The Top 40 Neil Young records on vinyl
Closely rivalling Bob Dylan as the most idiosyncratic singer-songwriter of his generation, Neil Young has pinballed between acoustic folk and all-out electrified assaults on the senses via Crazy Horse and more over the past half-century. Long Live Vinyl delves into Neil Young’s estimable back catalogue and lists the top 40 Neil Young records on vinyl.
Young reunited with Crazy Horse after a nine-year break to duff up a carefully selected bunch of campfire singalongs and return them to their protest-song roots. Oh Susannah is revisited in a Tim Rose style and Clementine rumbles darkly. Other highlights include Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land and a delicate Wayfarin’ Stranger. Hats off, too, for the bizarre cover of God Save The Queen. Not the Pistols’ version. You’re welcome, your madge… Rarest 2013 Reprise £25 (single-sided) Latest Out of Press
39. Psychedelic Pill
Essentially the soundtrack to his autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, few songwriters would have the balls to open an album with a 27-minute song. Driftin’ Back is indulgent; after all, such sybaritic tendencies worked for the Grateful Dead. The title track is suitably woozy, while the nigh-on 17-minute Ramada Inn became a controversial live mainstay at gigs throughout 2012 and 2013. If head-nodding mid-tempo Neil is your thing, then fill your boots.
Rarest 2012 Reprise £35 (3LP) Latest Out of Press
38. Chrome Dreams II
A sequel to the unreleased Chrome Dreams LP, the junked car on the cover here is apposite. Young unearths songs from across his previous 30 years that were thought to have been put out to pasture. While opener Beautiful Bluebird melodically evokes Harvest’s Out On The Weekend, this record is dominated by two epics, the 18-minute sprawl of the chugging Ordinary People and wriggling No Hidden Path. There are flashes of brilliance here, but they’re fleeting.
Rarest 2007 Reprise £75 (US import)
37. This Note’s For You
Another 80s genre experiment on Geffen. Sitting outside Young’s usual comfort zone, this is a horn-filled excursion into blues, jazz and soul. Backed by 10-piece band The Bluenotes, it’s worth reassessment. The anti-consumerism title track gave corporate sell-outs like Michael Jackson the middle finger (“Ain’t singing for Pepsi, ain’t singing for Coke. This note’s for you!”). From the late-night jazz of Coupe De Ville to the blues rock of Life In The City, this is an intriguing outlier.
Rarest 1988 Reprise £10-£15 Latest 2018 Reprise £15
36. Year of the Horse
One for the deep-cut aficionados. For the most part, this live album with Crazy Horse dispenses with the mainstream big-hitters of Neil’s career, instead opting to underline his status as the Godfather of Grunge. Amidst the Gibson-drenched carnage, there’s a bluesy take on Mr Soul that holds up well and a tender Human Highway. The driving 11-minute Slip Away and 13-minute Danger Bird are more representative, showcasing Crazy Horse’s trance-inducing drone rock.
Rarest 1997 Reprise £95 Latest Out of Press
Brutal and uncompromising. Punkish squalls abound, although the repeated refrain of “Got mashed potatoes, ain’t got no T-bone” that runs through the nine-minute T-Bone will test the patience of a saint. Get Back On It is a simplistic mid-tempo rock ’n’ roller and the MC5-lite Rapid Transit is throwaway fun. Closing track Shots, Young’s first use on record of the Synclavier that he explored more fully on Trans, is an extraordinary assault on the senses. Rarest 1981 Reprise £12-£15 Latest 2018 Reprise £15
34. Old Ways
Coming after the Brylcreemed folly of Everybody’s Rockin’, Old Ways is Young’s most consistent outing on Geffen, although it remains the lowest-seller of his career. As the title suggests, we’re back in old-timey country territory. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings guest. “It’s hard to teach a dinosaur a new trick,” Neil sings on the tongue-in-cheek title track. The most notable thing here is the counterpoint between Young’s esoteric lyrics and the traditional Nashville backing.
