“Time Fades Away”, but this album won’t…

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This is the very first “Live” LP Neil Young ever released. The album captures Neil Young on his first major solo tour after he released his best selling LP of his long and illustrious career, “Harvest.”  Although this album was widely praised and sold over 1 million copies, Neil Young has refused to re-release it.  There are still no plans to release this LP on CD or any other format.  There are several reason that Neil has persistently resisted the pressure from his fans to release this LP again.  We will get into that later.

I side with his fans.  I LOVE THIS RECORD!  I love it for many reasons.  First of all, I bought this record in 1973 when it first came out, and I couldn’t quit listening to it.  The music is fantastic!  I had become a fan of Neil Young from the moment I first heard him on “Four Way Street,” the Live album from 1971 by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  I went on to purchase “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere,” the first album Neil made with Crazy Horse.  And then I bought “Harvest” the week it came out. I am still a huge fan of Neil Young and I own almost everything the guy has ever recorded. I am also a proud owner of his Blu Ray collection “Neil Young Archives Vol. 1.”  

I loved the album cover.  I’d love to know who the guy is in the front row throwing up the “Peace Sign.”  He must have been the envy of all his friends!

I love the parts on the album where Neil would talk to the audience.  It reminded me of all of those moments on “Four Way Street” where they would talk to the audience.  “TFA” seemed to echo “FWS” in many other ways.  Just like CSN&Y did on their 1971 tour, Neil opened his 1973 shows with an Acoustic set (“Wooden Music”) and then an electric set.  I always thought that was cool format for a live show.  It seemed to me to be one of the foreshadowing ideas that led to “MTV Unplugged.”

I love the mood of the album.  This record has a melancholy that is unmistakable.  It truly captures a moment in time.  This is reason enough for Neil to reissue this somber masterpiece.  It is also the reason he won’t reissue the album…

His friend and fellow member of Crazy Horse, Danny Whitten;  was supposed to tour with Neil.  Unfortunately, Danny had developed a terrible heroin addiction.  Whitten started to get clean so he would be able to tour, but replaced his heroin addiction with pain pills and alcohol.  Whitten could not function well enough to get through rehearsals   Neil had to fire his friend.  Neil met with Danny privately and told him things were not going to work out for the tour, he gave him $50 bucks and a plane ticket back to L.A.  Neil never saw  him alive again.  Danny died the next day of a heroin overdose.  Neil blamed himself for Danny’s death.  Now he had to go out on tour and play 65 shows in 90 days.

His back up band was “The Stray Gators.”  This was the same band he had recorded Harvest with.  The fans came out in force to hear all the new hit songs from Harvest, but instead they were greeted by a large number of new songs.  These songs were not in the vain of the country-folk sound of many of the songs on Harvest.  These songs had a hard edge to them that was closer to the music Neil produced when he was performing with Crazy Horse.  The Stray Gators were also uncomfortable with these heavy edgy tunes.

The Stray Gators were basically an “All-star” Nashville band with egos to match. There was a lot of in-fighting among the band members as well as excessive drinking, etc…  There are several stories floating around about band members showing up so messed up they didn’t even know what instrument they were playing during the sound-check   The first Drummer Kenneth Buttrey quit two-thirds of the way through the tour.  He was replaced by Johnny Barbata.  Johnny played with CSN&Y on the Four Way Street Tour.  He was also their drummer at Woodstock.

Another problem with reissuing the LP as a CD is the manner in which it was recorded.  Neil Young wanted to use the very first “digital mixing” soundboard.  It was called a “CompuMix.”  Later it became known as the “CompuShit” because it was unreliable.  The live recordings went straight from the soundboard to the CompuMix.  As a result, there are no two track masters of these recordings.  This complicates any reissue.  Also, the CompuMix made the recording murkier.   I think this adds to not subtracts from the awesomeness of this LP.

Very few of these songs have been released in any other format. What you are about to hear is quite rare.  These were all new songs being played live.  The only exception is “Love in Mind”.  It was recorded on the 1971 tour.  The same tour that resulted in the live recording on Harvest of “The Needle and the Damage Done.” (Neil’s song about Danny Whitten.)

According to Wikipedia Neil Young has made two main comments about this album.  I quote:   “It was recorded on my biggest tour ever, 65 shows in 90 days. Money hassles among everyone concerned ruined this tour and record for me but I released it anyway so you folks could see what could happen if you lose it for a while. I was becoming more interested in an audio verite approach than satisfying the public demands for a repetition of Harvest. ” 

Also:  “Time Fades Away was the worst record I ever made – but as a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. I felt like a product, and I had this band of all-star musicians that couldn’t even look at each other.”

His comment about not having the right band may be a reference to Crazy Horse.

So  give it a listen and tell me what you think:

Side 1:

Time Fades Away

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This song was recorded in The Myrid, Oklahoma city on March 1, 1973.  From the very beginning we are in darkness. “Fourteen junkie too weak to work.  One sells Diamonds for what they’re worth. Down on pain street, disappointment lurks.  Son don’t be home too late!”  Danny Whitten is in his mind from the beginning.  Also, this cut establishes the Hard edged audio verite sound more closely associated with the sound of Crazy Horse.

