Shakey Book Review

Shakey

Jimmy McDonough

Shakey book review, Neil Young's biography

Maybe more than any artist, over our near two year span, we have heaped piles upon piles of praise on Neil Young, landing on ten of our top ten lists, including the top spot for best fall albums (Harvest), best memorial song (“Needle and the Damage Done”), and even best solo career. We even dedicated a week to top ten Neil Young albums. So it’s probably no surprise, I spent the last four months reading the goliath biography Shakey, one of the most in-depth and thorough biographies I have ever taken on.

Jimmy McDonough, the book’s biographer, has a definite dog in the fight with Shakey: he is a long-time fan of Neil and doesn’t believe any other artist can reach the highs Neil Young can reach. But fortunately for the book, he also knows Young has created the lowest of lows, giving this book a very clear and balanced voice. Shakey was named after Young’s nickname among his closest peers, and McDonough writes as if he has been let in the inner circle, which with Neil, isn’t easy to do.

Shakey starts down the Young family tree and works its way all the way through to Young’s music in the late 90’s. McDonough points to his mother Rassy particularly as the reason for many of Young’s harsh and independent ways. The book points to this independent spirit and need to keep moving forward and changing as Young’s greatest asset and weakness: it’s the reason Young has never made a concession with his creative direction but also the reason he has left so many friends face down and bloodied in his path. Even with all the times he has turned his back on his closest friends, whether it the members of Crazy Horse, his manager Elliott Roberts, or producer David Briggs, he still works and keeps his closest friends near him on Broken Arrow Ranch in Santa Cruz.

I especially loved McDonough’s depiction of all the drama with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, from Young’s strange rivalry with Stephen Stills to his dismay with the prima donna ways of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Also, learning in depth about the weirdness of the Tonight’s the Night sessions and the real family reason behind Young’s 80’s career slump really speaks volumes about the human behind that brute façade.

What really separates Shakey is McDonough’s ongoing interview with Young that goes through the entire book, sort of like reading a book with DVD commentary from the protagonist. Young’s comments are honest, heartfelt, and often blunt, but that’s who Young is, and why we at LxL love him so much.

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Top Ten Neil Young Albums

The Top Ten Best Neil Young Albums

This week, our Top Ten Thursday is an ode to LxL’s favorite Canadian, and no it’s not Alan Thicke. In honor of Neil Young’s latest release, the epic Psychedelic Pill, we give you our ten favorite Neil Young records. Neil was no doubt one of the three or four most important artists of the 70’s, but has still released his share of good-to-great albums in the past three plus decades as well. Young’s 40+ studio albums plus even more live albums comes second in productivity only to Bobby Dylan. We also made the decision to just include solo Neil Young records to clean things up a bit, but it goes without saying that Neil has released some classics with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Buffalo Springfield. So without further ado: the best of Mister Young.
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Neil Young & Crazy Horse Review: Psychedelic Pill

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Psychedelic Pill

neil young and crazy horse, psychedelic pill, album, cover, art

I was a little nervous tackling Psychedelic Pill after the dump Neil Young & Crazy Horse laid with Americana earlier this year.  The covers collection of American standards made me question whether Uncle Neil had succumbed to another aneurysm and was ready to be put out to pasture.  So painful was reviewing Americana that I think I went a month without listening to On a Beach (or any Neil Young for that matter) for the first time since high school.  But you know what they say about abusive relationships, and like the guy who ran into the doorknob, I went back for more.  Because I really love Neil, and he won’t do me like that again, he’s changed.
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Neil Young & Crazy Horse Review: Americana

Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Americana

neil young and crazy horse americana album cover art

I don’t know who exactly had the bright idea of assembling a covers album for Neil Young’s first album with Crazy Horse in almost ten years.  I’m guessing it was Neil himself, but I don’t want to believe it because it is about as unnecessary an album as they come.  Covers albums aren’t always bad (see Johnny Cash and Aerosmith), but when artists decide on one, there is a very fine line that one needs to tread.  With Americana, Neil Young takes a collection of American traditionals and puts the Crazy Horse stamp of loose instrumentation and grungy rock on them. 

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Chromatics Review: Kill For Love

Chromatics

Killmatics for Love

chromatics, kill for love, album, cover, art

Opening with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)”, or any Neil Young song for that matter, is a move that most bands would not even attempt.  Even if a band did decide to cover the Neil track, they most likely would bury at the end of an album, just in case it went over poorly.  Chromatics, on the other hand, decided to take a path that was most bold, and proudly display their toned-down, ethereal version of the Crazy Horse-aided classic at the forefront of their new double LP, Kill for Love.  Chromatics version, “Into the Black”, does what any good cover does, and adds a nice change of the pace to the original without completely deconstructing everything that makes the original so amazing.  Gone are the electric guitar chords dropping like a hammer, and in is some well-placed sparse piano and a little synthesizer.  Also, a good contrast to the original are the pretty  vocals of Ruth Radelet, who trades off vocal duties with bandleader Johnny Jewel throughout the album. 

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