Neil Young + Promise Of The Real - Peace Trail (Official Music Video From the Film 'Paradox')
Directed by Daryl Hannah. From the Paradox soundtrack, out now on Reprise.
This is a new version of one of the best songs Neil has written this decade. “Peace Trail” was the title track of his 2016 album recorded with session musicians Jim Keltner and Paul Bushnell. This new version is with his band Promise Of The Real and is featured on the soundtrack of Daryl Hannah’s film, Paradox (available on Netflix).
I have to take good care
When something new is growing
Can’t really tell from this video what the movie’s about but Netflix says, “Neil Young and his band of outlaws sow seeds of strange mischief and musical wonder under Western skies in this dreamlike film by Daryl Hannah.” Looks like it might be a sequel to Grizzly Adams. I think I spotted Ben but where’s old Number Seven?
Seems somewhat appropriate to celebrate Boxing Day with Neil Young.
I’m Canadian by the way
And I love the U.S.A.
Good old Neil. Hasn’t stressed too much about refining his lyrics in a couple decades, has he? That’s okay because the sentiment is righteous and so are the guitars. Willie Nelson’s kid’s band seems to have reinvigorated Neil and inspired him to dig back into his ragged glory.
This sounds like a band. The harmonies in the chorus are straight up CSNY 1974. The chanting, later on, unfortunately, is a little more Greendale or Living with War.
I still wish Neil would spend a little more time on the craftsmanship of his songwriting, but that’s never gonna happen, so at least he’s giving us gnarly guitar tones. Which is more than you can say for most people of his generation.
This is the second animated video Neil has released to promote Hitchhiker. We already covered the first one, but this album is really holding up as one of the greatest gems from the Neil Young Archives. It’s such an immediate, intimate, intense collection.
The song itself, Neil’s “drug chronicles,” has been fairly legendary among Rusties. He played it live during his 1992 solo acoustic shows, causing fans to speculate about which came first, “Hitchhiker” or 1982’s “Like an Inca,” since they share some lyrics. Neil finally recorded it with Daniel Lanois on the 2010 solo electric album, Le Noise, but not before adding a couple of extra verses.
How many years have come and gone
Like friends and enemies
I tried to leave my past behind
But it’s catching up with me
I don’t know how I’m standing here
Living my life
Thankful for my children
And my faithful wife
“Finishing was important,” Young told American Songwriter in 2010. “The song never could have been done without those verses.” I guess that explains why it sat unreleased for so long despite the fact that it’s awesome.
In that same interview he said, “So I have recordings of ‘Hitchhiker’ from the ’70s but there was never any reason to put it out. I felt like, ‘Whoa, that’s not really a good idea.'” Glad he changed his mind! Finally releasing the Hitchhiker album is one of the best ideas he’s had in decades.
Hitchhiker is an incredible album, and I’m frankly shocked that Neil Young has let it out into the world. In Shakey, Jimmy McDonough revealed that Neil would sometimes hold back the “best” version of a song because it was “too real.” I could argue that these are the best versions of all these songs, and — recorded in one session in 1976 — this recording is as real as it gets. This is peak Neil.
In his memoir Super Deluxe, Neil wrote:
I spent the night there [Indigo Ranch Studios] with David [Briggs] and recorded nine solo acoustic songs, completing a tape I called Hitchhiker.
It was a complete piece, although I was pretty stony on it, and you can hear it in my performances. Dean Stockwell, my friend and a great actor who I later worked on Human Highway as a co-director, was with us that night, sitting in the room with me as I laid down all the songs in a row, pausing only for weed, beer, or coke. Briggs was in the control room, mixing live on his favorite console.
In a recent radio interview, Neil explains why it wasn’t released at the time:
Back then when we played this record for business folks, the reaction was that it was not a real record, but a collection of demos. I was advised to record the songs with a band, but the Hitchhicker versions are the true originals, recorded earlier than any versions you may have ever heard, and I always knew the original album would find its place and surface. That time is now.
I can’t imagine that there’s anything left in the archives as great as this, but I would love to be surprised. So bring it on, Neil! The time is now!
It must have been fun to work at Warner/Reprise in 1969. There were so many great groups on their roster: Joni Mitchell, Van Dyke Parks, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Kinks, the Grateful Dead… They were the cool label. Selling those records to all the hip kids must have been a piece of cake.
Or maybe not.
Because when it came time to come up with a campaign to promote Neil Young’s first album with his new band Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, they ended up with a novel idea: free dirt. That’s not a euphemism for anything. You could send in a form and they’d mail you a baggie of dirt from Topanga Canyon. No self-addressed stamped envelope or anything!
