Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Reprise Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Hansen Olson


Y'know, back in '75, when this album came out, we never thought of Neil Young as the "grandfather of grunge" or whatever he's called these days. Instead, Neil was the mysterious, dark figure who had confoundedus by releasing Harvest, a beautiful but slightly sappy MOR album, followed by three discordant and depressing albums ( Time Fades Away, On The Beach, and Tonight's The Night) and a failed soundtrack ( Journey Thru The Pastmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 ). Was this guy the "balls" of CSNY (and, boy, they needed 'em) or was he another self-destructive Lou Reed kinda guy? (Remember Metal Machine Music?) Enter Zuma, a tension-drenched version of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, arguably the best thing Neil Young and Crazy Horse ever did. With Zuma, Neil killed all the nay-sayers and fence-sitters dead. Slain, they were, by tongue and string.

Naturally there are duds on this Aztec odyssey. "Looking For A Love" is as ridiculously country as some of Neil's later, John Wayne tribute stuff. "Stupid Girl" doesn't work due to poor lyrics ("I saw you in Mercedes Benz, practicing self-defense; you got it pretty good, I guess; I couldn't see your eyes" - puhleeze!) "Through My Sails" is, well, like the bulk of CSN (&Y), fluffy and lite.

Yet, Neil Young at his best can make you forget all the clunkers and raise you from the dead. "Danger Bird" and "Driveback" both seethe with barely contained anger. Listen to how he mouths through clenched teeth, "Drive back to yer old town; I wanna wake up with no one around." The aching simplicity of "Pardon My Heart" reminds me of a line from the TV series "My So-Called Life": "She was so beautiful it hurt my eyes to look at her." Finally, "Cortez, The Killer," in spite of rather lame pseudo-politically correct lyrics, overcomes its limitations via some of the most intense instrumentation ever displayed by Crazy Horse. It is no wonder that "Cortez" is still a centerpiece of Neil's live shows 22 years later.

Zuma has worn pretty well over the years. Enough time has gone by that I now appreciate the starkness of Tonight's The Night and the paranoia of On The Beach. Still, time and time again, I have turned to Zuma for comfort, solace, and sheer energy. Bonus Recommendation: if you wanna hear REAL Rock 'n' Roll, check out Soul Asylum's version of "Barstool Blues" on the Neil Young tribute album, The Bridge. Neil Young. Long may he run.

Rating: B-

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© 1997 Hansen Olson 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 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.