Tag Archives: Neil Young

What’s Your Favorite Album Of The Year So Far?

Since it’s now June and we are officially about half-way through 2011, I’d thought I’d take a look at some of the albums that have been released so far.  For me, so far the best album is a tie between Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues and My Morning Jacket’s Circuital.  What do you think?  Any good ones I missed?  (And I’m not counting Gaga just for the record.)



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The Ten Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 9. Green Day

In the summer of 2004, I read an article that was previewing what would become American Idiot. It stated that Green Day were working on a rock opera about the state of the nation.  One song, the article said, was about 10 minutes long and would contain multiple sections.  At the time, it seemed quite ridiculous.  Green Day, was after all a band that sang about masturbating and smoking weed.  And who knows, maybethey sang about doing both of those activities at the same time.  Green Day were a good band, a fun band.   Billie Joe Armstrong might have borrowed Joe Strummer’s snarl (and occasionally the accent), St. Joe he was not.  During a drunken night, I told one of my friends about the alleged 10 minute song I read about in the article.  “Shut the fuck up, Matt,” He told me with a bit of disdain.  “Next, ever speak of this again.”  Afterall, who would want to listen to Green Day’s thought on the state of the nation?

As it turned out, Green Day would prove the skeptics wrong. American Idiot, would end up becoming one of the defining albums of the era in part because many of its song were protests against the War In Iraq.  While there plenty of artists making statements and complaining about the war, they seemed to be few and far between.  And it wasn’t just the Dixie Chicks who got some shit.  Dozens of fans walked on  a Pearl Jam concert in 2003 when Eddie Vedder sang the anti-Bush song, “Bushleaguer”.  If artists were speaking out against the war, they certainly weren’t doing it on the radio.  Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief didn’t receive much play, Neil Young’s Greendale only spoke to his devoted fans, and Conor Oberst was too much of a niche artist at the time to make any impact.  But when “American Idiot” came blaring on the radio in the summer of 2004, it suddenly became clear that Green Day were no longer trying to be The Clash.  They were The Clash for this generation.  When Armstrong suggested that ” Everybody do the propaganda and sing along to the age of paranoia” it was a rallying cry to wake people up.  And if the lyrics didn’t cover that ground, the sonic assault of the song was just as arresting.

While many of the songs are a protest agains the War in Iraq, making no pretense about the band’s stance, it’s also much more than that.   In a decade where everything seemed to teeter out of control from every direction.  “Hey can you hear the hysteria?” Armstrong asks. But then he takes it one step further – “The subliminal mind-fuck, America.”   Somehow Green Day managed to tap into the cultural zeitgeist – a fusion of anger and disillusionment.  It was an era where many seemed destined to “fall in love or fall in debt” .

Of course, Armstrong’s instincts and intentions would mean as much if the songs on American Idiot weren’t good.  The aforementioned 10 minute song, “Jesus of Suburbia” combined punk and elements of prog-rock.  Amazingly the 5 pieces of the songs fit together perfectly, and the result became of the band’s best songs.  “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” with that weird feed-back loop managed to be the successful song on the album.  The band managed to cover a lot of ground, without missing a step.  The lyrics may have the focal point of the album, but their content also never got in the way of a good rock song.  Which American Idiot was full off.

American Idiot brought back some of the spirit of the 60s and 70s – when music actually meant something, that it could be a catalyst for change.  If a group that previously known for being dumbass stoners ends up releasing the album that best sums up what it was like to live in the mid 2000s, I’m not sure whether Green Day deserve even more credit than they already have, or if I should point a shameful finger at others for not stepping up.

(And for those who might suggest I’m only basing this off of one album, The Sex Pistols only had one album as well.)


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Fall Songs: “Moondance” – Van Morrison

This week’s theme might, as week might as well be moon, since yesterday I reflected upon Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”, and today I’m going to take a deeper look at Van Morrison’s “Moondance”.

A friend of mine commented on yesterday’s post that “Harvest Moon” was a classic; on it’s way to becoming a standard.  I don’t entirely disagree, but I feel that “Moondance” has already been a standard – and with the exception of “Brown Eyed Girl” – the song that is most associated with Van Morrison.

Morrison’s music has sometimes been described as “Celtic Soul” – and “Moodance” is probably the epitome of that description.  The music swings and sways like jazz.  Morrison croons, but the flute that plays underneath him gives the song a Celtic feel – linking the song musically with the lyrics.  There’s no other song like – and it’s almost like it doesn’t quite belong in this world.  And yet, just as Morrison takes his love to the forest “Neath the cover of the October skies” – it feels entirely familiar.

