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Life at 33 1/3   By Carl Meyer


Update February 21, 2015

Dismantling himself

Neil Young: Time Fades Away (Reprise)

Boy, do we need a legendary live album that is so hated by its main performer that he pretends it doesn’t exist. The “Time Fades Away” tour in 1973 is living proof of Neil Young’s eccentricities; the star of mega success “Harvest” dismantling himself right in front of thousands of fans, and then millions as seven takes from that disastrous tour were assembled and released as an eight-track album (the eighth track lifted from a 1971-concert).

Neil Young was a superstar at that moment in time, hot on the heels of “Harvest” and being the main attraction of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But he would have none of it. Late in ’72 came the soundtrack-double “Journey Through The Past” containing just one new song and little else worth a listen.

Then he took The Stray Gators with him across the U.S. on a 62 date tour. They were all in a bad shape, there were bad vibes, cases of tequila, quarelling about money, and in the midst of it all a very unpredictable and unstable Young who took it out on them all, keeping the whole entourage on its toes, postponing sound checks, lambasting the band members, the works. His guitar playing would be below par too as his faithful old Gibson Les Paul was broken, so he replaced it with a less reliable Gibson Flying V that kept going out of tune.

The audience was in for a hard time obviously and not at all prepared for the band’s raucous and highly electric treatment of Young’s best loved tunes, including the key tracks from “Harvest”. What made it even worse was the generous insertment of new songs that had nothing in common with the cuddly mood of “Heart Of Gold”.

Not in spite of, but because of this artistic left turn, “Time Fades Away” is a great and fascinating album. It contains no old music at all. Every single one of the eight tunes were new to those who bought the record. Neil Young tested his audience as much as he tested himself. In all its ramshackle shabbiness the album delivers a different kind of beauty, there’s loads of integrity involved, it is a semi-documentary capturing something falling apart, but there is no sadness involved, because it has to fall apart, this is the sound of Neil Young reinventing himself and preparing both him and us for the naked, horror-stricken and extremely powerful albums that were to follow: “On The Beach” and “Tonight’s The Night”. And the lesser, but still great “Hawks And Doves” and “American Stars’n Bars”.

In retrospect, most of the songs on “Time Fades Away” work surprisingly well. The stomping, almost flat footed title track is a delight; the long and not very elegant “Last Dance” grows on you, as do “Yonder Stands The Sinner” and “Don’t Be Denied”, though I do admit that they are not Young’s most accessible recordings. “LA” is doomsday dressed up almost pretty, the apocalyptic words about the coming earth quake are pure poetry, a slow song locked in that typical lazy “Harvest”-backbeat. And there’s the vulnerable and haunting beauty of the piano-ballads “Journey Through The Past”, “The Bridge” and “Love In Mind” (the latter lifted from a 1971-concert) – all three are as magic as anything on “After The Goldrush”.

Not a bad album at all. It has become my all-time favourite Neil Young live-experience, and it sure deserves a re-release.

Released: October 15, 1973
Produced by: Neil Young and Elliot Mazer
Contents: Time Fades Away/Journey thru the Past/Yonder Stands the Sinner/L.A./Love in Mind/Don't Be Denied/The Bridge/Last Dance
Neil Young — vocals; guitar on "Time Fades Away," "Yonder Stands the Sinner," "L.A.," "Don't Be Denied," and "Last Dance"; piano on "Journey thru the Past," "Love in Mind," and "The Bridge"; harmonica on "Time Fades Away" and "The Bridge"; bass† on "L.A."
Ben Keith — pedal steel, vocal on "L.A.," "Don't Be Denied," and "Last Dance"; slide guitar on "Time Fades Away" and "Yonder Stands the Sinner"; vocal on "Time Fades Away"
Jack Nitzsche — piano on "Time Fades Away," "Yonder Stands the Sinner," "L.A.," "Don't Be Denied," and "Last Dance"; vocal on "Don't Be Denied"
David Crosby — guitar on "Yonder Stands the Sinner"; vocal on "Yonder Stands the Sinner" and "Last Dance"
Graham Nash — guitar, vocal on "Last Dance"
Tim Drummond — bass on "Time Fades Away," "Yonder Stands the Sinner," "Don't Be Denied," and "Last Dance"
Johnny Barbata — drums on "Time Fades Away," "Yonder Stands the Sinner," "L.A.," "Don't Be Denied," and "Last Dance".

