Happy Birthday to Neil Young’s After the Goldrush

after the goldrush Here at Musicscramble we like to think we’re contemporary. At the forefront of today’s music. And it’s with this in mind that I sit here ready to do a review of After The Goldrush by Neil Young. An album that came out in, er, 1970. Okay, maybe it’s not contemporary, but there are at least a couple of reasons that make looking back at it a worthwhile venture.

Firstly, today is the 43rd anniversary of its release. Secondly, it’s a fantastic album and one that, for me, is the middle record of the greatest three album run by man or beast. Bookended by 1969’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere and Harvest which came out in 1972 I can’t think of three other albums of such consistency by any artist that have come one after the other. If you can think of any then please let me know.

I only found out today that this was the albums anniversary and what struck me and what really inspired me to sit and write this piece was the review the album got on its release from Rolling Stone magazine. It got utterly slated. Phrases like ‘sloppy & disconnected’, ‘uniformly dull’ and Young’s voice described as ‘pre-adolescent whining’ all added up to Langdon Winner not being a happy listener.

It’s worth noting that within 5 years the magazine was referring to the album as a masterpiece and these days is regularly voted into top 100 Greatest Album lists.

So I’m not going to try and directly contradict the original 1970 review, rather just offer my opinions on the album. For what it’s worth I can actually see where some of the criticism comes from. Some of the vocals can seem both pained and strained but, for me, that has always been a part of Neil Young’s appeal – his voice can be one of the most fragile but beautiful things you’ll come across but with that fragility there’s always the feeling the magic might snap and substitute the beauty for despair. I think that does happen on occasion here and I think it’s a deliberate act to convey the emotions of the songs – anger on ‘Southern Man’, the melancholy of ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’.

It’s definitely not as polished as it’s predecessor, it has a rawness which, again I attribute to the emotions involved in the songs here. Rather than a criticism I see it as a positive that he felt he didn’t have to follow the path trodden by the previous album. But the album is full of magnificent song-writing. ‘Tell Me Why’, the title track and ‘Birds’ are amongst Neil’s finest moments.

Another interesting aspect of the album was the personnel used. Whilst this was billed as a Neil Young solo album it ony featured the Crazy Horse line up on three tracks, but with the introduction of Stephen Stills and Greg Reeves from Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as well as Nils Lofgren it was much more a wider, collaborative effort. This enhances the albums free-spirited feel. The only thing I think it’s missing is a trademark Neil Young 9 minute epic.

But, even after 43 years, this is an album I highly recommend that, if you haven’t tracked down, you do so. Even better, give it a listen alongside both Everybody Knows… and Harvest. You’ll be in for a rare treat.

Graeme Campbell

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