Neil Young - After The Gold Rush
Naturally, the man's musical career is just as eclectic and discontinous as his day-to-day behaviour. Those of us who attempt to gain an insight into his music through compilations invariably end up slightly confused. In a recording career spanning almost 40 years, Young has recorded some of the most uplifting hippie anthems and the most downbeat rock tunes (many of his 1980's recordings led to his becoming a fore-runner for the grunge movement); he's written some of the most introspective folk ballads and the most euphoric stadium rock anthems. His 2004 Greatest Hits release is a bold attempt to construct a compilation which spans his entire career while maintaining a sense of continuity. In truth, however, the only true way to listen to Neil Young is album-by-album and there's no better place to start than his breakthrough solo release, After The Goldrush.
After The Goldrush isn't Neil Young's best-known work, but it features his best-known song, Southern Man, a bitter indictment of post-Civil Right Movement southern America. Young chooses this song, one of two on the album to involve a full electric band, to showcase his guitar chops. Southern Man is a dirty, dare I say grungey, rocker which is perhaps indicative of the south itself. The pleasant, upbeat vocals disguise an angry, politically charged lyric, depicting the deep south in a rather cartoonish light. His simplistic view of the south as the land of Klansmen, cross-burning and lynching may detract from the song's power, but it was deemed important enough for a response from southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd in their 1974 track Sweet Home Alabama.
Southern man/You better keep your head/Don't forget what your good book says.
Southern change's gonna/Come at last/Now your crosses are burning fast.
Many casual fans of the album will immediately point to the aforementioned and the second electric song on the album, When You Dance I Can Really Love, as the album's strongest tracks. Giving my first impression of the album, I was guilty of just such an act. The reasons are obvious. Behind the overlong title lurks a delightful pop song that, believe it or not, you can really dance to. The lyrics are good by pop standards, but in the context of the album they're merely the break in a sequence. A makeshift Crazy Horse perform both electric songs with plenty of energy and proficiency.
Tracklist for After the Gold Rush:
1. Tell Me Why
2. After the Gold Rush
3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
4. Southern Man
5. Till the Morning Comes
6. Oh Lonesome Me
7. Don't Let It Bring You Down
9. When You Dance, I Can Really Love
10. I Believe in You
11. Cripple Creek Ferry