Neil Young – After the Gold Rush – Listening in Depth

More Neil Young

More After the Gold Rush

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of After the Gold Rush.

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy of After the Gold Rush. That’s why it’s been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Rock Title right from the start. We built our reputation on finding Demo Disc Quality recordings like this. Who else can offer you a copy of the album that delivers this kind of ANALOG MAGIC?

Side One

Tell Me Why

Just listen to those Tubey Magical acoustic guitars. You know right away that you’re about to have a sublime musical experience. Nothing sounds that way but analog.

After the Gold Rush
Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Does it get any better than this?! Overly rich? Maybe, but when it sounds this good, who cares?

Southern Man

This is Neil Young rockin’ the free world at his best. You need a big pair of speakers, lots of power, and a Hot Stamper pressing like this one to make this music come to LIFE. It just doesn’t get any better. You need rock solid bass and a total lack of phony top end to play this song right. When you turn up the volume on a track like this, all the flaws are readily apparent. Only the best pressings do this song justice at loud levels.

Till the Morning Comes

Listen to the harmony vocals. You can almost picture all the people standing behind Neil.

Side Two

Oh, Lonesome Me
Don’t Let It Bring You Down

This is the demo track for side two. Play this track on the better pressings and impress your friends with the best sounding Neil Young both you and they have ever heard. The drum sound Neil gets throughout this album, but especially on this track is SO right. They just don’t record drums like that anymore. You don’t so much HEAR the way the drummer is playing, you FEEL it.

Birds

A sweetheart! Neil’s voice is recorded beautifully and the background vocals on the best copies are just right. No hint of strain, if only because this is a fairly mellow track.

When You Dance I Can Really Love
I Believe in You

This is probably the TOUGHEST TEST for side two. The chorus tends to be thin and can really strain unless you have just the right pressing. That means not only the right stampers but the stampers that actually were pressed properly. About one out of twenty copies will get this track to sound its best.

Cripple Creek Ferry

If the acoustic guitars here are as Tubey Magical as they were on Tell Me Why, you can be sure that you’ve just had a sublime musical experience, courtesy of the all-but-forgotten recording, mastering and pressing technologies of 1970.


Further Reading

We have a large number of entries in our new Listening in Depth series.

We have a section for Audio Advice of all kinds.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

Pitchfork Review

Everybody Knows was a sort of big bang for Young, a dense moment of creative explosion that saw possibilities expanding in every direction. So its follow-up was anything but a retread. With his newfound confidence, Young was poised to stretch, and After the Gold Rush sounds a bit like an overview of the Great American Songbook but with one guy writing almost all the songs.

Members of Crazy Horse appear in various combinations on a few of tracks, and songs like “Southern Man” and “When You Dance I Can Really Love” have the hypnotically stoned but sneakily intense groove of the previous record. But more precisely crafted songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Birds”, and especially the astonishing title track, which has become a rock standard, show Young’s gift as a writer of original melodies of extraordinary beauty in full flower.

It’s an aspect of Young’s work that can be overlooked: the guy can write a simple tune over a chord change that hollows you out completely. Sure, the record has a phrase or two that might sound a little dippy to those with an aversion to hippies (Young was one of those, though of a very individualistic sort), but After the Gold Rush is basically unassailable.

There’s a reason why it’s the favorite Neil Young album for so many.

Mark Richardson

Collins Gem Classic Albums

The sleeve is bleak: a solarized photograph of a rangy Neil Young passing an old woman in the street, but After The Goldrush was Young’s first truly great album.

The spellbinding title track mixes everything from social commentary to science fiction, yet somehow Young’s plaintive vocals tie it all together. The Canadian’s penchant for heartbreak is well served on the album. “Oh Lonesome Me,” a cover performed as a slow, sad waltz, features a wailing harmonica and an emotional vocal. Against a slow, swaying beat, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” contrasts childhood happiness with the pain of adult love. “Birds,” with its dry-eyed lyrics and poignant vocal, is heart-wrenching, while “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” is dark and majestic, a stark vignette of a harsh world.

Those tracks showcase Neil Young the troubadour. With “Southern Man” we get Young the axe maniac, here is a real glimpse of the checked-shirt wearing, Crazy Horse-fronting Young of the future. The lyrics are a tirade against Southern racism. Young shrieks them out while his guitar solos are fractured, unpredictable snatches of fire. “When You Dance I Can Really Love” is a euphoric explosion of abrasive guitars, clattering drums and a pounding piano.

It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.