Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Book Review: Neil Young's Biography, Shakey

Title: Shakey
Neil Young’s Biography
Writer: Jimmy McDonough
Review: Rick Galusha

By 1975 Stephen Stills had already established his bad habits. After playing with Neil Young in the highly touted band Buffalo Springfield, the relationship between Stills and Young was rocky. Despite the on-again, off-again nature of Young’s commitment to Stills’ new band, ‘Crosby, Stills and Nash,’ Young had agreed to record and tour the album, ‘Long May You Run’ with Stills. While Young’s substance abuse is well documented in Jimmy McDonough’s authorized biography, ‘Shakey’ he was in control and disliked being around junkies. At the Charlotte, North Caroline show Stephen Stills berated soundman and Young’s confident Tim Mulligan from the stage microphone. After the show an already distant Young got on his bus, ‘Pocahontas, and headed to the next gig in Atlanta. As the bus rolled down the highway that night an inebriated Stills got on the CB from his bus and demanded to speak to Neil. Initially ignoring Stills blathering Young eventually tore the CB out of the dash and told the driver to go to Nashville where he caught a plane and flew home to Malibu. The now legendary note was sent to a confused Stills, “Dear Stephen, funny how things that start spontaneously end that way, Eat a peach. Neil” And so the saga of being Neil Young continued.

In 2002 Jimmy McDonough first published the authorized biography of one of rock’s least predictable characters. Throughout his career McDonough documents Young’s ability to repeatedly thrash vast commercial appeal in favor of his musical art. A complicated man, McDonough’s interviews over the years with Young document an artist that is careful to not revel or define too much. Perhaps the most “innaresting” aspect of Young’s phobia of selling out is his choice to counter-balance the vast commercial success of ‘Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’ with the barely able to play Crazy Horse band. Young is meticulous in his efforts to play with less competent players in order to capture a rawer, less commercially viable rendition of his songs. It must work since, unlike other “Classic Rock” artists, Young continues to release critically acclaimed albums late in career including; ‘Harvest Moon’ (’92), ‘Mirror Ball’ w/ Pearl Jam (’95), ‘Living with War’ (’06) and this year’s exceptional album, ‘Chrome Dreams II.’

McDonough’s book is a chronological look at Young’s career beginning in the village of OmeMee in Canada. McDonough gets Young to discuss his epilepsy and subsequent seizures but tiptoes around the polio that affected him in his youth. Throughout the book McDonough presents his research; based on bootlegs, interviews and clippings and asks Young to comment. Ever a ‘Shakey’ operator Young often avoid direct answers but gives insight into his state of mind. Often the discussion includes Young’s dismissal of others feelings in the past and today’s remorse such as the time Crosby and Nash were fired from a recording session. “Well, that was an easy way of doin’ it – but I still did it. I still went from place to place, and I just left a trail of destruction behind me, ya’ know. But the older you get, the more you realize how much that hurts people…Those records wouldn’t be there – and those people would still be as pissed off as they were in the first place. I chose to put the energy into the records.”
Once quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, Young indicated he had at least 600 albums in the can for posthumous release. Included in the vault is the album, ‘Homegrown.’ Homegrown was an album that legendary record industry mogul Mo Ostin predicted, in the early 70’s would sell five million albums. The album regards Young’s split with actress Carrie Snodgrass (The Fury) with whom Young had his first child Zeke. Young indicated the album is too honest, too close to the artist. “It was a little too personal…it scared me” said Young. Eventually tracks from the session would show up on other albums including; “Little Wing” and “Old Homestead” on ‘Hawks & Doves,’ “Star of Bethlehem” on ‘American Stars and Bars,’ and “Love is a Rose” and “Deep Forbidden Lake” on Decade but, according to the author, “to hear Homegrown in its entirety is to hear Neil Young at his best.” Another famed unreleased but heavily bootlegged album is “Chrome Dreams” (Chrome Dreams II came out in ’07) which was recorded in ’75-’76 and included the songs, “Pocahontas,” “Too Far Gone,” “Sedan Delivery,” and “Powderfinger.”

Like so many of his period, the drug references and abuse becomes carte blanche in the book. Young’s fear of needles and LSD possibly saved him from the hardcore abuse that others fell into and in retrospect he had harsh words about the drug culture he frequently found himself in, “But cocaine and music don’t really go together, and they never did…Drugs are great until you realize they work against you…Cocaine is a destructive drug. It takes you in, you need more if it all the time. It’s addicting.”

‘Shakey’ is an exceptionally well done rock biography where the artist interacts with the documented past and gives an additional insight on events and recordings rather than the traditional myopic rock-bio where just the author or the artist give a sweeping input. Young’s role in the band’s Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y predated today’s ‘Americana’ music movement while his ‘three chords and a cloud of dust’ work with the band Crazy Horse and the album, ‘Everybody Knows this is Nowhere’ laid the groundwork for the grunge sound. Unquestionably Neil Young is as significant an artist as rock has seen ranking as a peer to Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson. This book is available at Omaha’s Public Library and is required reading for any true Neil Young fan or budding musicologist. This is an excellent book about one of rock’s few uncompromised artists, Neil Young.

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