“Miss Penny in shipping has demanded tranquilizers, overtime, and an Easter bonus for her boys if they have to bag dirt. But what the hell. Nobody understood Galileo either. Read on.”
If I am being honest, I am just as guilty as anyone—maybe more so. I see “legacy” acts touring and think, “Why bother? They can’t be as good as in their prime.” Sometimes I’ve been proven right when a band that hasn’t spoken in 20 years gets together for a tour only to realize they stopped speaking for a reason and should leave us all out if it. But sometimes I am proven wrong; gloriously wrong.
Graham Nash has always been the secret ingredient. His harmonies are unmatched, and that’s evident in the work he’s done from The Hollies, to CSN(Y), and anything else he’s lent that magical voice to. It’s a high harmony, which is a big responsibility to hold in a singing group because those are the notes everyone really hears. Guys like David Crosby and Chris Hillman have a special gift for the harder to find middle parts, but they can also hide a little easier. With Nash, it’s right out there hovering over the entire song. That means his voice needs to be in top form, lest we all walk away just a little disappointed.
While the idea that artists can make music that is not what people, fans, mainly, think or expect them to make and yet that music has as much validity as anything that they may have previously recorded or performed raised in this recent entry about Elvis Costello, it has come to my attention that this isn’t some philosophical rabbit hole, but potentially something that could have crippling consequences for the performer in question.
That is, back in the 1980s, when Neil Young was signed to David Geffen’s label, Geffen sued Young for $3-million, with the suit claiming that the music that Young was putting out—Trans and then Everybody’s Rockin’—were “unrepresentative” of, well, presumably Neil Young music.
The suit was dropped, but consider what the existence of the suit in the first place meant.
Neil Young was signed to a label presumably because there was something that was considered to be “Neil Young Music.” Prior to that point in time, Young had put out a rather robust body of work, a collection that could be considered, to put it modestly, eclectic.
Does, say, Harvest (’72) have much similarity to Rust Never Sleeps (’79)?
Yet Geffen seems to have thought that there was Neil Young Music and there was something that was Not Neil Young Music. He had paid for NYM. He was getting what he perceived to be NNYM. And so he wanted his money back.
If you went to an ice cream store and ordered a banana split and they gave you a hot fudge sundae, you’d probably want a redo, at the very least. Arguably some of the components of the banana split are like those of the hot fudge sundae, but that’s not what you had in mind.
And Geffen didn’t have, apparently, Trans and Everybody’s Rockin’ in mind, either.
So who’s right? Who decides? The artist/performer or the person paying for the product? (Yes, “product” is a loaded word, but most musicians are not involved in personal not-for-profit undertakings, because when they go to the ice cream store for that hot fudge sundae, the person behind the counter expects money, not a song.)
I love Neil, but my biggest issue with him lately is that ever since his longtime producer David Briggs died in 1995 Neil has favored a spontaneous type of songwriting and recording that has all but buried any sense of craftsmanship. Neil’s best moments have always felt “off the cuff” while never taking the easy or obvious route.
The intro of “Oh Susanna” sounds like the first time they ran through the song, which it probably was because that’s how Neil likes to record these days. Yes, as it goes on it gets into a good, funky groove. And that’s all Neil seems to strive for in his golden years.
But is that enough? Neil Young has written more gut wrenching, mind blowing, heart breaking material than anybody else in his generation. He’s an old man now, and let’s face it: he’s gotten lazy. At least when it comes to recording new material. Apologists can justify it all they want but it’s become clear that Neil simply does not want to put in the effort to make great records anymore.
Granted, he’s still doing more interesting stuff than any of his contemporaries. Who even comes close? McCartney? No. Dylan? Eh. Leonard Cohen? Maybe.
What’s certain is that Neil Young is continuing his 45 year long tradition of doing exactly what he wants, following that bipolar fucking muse wherever she leads him, consequences be damned. I just wish his muse would encourage him to sit down and write some lyrics. And then read them back and edit them. And not just say whatever pops into his head first because usually that’s pretty insipid. Work on the songs. And work harder.
When Neil was 25 he was able to come up with “Ohio” in twenty minutes, according to legend. Those days are long gone.
Since his latest album Americana contains covers of “classic, American folk songs,” the spotlight on his songwriting will be averted for now. But pay attention to the arrangements and the recordings. Of all the musicians Neil has worked with over the years, the Horse has proven most capable of pulling off the spontaneity. And the more I listen to “Oh Susanna” the more I like its funky charms.
Let’s hope the rest of Americana succeeds as well at rising above the amount of effort put into it.
“The world can be split into two camps: people that like Neil Young and people that don’t. And the people that don’t are fucking idiots. Mind you, I wish he’d spend more than a week making an album.”
–Noel Gallagher, Mojo Magazine, September 2011