Neil Young’s No Longer on the Beach

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I remember seeing a documentary on Neil Young many years ago and he was actually a car collector back then, though he has changed his tune to a certain degree with global warming colouring most of our actions these days.  We took a look at A Letter Home earlier this year and there is no notion of car collecting on it, unless it is as an art exhibit of how we used to live.  Storytone furthers that separation from the consumer lifestyle, hurtling headlong toward an enlightened one.  Though, when I think back on one of my favourite Neil Young albums of all time, it seems like he may never been a car collector in the Jay Leno sense of that term.  Most of the songs from 1974’s On the Beach would work on Storytone.

Young Jazz & Recycling

Storytone consists of ten songs done twice, once solo and once accompanied.  It’s a fascinating piece of musicology and, somehow, one of Neil Young’s best albums ever.  The first time I heard it through I loved the solo tunes and dismissed the filled out pieces; I prefer minimalism. With further listening, though, I‘ve come to like some of the filled out tunes equally well and—hate to say it—even better than the minimalist ones.  It may not be On the Beach, but he sounds like he has found that groove again. 

 “Say Hello to Chicago”—both versions—is atmospheric in two ways, minimalistic and filled in.  It’s complicated for a listener to handle a single tune two ways in the same release.  It’s our thirst for all versions of Beatle tunes and such that has generated this kind of release. Young saves us the interlude of the intervening years by releasing two versions at once.  Just as we are delighted to hear both Let It Be and Let It Be Naked, we can doubly enjoy Storytone in its two versions.

Car Collections

Not all of Neil Young’s experiments have been successful; some have even generated lawsuits.  Storytone is something quite different though.  This album offers us two different versions of the same songs in one instance and somehow it works as a whole.  Not bad.  That half-forgotten documentary I mentioned in which Young showed his peculiar car collection also showed that Young had several unreleased albums worth of material. Wherever this came from, it’s fresh and completely realized and makes us wonder what is yet to be released—and in what way.  A Letter Home could have been backed by an orchestra or a big band, but was released one way only.

Ten Songs Done Twice

“I Want to Drive My Car”—as ironic and compelling as its lyrics are—and “Like You Used to Do” are two excellent examples of songs done beautifully in completely separate ways. The sound reminds me of that 1974 album that called the oil industry vampires and showed an old car fin sticking out of the sand.  Neil Young may have been ahead of some of us in his use of imagery and perhaps we should listen to both versions of his latest release as carefully as we used to listen to what he had to say forty years ago.

AH

 

 

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