Like “Harvest Moon”, the lyrics of “Moondance” centers on autumn.  For Morrison, autumn is a magical time – “and all the night’s magic seems to whisper and hush”.  The “leaves on the trees are falling to the sounds of breezes that blow”.  If Neil Young was interested in taking his companion out into the countryside to get away from the world, Morrison is taking his love into another world.

At the beginning of the song, Morrison is full on romantic.  The drums and the piano slide in as Morrison hooks the listener in: “Well it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance, with the stars up above your eyes, fantabulous night for a romance.”   It would be hard to resist lines like that.  By the time Morrison arrives at the second chorus, his love has given into his romantic gestures.  Most of “Moondance” is romantic and full of sincerity, but when Morrison tells his love that she trembles every time he touches her, there’s almost a hint of sexual menace in the delivery.  But the listener has no time to consider, because after the chorus there’s an extended jam, and then Morrison goes on full scat at the end of the song before delivering the final “my love” as the music ends abruptly.


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Fall Songs: Harvest Moon – Neil Young

Due to popular demand (by that I mean 4 people) today I’m going to take a closer look at “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young.  What is it about this song that people become so attached to it?  I’ve known people who absolutely hate Neil Young, but absolutely love this song. 

If there was ever a song that captured the mood of Autumn, “Harvest Moon” would be high on the list.  The melody is gorgeous, and Young’s soulful vocals are wistful, laid-back, and sincere.  While I’m sure Neil Young spent a lot of time on the song, it sounds like it was made up on the back of a horse-drawn carriage through a pumpkin patch as the sun sets in mid-October.  Knees are over the side of the carriage, and a bottle of hard-cider is passed back and forth. 

Harvest Moon was released in October 1992 – very fitting for the mood of the album – but Young began recording the album a year earlier in September 1991.  Whether Young knew this or not, 1991 had the prestige of having a “Super Harvest Moon”.   A regular harvest moon occurs when the moon is full closes to the Autumnal Equinox.  A “Super Harvest Moon” occurs when the moon is full exactly on the night of the Autumnal Equinox.  2010 was also a “Super Harvest Moon” year – occuring on Septmber 23rd. 

For many, the appearance of a Harvest Moon clearly suggests the transition from summer into fall.  Sometimes, the moon can even appear red as a a Harvest Moon, much like the color the leaves will soon be turning.  Musically, “Harvest Moon” is gentle just the crisp autumn air.  But, it also catches the change that comes with a Harvest Moon and the Autumnal Equinox.  It’s unclear whether bad-blood has occurred between Young and the woman whom he is speaking to.  But one thing is clear – he’s letting it go.  “Just like children sleeping, we could dream this night away,” He suggests, and whisks her off to the country-side to the Harvest Moon. 

Once they flee to the country-side, Young is no longer the only person speaking.  “We know where the music’s playin’ let’s go out and feel the night”.   Clearly, his companion isn’t just coming with him – she’s a wiilling particpating at this point.  And would could a be a deal-maker, “Because I’m still in love with you” – Young delivers the line such affection.  The listener is left waiting for a response, but Young continues it up, “I want to see you dance again”.  It’s clear that he just wants his companion to be happy, and when he follows up with “I’m still in love with you, on this harvest moon” – you know that he would he happy, even if just for a moment, under the Harvest Moon everything was where it was supposed to be. 

 Neil Young – “Harvest Moon”:

Pearl Jam covering “Harvest Moon”:


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Musings on Neil Young

I have a love-hate relationship with Neil Young.  I have a lot of respect for him, because like a lot of artists from that era he follows his own convictions – rarely straying from the path.  But unlike Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, Young’s career to me is remarkably inconsistent. Harvest, After the Gold Rush, Live Rust are all fantastic.  Harvest Moon, is the great middle-aged romantic album – the perfect soundtrack for summer turning into fall.

But when it all comes down to it – Neil Young has made an entire career based out of the two sides of Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. He’s switched between introspective acoustic folk, and guitar-freak sludge.  Even though some may rank Young as a great guitar player, I tend to prefer his softer-side –  this is where he really comes alive.   It’s not coincidence that the more popular version of “Hey Hey My My” is the acoustic version and not the electric.

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