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Rave Ups: Neil Young’s Albums 1981 - 1988

1981 -1988 were tough years for Neil Young.  At the start of this period he had just signed a million dollar per album contract with Geffen records (and had differences with them throughout the whole period) and his second child had been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.  At times during this period you could tell [...]

1981 -1988 were tough years for Neil Young.  At the start of this period he had just signed a million dollar per album contract with Geffen records (and had differences with them throughout the whole period) and his second child had been diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.  At times during this period you could tell he was burnt out on making music.  To be honest, the releases from this period are challenging and you will be hard pressed to find any songs that come close to the brilliance of those he recorded in the sixties and seventies.  Young’s methods, recording technology, attitude, and band members all changed many times during this period.  I have outlined the releases from this era below.

neil_young_reactor 1981 - Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Re-ac-tor: The next step on from the heavier tracks off of Rust Never Sleeps.  Unfortunately the mix is off and the material is uninspired. 
neil_young_trans 1983 - Neil Young - Trans: Young take a hard left turn here and releases an album that features 5 vocoder heavy/electronic music tracks and 3 conventional rock tracks, which completely mystified his critics and fans. 
neil_young_everybodys_rockin 1983 - Neil Young & The Shocking Pinks - Everybody’s Rockin’: Another genre switch here, this time to Rockabilly.  At the very least features some entertaining songs, some even are a little funny… but the album is representative of this era as they feature style over substance.  
neil_young_old_ways 1985 - Neil Young - Old Ways: Most of the material was originally recorded in 1982 but not release until 3 years later because of problems with his label.  This time around its a country album for Neil and a cast of guest country stars including Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. 
neil_young_landing_on_water 1986 - Neil Young - Landing On Water: If I had to label this release with a genre it would be “over-produced corporate 80s synth pop.  A few goods songs but overall probably one of his worst albums.
neil_young_life 1987 - Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Life: Back to Crazy Horse again after releasing 4 albums without them.  You get a few decent track among an album that includes some 80s synthy stuff and some conventional NY w/ CH tracks.  Note the cover art featuring someone behind bars with a NY poster on the back wall which eludes to his feelings about his record label at the time.  This would be his last record with Geffen (except for the shotty best of from this period entitled Lucky 13.
neil_young_this_notes_for_you 1988 - Neil Young & The Bluenotes - This Note’s For You: Neil’s first album back on his original label Reprise Records.  This time Neil is backed by The Bluenotes (including a 6 pc horn section) for a album of Blues and R&B numbers.  Includes the song “This Note’s For You” which Neil actually won a the Video of the Year award at the MTV video music awards in 1988 which MTV had previously refused to play because they were parodied the video.  
csny_american_dream 1988 - Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young - American Dream: Young reunites yet again with these burnouts.  What you get is a bunch of tracks from the wash-ups and a few halfway decent numbers from Neil. 

Even though it is a difficult era, I thought I would still put together a playlist below of my favorites songs from it.  If you can not see the playlist below, please follow this link.


Posted originally: 2009-04-08 22:36:29
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