gig is good enough to make you wonder who the first two could possibly be, even if it isn't a show on a par with 'Rust' or 'Weld' but it has its moments with the then-new songs from 'Life' sounding particularly strong. The 'road-eyes' this time appear as overgrown mice complete with squeaky and suspiciously Young-like voices. Listen out for the cameo bark by Neil's dog Elvis (commemorated on 'Old King' in 1992) where the mice say 'I Hope he's cool' and the other says 'I just hope he likes mice!' As for the music, well, it's variable. The vocoder stuff sounds great (if not quite as great as it did in Berlin - and it's a shock to see the Horse playing 'complex' instruments!), most of the rock and rollers come off well but the acoustic songs sound a little weak and drab by old standards. 'Too Lonely' roars with all the dumb energy of a 'real' garage band, 'Inca Queen' sounds majestic and a surprise 'Opera Star' roars but the old material doesn't sound quite so hot and isn't played with the same passion. Cleverly there is no stage 'curtain', just a garage door that shuts down at the end of both halves! The Horse get a few extra 'members' for 'Sample and Hold' as the road-eyes bring some mannequins out on stage who suddenly start dancing...Man what fumes were in that garage?!

21. Made In Heaven (Film Cameo 1987)
'Made In heaven' is a weirdo film about a weirdo guy ending up in a weirdo heaven and trying to help his weirdo angel girlfriend get some weirdo angel's wings for good deeds back on Earth before it's revealed that he's really doing it for his own good after all. Multiple musicians appear in this film for some reason, which is odd given that it doesn't have much in terms of a soundtrack, with Neil alongside Tom Petty and Ellen Barkin. Neil is a truck driver who stops to pick the main character up while he's hitch-hiking while a speeded-up version of 'Mr Soul' plays in the background. His lines are as follows: 'Hey kid, where you goin? If you don't know where you're goin' then it don't matter what road you take! Sorry the heater's out, you want some coffee?'  Yeah not the greatest of cameos really - Neil probably only agreed on the condition that he could graduate from his love of cars and drive a truck! The film was rush-released on video but was never a big seller and be bought on DVD only as part of an expensive box set 'The Warner Archive Collection'.

22. This Note's For You (Music Video 1988)
By far Neil's most famous video appearance in which he spoofs several popular adverts of the time and even won an MTV award for 'best music video' - which is weird because they'd banned it for making fun of all their sponsors! Along the way Neil has his set alight like Michael Jackson in his real advertisement for Pepsi which as his autopsy revealed left him bald, a Bud-drinking dog in sunglasses is more interested in some scantily clad women and Janet Jackson is revealed to be wearing a wig. To anyone old enough to remember these adverts the first time round, this is hilarious and Neil's parodies are spot-on! The opening instrumental played on sax by the band onstage before Neil 'invades' is from the then-unreleased Young song 'Bad News Comes To Town', officially released for the first time in 2015 on the live album 'Bluenote Cafe'. 

23. Oakland Coliseum ('Comes A Time' 'Sugar Mountain' 'This Note's For You' 'American Dream' US Concert 1988)
A mini solo gig from one of Neil's favourite haunts which he played many times over the years with Cray Horse, CSNY and as a solo act. It's a pretty gig, with Neil in more relaxed mood than usual and there are some lovely versions of some of Neil's best acoustic songs plus a new solo arrangement of 'This Note's For You' without the horns and CSNY reunion track 'American Dream' which sounds so much better sung in four part a capella and mouthorgan instead of those irritating synth pan-pipes!

24. Rockin' In The Free World (Music Video 1989)
Another much-seen clip that's one of Neil's best. Edited to look like a news summary with Crazy Horse performing in between as 'links', Neil tells the story about what America is really like, full of suffering, homelessness and poverty. Neil's rarely looked this energised as he and Sampedro twirl around on stage, but instead of the usual anger of the 'real' live performances this mimed video seems far more buoyant and optimistic, as if America still has a chance to be 'Rockin' in the free world'. Given that I'm writing these words the day after Donald Chump was elected into the White House (yes I have quite a backlog of these articles now!), I'm not so sure Neil should be so pleased.

25. Cow Palace ('My My Hey Hey' 'Rockin' In The Free World' 'Comes A Time' 'Homegrown' 'Heart Of Gold' 'Crime In The City' US Concert 1989)
A return to The Cow Palace (where 'Live Rust' was filmed) for a show from a legendary acoustic tour when Neil was never braver or felt the muse stronger. Broadcast in TV in part form, the show features several great new songs in acoustic form including a powerful arrangement of 'Crime In The City' that's way stronger than anything heard on record as Neil prowls around the stage like an animal in a cage (the camera really struggles to keep up!) This is a terrific version of 'Free World' too as Neil virtually sits in the audience as he wills everyone in the room to respond and not just to the song! The older tracks don't fare quite so well with yet another unwanted revival of 'Homegrown' but hey ho.

