Underplayed Vinyl: Neil Young

I do requests, apparently.

Some guy wrote me: “I was thinking about how cool it would be if you did a feature like Gordon highlighting an album a month that you may love (and who knows, only have on vinyl).” At first, I was resistant to the idea; I mean, Gordon already does a fine regular piece. Then I thought, “Maybe it should be “Albums in my vinyl collection that I used to play a lot, but haven’t played in a while,’ which would be quite a mouthful as a title.”

Thus was born “Underplayed Vinyl”. Oh, yeah, I decided the once a month would fall on the birthday of the artist, or at least a member of the group. And maybe I’d look at more than one disc.

First up, Neil Percival Young, who turns 61 today, and his first album, cleverly titled Neil Young. OK, that’s a little cheeky, but after being in a band as contentious as Buffalo Springfield apparently was, maybe an eponymous title was called for.

Confession time: I learned about the existence of this album through Three Dog Night. “The Loner” appears on their first album, the one with “One” on it. I had already purchased Neil’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” and “After the Goldrush”, and quite possibly “Harvest”. I noted the “The Loner” did not appear on any of them, and so I hunted this album down, bought it, and played it.

Was I disappointed.

After hearing the instantly accessible subsequent LPs, I was rather confounded by this moody, low-keyed album. Even “The Loner”, which TDN really rocked, sounded strange. But then repeated listens brought out the stark, fragile beauty of the album. “The Old Laughing Lady”, while possibly done better live a quarter century later, caught my ear, as did the lengthy last tune, “Last Trip to Tulsa”. Then “I’ve Been waiting for You.” Eventually, the whole aural pastiche started making sense to me, and I grew to appreciate this album all the more. Still, it would have fared better in my collection’s playlist had I heard it before albums 2 and 3, and possibly 4.

By 1981, I was used to following Neil wherever his muse took him. Still, I’m not sure what to think when I heard re.ac.tor. It was raw. It was rough. It was intentionally distorted at times. I liked it immediately, especially “Opera Star”. I thought the lyrically minimalist, grunge-inspiring “T-Bone” was especially a hoot. The aural assaults, and his use of synthesizers (horrors!) were tempered by some short sweet tunes.

I started reading the reviews, which, as I recall, were pretty brutal. I began to wonder if maybe my tastes had gone south.

Then I thought, “The heck with it,” and played it all the more, as loudly as possible.
These are the answers to Lefty’s Friday Three Questions for November 10th, which I attempted to post at 4:30 pm Friday, but couldn’t because of some techno-glitch:

1. I was born in Binghamton, NY, spent my first 18 years there, plus for a few months in 1977. I’ve lived in Albany since 1979, or 27 years. Albany’s more my home, in part because the highway construction has altered Binghamton to where it’s no longer second nature to get to places.

2. Islands: Manhattan, Long, Barbados, probably others.
Grand Canyon: not yet.
The desert: seemingly so, but I’m not remembering specifics.
The two oceans: yes.
Outside N Am? no.

3. I have no idea. The sunset RIGHT now is pretty spectacular.

Lefty is also looking for opinionated people for the 2nd Annual Brownies Award Open Nominations, which has NOTHING to do with food, despite the misleading, and yummy-looking, photo.

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