In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “I personally may not love the acoustic half, or that side of Young’s music in general, but I can appreciate it.”
Neil Young was name I have known for most of my life. But I didn’t pay any attention until I was a teenager and Pearl Jam embraced Young as their mentor and he became the ‘Godfather of Grunge’. Back then, Pearl Jam finished most live shows with a cover of Young’s Keep on Rocking in the Free World. I loved their version of the song and assumed I would love Neil Young. Then, I did nothing about confirming that for about 15 years. A year, or two ago I finally listened to a Neil Young album in its entirety and was pretty underwhelmed by Harvest. But that was solo Young, and I’ve always heard he rocked harder when backed by Crazy Horse. Time to find out, with Rust Never Sleeps.
While My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) starts in a similar vein to what I didn’t like about Harvest, the folkie guitar and nasal voice of Young at his most reflective has a whole new energy to it here. Recorded live, then sweetened and overdubbed in the studio, that live spark is still evident.
The acoustic side one of Rust Never Sleeps rolls through the pleasant Thrasher, but backs up my opinion that the harmonica might be the worst thing that has ever happened to music. Thankfully, Ride My Llama and Pocahontas forgo the harmonica and standout that much more for it. But that whining bastard of a mouth organ returns in the opening notes of Sail Away and I can’t wait for the acoustic portion of this record to come to an end.
Kicking off the second half, with its more band fuelled, rock and roll inspired sound, Powderfinger immediately elevates what has been a pretty good record into a pretty great one. According to Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, Young wrote this for Lynyrd Skynyrd, but a particular plane crash got in the way of them ever recording it. As much as I like Skynyrd, I think their brand of southern ass kicking rock would have overshadowed the subtler moments of this song that Crazy Horse makes shine.
With its break neck tempo and staccato guitar attack, Sedan Delivery has a punk rock vibe and is also the first Neil Young song I’ve ever heard that makes me kind of understand his ‘Godfather of Grunge’ moniker. Coming full circle, and ending with an electric take on My My, Hey Hey, it’s a nice touch to link what could have been two very disparate halves of Rust Never Sleeps. It’s also a perfect summation of this record and everything that’s right about it. I personally may not love the acoustic half, or that side of Young’s music in general, but I can appreciate it.