It’s probably not reasonable to review a thirty year old classic album, but nevertheless I have a few things to say about Neil Young’s eponymous solo debut.
First, I bought it at Flashback Records last weekend because, like so many of my music purchases over the years, I loved the cover (above). Young stares out implacably, his chiseled features blending in with a rocky mountain background, while his shoulders blend into an inverse city-scape. I take it the album was produced during the period when Young escaped to the country, although he was still singing about that several records later.
The album sleeve is a thing of beauty, but also information. Like all the best record covers it includes the song’s lyrics, or at least some of them. In this case they are re-produced in straggly hand-writing, prose-style, and with only the faintest allusions to verses / paragraphs. It creates a sensation like reading a story book.
Accompanying the lyrics is a photo-study of the singer in his (or someone’s) kitchen. I’m not sure what he is about to put in the kettle waiting on the hob, but he’s clearly thinking very carefully about it.
On the back is a somewhat sinister cartoon and below what at first appears to be an enigmatic artistic statement, but later turns out to be an enigmatic lyrical fragment from ‘The Last Trip to Tulsa’:
I was chopping down a palm tree when a friend dropped by to ask if I would feel less lonely if he helped me swing the axe. I said, “No, it’s not a case of being lonely we have here. I’ve been working on this palm tree for eighty-seven years.” He said “Go get lost” and walked toward his Cadillac. I chopped down the palm tree and it landed on his back. NY.
Inside is a record of rare brilliance and it’s not even one of Neil Young’s best. Somehow, despite being a fan for over thirty years, I’ve never heard it before. Not a single track. No question what I’m doing for the rest of the night.