Rarest 1985 Geffen £9 Latest Out of Press
33. Hawks & Doves
Another oddity in the canon. The opening side of Hawks & Doves contains songs from as far back as 1974 and pinballs between the sprawling standout This Old Homestead, throwaway Lost In Space and tasty fingerpicking of Captain Kennedy. Side two features Nashville hoedowns such as the piss-taking Union Man and worrying title track, which seemed to suggest the writer of Ohio had crossed the tracks to become a Reagan-supporting Republican.
Rarest 1980 Reprise £15 Latest 2018 Reprise £15
Arguably Young’s most controversial release, Trans now stands up well as a period piece. Moulding Kraftwerk’s Computer World into his own guitar-based soundscape, Trans saw the songwriter explore new ways of communicating with son Ben, who was born with cerebral palsy. The meeting of vocoder vocals and Synclavier melodies is intriguing. Computer Age and the Big Brother protest of We R In Control are the pick of the bunch, along with the Devo-like Computer Cowboy.
Rarest 1982 Geffen £10 Latest 1999 Geffen £10
Asserting Young as the elder statesman for the MTV generation, Unplugged covers a lot of ground. Early classics such as The Old Laughing Lady and Mr Soul work perfectly as acoustic and wheezing harmonica laments. Fresh arrangements of Helpless and Like A Hurricane are pulled off with effortless style, and his Stephen Stills collab on Long May You Run gets a chance to shine. They even recast the electronic Kraftwerk homage Transformer Man as strum-along folk.
Rarest 1993 Reprise £65 Latest Out of Press
Hugely divisive at the time of release, this ecological concept LP was part of a larger vision that included a longform movie, graphic novel and stage show. Crazy Horse provide the power-trio backing. Its narrative about an imagined West Coast town is flaky, but a strong second side including Sun Green and the anthemic Be The Rain lasted longest in the memory. Young’s 60s idealism and contempt for political corruption were still
very much in evidence.
Rarest 2003 Reprise £235 US boxset Latest Out of Press
If Young tested all but his most devoted fans during the 80s, his renaissance starts here on an LP bookended and dominated by two versions of Rockin’ In The Free World. Don’t Cry bursts into life with an explosive overdriven
solo, alongside exotic centrepiece Eldorado. In among exceptional originals, a surprising cover of Drifters chestnut On Broadway includes a rant about the evils of crack. His best album since Rust Never Sleeps.
Rarest 1989 Reprise £20 Latest Out of Press
28. Roxy: Tonight’s The Night LIVE
Recorded during the 1973 gigs where Young played his as-yet unreleased Tonight’s The Night album in its entirety. Although the setlist differs from the studio incarnation, these live versions retain the LP’s narcotic craziness. The stunning title track finds him in reportage mode, with Nils Lofgren adding striking solos. Mellow My Mind has Young going beyond his vocal range – it’s all part of the torn-heart feel of the album, though.
Latest 2018 Reprise £25
27. Time Fades Away
Like Tonight’s The Night, the death of Danny Whitten before this tour, an astonishing 65 arena dates in just
90 days, dominates the atmosphere here. Young’s black mood was made worse by band fall-outs over cash, and he’s gone on record to say this is the least favourite of his own albums. Issued on vinyl in 1973 and withheld from CD for decades, this acted as a clearing house for previously unreleased material. It’s seat-of-the-pants stuff.
Rarest 1973 Reprise £30 Latest 2016 Reprise £18
26. Living With War
Described as the singer’s “musical critique of US President George W Bush and his conduct of the war in Iraq”, this was written and recorded in just nine days then rush-released for maximum impact. Young called it “metal folk protest music” and, conscious of making a headline-grabbing splash, he added a 100-strong choir to these rough-and-ready rockers. The punky thrash of Shock And Awe, and many others besides, were his most powerful political missives since Ohio.