26. Saturday Night Live #1 ('Rockin' In The Free World' 'No More'  'The Needle and The Damage Done' US TV 1989)
It seems odd that Neil had to wait until his late 1980s renaissance to be invited onto a show full of goofy humour and oddball gags - given that Crazy Horse had pretty much been doing this as an act since 1979! Actually Neil's on pretty serious form as he performs blistering electric versions of two of his most intense new songs (with a slowed down 'No More' that will break your heart and makes for a fine pairing with Neil's other anti-drug song 'The Needle and The Damage Done'). It's a shame the director insisted on using so many silly 1980s video effects, but the performance cuts through with a dose of pure realism.

27. Farmer John (Music Video 1990)
A suitably simple and stupid video for a stupid song as Crazy Horse do some head-banging miming to a garage band classic. A headband wearing Neil looks just like Mark Knopfler albeit with much more hair! The video is recorded in kind of bleeded-out colour; not black and white as there are hints of colour breaking through at times but this is clearly meant to look cheap and nasty. It sounds it too! The crowd don't know whether to cry or dance and don't quite manage either...

28. Mansion On The Hill (Music Video 1990)
Neil walks out of an operating room and into the Twilight Zone - or at any rate the same house already featured in 'American Dream'. Walking down a long corridor, Neil finds himself watching himself on stage ('It could have been my face') as a group of nuns straight out of Sister Act sing the backing vocals in pink tunics. Neil plays their vicar (!) Later Neil plays mechanic Lionel again, trying to get Her Majesty The Queen's car started. Let the tyres down and let her get her own petrol, that's what we say!...

29. Over and Over (Music Video 1990)
This is the 3:40 single edit without all the excess feedback, thank goodness. This video is black and white and features Crazy Horse playing mixed in with a story of some chick walking out on her lover who tries to woo her back with flowers. Quite a dull video by Neil's standards although the band mime their parts with surprising gusto.

30. F!&#in' Up (Music Video 1990)
The best song from 'Ragged Glory' gets the best video, in proper colour this time. There are no gimmicks, no storylines getting in the way, just the chance to see the Horse completely lost in their music while the jerky, spacey direction is enough to give you a headache but does suit the desperation and self-loathing of the lyric, with Neil afraid to look us in the eye. He also nearly falls off the stage at one point! The 'story' only comes at the end when weedie roadie Neil is chased out of town by some burly co-workers while the Horse let their feedback flags fly!

31. Harvest Moon (Music Video 1992)
At last, something a bit quieter, as another much-repeated clip features Neil serenading his wife Pegi at a club while the janitor sweeps up with a broom outside. Though not a lot happens in this video, like the song it still manages to keep interesting by simply revelling in the moment. That's Neil's half-sister singing the 'oohs' along with Pegi, while the rest of the band get to dance with their partners, wives and husbands at various times too. Neil waited to film this shoot until there was a real full moon in the night sky, although it's not strictly a 'Harvest' one which has a particular 'blood red' look and happens once a year around September.

32. Unknown Legend (Music Video 1992)
In which, true to the lyrics, a motorbike rider who worked in a diner and never looked finer gets to live out her life in arty black and white. And she's she's played rather convincingly by Pegi, the real inspiration for the song, who works alongside her husband as a hapless waiter getting things wrong the whole time. In between we get shots of Neil performing the song in front of a large group of hub-caps! Sadly the rarely seen 'Unknown Legend' is still largely unknown and has yet to appear on any official release despite being one of Neil's sweetest videos.

33. Saturday Night Live #2 ('From Hank To Hendrix' 'Harvest Moon' US TV 1992)
Neil returns to Saturday Night Live to plug 'Harvest Moon', performing two of the more popular tracks solo while dressed in a red shirt. Unusually Neil performs 'Moon' without the full strumming song, stopping it to play the 'pinging note' section - an arrangement he never repeated in concert. Both performances are sweet but a little dull and again Neil doesn't get involved in the political or comedy skits (maybe they were afraid of asking him after his support for Reagan in the 1980s?!)

