- Album name: After the Gold Rush
- Artist name: Neil Young
- Year: 1970
- Number of discs: one
- Label: Reprise Records
- Collection: Brenner / Gessner
- Distinguishing characteristics: my parents each had a copy of this record. My father’s is unmarked and my mother’s has “Brenner” written on the LP.
- Buy it on Amazon: $34.99
Level of familiarity before listening
When reviewing Harvest last summer, I mentioned that I used to hear it all the time when I was growing up because my parents were big fans, and that I bought it and this one on CD from UrbanFetch.com when they were going out of business after being acquired by Kozmo.com in late 2000. I’ve listened to it at least a thousand times.
Here are the previous nine Neil Young records that I’ve reviewed:
- Neil Young (1968): 4/5
- Retrospective: The Best of Buffalo Springfield (1969): 5/5
- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969): 4/5
- Déjà Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1970): 5/5
- Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More (1970): 4/5
- 4 Way Street by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (1971): 5/5
- Young Man’s Fancy (1971): 5/5
- Harvest (1972): 5/5
- So Far by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (1974): 4/5
What I expected
Country, rock, folk.
What it was actually like
I tried not to listen to this record for a while as I knew it was approaching, so I could have it a bit more fresh in my head for today, and I’m so glad I did. One reflection that I might not have noticed otherwise: it had a lot more piano than I remembered.
Anyway, it’s a classic of course, and I love the way it starts, and the feeling that Tell Me Why gives me of knowing that I’ll know every note and chord and lyric for the next 45 minutes or so.
Another thing I don’t think I ever noticed before was how minimal, and even how inchoate, a couple of these songs were: Till the Morning Comes, which had barely three lyrics, and which closed the record’s first side, and Cripple Creek Ferry, which was basically half a song (though the most fun on the record), and needed at least one more verse or two, and closed the record’s second side. They were not unusual: several other songs had what seemed like half-formed verses.
Southern Man, for example, started to tell a story towards the end from the point of view of the “southern man,” but then stopped after just a few lines. It was also one of a few on the record that was more electric than the others, with an outstanding guitar solo that I’ve always loved, though still very piano-driven. When You Dance I Can Really Love also had that electric sound.
A few of these songs have always been a bit boring to me: Birds, which had a choral backing that I didn’t like; I Believe in You; and Oh, Lonesome Me, an unfortunate cover of a Don Gibson classic.
Don’t Let It Bring You Down, which Young said on 4 Way Street “sort of starts out real slow and then it fizzles out altogether” (to which which I responded that Young’s description “was absolutely false: I love that song and how he played it”) and Only Love Can Break Your Heart are two of my favorites.
The title track After the Gold Rush has always struck me as one of the most far-out lyrical experiences in rock music, going from a Breughel painting in one verse to a junky dozing off in the next, to alien spaceships taking people to another galaxy in the third. The best part is that the extreme psychedelia of the lyrics is underscored by the wholesomeness and even homeliness of the folk rock music, which is genius. And I never knew it until today, but there’s also a weird and excellent a capella cover.
5/5: love it
|↑1||I wonder if Young didn’t continue telling that story because he didn’t like where it was headed, or if he intuited something that I’ve long believed about his song, which is that it’s rather a low blow, maybe even low enough to justify the half-loathsome, half-exquisite Sweet Home Alabama. On 4 Way Street I described it as “kind of preachy.”|
|↑2||My interpretation: the first and third verses are different dreams of the character in the second.|