Music

Neil Young, Friends & Relatives: Road Rock Volume 1

Wilson Neate

You have to ask yourself if the world really needs another live Neil Young release at this point. It might be redundant, and it might smack somewhat of contractual obligations, but Road Rock Vol. 1 will of course please completists.


Friends & Relatives

Road Rock Volume 1

Display Artist: Neil Young, Friends & Relatives
Label: Reprise
US Release Date: 2000-11-21
Amazon
iTunes

Most fans would probably agree that there have been several sub-par moments in Neil Young's studio output, especially during the '80s. In concert, however, few would argue that he's been anything less than a safe bet over the years. From Time Fades Away (1973) to Year of the Horse (1997), Neil Young's live releases have provided ample evidence of his status as one of rock's great performers, and this latest concert recording -- Road Rock Vol. 1 -- only offers more proof of Young's brilliance in that regard.

Listening to Neil Young's live albums, or watching him perform, highlights the qualities that have made him such an enduring and influential figure. Chief among them is his ability to bridge gaps between genres and generations -- without losing a shred of credibility -- by writing both timeless and timely songs and by accommodating seemingly contradictory sonic extremes within his musical repertoire.

Neil Young has long excelled as a composer of delicate folk- and country-inflected numbers, but at the same time he has consistently rocked with the best of them. And while he's acclaimed for fragile ballads like "I Am a Child" and "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and simultaneously hailed as the "godfather of grunge", the common denominator has always been his thin, quavering voice, which hovers over simple acoustic melodies and waves of distortion and feedback alike.

Road Rock Vol. 1 was recorded on the "Music in Head" tour of Summer 2000. In contrast with Young's most recent studio release -- the laid back, largely acoustic Silver & Gold -- this live set focuses mostly on his harder, raw electric edge. Six of the eight songs featured on Road Rock date from what is arguably the strongest period of Young's career (1969-1978) -- among them several numbers that Young hasn't played in concert for some time.

The musicians gathered here (the "Friends" in question) will be familiar to Young aficionados. Ben Keith (guitar), Spooner Oldham (keyboards), Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass), and Jim Keltner (drums) have all worked with Young before, and appeared together most recently on Silver & Gold. Keith's musical relationship with Young dates back to Harvest (1972). The "Relatives" side of the equation is made up by wife Pegi and sister Astrid Young, who supply backing vocals.

Never one to bow to convention, Young replaces the standard short, attention-grabbing rock gig opener with an 18-minute rendering of "Cowgirl in the Sand", the original version of which -- on 1969's Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere -- was already 10-and-a-half minutes long. During the ponderous intro, Young teases out the song's opening notes, fooling one rather vocal audience member into thinking that he's about to launch into "Like a Hurricane". The track unfolds in vintage Neil Young fashion, showcasing his singular talent for unraveling his songs into loose, rough-edged, guitar-fueled rambles. "Cowgirl" also provides a textbook example of his quite brilliant inability to finish his epic songs cleanly, as he allows this one to tumble into spasms of noise, taking it past one false ending before finishing it off.

Similarly monumental treatment is meted out to "Tonight's the Night", from the 1975 record of the same name, and "Words (Between the Lines of Age)", from Harvest, which clock in at 10 and 11 minutes respectively. While the first of these is memorable for Ben Keith's slide guitar, injecting the track with a more bluesy feel than usual, the rare live rendition of the bleak epic "Words" is the stronger number. With its subtle changes in pace and intensity, its perfectly placed female backing vocals and its mournful pedal steel, this is a masterful version.

Two other surprise inclusions are "Walk On", from On the Beach (1974), and "Peace of Mind", from Comes a Time (1978). The latter, enhanced again by Keith's haunting pedal steel, comprises the only acoustic interlude on the album.

Notwithstanding a pair of humdrum, unimaginative plodders -- "Motorcycle Mama", also from Comes a Time, and the previously unreleased "Fool for Your Love" -- this live set comes to a boisterous climax with a pounding charge through "All Along the Watchtower". On this ragged duet with guest vocalist Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders opened for Young on some dates of the tour), Young takes the same approach as Hendrix to the Dylan classic, wringing the neck of his guitar with a vengeance.

Some of Neil Young's previous live albums have been criticized for their tendency to recycle the same material. That's not at issue on Road Rock Vol. 1. Only one track -- "Tonight's the Night" -- has previously appeared on any of Young's live records. Still, you have to ask yourself if the world really needs another live Neil Young release at this point. It might be redundant, and it might smack somewhat of contractual obligations, but Road Rock Vol. 1 will of course please completists.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.