Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Neil Young & The International Harvesters "A Treasure"
Your mileage regarding the accuracy of the title may vary, and while I'm firmly in the anything Neil does is worth a couple of listens camp my personal reaction to A Treasure would be to relabel this live compilation from 1985 An Interesting Diversion.
Now, I may be wrong but my understanding of Young's modus operandi runs something like this.
He'll spend some time quietly going around his business on the yacht, the Broken Arrow ranch or wherever he happens to be, and in the process he'll come up with a number of tunes that'll be recorded some time around a full moon in a sort of see how these work in this particular setting approach.
From there he'll take a look at what he's got to figure out how it might translate into an album. When he's got the album together he'll do something about touring behind it, though there's no guarantee that the tour setting will reflect what happened on the album.
The touring bit, as far as I can see, is what pays the bills and keeps the wages bill around the place under control.
This sort of thing is, however, the almost guaranteed to give record company executives the screaming abdabs, particularly when they've got definite ideas about what their artists should be doing. That scenario had David Geffen suing Mr Young for his failure to deliver product that was recognizably Neil Young.
There's a fair chunk of the contrarian in Young's personality, and the threat of legal action to force compliance in a particular genre setting is almost guaranteed to deliver the exact opposite.
Calls for something along the lines of Harvest or an album of electric rock in other words, will result in statements of intention to record and perform nothing but country music.
That's not going to preclude anything from his earlier catalogue, of course, and setlists from the International Harvesters era would also include reworkings of songs like Country Home, Heart of Gold and Down By the River along with the Flying On the Ground Is Wrong and Are You Ready For the Country? that turn up here.
Apart from that, there's a substantial yee-haw factor in tracks like Motor City, Get Back to the Country and Southern Pacific and tracks that had turned up in other incarnations along the way, like It Might Have Been or candidates for a later reworking (Soul of a Woman, which subsequently turned up in The Bluenotes era).
Highlights include the opening Amber Jean, written for Young's infant daughter, and the closing six-minute Grey Riders but there's plenty of interesting listening along the way, though mileages on Let Your Fingers Do the Walking may vary. Young's albums rarely end up labelled as Essential, but there's almost invariably something worth investigating, as is the case here.
You may be inclined to Approach with caution, but it's definitely worth approaching (or giving an evaluatory listen).