34. Centrestage ('One Of These Days' US TV November 1992)
An interview, for which the full unedited footage exists with Neil getting the giggles as the make-up girl puts him 'right' ('I'm not going to look like him am I?' Neil says, pointing to presenter-actor-director Tim Roth). Neil doesn't say an awful lot that we didn't know already and clearly thinks his inexperienced interviewer is a twit. Why does Neil's music keep changing? 'It has to do with life - people think people make music like a means to an end...and I think really a lot are being trained that that's what to be expected of them, to perform in a particular market...music is the heart of the whole thing, it's what makes it happen'. It's nice to see Neil speak about his family with such pride too and Pegi's challenge to Neil to call up all his rock and roll friends for the first Bridge School Benefit show. Neil also jokes about the reviewer who misread his 'Heart Of Gold' lyric 'I've been in my mind, it's such a fine line...' as 'such a fine mind' and asked 'how could Neil Young be so conceited?!'

35. MTV Unplugged ('The Old Laughing Lady' 'Mr Soul' 'The World On A String' 'Pocahontas' 'Stringman' 'Like A Hurricane' 'The Needle and the Damage Done' 'Helpless' 'Harvest Moon' 'Transformer Man' 'Unknown Legend' 'Look Out For My Love' 'Long May You Run' 'From Hank To Hendrix' US TV Special 1993) -
We've already covered the soundtrack to this rather grumpy show in which Neil stares intensely at his guitar throughout and avoids all look at the camera as he takes a surprisingly safe journey through his musical past. The show doesn't work any better as a video, although it does have a number of fine moments such as a bluesy 'Mr Soul', a slow-burning 'World On A String', a beautiful 'Stringman' (an unreleased mid-1970s song possibly written for Stephen Stills) and an exhilarating 'Like A Hurricane' completely re-arranged for a pump organ. Plus it's always nice to see Nils Lofgren back again who appears in the show's second half. A full original completely solo show was binned after Neil complained about the sound and his performance; this second go nearly was too.

36. Tonight Show With Jay Leno ('Harvest Moon' 'Harvest Moon' US TV 1993)
Another performance of 'Harvest Moon' with one of the world's worst TV presenter-comedians sucks up to Neil no end (Young doesn't take to fawning much, as all his true fans would know!) and asks him some mind-bogglingly dumb questions (sample joke: Jay points to Neil's mouthorgan holder and jokes 'Another visit to the orthodontist and you'll be all straight, right?!') The performance is nice though, despite Neil hitting a wrong 'ringing' note early on and just stopping himself from getting the giggles! Plus Neil gives up on the interview early to ask to use the model train set on the stage and asks the stage-hands to move all the plants out so he can 'play'. 'Aww, it de-railed' jokes Neil when there's a delay and the train doesn't come, but he does get a motorbike model at least.

37. Bobfest ('Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' Concert 1993)
Neil was one of several musicians (Including George Harrison) wishing Bob a happy birthday. If I ever have a birthday, I'd like all my favourite musicians to come out singing all my favourite songs too, but Bob himself doesn't look too happy about the much-rehearsed 'surprise' and it speaks volumes he never had another live on stage! With his favourite Dylan cover 'All Along The Watchtower' already taken by Bruce Springsteen (with Neil as a guest guitarist) he gets 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues' instead which suits him better.

38. Prairie Town (Guest on music video by Randy Bachman 1993)
Neil didn't often make guest appearances on other people's videos (Emmylou Harris' cover of Neil's own 'Wrecking Ball' is another though he barely features so it didn't make this list) but this one is important because Neil takes so big a part in the Bachman-Turner-Overdrive singer's video. 'Prairietown' is a noisy, Crazy Horse-style rocker and the clip is clearly shot by Neil as 'Bernard Shakey' - it has his characteristic 'shaky' zoom-ins everywhere! It's an ok-ish sort of a song about injustice and poverty but it's no 'Rockin' In The Free World'!

39. Sleeps With Angels Video EP aka The Complex Sessions ('Change Your Mind' 'Prime Of Life' 'Piece Of Crap' 'My Heart' 1994)
At last, something officially released! Neil plugged his 'Sleeps With Angels' CD with a low-key four song performance that featured entirely new live recordings that were slower and darker even than the cuts that made the album, shot a few weeks after the studio versions had been recorded in the very same building. The highlight is clearly 'Change Your Mind' which lasts a minute longer than the fourteen minute album version and is played a fraction slower, with some killer solos and far better single-tracked vocals. The album version is like a drug trip - this version is more like a nightmare. 'Prime Of Life' also sounds pretty darn great without the out of tune tin whistles or recorders or whatever the heck they were and with far less 'tidy' backing vocals that help the song erupt into a quiet rage as Neil spits out his sarcastic lines 'Not feeling too bad myself!' As for 'Piece Of Crap!' Neil challenges his film crew that 'you're out of sync' before daring them to keep up on a far better punkish fast version of the album's comedy song which Sampedro especially seems to enjoy yelling into the cameras! Finally there's a wonky version of 'My Heart' with sweet 'n' sour harmonies that goes from ebing beautiful to being awful to being beautiful again within seconds, as only Crazy Horse can. A much under-rated document of one of Neil's greatest unsung albums performed with just enough mystery and magic despite the glare of the film lights. 

