After The Gold Rush

Neil Young

Reprise, 1970

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


Neil Young has got to be one of the most overrated artists of classic rock. While a decent electric guitarist, he has only had a few slight flashes of brilliance in his songwriting.  But when compared to the sheer volume of material he has put out over the years, it is clear that the pedestrian and mundane outweighs his good stuff by far.  After The Gold Rush is no exception to this analysis, even though such a statement is in contrast to nearly every review except for those done right when the album was released.  See Rolling Stone's review from 1970, which said, "Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they'll be kidding themselves."  It turns out they have spent the last forty years convincing themselves, to the point that even Rolling Stone reversed itself by 1975. This reviewer remains unconvinced, no matter how loud the cacophony in support if this album is.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After appending his name to the Crosby, Stills, and Nash supergroup, this album, like other Young produced in that era, rose on the charts and did quite well. But upon close examination the disc does not deserve it. The first track, "Tell Me Why," sets the stage for this Spartan, homemade-sounding album. It is a simple tune of double tracked guitars and Young singing all lead and harmony vocal parts (sometimes off-key). But thankfully, it is a generally upbeat track and is pitched in a non-annoying range.  Unfortunately, other songs are not as forgiving. The title track is a slow funeral dirge with Young's trademark annoying, uncomfortably high and out-of-his-range pitch.  "Birds" follows a similar path with its slow, solo man at the piano approach, and "Don't Let It Let You Down" is similar in that it also features Young's thin tenor which sounds ready to snap and break at any minute if the listener’s ear drums don’t go first. The latter also sounds an awful lot like a song Young would later write, "Old Man."

Young also adds a couple of throwaways. "Till The Morning Comes" sounds vaudevillian and lasts barely more than a minute without getting to a point. Similarly "Cripple Creek Ferry" sounds like a drunken bar chorus, but the nature of Young's music is such that you really are not sure if he meant it that way or if that is just how he sings.

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart," "Southern Man," and "Lonesome Me" actually sound like well thought out and completed songs as opposed to the half-baked offerings of the rest of the album.  But only "Southern Man" really feels like a song worth releasing and is very similar to Young's other good song of 1970, "Ohio." It has everything that the self-righteous Canadian wanted to say about the South and a grinding track based on a piano and electric guitar churning out a mincemeat rhythm that suits the song perfectly. It is also the only song that has a real Young electric guitar solo and a drum track that doesn't sound like an afterthought.

If the rest of After The Gold Rush were songs as mature as "Southern Man," then it would be a great album. But as it is stands, it is a poorly thought out, opportunistic venture playing on the fame of CSNY.

And it is generally annoying.

Rating: D+

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© 2012 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.