Thursday, January 20, 2011

Neil Young - Lucky Thirteen (1993)

"Excursions into Alien Territory"

When Sample And Hold came up on my playlist the first time, I thought to myself, "what is this techno crap doing on my playlist?!" Then I realized it was Neil Young. I'm happy to say that the song has grown on me over time, even to the point of getting me to sing along part of the chorus. I can't tell what 90% of the lyrics are, but I get this feeling the song would go well (thematically, not sonically) with the likes of Homegrown and Piece of Crap. Like a satirical depiction of the opposite end of the spectrum - a dystopian society where consumable plastic products are perceived as the ideal. I'm sorry to say that the song Transformer Man hasn't fared quite so well for me.

Lucky Thirteen is an intriguing collection of thirteen tracks that cover Neil's much-maligned eighties output. And while it may not have been Neil's best string of albums (I haven't actually listened to them, yet), one thing you can say for Neil is that good or not, his music is always interesting. And these tracks are really not so bad. A handful of them are live or alternate versions, which may or may not be a contributing factor.

But, take the tracks from Old Ways, for example. Depression Blues is Neil in his country mode, which is probably one of my least favorite of his modes (ranking just above techno mode) - but even so, it's a really pretty song, with a gentle melody. And to be honest, while it's not really my preferred style of music, I've caught myself singing along to the chorus of Once An Angel.

The live tracks with The Shocking Pinks are a bit more up my alley. Get Gone, albeit with a curious introduction by Neil, kinda falls flat - feeling like an uninspired rehash of some sort of Bo Diddley riff. But Don't Take Your Love Away From Me sounds fantastic, and is probably one of my favorite tracks on this collection. I heard a live bootleg recently from Neil in the eighties, and I don't remember what the year was - whether it was with the Shocking Pinks or the Bluenotes or someone else - but this is the sort of music I remember hearing, with some good lead guitar, and I would love to hear more like it.

Coming to the Landing on Water tracks, I really like Hippie Dream. It's the first track on the album that jumped out at me. It's got a good, kind of angry, sound. Pressure, on the other hand, is a little bit less interesting, I'm afraid. Hit/miss seems to be the theme of this collection. Turning to Life, Around The World is alright, but I like Mideast Vacation. That's another one that jumped out at me, particularly the way that the song tells a story. I love the line, "when they burned me in effigy, my vacation was complete." Wow, does that sound wild or what? I want to vacation with that guy!

The album closes with a couple live tracks with the Bluenotes. Ain't It The Truth sounds good, in spite of the horn section, and is reminiscent of a Booker T. & The MG's style jam, with some nice lead guitar, which always improves a song in my ears. And then you have This Note's For You, which is, of course, a great song, and a classic among Neil's repertoire, in spite of its genesis being during his "experimental" period (as if his entire career isn't littered with experiments).

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