Journey Through The Past

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This song was recorded in Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio on February 11, 1973. Neil tells the crowd: “This is a song without a home.” Simple and beautiful…

Yonder Stands The Sinner

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After the quiet beauty of Journey Through The Past, we return to the hard edged country STOMP!  Right before the song starts you hear David Crosby say: “This will be kind of experimental…”  Then you hear someone else in the band say:  “This is gonna be GOOD, man!”  He turns out to be right… This song was recorded at the Seattle Center Coliseum on March 17, 1973.

L.A.

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This song was recorded at the Same show in Oklahoma City that the same show that the title cut came from.  I can’t help but think that this song is about Danny Whitten.  It makes the refrain of the song so sad…“Don’t you wish that you could be here too?

Love In Mind

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 This song is the only song on the record that was not recorded on the 1973 tour.  This song was recorded at Royce Hall at UCLA on January 30, 1971.  This is the same night that “The Needle and the Damage Done” was recorded.  “The Needle…” ended up on Harvest and Love in Mind ended up on this album.

Side 2

Don’t Be Denied

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Side 2 starts with a very emotional rendering of a micro-Biography of Neil’s life. This song was recorded at Memorial Auditorium in Phoenix, Arizona on March 28, 1973. Neil could not be denied. This is just emotion laid bare for all to see. WOW…

The Bridge

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This song was recorded in Sacramento, California on April 1, 1973. Yet another very personal song. For a number of years now Neil Young has held a charity fundraising concert for The Bridge School.

 The Bridge School is a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure that individuals with severe speech and physical impairments achieve full participation in their communities through the use of augmentative & alternative means of communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) applications and through the development, implementation and dissemination of innovative life-long educational strategies.

Neil has two children with these types of disabilities.  Neil is still building his “bridge”.  “It may take a lot of time…”

Last Dance

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This song was recorded on March 29, 1973 in the Sports Arena in San Diego, Ca.  Neil growls: “It’s the last dance!”  This song captures a mood all of us have felt from one time to another…The grind of working for a living.  Is this how he felt on the tour?  I love the grind of the song.  I love the harmonies provided by David Crosby and Graham Nash.  The coda makes the song:

“You wake up in the morning and the sun’s coming up.  It’s been up for hours, and hours and hours, and hours, and hours and hours.  And you light up the stove and the coffee cup is hot and the orange juice is cold, cold, cold…Monday morning.  Wake up, Wake up, Wake up.  It’s time to go, time to go to work!! You can live your own life.  Making it happen. Workin’ on your time.  Laid back and laughing.  Oh,no…Oh, no…”

Then at the end he repeats over and over “No, no, no..” and then… “Negative, Negative!!”

Then it’s over… Graham Nash yells “Last Dance!!!”  and it was…

So where do we go from hear?  Neil says in the next volume of the  Archives he will not include any songs from this LP.  He said he will include cuts from the earlier part of the tour that included drummer  Kenneth Buttrey.  Maybe the karma is just too bad for him to bear?  Who knows, but Neil has got to stop saying “NO, NO, NO…”   This is a powerful rock n roll statement that deserves to shine again.

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About John

I taught myself how to play the piano and read music when I was 9 years old. I've been been consumed by music ever since. I majored in Piano performance in College and I still play, although not as well as when I had time to practice 4 -6 hours per day. This blog is about music. Music is the sound track of our lives. All it take is one song, one composition; and we are transported across time and space. I think it was Beethoven that said: "Music is the landscape of the soul."
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4 Responses to “Time Fades Away”, but this album won’t…

  1. Ken West says:

    YES!!! This is a such a great record, John-I’m always on the lookout for a clean copy of this, never been able to find one (the one I have is pretty thrashed, but I tolerate it because the music is so awesome). I can’t say it any better than you have-this album is just steeped in melancholy. I would love it if Neil changed his mind about this record and allowed a new remix from the multi tracks-who knows, maybe in a more reflective moment he will recognize the importance of his recorded legacy and agree to have it done. I recall one of your posts mentioning hearing Mahler’s influence in the music of Neil-just a thought, the fact that that he won’t confront this record puts me in mind of Mahler deleting the 3rd and final hammer blow in the last revision of the 6th symphony. Perhaps both artists just couldn’t come to grips with the the awful truth behind what they had written. At any rate, Neil is such a phenomenal artist, with a work ethic that is second to none-at 67, still writing, recording and performing with no sign of slowing down. Long may you run, Neil!

    • John says:

      Very cool comment about Neil Young and Mahler. Maybe it is the third hammer blow. I may need to borrow this from you (with credit being given)when I write “Neil Young, Gustav Mahler and the Dirge” Thanks for the very astute comment!

  2. Kimberly says:

    In case anyone is still curious, my father is the man giving the ‘peace sign’ on Time Fades Away. What is he up to now? He’s a hardworking man who loves and supports his family enough to put me through a catholic education.

    • John says:

      It doesn’t surprise me that he turned out to be a great father at all. Thank you for commenting on the blog. Do yo think you could get your Father to write something on the blog about his memories of the concert he attended? Like what arena did he see the show in? Did he enjoy the show? There are a lot of comments from fans that saw the tour that were negative. They thought he was going to play all the hits from “Harvest’ and instead Neil rolled out all of these new songs and heavy garage rock. How did he end up in the front row? Does he have any memories around how the photo got taken? This is the kind of history you can’t get any other way. I would love to have your Father write about this night in his life on this blog. Thank you again for sharing and best wishes to you and your family.

      Respectfully,

      John

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