Neil Young with Crazy Horse - Rust Never Sleeps - Review
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critics' view

Back in ’65 Bob Dylan had released “Bringing It All Back Home”, a half-acoustic / half-electric set, almost as if wary of a folk-puritan revolt. Whilst Neil Young had no such artistic concerns, his “Rust Never Sleeps” took that concept on-board, with the added twist that 7 of the 9 songs were recorded live on stage. It was an unusual way to showcase his new songs, but it works a treat for me, and I write as one who strongly detests the concept of live music being issued on record. Unplugged side one is the strongest for my money, and the fantastic album opener “My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue) [live '78]” sets a high standard from the off. “The king is dead but not forgotten” … and I’m thinkin’ aw nice, a tip-of-the-hat to Elvis, but Neil pipes up… “this is the story of Johnny Rotten”. Ha! Smart career move in ’79; stay relevant, stay hip. All he has to do now is stay the hell away from Crosby, Stills and Nash!!! Thinking more deeply about the message within, it seems to me that Neil is talking on musical terms; do not plod on blandly if you’ve nothing left to say, and it seems Neil is a fan of Mr Lydon’s recent re-invention.

With an immaculate sense of teenage mixtape running-order perfection, the equally fantastic “Thrasher” continues the theme, as he disses the aforementioned C-S-N-Y supergroup: “So I got bored and left them there… They were just dead weight to me, Better down the road without that load.” This is music to my ears. It’s 1979 and Neil young is ON it. The first of the two studio tracks is “Pocahontas” which describes the massacre of an Indian tribe by European settlers. Never since Johnny Cash have we heard the truth of these matters so affectingly on record. For all my excitement at the quality of side one, the album’s highlight appears on the full-band side two, namely “Powderfinger [live ‘78]” an epic tragedy song with imagery that also seems to be rooted in the violent struggles of early America. Young man, just turned 22, is forced to take up arms to protect his family from what looks like an oncoming slaughter: “Raised my rifle to my eye, never stopped to wonder why, then I saw black and my face splashed in the sky.” Ooft. The set closes where it began, with an electrified and slightly retitled “Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black) [live '78]” which, in the eyes of many, almost single-handedly affords him the title the Godfather of Grunge. It’s fantastic to hear the Crazy Horse gang chant in unison “Johnny Rotten, Johnny Rotten” in response to Neil. This works wonders for their public image. Neil’s one of us.

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