Update February 12, 2015

Fireworks of steel

Warren Zevon: “Stand In The Fire” (Asylum)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, a record review written in February 1981.*

The traditional California-rock (Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, etc.) is a sinking ship these days. But there’s a desperado on the decks of the Titanic, and he’s got no intentions of going down with the ship. Don’t be fooled by his blonde, delicate, almost feminine looks. Warren Zevon spells danger. The rock’n’roll urgency shoots through his veins, and he’s heavily armed with with an attitude more deadly than a pair of blasting sixguns. His voice is a rugged trench of gravel and gunsmoke, so masculine and virile that you automatically back off. And he is possessed with the Americana that was introduced to us via hardboiled detective stories back in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s.

On “Stand In The Fire” Warren goes (monu)mental. It is one of the most intense live-albums you’ll ever hear, the heat almost unbearable as his band catches fire and sparks start flying. Crashing, crisp guitars, pumping keyboards and a brutal rhythm section, they roar ahead, slamming into the curves. It is towering, it is powerful, it is fireworks of steel. Zevon’s raw slab of a voice is in complete control, delivering stories from the darker sides of life with anger and painful desperation.
So this is California-rock too: A crackling, curvaceous inferno of anxiety and anger; tough as an aging heavyweight champion, hot as an emptied revolver and bloodthirsty as a werewolf (of London).

Released: December 26, 1980
Produced by: Warren Zevom & Greg Ladanyi
(All songs written by Warren Zevon unless otherwise indicated)
Contents: Stand in the Fire/Jeannie Needs a Shooter (Springsteen/Zevon)/Excitable Boy (Marinell, Zevon)/Mohammed’s Radio/Werewolves of London (Marinell/Wachtel/Zevon)/Lawyers, Guns and Money/The Sin/Poor Poor Pitiful Me/I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead/Bo Diddley’s a Gunslinger & Bo Diddley (Diddley)

Warren Zevon – bass, guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals, 12 string guitar
David Landau – guitar
Zeke Zirngiebel – guitar, electric guitar, rhythm guitar, steel guitar, vocals, 12 string guitar
Bob Harris – synthesizer, piano, keyboards, backing vocals
Roberto Pin – bass, backing vocals
Marty Stinger – drums

Update February 5, 2015

Like a herd of Harleys

Meat Loaf: Bat Out Of Hell (Epic)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, a record review written in August 1978.* (Why so late? Well, “Bat Out Of Hell” was a sleeper in Norway, not charting until 1982.)

I don’t know what Meat Loaf’s real name is (hey! we didn’t have Google back in 1978), but he is certainly one of rock’s weightiest stars, literally. During the last six months he has led his group to the summit with the album “Bat Out Of Hell” and some stunning concerts.

Musically he belongs to the artsy end of heavy metal. Todd Rundgren contributes to most of the album with members from his own Utopia and Springsteen’s E Street Band. Todd is also responsible for the perversely overblown wall-of-sound production. The songs are hauled through a jungle of twists and turns, sudden stops and cascading climaxes with a couple of soft, trembling ballads thrown in for good measure.

A veneer of horror is added by the sleeve’s illustration and by the doomsday like thunder of the music. You find yourself caught between demons and angels as stories unfold about teenage lust, car sex rejections and crashes on the highway, the title track being the most violent crash song of all time. Powerful, larger than life, riffs roaring like a herd of Harleys, and still every track is so full of hooks that they eat your brain.

