Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970): Review

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Produced by David Briggs and Neil Young
Label – Reprise

In a richly diverse career, Neil Young’s critically acclaimed “After The Gold Rush” is for many, a strong representation of the many styles he has crafted. From the harmonic West coast folk rock, influenced directly from his tenure with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to intricate melodic folk/pop, to the harder krunk rock of later years, this 1970 collection could be, particularly for a new listener, an excellent place to dip into his vast recording catalogue. In addition, the singer’s experience with CSN&Y had given him cribs in arrangement and recording techniques that certainly benefitted his strong sense of melody. It is a strictly solo venture, however, Young leans on various members of Crazy Horse and Nils Lofgren, a young virtuoso providing guitar and piano. All self composed, except for his unashamed tear jerking cover of Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me”, “After The Gold Rush” contains many of his best known songs, including the smartly harmonized “Tell Me Why”, the classic piano ballad “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, and the edgy rocker, “Southern Man”. The poignancy of the record can be identified by its insular themes, as Young often identifies himself as the lovelorn troubadour, spilling his heart with simple, sullen sentiments.

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It’s the title track that steals the show though, with its scornful view of mankind blighting the world with pollution and warfare, all played through the relative dichotomy of the most beautiful tune. The often divisive “Southern Man”, is fittingly, a harder affair, with a basic riff that mirrors “Cowgirl In The Sand” from “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”. The motif is lazily repeated on the lyrically clumsy “When You Dance, I Really Can Love” with the singer desperately searching for appropriate romantic rhymes over an arrangement that is as close to conventional pop as he would ever deliver (“Then take a chance? In a trance, While the lonely mingle, With circumstance”). But mostly, one has to admire the simplistic nature of the record, the sparse instrumentation, and above all the relaxed ambience. It’s difficult to find similar folk/country rock albums with a first side that is as consistently strong as “After The Gold Rush”, and although there is a slight deterioration on side two, overall it’s still a memorable recording.

“After The Gold Rush” is an album buoyed by the confidence of Young’s tenure with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and yet its inspiration is squarely routed by his own vision. It’s not only multifaceted and musically mature, but contains a healthy share of magical songs.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Tell Me Why (8)
2 – After The Gold Rush (9)
3 – Only Love Can Break Your Heart (8)
4 – Southern Man (8)
5 – Till The Morning Comes (7)
6 – Oh Lonesome Me (7)
7 – Don’t Let It Bring You Down (8)
8 – Birds (8)
9 – When You Dance, I Can Really Love (6)
10 – I Believe In You (7)
11 – Cripple Creek Ferry (6)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969): Review (7/10)

Neil Young – Harvest Moon (1992): Review (7/10)

Neil Young – Living With War (2006): Review (6/10)

 

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12 responses to “Neil Young – After The Gold Rush (1970): Review

  1. Yeah. Neil Young. Another of those artist that I ‘get’ but I just can’t really ‘get into’. I hear this is a good one though.

    • Yeah, I appreciate that he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I think his voice can be a major obstacle to some. However, I’d prefer his whine to Dylan’s whine

  2. I like this one a lot, but not as much as many Neil Young folks do. I’m glad you mention the clumsiness of When You Dance, I Can Really Love, as I don’t think the album recovers after that, which is a real shame. Definitely could have been a perfect 8 track album.

    • Interesting, and judging by my track listing I’m in full agreement that the album tails off at the end. You’re right, it would have made a great 8 track record.

  3. I’ve got to give this another chance – I listened to it early on in the project and I couldn’t get past the voice.
    But after 5 or 6 albums, I’ve become a big fan of his voice, and so I imagine I’ll be a fan of this now!

  4. Fair to say Hackskeptic I stand on the Dylan side of the massively successful really ropey singer debate.
    If the Allied forces had Neil Young in 1945 then Hiroshima and Nagasaki would still be standing. Any Japanese would have peacefully surrendered rather than suffer this. I have absolutely no idea if he’s any good, I can’t stand his voice.

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