Rarest 2006 Reprise £75 (US import) Latest Out of Press
25. Prairie Wind
The sound of Young staring down his own mortality. Recorded after he suffered a brain aneurysm and amid the dying days of his father, this intensely personal record mostly finds the singer-songwriter back in acoustic territory. Ben Keith’s dobro, steel and slide guitar add wonderful nuance to one of Young’s most affecting latter-era albums. Falling Off Of The Face Of The Earth feels almost like a goodbye and Neil’s cracked vocals on It’s A Dream are nakedly affecting.
Rarest 2005 Reprise £75 (US import) Latest Out of Press
24. Sugar Mountain: Live At Canterbury House
The most obvious meshing of Young’s Buffalo Springfield years and his first solo outings, this intimate concert predates his debut album by a few months. The majority of the audience would have been hearing The Loner and I’ve Been Waiting For You for the first time, but it’s the Buffalo Springfield favourites (Mr Soul, Expecting To Fly and Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing) that shine brightest in this low-key hushed environment.
Rarest 2008 Reprise £63 (US import) Latest Out of Press2
23. Silver & Gold
If you can see past the appalling cover art, certainly among Young’s worst, there’s a wonderfully reflective and ruminative appeal to his first album of the new millennium. Rarely given to nostalgia, Neil indulges himself for once with the lump-in-the-throat wistfulness of Buffalo Springfield Again, which mourns the dissolution of his former band. Elsewhere, Good To See You is like a hug from an old friend and the old-timey hoedown of Daddy Went Walkin’ is rather cute.
Rarest 2000 Reprise £15-£20 Latest Out of Press
22. Live Rust
Wringing more juice from the Rust Never Sleeps tour, this followed within a few months of that original companion album and puts those new Rust Never Sleeps cuts within the context of Young’s back catalogue. Simple acoustic takes of early classics such as Sugar Mountain and I Am A Child nestle alongside more contemporaneous material like Comes A Time. Crazy Horse add muscle to When You Dance I Can Really Love, Powderfinger and Cinnamon Girl.
Rarest 1979 Reprise £20-£25 Latest 2017 Reprise £20
One of Young’s most talked about unreleased albums finally saw the light of day in 2017. Recorded solo in a single day “pausing only for weed, beer or coke”, Hitchhiker was rejected by his record company Reprise, who thought its stripped-back demo feel was crying out for a full-band treatment. Its material would be sprinkled across various LPs over the next 30+ years, although Hawaii and Give Me Strength appeared for the first time here.
Latest 2017 Reprise £18
20. Live At Fillmore East
This first release from the Archives treasure trove is totally without self-indulgence. Clocking in at just six tracks and 40 minutes, Young and Crazy Horse are touring here to promote Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. That album’s title track kicks things off before a superb Winterlong, languorous Down By The River, Cowgirl In The Sand and Whitten-Young co-write Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown.
Rarest 2006 Reprise £35 Latest Out of Press
For years, the excellent triple Decade was the only Neil Young compilation on the market. In 1993, Lucky Thirteen scooped up his less than essential 1982-88 output, but it was a far inferior ‘hits’ package than its illustrious predecessor. Decade remains the best retrospective out there, running to 35 songs and covering his 1966-76 peak. The 2004 Greatest Hits includes later highlights such as Rockin’ In The Free World and Harvest Moon
Rarest 1977 Reprise £30 Latest 2017 Reprise £25
18. Neil Young
After the success of Buffalo Springfield, where Young competed with Stephen Stills and Richie Furay for songwriting supremacy, this was a tentative first step in his solo career. There’s an instrumental and orchestral interlude to pad out the tracklisting, but The Loner rocks hard and The Old Laughing Lady showcases his acoustic, plaintive side before building to an unusually soulful mid-section, while the wistful Here We Are In The Years also impresses.
Rarest 1969 Reprise £100 (without name) Latest 2009 Reprise £30 (gatefold)
17. Mirror Ball
If it’s structured songcraft that you’re after, then keep on moving – Mirror Ball’s not for you. This 1995 team-up with
Seattle grungesters Pearl Jam (uncredited on the sleeve due to label politics) was recorded over a pair of two-day sessions. There’s a plug-in-and-play free spirit to this, as Young jostles for space in the mix with guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready. The seven-minute I’m The Ocean takes the spoils on this scuzzy grunge-rock feast.