Among my personal favourites are “Bat Out Of Hell”, “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” and the Tubes-like epic “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” (an intense piece of sexuality delivered by Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley). Great stuff!
Released: October 21, 1977
Produced by: Todd Rundgren
(All songs written and composed by Jim Steinman)
Contents: Bat Out of Hell/You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)/Heaven Can Wait/All Revved Up with No Place to Go/Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad/Paradise by the Dashboard Light (I. Paradise / II. Let Me Sleep On It / III. Praying for the End of Time)/For Crying Out Loud
Meat Loaf – lead vocals, backing vocals (track 6), percussion (track 2)
Todd Rundgren – guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4–6), percussion (tracks 1, 2), keyboards (track 1), backing vocals (tracks 1–3, 5, 6)
Kasim Sulton – bass guitar (tracks 1, 2, 4–7), backing vocals (track 1)
Roy Bittan – piano, keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 6)
Steve Margoshes – piano (track 7)
Cheryl Hardwick – piano (track 7)
Jim Steinman – keyboards (tracks 1, 2, 6), percussion (tracks 1, 2), “lascivious effects” (track 6), dialogue intro (track 2)
Roger Powell – synthesizer (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6)
Edgar Winter – saxophone (tracks 2, 4, 6)
Max Weinberg – drums (tracks 1, 2, 6)
John “Willie” Wilcox – drums (tracks 4, 5, 7)
Marcia McClain – dialogue intro (track 2)
Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto – play-by-play (track 6)
Ellen Foley – featured vocal (track 6), backing vocals (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6)
Rory Dodd – backing vocals (all except track 4)
Gene Orloff – concert master (track 7)
Members of New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra – orchestra (track 7)

Update February 1, 2015

A strong one from Lynott

Phil Lynott: The Philip Lynott Album (Vertigo)

*From the vaults of Carl Meyer, a record review written in September 1982.*
Phil Lynott delivers a solo-album that deserves your respect. His lyrics appear to be much more self-revealing and vulnerable than what we have come to expect from Thin Lizzy. He is certainly concerned about the global problems in general, but restricts himself to let his opinions slip nicely in between the lines as he presents for us a handful of losers, the stepchildren of society, their portraits painted with strokes of subdued anger and despair.
There are also philosophical thoughts on the mysteries of life itself, with subtle references to the Bible. It’s not all moody, though, as Lynott also found room for a couple of dainty love songs. Every tune has its own identity, and everything sounds personal and sincere. The music fits the lyrics as it rarely raises its fist or start hollering. Lynott avoids the big arrangements.
Although the overall impression of the album is muted and moody, the individual songs do not stick to one style, on the contrary, they are in fact very different from one another. There’s the ominous, horrific modernism of “Fatalistic Attitude”, the feisty funk of “The Man’s A Fool”, the astonishing Dylan-like “Ode To Liberty (The Protest Song)” as Mark Knopfler’s fingerpicking injects that irresistible Dire Straits-urgency to it, and there’s the bittersweet “Growing Up.”
A captivating record it is. Now if only Lynott would work the same magic on Thin Lizzy, coz they are in a sorry state these days.
Released: September 19, 1982
Produced by: Philip Lynott, Kit Woolven (with Midge Ure, Mark Knopfler and Neil Dorfsman)
All tracks composed by Philip Lynott, except where indicated.
Contents: Fatalistic Attitude (R. Lymon, Lynott)/The Man’s a Fool/Old Town (Jimmy Bain, Lynott)/Cathleen/Growing Up/Yellow Pearl (Lynott, Midge Ure)/Together/Little Bit of Water/Ode to Liberty (The Protest Song) (Bain, Lynott)/Gino/Don’t Talk About Me Baby
Philip Lynott – vocals, bass guitar, bass synthesiser, timpani & cymbal, CR 76 computer drum machines, guitar, Sarah’s space gun, Irish harp, keyboards, percussion
Midge Ure – guitar, keyboards, Linn drum machine (tracks 6, 7)
Mark Knopfler – lead guitar (track 9)
Jimmy Bain – bass guitar, backing vocals (tracks 2, 3)
Jerome Rimson – bass guitar (tracks 7, 10)
Scott Gorham – bass guitar (track 8)
Darren Wharton – keyboards, drum machine
Huey Lewis – harmonica (track 4)
Mel Collins – saxophone (track 5)
Rusty Egan – drums (tracks 2–4)
Bobby C Benberg – drums (track 8)
Brian Downey – drums (track 9)
Mark Nauseef – drums, percussion, vocal intro (track 10)
Pierre Moerlen – drums (track 11)
Gordon Johnson – intro voice (track 3)
Suzanne Machon – intro voice (track 4)
Monica Lynott – backing vocals (tracks 4, 5)

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Dismantling himself

Fireworks of steel

Like a herd of Harleys

A strong one from Lynott