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Cheech Tremendous
Last week I introduced my new idea for a weekly music thread. The first choice, Rocks, proved to be something of a let down. For this week's installment I have chosen a critically acclaimed but commercially forgotten powerhouse of an album from one of rock's legends.

Neil Young - On the Beach



On the Beach is the final release of Young's doom trilogy (Tonight's the Night, Time Fades Away, On the Beach), the post-Harvest output characterized by muddy production and bleak subject matter. Although critically regarded as one of Young's best, On the Beach was out of print for close to twenty years before its CD release in 2003, resulting in the album being largely forgotten.

Side 1

"Walk On"
"See the Sky About to Rain"
"Revolution Blues"
"For the Turnstiles"
"Vampire Blues"

Despite the despair and doom connotations thrown out in regards to the album, Side 1 starts out on something of a high note. "Walk On" is a nice fuck you response to the negative press Young was receiving at the time, delivered over some good riffs. "See the Sky..." is a beautiful melodic piece that came from the Harvest era. The album picks up steam over the last three tracks, featuring Young's views of Charles Manson, overblown rock tours and the oil industry, respectively.

Side 2

"On the Beach"
"Motion Pictures"
"Ambulance Blues"

Muddled, distorted and moody, Side 2 features three brilliant tracks. Reportedly recorded while Young and his band consumed a honey-weed mixture described as "much worse than heroin", the side feels very bleak. The tracks here are dark, but in a way sound cathartic for Young. Young essentially confronts all the issues that are making him miserable, saying goodbye to the despair that nearly wrecked his life post-Harvest. I can't really do this stuff justice in a paragraph. It's brilliant work.

On the Neil Young spectrum of great albums, I'd slot this one just behind Tonight's the Night, but still ahead of Rust Never Sleeps and the early classics. It's slightly more accessible that the aforementioned album, but casual fans familiar with Young's radio hits might still be turned off.
Kinetic
I'm a huge Neil Young fan, but I must admit to not being thrilled with On the Beach. "Walk On," "Revolution Blues," and the title track are all awesome, but I feel like most of the rest of the album drags. "Ambulance Blues," in particular, is an unfocused mess that just refuses to end.

My top 5 Neil Young albums:

1. Tonight's the Night
2. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
3. Rust Never Sleeps
4. Zuma
5. After the Gold Rush
C*Z*E*C*H
For all the Lost Classic hype, I never really got all that into On the Beach. "Revolution Blues" has a really good riff, though. Rust Never Sleeps and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere are my two favorites. I used to like Harvest a lot but got bored with it. After the Gold Rush has a few songs I love but as a cohesive album, it's not in contention, sry. I'm the only person that thinks Tonight's the Night isn't that great. If I ever went on record saying that I liked it, I was lying to fit in.
Cheech Tremendous
Re: "Ambulance Blues"

It is unfocused and meandering, but I don't mind that sort of thing as an album closer. I think if it was stuck right in the middle it'd feel a little weird. As far as being disjointed, yeah the track is like three songs in one. Just seemed like Young was trying to air everything out at once. I can see someone not liking it though.
Cheech Tremendous
Regarding lost classics, I still need to find a copy of Time Fades Away. Buying vinyl on ebay doesn't really thrill me.

QUOTE
For all the Lost Classic hype, I never really got all that into On the Beach. "Revolution Blues" has a really good riff, though. Rust Never Sleeps and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere are my two favorites. I used to like Harvest a lot but got bored with it. After the Gold Rush has a few songs I love but as a cohesive album, it's not in contention, sry. I'm the only person that thinks Tonight's the Night isn't that great. If I ever went on record saying that I liked it, I was lying to fit in.


I think you've gone on record with your dislike of Tonight's the Night. And honestly, if you didn't like that one, I can see why On the Beach doesn't really register with you. Different content, obviously, but thematically they are really similar.
Kinetic
I also need to get Time Fades Away. I *think* that's the only 70s album of his that I don't have.
Kinetic
QUOTE (Cheech Tremendous @ Sep 22 2008, 02:40 PM) *
Re: "Ambulance Blues"

It is unfocused and meandering, but I don't mind that sort of thing as an album closer. I think if it was stuck right in the middle it'd feel a little weird. As far as being disjointed, yeah the track is like three songs in one. Just seemed like Young was trying to air everything out at once. I can see someone not liking it though.


