Neil Young is in the twilight of life, but you wouldn’t know it by the incredible number of projects he has in development. He may be the youngest 75 year old.
During the pandemic, there was no touring, yet that didn’t slow Young, who worked on his archives, readying several albums for release, concerts, shelved records and his next set of multi-disc archives.
In 2020, Young released Homegrown, an album he shelved in 1975, and Tonight’s the Night was released instead.
He also released Return to Greendale, a concert recorded in 1992 with Crazy Horse, in support of the Greendale studio album.
Late in 2020, Young released The Neil Young Archives: 1972-1976, a 10-disc boxed set, available through his website.
That is a lot of music, but that is not all. Back on September 18, 2020, Young released an EP (extended play) set of seven songs, live recordings from his Fireside Sessions. The Times were songs Young live streamed during the pandemic. These songs were not picked by random, these songs reach all the way back to the mid 1960s, a time of protest and unrest, and a call to action not to wait for someone else to right the wrongs. With just his acoustic guitar and sometimes a harmonica, Young delivers some rough, but emotional performances.
“Alabama” Young has always worn his beliefs outward for everyone to know. “Alabama” was from the Harvest album. Young drew controversy from the band Lynyrd Skynyrd who objected to painting everyone from the South as racist. In 2012, Young said he regretted the lyrics, but with what many of us perceive as unsettling racial injustice and expressed attitudes, Young may be making his statement again. This version is spirited, but I miss the electric version.
“Campaigner” Written back in 1976, supposedly after learning that Pat Nixon was in the hospital recovering from a stroke, Young was being not only reflective, but perhaps empathetic to Mr. Nixon. America was still sorting itself out after Nixon and Watergate, and a more hopeful (but still skeptic) view of politics was in the air. I do not know what this says about 2020, but perhaps feeling that we could get past Trump, like we did with Nixon. “Campaigner” was only released on Decade back in the 1970s.
“Ohio” Of course written as a response to the Kent State shootings and Richard Nixon’s strong-armed tactics against protests. In 2020 there were protests and violent conflicts between protesters, anti-protesters and law enforcement. This was 1968 Chicago and Kent State revisited in cities across America.
“The Times Are A-Changin'” The Bob Dylan song, delivered with hopefulness that we can meet the challenges we face. This is a pretty good version and recorded well.
“Lookin’ For a Leader 2020” Young dusted off his Bush-era song, when he was focused on Obama, the song updated for the 2020 election, and reflective on the strife facing America. Nicely recorded and the new lyrics are great.
“Southern Man” This song was first released on After the Gold Rush, the lyrics speak of the Klan and slavery, and again Young said the intent of the song was racism in general, not specifically any one area of the South. This version is good, but his voice strains a bit to reach higher notes.
“Little Wing” The most curious of the seven songs. One of my all-time favorite Neil Young songs. The music is haunting, and the lyrics simple, but meaningful, and hopeful. Here, this recording is a bit rough, and there is a break in the middle of the recording before he continues.
Little Wing, don’t fly away
When the summer turns to fall
Don’t you know some people say
The winter is the best time of them all
Winter is the best of all