40. Sleeps With Angels (Music Video 1994)
Not strictly part of the 'Complex' sessions but many fans treat it that way anyway, Neil's tribute to Kurt Cobain features Crazy Horse playing in split-screen, Woodstock style, though the difference is that Crazy Horse aren't miming but playing live. Along the way we see Neil grooving along to a playback and Crazy Horse cutting their harmony overdubs, not that you can hear them too well on the finished track anyway which is really just an extended guitar solo with Young muttering over the top. The song ends with stunned silence in the control room as nobody says a word for a full ten seconds before the track finishes.

41. Shoreline Ampitheatre #1  ('My Heart' 'Prime Of Life' 'Driveby' 'Sleeps With Angels' 'My My Hey Hey' 'Train Of Love' 'Change Your Mind'  'Piece Of Crap' US Concert 1994)
Another pay-per-view American show on behalf of Neil and Pegi's Bridge School shows for disabled children. Sadly these shows have never been seen since even though there's a terrific DVD in there one day with three known filmed gigs (plus a fourth as Brian Wilson's crew filmed his gig in 2002). This earliest show is heavy on the then-new songs from 'Sleeps With Angels' though that's no bad thing. The Horse are on rather rough and ragged form though and frequently trip over themselves without the  inspired purr of their 'Complex' set. Neil seems a little off colour all night and keeps sipping water in between songs. However at least the album's spooky drama is maintained with several songs performed on acoustic with highlights including an especially intense 'Driveby' that might just beat the heartbreak of the album cut and a jazzy version of 'Sleeps With Angels' that sounds more like John Coltrane than Crazy Horse.

42. Nickelodeon Interview (YUS TV 1994)
A surprise special guest on children's channel Nickelodeon, Neil talks to the boss of Lionel Trains about the new inventions he's created for children with disabilities so they can play too. Proud dad Neil watches his son Ben move the trains with a twist of his head and daughter Amber Jean adds some comments too. Neil talks with more pride about getting the sound of the trains just right than he ever does about his music! A welcome chance to see the Young family together but it's a shame we don't get a chance to see the full extent of the lay-out. As for mum Pegi's comment: 'Ben really like his audience and showing off to friends - which is kind of like his father, I guess it runs in the family!'

43. The Oscars ('Philadelphia' 1994)
Oscar award nominee Neil Young took up the invitation to appear at the ceremony to perform a rather nervous version of his song for 'Philadelphia' (and no, Bruce Springsteen didn't turn up to sing his song from the film). This seems an incongruous setting for one so unused to showbiz parties and it's not one of Neil's best performances but 'Philadelphia' is a very lovely song that wasn't heard live very often so this is a clip to treasure all the same. Johnny Depp, then working on the 'Dead Man' film with a special Young soundtrack, introduces him back in the days when he wasn't a pirate or Willy Wonka.

44. Downtown (Music Video 1995)
Next Neil's heading Downtown with Pearl Jam on a video that doesn't really feature - just lots of shots of dancing youngsters in a club with lots of mirrorballs twirlin'. Not so much 'psychedelic dream' as 'how many extras can we get cheap in a hurry?' this video is a bit of a disappointment. Plus no one in this crowd looks like hippies to me!

45. Big Time (Music Video 1996)
Moving on to the 'Broken Arrow' album the song are worse but the videos are better. A moody video, once more shot in black and white, follows a suddenly old looking Neil around his ranch and a local beach with lots of shots of the band at work and play and random shots of wildlife and mother nature. The best shot comes at the end when the beach with Neil in 1996 somehow merges thanks to some technological trickery into the album cover of 1974's 'On The Beach'. Neil's still living the dream he had. For him it's not over.

46. This Town (Music Video 1996)
We haven't had a car for a while, but here's Neil with a broken old jalopy that's about as broken down as his old second hand hearse 'Mort' from the 'Springfield' days. A baseball-capped Neil wanders into shot in different locations, bored. I think the town is in South Dakota but who knows? Knowing Neil it's probably not even a real town but one he built himself!