I like that he acknowledges the song's lack of focus with the "it's hard to say the meaning of this song" line. Unfortunately, that's really the only part of the song that I enjoy.
Kinetic
Czech did, in fact, go on record with his dislike for Tonight's the Night and even went so far as to mock the part of "Mellow My Mind" where his voice cracks. This comment made a real impression on me and I vowed to never again listen to anything that guy had to say.
Cheech Tremendous
QUOTE (Kinetitron 5000 @ Sep 22 2008, 11:49 AM) *
Czech did, in fact, go on record with his dislike for Tonight's the Night and even went so far as to mock the part of "Mellow My Mind" where his voice cracks. This comment made a real impression on me and I vowed to never again listen to anything that guy had to say.

Consequently, that might be my favorite part of the entire album. Yeah, I know it *sounds* like crap, but the guy's basically falling apart on the microphone for the first half of the album and it just hits that epic climax in "Mellow My Mind."
PUT THAT DICK IN MY MOUTH!
Probably my favorite Neil Young album. "Ambulance Blues" really isn't that disjointed. Yeah, it sort of wanders through a bunch of loosely related free-associative imagery and the extended instrumental interludes could have been shortened probably, but it works exquisitely as both a cohesive mood piece and as a sort of summation/tying together of the album's themes.
Copper Feel
I've heard quite a few Neil Young records (although not this one). I think that my favourite album of his is easily Harvest. Oh, After the Gold Rush and [i]Rust Never Sleeps[/i] are pretty decent as well.
Kinetic
Harvest is such a strange record when taken in the context of the rest of his output from that period. Very slick, very professional. "A Man Needs a Maid" and "There's a World," in particular, are songs that are unlike anything else that he ever did. I like the album all right but would definitely rate it near the bottom of his peak-era stuff.

"Old Man," that's a good one. That song can incite some of the most horrifically off-key karaoke singing imaginable.
Giuseppe Zangara
Man, I love everything about "Mellow My Mind."

There's just no room for sloppiness and any sound or emotional noise in Czech's music listening. If he hadn't admitted to dancing to Talking Heads in his private moments, I'd say he's a cold, unfeeling bastard.
Cheech Tremendous
QUOTE (No Homo @ Sep 22 2008, 12:12 PM) *
I've heard quite a few Neil Young records (although not this one). I think that my favourite album of his is easily Harvest. Oh, After the Gold Rush and [i]Rust Never Sleeps[/i] are pretty decent as well.


Have you heard Tonight's the Night? I think that and On the Beach are essential for anyone who likes Neil Young but your mileage may vary. Just don't go in expecting anything like Harvest or After the Gold Rush.
Copper Feel
Yes, I have. I quite liked it, but not to the degree of the aforementioned albums. For the record, I thought that 'Mellow My Mind' was one of its stand-out tracks.
C*Z*E*C*H
QUOTE (Giuseppe Zangara @ Sep 22 2008, 03:34 PM) *
Man, I love everything about "Mellow My Mind."

There's just no room for sloppiness and any sound or emotional noise in Czech's music listening. If he hadn't admitted to dancing to Talking Heads in his private moments, I'd say he's a cold, unfeeling bastard.

Now you know that isn't true. Of course I not only tolerate, but even embrace musical imperfections or emotion. God damn it, if I had no margin for error in music, how would I be able to listen to anything but my synthesizer playing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" on demonstration mode? The fact is that Neil Young is the guy with no margin for error: with a voice like his, he permanently dwells on shaky ground.

