Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

More Neil Young

More Country and Country Rock

  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like few that we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one, the second track, The Old Homestead, has an especially intimate vocal worth checking out.

Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two, Stayin’ Power.

This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD, I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable.

This vintage Reprise pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides Of Hawks and Doves Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes even as late as 1980
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For On Hawks and Doves

Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Hawks and Doves.

A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.

More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to really rock.

Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.

Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.

Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.

Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.


Side One

Little Wing
The Old Homestead
Lost in Space
Captain Kennedy

Side Two

Stayin’ Power
Union Man
Comin’ Apart at Every Nail
Hawks & Doves

Robert Christgau

Admittedly, it’s hard to know the meaning of this album. If there’s a precedent it’s 1977’s El Lay country-rock job, American Stars ‘n’ Bars, which even had a red-white-and-blue packaging motif.

But where Stars ‘n’ Bars’ music was Crazy-Horse-at-the-Opry — with backup from Linda, Nicollette, and Emmylou for that reassuring studio flavor — Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.

But side two is quite brilliant, and unlike anything Young’s ever done. Especially after the contradictions of the “dove” side, I don’t think it’s about hawks, or doves either. I think it’s about all those who live and feel they live in the shadow of both ordinary middle Americans, what used to be called the silent majority, neither moral nor immoral.

What’s more I think Young identifies with them, because four of five songs on side two could just as easily be about guess who. Neil Young, that’s who.


A Minus (!)

These are excerpts from his review from 1980, which is recommended reading on his site.


Side one, the “doves” side, includes “Little Wing” and “The Old Homestead”, which were originally intended to be released as part of 1975’s Homegrown. “The Old Homestead” presents a winding, oblique parable of Young’s career, including reference to those who question Young’s insistence on using the band Crazy Horse when more polished musicians are easily available. Since David Crosby has been on record many times with that very question, the song could be in answer to him directly, incidentally bearing resemblance to Crosby’s song “Cowboy Movie” from his If I Could Only Remember My Name album of 1971, in that both present a lengthy allegorical story concealing allusion to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young saga.

In another resemblance, the song “Captain Kennedy” bears similarities to a tune entitled “My Name Is John Johanna” as recorded by Kelly Harrell and the Virginia String Band in 1927, appearing as part of the “ballads” section of Harry Smith’s famed Anthology of American Folk Music from 1952. This was intentional on Young’s part, as the Anthology was part of the background hum on the folk circuit of Young’s early days, influencing hundreds of folk and blues oriented performers in the 1950s and 1960s, both directly and indirectly.

Side two, the “hawks” side, consists of the recordings intended for the album, being the straightest country and western songs Young had penned to date, even more so than those found on American Stars ‘N Bars or Comes a Time. Also, this side has unabashed patriotism and seeming promotion of right-wing values puzzled many critics and fans alike as it went against the public perception of the sixties folk-rocker who had written one of the most celebrated protest songs of the seventies, “Ohio.”


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