“The Godfather of Grunge” Neil Young has been cracking out the tunes for 40 something years. From hard rock, to country, to rockabilly, to experimental synth music, Neil’s always played by his own rules and though he hasn’t always been consistent with great albums, he’s still racked up some great stuff. After the Gold Rush is the album I’m referring to today, so let’s take a look
Recorded mostly at Young’s home in California, Young took on a more subdued almost country sound for his third album. Inspired by a screenplay co-written by actor friend Dean Stockwell (Known for his roles in Quantum Leap and Blue Velvet) Neil originally had planned to do this album as the soundtrack to the film. Unfortunately the film never quite took off, but that didn’t stop Neil from finishing this album. So with some help from friends such as composer Jack Nitzsche, Nils Lofgren and Stephen Stills, Neil put together what is often considered one of his best albums.
With his distinct high pitched voice and competent guitar work, Neil presents us with a beautiful collection of bittersweet ballads with country themes. Songs like “Tell Me Why”, “Oh Lonesome Me” and “After the Gold Rush” have a genuine timeless beauty to them. Other songs like “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” show off the roots of grunge, while numbers like “Till the Morning Comes” and “Birds” are just light hearted and simplistic pop songs. Neil paints stories about everything from the environment to prejudice through these rootsy rock numbers, and keeps you thoroughly engaged for the whole ride. Though Let’s not ignore the heavier side to this album, most notably shown in the controversial rocker “Southern Man” that presents that other “Pissed Off” side of Neil we all know.
All in all I think one of the main reasons that After the Gold Rush is such a standout work for Neil is that this album feels like his most personal, at least that I can recall. One thing is for sure, it still leaves quite an impact.
Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Tell Me Why”