Neil's voice is palatable because it's so often surrounded by really great melodies, harmonies, and musicianship. He's proven more than capable to successfully convey a wide range of emotions, mostly the bad ones, and still sound great doing it. As is the case with Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, John Darnielle, or any other polarizing vocalist you'd like to sub in here, the success of the song is predicated on the other aspects of the production firing on all cylinders: exceptional lyrics and music will not only forgive a multitude of sins, but turn them around into positives. The great sense of despair and wistfulness in "My My, Hey Hey" comes from the harmonic dissonance and sparse instrumentation, and that's where Neil Young shines as a performer and songwriter. Even if Neil were screeching all over the track, which I don't feel he was, the brilliance is in how well the whole thing comes together. "Mellow My Mind" doesn't come together. I mean, there's showing emotion, and then there's this, the kind of shit that gets people booed off the stage or worse at country-western dive bars.

In short: it's not artfully sloppy, it's artlessly sloppy. That's all. I can't listen to "Mellow My Mind" without feeling like the whole threadbare quality is either an unnecessary contrivance to "really show the pain" or an inadequate performance that had no business making it to vinyl. I can't listen to "Mellow My Mind."

To redeem myself: "New Mama" and "Albuquerque" are good songs. I think it's really just "Mellow My Mind" that I can't abide.
Tzar Lysergic
I don't like Tonight's the Night very much either, but I'm hardly well-versed in Neil Young.
Giuseppe Zangara
Oh, I was just funnin' ya, Czech. I was either going to make that post or "Czech's notion of a soul-shattering experience is listening to Amnesiac in the dark while having a good cry."
godthedog
QUOTE (C*Z*E*C*H @ Sep 24 2008, 09:13 AM) *
QUOTE (Giuseppe Zangara @ Sep 22 2008, 03:34 PM) *
Man, I love everything about "Mellow My Mind."

There's just no room for sloppiness and any sound or emotional noise in Czech's music listening. If he hadn't admitted to dancing to Talking Heads in his private moments, I'd say he's a cold, unfeeling bastard.

Now you know that isn't true. Of course I not only tolerate, but even embrace musical imperfections or emotion. God damn it, if I had no margin for error in music, how would I be able to listen to anything but my synthesizer playing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" on demonstration mode? The fact is that Neil Young is the guy with no margin for error: with a voice like his, he permanently dwells on shaky ground.

Neil's voice is palatable because it's so often surrounded by really great melodies, harmonies, and musicianship. He's proven more than capable to successfully convey a wide range of emotions, mostly the bad ones, and still sound great doing it. As is the case with Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, John Darnielle, or any other polarizing vocalist you'd like to sub in here, the success of the song is predicated on the other aspects of the production firing on all cylinders: exceptional lyrics and music will not only forgive a multitude of sins, but turn them around into positives. The great sense of despair and wistfulness in "My My, Hey Hey" comes from the harmonic dissonance and sparse instrumentation, and that's where Neil Young shines as a performer and songwriter. Even if Neil were screeching all over the track, which I don't feel he was, the brilliance is in how well the whole thing comes together. "Mellow My Mind" doesn't come together. I mean, there's showing emotion, and then there's this, the kind of shit that gets people booed off the stage or worse at country-western dive bars.

In short: it's not artfully sloppy, it's artlessly sloppy. That's all. I can't listen to "Mellow My Mind" without feeling like the whole threadbare quality is either an unnecessary contrivance to "really show the pain" or an inadequate performance that had no business making it to vinyl. I can't listen to "Mellow My Mind."

To redeem myself: "New Mama" and "Albuquerque" are good songs. I think it's really just "Mellow My Mind" that I can't abide.


nicely put. i don't like that crack in "mellow my mind" but i like the rest of it, which i guess puts me somewhere in the middle.

i went on record before about not having any enthusiasm for 'on the beach', but in the past 3 or 4 months i've come around on it, and now it's the one i listen to most often. it's this weird mix of enjoyable stuff and bottomless depression, which i'm finding really endearing right now. the repetitiveness of the lyrics, the sloppy playing...i dunno, i like it. "ambulance blues" i think is very good. "for the turnstiles" is a perfect little spare and scary number. the only one i think doesn't work is "motion pictures"--i don't like young's lower register, and since he never gets out of it on that one, it just sounds really flat and boring.
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