(Photo Montage Credit: thanks to Ralf Böllhoff at Rusted Moon)
After surviving the Mayan apocalypse (or maybe not), we thought it only appropriate for our final blog entry of the year, to look back on what has been an extraordinary year for Neil Young.
As usual, our good friends at Thrasher’s Wheat managed to beat us to the punch — posting up their own yearend Neil Young recap earlier today. Perhaps they put it best too. Because if nothing else, 2012 will certainly be remembered by Neil Young fans as the latest, if most eagerly anticipated “Year Of The Horse” ever.
But there was much more about 2012 that made it arguably Neil Young’s busiest, most highly productive and visible creative period in years, if not decades.
Fans were alerted that 2012 was going to be something else entirely early on this year, when the 37 minute jam “Horse Back” with Crazy Horse was posted on Neil’s website.
This signaled to the world that 2012 would indeed be “The Year Of The Horse” and that Neil was once again ready to make that big rusty noise that is really only possible with one band. As the song made clear, the Horse was back.
This was followed by not one, but two new albums with Crazy Horse:
The first of these, an album of traditional folk standards given the more cranked-up Crazy Horse treatment dubbed Americana, was received warmly by fans in June, but also drew mixed reviews from critics. However, a fall tour with Crazy Horse, accompanied by a second new album, the two-disc opus Psychedelic Pill quickly erased any doubts that the Horse had lost any of its original “spook.”
The album itself combined epic jams like “Ramada Inn,” “Walk Like A Giant” and the 27 minute tour de’ force “Driftin’ Back,” with some of the most abstract, yet introspective and personal songwriting of Neil Young’s career (particularly on the latter song).
Taken together with the Neil Young Journeys film with Jonathan Demme and his own autobiographical book Waging Heavy Peace — and especially the way that each of these projects found Neil Young seeming to put his house in order and come to terms with his own place as both an artist and a human being — a convincing case could be made for the three pieces forming a more complete whole of their own.
Call it the “mortality trilogy.”
Speaking of books, the personal highlight of our year was of course the publication of our own Neil Young FAQ.
A labor of love which took this author two years to write, edit and get published (by Backbeat Books), the book was thankfully received warmly by Neil’s fans (thank you, Rusties). It also became a journey for us of rediscovering Neil Young’s artistry and legacy.
We made a lot of new friends along the way, and also received invaluable help from some of our old ones (thanks in particular go to Thrasher for his wonderfully poignant forward).
(Remember…It’s still not too late for Christmas, and Neil Young FAQ makes an excellent last minute gift for that Neil Young fan on your list).
One of our biggest 2012 highlights though, was Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s blistering performance as part of the Alchemy tour at Seattle’s Key Arena on November 10, 2012.
As we wrote in our original review:
These guys may be getting up there a bit in years, but you wouldn’t have known it on this night. This was like being shot through a time capsule back to the days of Rust Never Sleeps and Ragged Glory. At this show Neil Young & Crazy Horse played like a bunch of twenty-something kids.
As rock shows go, this was one for the ages.
It was an amazing, unforgettable performance.
Of course, there was other stuff we liked this year too. This included great new albums by some of our other old favorites like Bob Dylan (Tempest), Jack White (Blunderbuss), Bruce Springsteen (Wrecking Ball) and Patti Smith (Banga).
We also had the chance to see Springsteen twice on the Wrecking Ball tour (in L.A. at the beginning of the tour, and in Portland towards the end). Much like Neil, you have to wonder where a guy like Springsteen continues to get his energy. Both the shows we saw were three hour plus blowouts, which even saw the Boss stage-diving in Portland.
In any other year, 2012 would have belonged completely to Springsteen.
But between the Crazy Horse reunion; two new albums (one of them a double disc); a book (not to mention our own); and the third film in the Demme trilogy, 2012 was nothing less than Apocalypse Neil.
And it doesn’t look like there will be any slowing down in 2013.
If all goes according to plan, we could see The Pono, Neil Young’s revolutionary new digital music delivery system become available commercially as early as summer.
The Crazy Horse tour has also been extended to Europe, Australia and beyond, and rumors continue to persist that a second Archives volume could be in stores by fall.
We can’t wait. See you next year!