47. Shoreline Ampitheatre #2 ('Without Rings' 'Slowpoke' 'Buffalo Springfield Again' 'Horseshoe Man' 'Good To See You' 'Silver and Gold' 'Mother Earth' 'After The Goldrush' 'This Note's For You'  US Concert 1997)
'When I was faster I was always behind'. Neil returns to a favourite venue for a solo concert on behalf of the Bridge School that premieres most of the material from 2000 album 'Silver and Gold' three years early! More intimate than the 'Silver and Gold' DVD doing the rounds to promote the album, Neil's on much better form here and actually plays his latest acoustic batch of material better than he ever did on the album. He also throws in the only known solo performance of 'Slowpoke', a song from CSNY reunion album 'Lookin' Forward', which he sings rather better here even if the lyrics are still weird, plus there's a rare 'Ragged Glory' anthem 'Mother Earth' (which sounds a little thin on acoustic instruments), a pretty 'Goldrush' and a slower, wearier 'This Note's For You' multiple corporate-sponsored music events later.

48. Shoreline Ampitheatre #3 ('Sugar Mountain' 'Lookin' Forward' 'Throw Your Hatred Down' 'Heart Of Gold' 'Distant Camera' 'Horseshoe Man' 'After The Goldrush' 'Ambulance Blues'  US Concert 1998)
A year later, another Bridge School charity gig in the same venue and pretty much the same setlist mixing songs from 'Silver and Gold' and 'Lookin' Forward', although the big change is that Neil had grown a straggly beard and never looked more like Father Xmas. A lovely 'Distant Camera' is the highlight of the new stuff but the best selections all come from yesteryear, with a riveting 'Sugar Mountain' seeing Neil at the age of 53 still troubled by reaching the ripe old age of 20 plus a rare acoustic version of 'Throw Your Hatred Down' from the plugged-in 'Mirrorball' album, the best 'Goldrush' yet played on a pedal organ and a very rare brave stab at 'Ambulance Blues' with that year's special guests REM that ends the concert on an oddly downbeat note. This is a great gig though, far stronger than the show in 1997. The between-sing banter is pretty good too, with Neil forgetting where he parked his piano at one stage!

49. Saturday Night Live #3 ('Razor Love' 'Silver and Gold' US TV 2000)
A return to the comedy show finds Neil plugging the 'Silver and Gold' album for real this time. As per the last two appearances he doesn't really do much, just sits and plays the guitar but 'Razor Love' in particular sounds good tonight so we'll let that pass.

50. 9/11 Benefit Concert ('America: A Tribute To Heroes') ('Imagine' 2001)
Four American networks came together to screen this musical tribute to those who lost their lives in 9/11. Recorded just ten days after the tragedy the mood was still very sombre and rather than plug their latest work most acts performed whatever was most suitable in their back catalogue. Neil didn't really have anything that prescient in his so instead he played a song by New York's adopted son John Lennon, who would surely have been part of the benefit shows had he lived. This version of 'Imagine' is one of the weirdest put on record, with the wobble in Neil's voice and the slower, more deliberate performance of those famous chords sounding very 'wrong' somehow. And on the other-hand so right: this isn't a land where confidence about a future with no wars or religion too can ever happen and yet the best solution to tragedy is to keep dreaming and hoping. It may be one of the best performances Neil ever gave. Later, after his part of the show, Neil manned the phone-lines and took in pledges for the families of the victims personally.

51. Let's Roll (Music Video 2002)
On the other-hand, this 9/11 tribute song always won a mixed response from fans - especially from those who took it's 'Let's Roll' as an agreement that America should nuke the hell out of countries that didn't have anything to do with Al Qaeda. Neil and what were left of Booker T and the MGs perform the song in a skyscraper in the dark, while a blue sky with clouds skid past behind them. Though I'll defend the song (Neil was quoting the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 and they sure weren't thinking of an illegal war at the time), I'm not sure I can defend the video which doesn't seem like much of a tribute at all, though at least it wasn't an artificial video full of tears either as some other post 9/11 released were want to do.

52. The Tonight Show ('Are You Passionate?' US TV 2002)
Neil switches gears and performs the bluesier title track on his first public appearance for the 'Passionate' album, though not to any great effect. Neil sings a little more powerfully this time round and you can actually hear the words, but it's not one of his best shows.

53. Prairie Wind (Music Video 2005)
Neil didn't do much promotion for the 'Prairie Wind' album on doctor's orders - he'd collapsed with a brain aneurysm while writing the album and recorded in short bursts so sensibly took the year off, though commercially that's a shame because this is easily the best Young album of the 21set century so far. The only promotion given to the record was a 'making of' video with shots of Young and band behind the scenes as they made the title track. Neil, as 'Bernard Shakey', again utilises the split-screen approach which is interesting with so many musicians on the screen but the camera is at such a weird angle that we can't even see Neil that well who 'hides' behind his harmonica holder perched round his neck.