Rarest 1995 Warner Brothers £70 Latest Out of Press
16. Songs For Judy
Old Shakey’s frantic release schedule in 2018 continued apace with this wide-ranging 23-track acoustic (guitar, banjo, organ and piano) live album culled from his 1976 US autumn tour. The rarities are headline news – No One Seems To Know, White Line and Give Me Strength. Nailed-on bankers including After The Gold Rush, A Man Needs A Maid and The Needle And The Damage Done satisfy occasional fans, but it’s the rare cuts that really pique the interest.
Latest 2018 Reprise £25
15. Live At Massey Hall 1971 (2007)
The second release from Neil’s Archives series was taken from the Journey Through The Past solo tour and recorded at Toronto’s fabled live venue in January 1971. Belying the tour’s title, this is no backwards-glancing nostalgia trip. Instead, only eight of the 18 songs performed had been released on record. Among the highlights are tracks that would eventually turn up on Harvest, On The Beach and Time Fades Away. A staggering glimpse into Young’s future.
Rarest 2008 Reprise £30 (US import) Latest Out of Press
Across two blitzkrieg hours, this is the ultimate expression of the face-melting electrified power of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. It’s an unrelenting and punishing listen at times (and that’s not even taking into account its companion album Arc, comprising 35 minutes of feedback, that this was originally released with). A relatively snappy, and thunderous, Cinnamon Girl sits nicely alongside epics including Powderfinger, Cortez The Killer and Like A Hurricane.
Rarest 1992 Reprise £60 Latest Out of Press
13. Comes A Time
Comes A Time may sound like Young’s most easy-going album of the 70s, but a fraught genesis lay behind the birth of this downhome country offering. After various false starts and rethinks, Neil eventually served up this oddly uneven collection. Its first side is uniformly excellent, but then it tails off noticeably on the second side. A ragged mix on 200,000 copies destined for Italy and Japan saw Young shoot the consignment with a .22 calibre shotgun.
Rarest 1978 Reprise £15-£20 Latest 2016 Reprise £18
12. Sleeps With Angels
Often wrongly characterised as Young’s heartfelt tribute album to Kurt Cobain, only the title track was written after the Nirvana icon committed suicide. Instead, the plaintive tone for this 1994 long-player was set by the title track Young wrote for Jonathan Demme’s AIDS-themed drama Philadelphia in late 1993. Change Your Mind is a trademark Crazy Horse chugger, while Safeway Cart aims a disappointed shrug at consumerism. Trans Am is another spooked highlight.
Rarest 1994 Reprise £50 Latest Out of Press
11. Harvest Moon
‘Inventing’ grunge took its toll on Neil’s eardrums, so to stave off an attack of hyperacusis came this low-key acoustic collection. The title’s an explicit nod to Harvest, and superstar backing vocalists James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt return to add their honeyed tones. The nostalgic From Hank To Hendrix crystallises the slick sound here, and the ambitious Such A Woman found Neil returning to the symphonic arrangements of Expecting To Fly from Buffalo Springfield’s second LP.
Rarest 1992 Reprise £45 Latest 2017 Reprise £20
10. Le Noise
In the present decade, there’s as much excitement about Young’s archival rescue jobs on unreleased tracks as there is for new material. Reunited with his trusty Old Black, Young grabs an arsenal of guitar effects pedals and turns things up to 11. Produced by Daniel Lanois (hence the punsome title), the headline for fans was the long-awaited appearance of the track Hitchhiker. Elsewhere, Lanois coaxes the best set of songs out of Neil for a decade or more.
Rarest 2010 Reprise £75 (US import) Latest Out of Press
9. American Stars ’N bars
By 1977, Neil Young was stockpiling material at an alarming rate. If fans expected any coherence from his output they were in for a shock with this scattergun effort. American Stars ’N Bars was a freewheeling dumping ground for countryfied efforts such as Saddle Up The Palomino and Hold Back The Tears. The kicker was the extraordinary Like A Hurricane, another stone-cold classic.
