February 1971 – Crazy Horse Debuts

February 1971: Crazy Horse – Crazy Horse

Some of the most enjoyable discoveries for me as a music fan are the ones that come about by chance. With Crazy Horse, it happened a number of years back while wading through used discs in a store I no longer recall. There appeared before me a title which simply read Crazy Horse. I wondered to myself, “As in Neil Young & Crazy Horse?” It hadn’t occurred to me that the group had recorded albums without Neil, but here was evidence they had. Noticing the release year and recognizing two of the track titles as songs performed with Neil (Dance, Dance, Dance & Downtown) it was an obvious purchase, and I was not disappointed. The core band that emerged from ashes of The Rockets – Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina, plus Jack Nitzsche and Nils Lofgren – first as backing band to Neil Young on Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and in a more limited role on After the Gold Rush, released their eponymous debut 50 years ago this month.

Crazy Horse (band) - Wikipedia

One thing that stands out to me when perusing the liner notes is that the name Neil Young appears only twice, first with sole songwriting credit on Dance, Dance, Dance, and then with a co-credit along with Danny Whitten on Downtown – a song that would eerily reappear on Young’s Tonight’s the Night album a few years later as a live track featuring Whitten, who’d passed away in 1972. From a music standpoint, Crazy Horse is a damn fine rock album from start to finish, and I wonder if the band’s best-known status as “one of Neil’s bands” helps or hinders the album’s place in the pantheon of albums from the 1960’s and 70’s.

Neil Young News: A Conversation with Ralph Molina | North of the Internet
Molina & Talbot

I’d known about the sad demise of Danny Whitten strictly within the context of his involvement with Young but listening to this album brings home just how talented he was, especially as a rock vocalist. He wrote five of the eleven tracks, and all but three feature him as lead singer. Among my favorite Whitten vocals are the opener Gone Dead Train (subtly driven by Jack Nitzsche’s piano), Look at All the Things (which could’ve been a blueprint for much of their work with Neil), Nitzsche’s Carolay (which hints at Jack’s experience as conductor/arranger for the now late Phil Spector), and his signature song, the sad ballad I Don’t Want to Talk About It – a track made somewhat famous when recorded by Rod Stewart in 1975. This original is enhanced by the sweet slide guitar work of guest player Ry Cooder, who also appears on Whitten’s Dirty Dirty and Nitzsche’s Crow Jane Lady.

Whitten
Lofgren

Then-nineteen-year-old Nils Lofgren contributed two tracks, including one of my favorites on the album, Beggars Day, which features a much more gravelly, experienced sounding vocal than might be expected from someone so young. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Joe Walsh in his James Gang days. Even the guitar solo is familiar in that regard. Crazy Horse is a no-frills rock band, and saying anything else about this album would just be unnecessary hyperbole. If you like the Horse with Neil Young, listen to this album. The louder the better.

Tracklist

Side One:

  1. Gone Dead Train
  2. Dance, Dance, Dance
  3. Look at All the Things
  4. Beggars Day
  5. I Don’t Want to Talk About It

Side Two:

  1. Downtown
  2. Carolay
  3. Dirty, Dirty
  4. Nobody
  5. I’ll Get By
  6. Crow Jane Lady

-Stephen

https://www.allmusic.com/album/crazy-horse-mw0000113305

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_Horse_(album)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Don%27t_Want_to_Talk_About_It

3 thoughts on “February 1971 – Crazy Horse Debuts”

  1. I’ve never heard this before except “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” I embarrassed to say I didn’t know about Nils until he joined the E Street Band.
    The song you featured sounds really good…I looked up Beggars Day…really cool cut.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whitten’s is such a sad story. It’s a tragedy that so many musicians, especially from the late 60s though the 70s, lost their lives as a result of drug addiction. I didn’t know he wrote “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”, and his version is just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Stephen! I have to admit up to now I’ve only viewed Crazy Horse as Neil Young’s somewhat crude backing band and always dug them in that capacity.

    This is the first time I’m listening to this album, and four tracks in, I have to completely agree with you it sounds like “a damn fine rock album”!

    Nice to see Talbot, Molina and Lofgren (since 2018) are still part of the current line-up.

    Liked by 1 person

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