54. Living With War Videos (2006)
However Neil went to town promoting his next album 'Living With War'. Videos were made for all ten songs on the album which were put to real news footage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and featured mocked-up captions at the bottom. The whole lot were meant to run together as if we were watching the 'LWW' network and could be seen on Neil's website or as part of a special DVD release that gathered them all together. Though clearly it's just another way of owning the album, it's not the best one as - like most news channels - extended viewing just numbs your soul to the horrors and as there's no band to look at (like there was during the 'Gulf War' on 'Weld')  the atrocities just become so much background fodder. The title track is the one that works best, with its list of American soldiers who've died since 9/11 month by month passing solemnly along the bottom of the screen (which is why it's the song we've pulled out for our Youtube playlist though all the videos are available on Warner Brothers' own channel if you want to see them). Really, though, Neil's film of the resulting CSNY 'Deja Vu' tour plugging this album is a much better response to the brutal, ugly and unnecessary wars fought in America's name in the past fifteen years.

55. Titel Thesen Tempramente (German TV 2008)
Making a rare return to Europe, Neil appeared on British TV on 'The Culture' Show looking nonplussed as he wondered whether irritating presenter Mark Kermode was for real or not (I know I've got this clip somewhere but I can't find it - I'll add it to the list on the re-writes I promise!) and a German show. This one is more interesting anyway as Neil discusses the 'Deja Vu' film and CSNY's long troubled history. 'It's late, but we have to do it' an angry Neil demands about Bush, 'We need to impeach him now and show that illegal wars are not ok and let the world know that you can't do that!' Neil says that the movie 'is about the songs and the tour but much more than that what the songs are all about' and adds that he's sad there's no young protest movement in America today because youngsters are too afraid of losing the only jobs they can get. There's a nice clip of the then-just released 'Massey Hall' version of 'Ohio' too.

56. Late Show With Letterman #1 (US TV July 2008)
It's a surprise that two American-adopted institutions didn't collide until as late as 2008 but yes this is Neil's first appearance on the show, walking out to the strains of a modified version of the chorus from 'Heart Of Gold'. Neil speaks about his love of the hybrid car (a theme which will dominate his next album 'Fork In The Road') and quotes about his past that 'Singing A Song Won't Change The World, but we can keep trying' - half of this phrase (which gets a large round of applause) will end up as a song on the 'Fork' album. There's also a clip from the 'Deja Vu' film (my favourite in which a reporter asks Neil what his new song 'Let's Impeach The President' is actually about!)  and Neil fills in Letterman about the fact that 'Living With War' has become 'my most divisive moment with fans who feel passionately on both sides of the fence'. Interestingly news reporter Mike Serree was asked to come up with twelve separate bulletins which Neil changed around for the film.

57. Fork In The Road (Music Video 2009)
So far pretty much every Young music video has featured a car in there somewhere. Inevitably the 'Fork In The Road' album about Neil's new hybrid car inspires a whole load of shots of his converted 1958 Lincoln Continental and not a lot else to be honest. With the exception of this video that features Neil bopping around in his garden and miming to the record on a home movie camera for a full six minutes! However, stick with the video because there's a great air guitar moment during the solo and - while Neil's back is turned and just before the verse about his flat-screen TV being 'repo'd' - we actually see the repossession man walking out of his back door with it!

58. Behind The Wheel (Music Video 2009)
This video is shot with the dash-cam stuck on Neil's convertible and you can tell - Neil's hardly ever in shot so most of this video is passing shots of clouds and trees. Not one of Neil's better ideas, in terms of both song and video.

59. Cough Up The Bucks (Music Video 2009)
Neil's in the backseat of his beloved car for this one, dressed as a millionaire businessman on the phone to his seller and singing to us in between checking his stocks and shares in the paper. This is another irritatingly empty vide and the repetitive nature of the song doesn't help much either.

60. When Worlds Collide (Music Video 2009)
Neil's back to the dash-cam again for more random shots of trees and passing petrol stations although at least he stays in shot a bit more in this one. Sudden thought: they say you can't text or phone someone while driving, but are you allowed to mime your song lyrics into a camera? If not then I fear Neil's about to get a load of points on his license!

61. Hyde Park ('A Day In The Life' UK Concert June 2009)
A truly momentous moment in music history as two great minds meet on the same song. Neil hadn't introduced many covers into his setlist but The Beatles' 'A Day In The Life' was one of his better ideas, with an ecstatic charge of adrenalin and string-breaking guitar thrashing a substitute even for the best use of an orchestra in the 20th century. Sadly Neil still hasn't put his feedback-drenched version on record yet. For this one show in London's biggest park Neil even had a special guest on tow as Paul McCartney sang his original middle eight for the first time since recording the song back in late 1966! (Yes pedants he did revive the first verse during a Lennon tribute medley in 1990, but not his own part!) The audience can't quite believe that Paul is actually there as he wanders on stage, unannounced during a specially extended instrumental break. Paul and Neil sing their part together while hugging and conducting the audience. It's a thrilling moment, even if the crowd get the 'aaah's wrong like they do every single time! The ending, as always, is complete mayhem and ends in a xylophone solo by both players.