Rarest 1977 Reprise £10-£15 Latest 2016 Reprise £15
The long-awaited return of Crazy Horse, with little-known guitarist Frank ‘Poncho’ Sampedro replacing the late Danny Whitten. Although there’s a darkness to the lyrics here, the Horse’s ragged style somehow imbues these songs with an upbeat energy. Young’s whipsmart lyrics are at their best on the knowing Barstool Blues, while the epic seven-minute Cortez The Killer would go on to become a key song in Young’s live arsenal over the years.
Rarest 1975 Reprise £30 Latest 2016 Reprise £15
7. Ragged Glory
Can a multi-millionaire knock out a garage-rock classic more than 20 years into his recording career? Well, if you’re Neil Young, yes you can. The title perfectly encapsulates the raucous thrills here, as Neil dips into his unreleased song collection to rescue 70s-penned tunes such as Country Home and White Line. Fuckin’ Up is a foul-mouthed punkish squall, while Farmer John recycles an old Brit Invasion hit by The Searchers given a radical Crazy Horse overhaul.
Rarest 1990 Reprise £40 Latest Out of Press
6. Rust Never Sleeps
A typically perverse Young concept, a live album of all-new songs where, for the most part, the crowd noise has been removed. Rust Never Sleeps, the title a reference to Neil’s obsession with artistic forward momentum, is a strong collection. Its first side features acoustic numbers such as Pocahontas and the countryfied Sail Away. The electric second side is classic Crazy Horse proto-grunge, including Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black).
Rarest 1979 Reprise £25-£30 Latest 2016 Reprise £20
5. Tonight’s The Night
This boozily ramshackle album may sound like a riot, but there’s real pain behind the hedonistic carnage. A direct response to the drug-related deaths of Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, this was recorded before On The Beach but delayed for a year. Wasted on tequila, Young howls through the wracked title track and overreaches his vocal range on Tired Eyes. Astonishingly raw, many fans consider this to be Young’s most powerful work.
Rarest 1975 Reprise £30 Latest 2015 Reprise £20
4. On The Beach
In his liner notes for the Decade compilation, Young wrote: “Heart Of Gold put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore, so I headed for the ditch.” The first in the so-called ‘Ditch Trilogy’ was On The Beach. Highlights include Walk On and the banjo-led For The Turnstiles. In the wake of the Manson killings, Revolution Blues was so on-the-money, it scared the bejesus out of David Crosby, who plays rhythm guitar on it.
Rarest 1974 Reprise £70 Latest 2016 Reprise £20
The album that turned Young into a superstar was a wonderfully diverse and accessible collection featuring the purity of the waltzing title track, strumalong Heart Of Gold (a hit single!) and the stark fingerpicked acoustic ballad mourning the death of Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten, The Needle And The Damage Done. Only the overblown orchestral backing to A Man Needs A Maid feels at odds with this most tasteful of Young efforts.
Rarest 1972 Reprise £45 (cardboard sleeve) Latest 2010 Reprise £25
2. After The Gold Rush (1970)
Those expecting more sprawling overdriven guitar-rock for the follow-up to Everybody Knows… were knocked out by this predominantly introspective set. After The Gold Rush became a set text for the burgeoning Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter enclave, with the piano-led title track and swooning Only Love Can Break Your Heart shining brightly. There’s still space, though, for the fiery protest fury of Southern Man to prove Young hadn’t left his Gibson at home.
Rarest 1970 Reprise £50 Latest 2010 Reprise £25
1. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
A quantum leap on from his eponymous debut solo LP, Young’s first album with Crazy Horse laid the groundwork for vast swathes of his career to come. Remarkably, the rocking opener Cinnamon Girl, done and dusted within the space of three minutes, and sprawling epics Down By The River and Cowgirl In The Sand were all written in a single afternoon while Young was in a state of delirium suffering a 103°F high fever.
Rarest 1969 Reprise £70 Latest 2009 Reprise £30