Neil Young’s Ditch Trilogy, Pt. 5 – Some Final Notes

Like a Cadillac in Alabama, it seems I’ve got a wheel in the ditch and a wheel on the track.  I’m almost out of it, but before moving on to other topics I want to mention a couple of remarkable live recordings from those incredibly creative and productive days for Neil.  Perhaps that’s something I haven’t emphasized enough:  As heavy and gloomy as much of the Trilogy material is, Young basically never ceased working – a trait of his that continues to this day.  Anyway, one of these recordings is a widely circulated bootleg from an audience tape, and the other a recent official stand-alone release from Neil’s Archives.

One mark of a confident songwriter is to take new, previously unheard material before a live audience.  In Neil’s case, we aren’t simply referring to a musician who inserts a couple of new tunes into a set list of oldies, often giving a large number in the audience the opportunity to head for the restroom or concession stand.  On May 16, 1974, he played a surprise, unadvertised solo acoustic set at New York’s Bottom Line club after Ry Cooder’s scheduled set, and thankfully someone had a tape recorder.  In just over an hour, Neil played 11 songs interspersed with funny, stoney storytelling.

Amazingly, five of the eleven songs were début performances and 10 of the 11 songs were unreleased at the time.  Four songs were from his just-completed On the Beach album which would be released exactly two months later.  Another tune was from Tonight’s the Night, which wouldn’t be released until the following year.  Still another would find a home on Zuma in late ’75, and one was from the future (’76) Stills-Young album, Long May You Run.

Arguably the most stunning track is the one which opens his set, Pushed it Over the End (which he introduced as Citizen Kane, Jr. Blues).  The only official release of this song is on the CSNY ’74 set released in 2014, but in my opinion the Bottom Line performance is much better.  Both Neil and the club audience are loose, and among the humorous stories he tells, we learn that the upcoming On the Beach release was recorded under the heavy influence of a concoction he calls honey slides, its recipe he shares with the appreciative crowd.  The sound quality of this recording is actually quite good considering it’s an audience tape, so slide on your headphones and enjoy.

Tracklist:

  1. Pushed it Over the End (a.k.a. Citizen Kane, Jr. Blues)
  2. Long May You Run
  3. Greensleeves
  4. Ambulance Blues
  5. Helpless
  6. Revolution Blues
  7. On the Beach
  8. Roll Another Number
  9. Motion Pictures
  10. Pardon My Heart
  11. Dance, Dance, Dance

Released just a couple of weeks ago on April 24, Roxy:  Tonight’s the Night Live once again captures Neil Young trying out new material in front of a club audience.  This time we hear Neil and the Santa Monica Flyers on the opening nights of the Roxy in Los Angeles, between September 20-22 of 1973.  Graham Nash and Cheech & Chong performed opening sets before Neil and Co. took the stage for a set which covered, from start to finish, the tracks they’d spent the summer working on that would ultimately appear on Tonight’s the Night when it was finally released in 1975.  Also performed was Walk On from the following year’s On the Beach.  Since this was the first time the songs were heard by a live audience, Young stayed true to the studio arrangements, something he doesn’t always do.  However, as is often the case, the live versions here are punchier and warmer.  The material may be bleak, but Young is definitely in a livelier mood.

I listen to the Bottom Line set above as much as any other release of Neil’s, and this Roxy release has found an instant home in my rotation.  It’s great stuff.  Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Tracklist:

  1. Intro
  2. Tonight’s the Night
  3. Roll Out the Barrel
  4. Mellow My Mind
  5. World On a String
  6. Band Intro
  7. Speakin’ Out
  8. Candy Bar Rap
  9. Albuquerque
  10. Perry Como Rap
  11. New Mama
  12. David Geffen Rap
  13. Roll Another Number (For the Road)
  14. Candy Bar 2 Rap
  15. Tired Eyes
  16. Tonight’s the Night (II)
  17. Walk On
  18. Outro

http://neilyoungnews.thrasherswheat.org/2013/05/neil-young-bottom-line-club-new-york.html

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/neil-young-roxy-tonights-the-night-live/

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2018/04/neil-young-roxy—tonights-the-night-live-review.html

-Stephen

3 thoughts on “Neil Young’s Ditch Trilogy, Pt. 5 – Some Final Notes”

  1. Really nice series, Stephen! I actually listened to the Roxy album earlier today and liked it. Based on what I’ve heard from the Bottom Line clip thus far, it also sounds very promising!

    I take it you’re a big Neil Young fan. I’m actually friends with a guy (John Hathaway), who heads a great Neil Young tribute called Decade. They mostly perform in New Jersey. Not only does John capture Neil”s vocals and guitar-playing pretty well, but he even looks like he could be a younger relative! In case you’re on Facebook, here’s their page: https://www.facebook.com/decadeband/

    Unfortunately, there are very few clips of them on YouTube. Here’s one of them:

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, no worries!😀 I only noticed myself how popular tribute bands are during the past couple of years. While there are definitely differences in quality, some of these tribute bands are pretty impressive!

        In addition to Decade, I’ve seen great tribute bands for The Beatles (“Britain’s Finest”, “RAIN”), The Rolling Stones (“Glimmer Twins”), The Who (“Who’s Next”), Fleetwood Mac (“Tusk”), Steely Dan (“The Royal Scam”), Pink Floyd (“Echoes, The American Pink Floyd”) and Led Zeppelin (“Get the Led Out”). Some of these acts even optically resemble their idols!

        Given today’s tickets prices, great tribute bands can be a nice and affordable alternative. I can’t wait for outdoor concert season to start. It was during free concerts in the park or moderate cost open air festivals where I discovered most of the above tribute bands.

        Liked by 1 person

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