62. Glastonbury ('The Needle and The Damage Done' 'Words (Between The Lines Of Age)' 'Get Behind The Wheel' 'Rockin' In The Free World' 'A Day In The Life' 2009)
The track listing may not look particularly special but this set may well be the best Neil has ever played (certainly it's his best since 'Weld'). Neil's response to the biggest crowd of people he's played to since 'Live Aid' is to start off small and humble with a poetic acoustic set to draw the crowd in and a fierce, passionate electric set. Yes 'Words' drags as much as it ever did and the new song from 'Fork In The Road' is stupid, but the other two songs rock like never before. 'Rockin' In The Free World' is spun out to near enough twenty minutes, full of false starts and a moment when Neil quits playing and gets what looks like the whole audience to sway from side to side with their arms in the air before he finally punches back into the main riff and ends in howl of feedback after howl of feedback. The message is clear: we haven't found freedom yet but that doesn't mean we should stop looking. 'A Day In The Life' though is even more special as Neil plays without special guest McCartney but with even more intensity and a roaring finale that continues for several minutes and sees Neil break all his strings before, out of the ashes, Neil picks out an exhilarating xylophone melody in front of wife Pegi before scratching his head, giving up the ghost, throwing down his sticks and walking off stage leaving the crowd begging for more. CSN played a set too the night before but, loyal fan as I am, they couldn't match Neil's intensity on this day.

63. Winter Olympics ('Long May You Run' 2010)
When Canada hosted the Winter Olympics they invited all their superstars back to take part in the closing ceremony. They probably didn't expect Neil to say 'yes' but he did as long as he could do so on his own terms. Appearing roughly midway through the evening's celebrations he performs as the quiet interlude between lots of dancers and fireworks roaming the arena playing an acoustic version of one of his lesser tracks. Half of the crowd can't quite believe that it's happening and the other half think Neil's wandered in off the street while the camera keeps cutting to images of the Olympic Torch and athletes kissing their medals. There are clips of the audience actually shouting 'get off!' while Neil's nasty verse about The Beach Boys being stuck in the past seems oddly out of touch with the Olympic spirit. Not one of Neil's better ideas.

64. Le Noise Videos (Complete Album 2011)
Neil made a whole film to go with his 'Le Noise' album, capturing every single one of the solo performances he made on tape in arty black and white. Along the way we get shots of Le Nois' house where the album was made but not much happens really across what might just be the most boring forty minutes of your life. Students of Neil's guitar skills are in for a treat though as you get plenty of close-ups of his finger skills like never before.


65. Q TV (US TV 2011)
America's CBC network interviewed Neil and producer Daneil Le Nois together in promotion for this album. Neil says that he didn't have a plan or songs until asking the producer to work with him - which explains why so many of the songs sound so rushed. There's no real enthusiasm here as the two men try to explain why what you see is what you get is the best way of shooting the resulting film, rather than the most boring. Neil does fit in a few quotes though such as 'People who get technically better with age end up spiritually further away from the source' and the pair argue with the poor interviewer Jian Ghomeshi (whose better than average and clearly knows his music) whether the new songs are 'reflective' or not.

66. Clementine (Music Video 2012)
This song from 'Americana' is the obvious next step - a video that doesn't feature the artists at all! Instead of Crazy Horse limping their way through some traditional classics we get random shots of old children from the late 19th century, bubbles and a waterfall - none of which are mentioned in the song! Another of Neil's worst moments and why was this wretched song pulled as the one to promote?

67. Psychedelic Pill (Music Videos 2012)
Once more an entire album was set to video which in 'Psychedelic Pill's case means a full 90 minutes' worth. There are no shots of Crazy Horse or Neil in this lot either, but these videos are decidedly prettier to look at thanks to some sumptuous psychedelic computer imagery that morph different pictures together and yet somehow always seem to end up as the famous 'Surf's Up' silhouette of a man on a horse with an arrow through his stomach and his hands out-stretched (actually it's the sculpture 'End Of The Trail' by James Earl Fraser but I know most fans will know it better as a Beach Boys album cover!) 'Driftin' Back' works best despite lasting a full hypnotic 27 minutes. By contrast 'Born In Ontario' is just random shots of the city and 'For The Love Of Man' is a close up of some statue.

