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Neil Young & The International Harvesters
A Treasure - Reprise
FILTER Grade: 86%

By Daniel Kohn on June 13, 2011

 

Neil Young & The International Harvesters

He was once known as one of the leading voices in the Los Angeles folk scene, eventually evolving into the Godfather of Grunge, but the era in between these two periods has been described as the “Lost ’80s” for Neil Young. This compilation of live performances, which was culled from the middle of the Reagan era, proves those years maybe weren’t quite as bad as critics initially thought. With his backing band The International Harvesters, Young dabbles in bluegrass and roots music here (think heavy fiddle, slide guitar and banjo), which alienated many of his mainstream fans at the time. But that doesn’t mean that the songs were terrible; in fact, they were the contrary. Tunes like “Amber Jean” and “Are You Ready for the Country” would be at home on today’s alt-rock or alt-country radio stations, while the previously unreleased “Grey Riders” (the heaviest track on the album by far) would have had many twang-loving couples boogying the night away. Just because the sound may have been different, Young’s familiar songwriting and storytelling remains as strong as it had ever been to that point, which is best demonstrated on “Bound For Glory.” Though these performances are more Willie Nelson and less Crazy Horse, that doesn’t take away from the grizzled vet’s willingness to take chances. The music hasn’t changed, but times have—and for that, the bard deserves an apology from the legions of doubters who thought he lost his marbles because, as this live record confirms, the man truly remains ahead of the curve.

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