sun 20/09/2020

Album: Neil Young - Homegrown | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Neil Young - Homegrown

Album: Neil Young - Homegrown

The unearthing of the singer-songwriter's long-lost album turns up moments of pure gold

In the series one finale of metal-detecting sitcom Detectorists, Lance fills in a hole he’s dug after unearthing nothing more than a rusted ring-pull. As the camera pans downwards, we see the riches that were hiding beneath. He was looking in the right place, it’s just that the good stuff lay tantalisingly out of reach.

In the series one finale of metal-detecting sitcom Detectorists, Lance fills in a hole he’s dug after unearthing nothing more than a rusted ring-pull. As the camera pans downwards, we see the riches that were hiding beneath. He was looking in the right place, it’s just that the good stuff lay tantalisingly out of reach.

And that’s a little bit like Homegrown, Neil Young’s lost album. Scheduled for a 1974 release, it was shelved by the singer/songwriter, who felt the emotion on display was too close to the bone following his split with actress Carrie Snodgress. Finally, some 46 years later, after sifting through recent releases and finding more ring-pulls than glimpses of gold, could we have found buried treasure?

While some of these compositions found a home on later releases, they were both beefed-up and stripped of their original context. Here, reverting to the raw, original recordings, they seem like entirely new songs. The title track, for instance, dials down the harsh treble that marked its somewhat lumbering appearance on 1977’s American Stars and Bars. The result is a faster, lighter pace, the heavy rock offset by a long roll and a deep inhale.

Of the “new” songs “Vacancy” is probably the most immediate, and stands up tall even when measured against Young’s best work. As soon as the double-tracked vocals come in over the suitably swampy groove it’s like meeting up with friends you haven’t seen in years. “We Don’t Smoke It” meanwhile, is an extended Blues jam that sounds like the conclusion of the same evening – messy, meandering and lots of fun.

On the quieter, more reflective moments, the argument for bestowing Homegrown with “classic” status gains even more momentum. “Separate Ways” is as direct a depiction of love lost as you’re likely to find anywhere. No sooner has the 29-year-old Young started to sing, all beautiful fragility and cracked confidence, then the reasons for this album’s long stint on the shelf seem to make sense. It’s raw, ragged and the failed relationship looms large.

And Snodgress isn’t the only female presence that permeates. As well as the backing vocals of Emmylou Harris on “Try” and “Star of Bethlehem”, the complex melody and subtle jazz motifs of “Mexico” surely owe a debt to Joni Mitchell. Together, these songs bring a vulnerable edge to his rugged masculinity and give Homegrown the same, subtle sidestep that links the rest of Young’s best work. An essential addition to the canon.

@jahshabby

As the double-tracked vocals come in over the suitably swampy groove it’s like meeting friends you haven’t seen in years

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Average: 5 (1 vote)

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