68. Late Show With Letterman #2 (US TV September 2012)
Neil's return to Letterman's show finds him discussing his pono music device (which is Hawaiian for 'natural' apparently) and he's typically enthusiastic, telling the presenter that it isn't just about his music sounding better but everybody's. I bet it still doesn't make 'Greendale' sound any good though - oddly Neil doesn't seem to have done any promotion for that record!

69. Farm Aid #3 ('Changes' US Concert 2013)
Neil's return to Farm Aid sees him  in a sad and reflective mood, prowling the stage again like days of old. 'Life is short folks, there's no time but time right now' Neil starts his segment before talking about how Pete Seeger was talking backstage about how he wished he'd done more to save a friend from suicide. Neil knows what he means - he kind of lost a friend to self-inflicted suicide too and he wished he'd done more to help. Neil recounts Kurt Cobain called his office for help and how he didn't return the call and he 'blew his brains out days later'. A wag from the audience shouts out 'let's go' and then Neil turns from mad to sad, 'I'm on my way buddy!' he yells, 'I work for me!' Neil promises that his next song is 'long as hell' and plays a moving version of Phil Ochs' track 'Changes', a song that will wind its way onto Neil's next project 'A Letter Home' but sounds much better here without the fidelity difficulties of the voice-o-graph machine. Ochs too died from suicide caused by mental instability and Neil seems to share the stage with far too many ghosts for comfort this night. One of Neil's most extraordinary performances, this must be how watching the 'Tonight's The Night' shows felt.

70. The Needle Of Death (Music Video 2014)
This 'Letter Home' video features Neil singing that record's best track, Bert Jansch's song of a friend who died of a drug overdose. Only, Neil being Neil and this album being the project it is, we get a lo-fi quality black and white shot of Neil singing in the voice-o-graph booth. Note Neil's handwritten lyrics tacked up on the side of the wall, though Neil clearly knows the song well and doesn't really look at them.

71. If You Could Read My Mind (Music Video 2014)
This Gordon Lightfoot cover was recorded in the exact same way, with the differences that Neil finds a picture of the singer-songwriter ti add over the top as a 'ghost' and that we occasionally get close-ups of his shadow on the wall from a different angle. This is still a better performance to listen to than watch though.

72. Howard Stern Show (US TV 2014)
Neil and friend Jack White turn up with the latter's voice-o-graph machine on the disc jockey turned interviewer's show. The booth was open to the public in Nashville and had thousands of people passing through already. Neil barely gets a word in edgeways but he doesn't mention how when you close the door 'you feel as if you've gone way back'.

73. Who's Gonna Stand Up? (Music Video 2014)
Neil's next album was 'Storytone' - the one with the orchestra - and we see the overdubs taking shape interspersed with shots of Neil singing his lead vocal. Interestingly Neil wears the same 'Earth' T-shirt that will appear as the front cover of his 2016 live LP. That's the single most interesting thing about this video, though, which rather tells you all you need to know.


74. Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show ('Old Man' 2015)
At last Neil makes good on the promise of a Saturday Night Live style sketch  by parodying himself to the tune of 'Old Man'. 'Neil' sits in shadow, his hat over his eyes in characteristic hunch-back pose for the full opening of the song until the camera finally comes in close-up and we find it's really presenter Jimmy Fallon. Neil, dressed in exactly the same clothes, walks on stage and shrugs his shoulders at the starts of the second verse and the two Neil's play along together. Given that Fallon is dressed up as the 'Harvest' era Neil it's as if the younger Neil does get a look at his life as n old man and realises he's a lot like he is (or something like that!) The 'real' Neil sings rather better though!

75. A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop (Music Video 2015)
The Promise Of The Real stand around Neil with coffee cups in their hand and whistling before throwing them away (ah yes but hang on - presumably they still bought them from Starbucks by the look of the label?!) Otherwise the 'new' Crazy Horse' behave much like the old one with the band miming in what looks like Neil's converted barn, with the same rug on the floor from the 'Ragged Glory' days as if it's never been moved!

76. The Big Interview with Don Rather ('Southern Man' US TV 2016)

Finally the last video to date is an interesting in-depth one as Neil discusses his ill health and replies to the question 'why do it?' with the simple words 'I love it!' Don Rather says that Neil's done so much already he ought to quit and Neil is incredulous 'So what? Who cares about that?' and turns the tables on his interviewer 'and what are you doing?! It's something you know how to do and you want to do it well and you also know that you can reach out and bring out to people things that otherwise they might have missed - what I do I'm doing for the same reasons'. It's a suitable place on which to end this lengthy list!