…And a Neil in the Ditch

Tonight’s the Night

With 1975’s Tonight’s the Night (recorded before On the Beach, released after), Neil Young achieved a satisfyingly laid-back roughness, a who-gives-a-damn vibe, never more effective than on this album. While the previous year’s On the Beach is arguably the most consistently interesting of his mid 70’s ‘Ditch Trilogy’, comprising the now out of print Time Fades Away (1973), On the Beach (1974), and this LP, it’s Tonight’s the Night that exemplifies the deceptively rough and ready feel he was exploring at the time. The songs are full of grief and sorrow, masked with wry humour and unpolished groans. Heck, Young even includes a song from Crazy Horse’s 1970 tour. After his previous image of the wholesome and sometimes moralistic folk singer, the Ditch Trilogy is Young painting a detached picture of post counter-cultural 1970’s America, while accepting that he was stupid to think that he could cease the Vietnam War by writing songs.

Time Fades Away (1973)

It’s not, ”I’ve seen the needle and the damage done” anymore, it’s ”I heard that he died.”, which is the key to its lasting brilliance

Best Track: Lookout Joe

Goof: Shameless product placement for the Econoline van.

8 New Mamas out of 10

On the Beach

Created with the aid of ‘Honey Slides’, On the Beach forsakes the raw anger and blatantly despondent attitude of the previous ‘Ditch’ albums (Tonight’s the Night was recorded before but released after On the Beach) for a more subtle cynicism and mordancy. In that way, this is what the previous albums, while brilliant in their own way, were building up to. Once the almost impenetrable layer of crypticism is removed from certain songs, the lyrics are sensitive and reflective, in a far mellower way than the preceding albums. Neil even admits ”it’s hard to know the meaning of this song” in the beautiful acoustic ramble, Ambulance Blues, 8 minutes of Young calmly drivelling about stuff, for lack of a more specific word. The rough electric sound of Walk On harks back to tracks such as Lookout Joe and Tonight’s the Night, except with a newfound wry humour, whereas Vampire Blues and Revolution Blues are more political, which is good(?). A greater sense of depth and variety is clear, both musically and in his mixed up pothead emotions.

Best Track: Motion Pictures

Goof: Charles Manson?

9 Sea-sick Mamas out of 10

”I have a barn.”
–  Neil Young


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