Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere - Neil Young, with Crazy Horse

Neil Young's album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, issued in 1969, had drifted in my affections in recent years, my attention tending to focus on the material which was released by the Canadian singer-songwriter in the mid-to-late 70s.  Part of the reason for this may be down to an (erroneous) perception that the sophomore record is unduly dominated by the two "epic" tracks, "Down By The River" and "Cowgirl in The Sand".

Closer and honest inspection, however, underlines the overall quality and depth of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. It certainly exudes more bite and energy than the artist's debut album. This record is a showcase for the harder-edged dimension of the Young repertoire, though balanced out by some mellower and more melodic fare.  The LP introduces us to the inimitable and idiosyncratic Crazy Horse groove.

"Cinnamon Girl" is a concise and accessible interpretation of the Crazy Horse pattern. The title track combines the gritty guitar sound with a melodic country-rock atmosphere - a pleasing and satisfying blend.

The overall mood of this work is one of introspection and melancholy, although the odd slice of qualified optimism does strive to break through.

"Round and Round (It Won't Be Long)" has a genuinely hypnotic quality, and it harks back in tone and style to the first album, to my ears at least. In truth the song goes on for too long, although I'm not usually someone who complains about such things. It is easy to begin to lose interest just after the halfway mark.

One of the centrepieces of the record, "Down By The River" has that insistent groove, the instrumentation managing to ally minimalism with vitality, especially during the soloing. The fine vocal harmonies nicely embellish the track.

"The Losing End (When You're On)" is mournful and likeable, if rather lightweight. It doesn't exactly constitute light relief, but it is a nice contrast to the other numbers. Again, tinges of country-rock, with added punch.

The next song, "Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)" has more substance, a distinctive ambience, largely supplied by the haunting violin. My reaction when listening to this one is to liken it to a traditional folk song. Neil's vocal here is very restrained, but intimate and effective. The guitar textures help to create an affecting mood.

The second of the "epics" is "Cowgirl In The Sand", with enigmatic lyrics which may or may not be about some mystical or idealized woman. This one has a real energy and verve, partly due to the "shuffling" rhythm and some unusually prominent bass. Another noticeable feature is the "separation" between the lead and rhythm guitars,

So to summarize, when listened to closely this album reveals itself as very organic and powerful, and one of Neil Young's strongest and most consistent artistic statements, containing very little in the way of filler. Unsettling and haunting in places, but beautifully crafted and quite absorbing and atmospheric.

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