Monday, June 10, 2013

Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush": The Review From Hell

Cover of "After the Gold Rush"
Cover of After the Gold Rush
by Garrett Sawyer

I want you to imagine for one moment that you've just released an album.

It's a solo album for which you used a backing band.

It's not your first album. It's your third solo album and the seventh album total if you include other bands you've recorded with in the last few years.

Now imagine that your bright, shiny new album just got reviewed. And the reviewer said the following:

*That your fans will be kidding themselves if they try to convince themselves that your new album is good.
*That most of the songs were not ready to be recorded when you took them to the studio.
*That your backing band never really got behind the songs.
*That you had trouble singing many of them.
*That the best song on your nice, new album is one of the best songs you ever wrote but your backing band played sloppy, that the instruments never really come together.
*That you sound like pre-adolescent whining.
*That you're singing a half octave above your highest acceptable vocal range and that because of it...
*The reviewer can't listen to your vocals at all.

OK, show of hands. How many of you, upon reading such a review of your labor of love, would be either reaching for some Prozac or calling up your therapist in a panic? Thought so.

Well, guess what? This actually happened to Neil Young. The above comments are straight from the review of "After The Gold Rush" written by Langdon Winner for no less than Rolling Stone (it appeared in the October 15, 1970 issue).

If it will make any of you Neil Young fans feel any better Winner wrote a very uncomplimentary review of the album Young played on just before "After The Gold Rush": the 1970 Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young classic "Deja Vu".

In his review of Neil Young's third solo album he concluded his uncomplimentary observations by observing that "After The Gold Rush" continued where "Deja Vu" left off.

And that "best song" Winner was referring to? That would be "Southern Man", the anti-black racism standard-bearer of the rock era.

Not only that but this album yielded Neil Young's first solo chart hit, "Only love can break your heart", written for sometime band-mate Graham Nash as a result of the latter's breakup with Joni Mitchell. It reached #33 on Billboard's charts by the December after release.

Happily, it will amuse you to know that Rolling Stone changed its mind ... and not just slightly, either. By 1975 a review of Young's then newest album "Tonight's the Night" referred to "After The Gold Rush", in retrospect, as a "masterpiece".

And they would go on to rank it as #74 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (they changed their mind about "Deja Vu" as well, ranking it #147 on the same list).

To all of you out there who are struggling in whatever endeavor you are involved in remember Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush" whenever you get criticized or castigated. And remember where it ended up.

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