Neil Young / Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Neil Young

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A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs.

Side Two

This copy earned our highest grade of A+++ for side two, where the harder-rockin’ electric material can be found, including two of the best songs on the album: Powderfinger and Sedan Delivery. It’s got the kind of presence and energy that are really able to bring this music to LIFE. The sound is rich, natural, and very full-bodied.

One listen to the tubey-magical grunge of Neil’s guitar and you will be hooked. No copy came close to this one on side two.

Side One

Side one is comprised of the acoustic songs and rates a very strong A++ here. The sound is natural, relaxed, and balanced with lots of ambience. (Just listen to all the crowd noises.) The harmonica on the first track is always a tough test for side one. Here it’s smooth but not smeary. The overall sound on this side one is open and clear from start to last. A little more presence would have given this one what it needed to equal side two.

Play track three, Ride My Llama, to hear the most tubey magic on this side.

One of The Better Neil Young Albums

AMG raves about this album, giving it 5 big stars. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s half a star MORE than they gave Harvest.) We like the album just fine, but I doubt we would want to go quite that far. Sure, these are great songs, but give us After The Gold Rush, Zuma or Harvest (all Top 100 titles, Hot Stampers of which are rarely in stock) over this one any day. Still, a second tier Neil Young album (by our standards) usually will beat a first tier album from just about anybody else making a record in 1979.

And if you’re a fan this record absolutely belongs in your collection, along with about ten others by the man. Now what other solo artist can you name that has ten or more records to his name worth owning? I’m hard pressed to think of one. The Beatles and The Stones don’t count, obviously. Elvis Costello comes pretty close, but ten? I can’t get there, with him or anybody else. Neil’s body of work stands alone.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue) 
Thrasher
Ride My Llama
Pocahontas
Sail Away

Side Two

Powderfinger 
Welfare Mothers 
Sedan Delivery
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

AMG 5 Star Review

Rust Never Sleeps, its aphoristic title drawn from an intended advertising slogan, was an album of new songs, some of them recorded on Neil Young’s 1978 concert tour. His strongest collection since Tonight’s the Night, its obvious antecedent was Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, and, as Dylan did, Young divided his record into acoustic and electric sides while filling his songs with wildly imaginative imagery.

The leadoff track, “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” (repeated in an electric version at album’s end as “Hey Hey, My My [Into the Black]” with slightly altered lyrics), is the most concise and knowing description of the entertainment industry ever written; it was followed by “Thrasher,” which describes Young’s parallel artistic quest in an extended metaphor that also reflected the album’s overall theme — the inevitability of deterioration and the challenge of overcoming it.

Young then spent the rest of the album demonstrating that his chief weapons against rusting were his imagination and his daring, creating an archetypal album that encapsulated his many styles on a single disc with great songs — in particular the remarkable “Powderfinger” — unlike any he had written before.