949 - Neil Young & Crazy Horse 'Weld' (1991)

My Rating: 2.25 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: X
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection:

Chart Peak (UK/US): 20/--

Favourite Tracks: Hey Hey My My, Cinnamon Girl, Cortez The Killer
Least-Favourite Tracks: Blowin' In The Wind, Like A Hurricane, Tonight's The Night

Any live album that leaves your ears ringing can’t be all bad. Well, Neil Young might disagree since he apparently developed tinnitus as a direct consequence of mixing this record, but for me the ear-ringing effect was rather less permanent. I certainly felt like I’d just come out of a gig though & for a live recording that’s some achievement.

I’m not a big fan of live albums; they rarely do justice to the experience of being there in person but I have to admit this one comes a little closer than most. I didn’t know much about this record but in an effort to recreate the original ambience of a live show, I donned my best headphones & cranked the volume right up… and almost blew my head off. What’s that chainsaw guitar doing on a Neil Young album? I was expecting something all soft & acoustic (which perhaps reveals my limited knowledge of Neil Young) so the ultra-heavy opening bars of track one Hey, Hey, My, My (Into The Black) made me think I’d put on the wrong album.

So it’s loud & it’s heavy but does that make it any good? Clearly a lot of Americans didn’t think so, since this was the first Neil Young album that didn’t enter the US top 100 since his 1969 debut. I’m not really sure why because while it certainly has its flaws, I found there was an awful lot to praise here. First & foremost, it’s that lead guitar. Great rock bands need great guitarists & the guitar work here is mightily impressive; it’s brutal, edgy & bristling with raw energy & emotion. I’d normally find a line like “Rock & Roll can never die” to be the corniest of clichés, but when you hear it surrounded by the strangulated solos & vicious power chords of Hey, Hey, My, My it somehow becomes validated – almost as if it was the very distillation of what rock music was about.

Of course, any old band can turn their amps up to 11 & thrash the hell out of their guitars but what makes this album interesting is the way that it never quite descends into some pointless wall of noise; as violent as the guitars may sound, they are always tempered by the melodic nature of Young’s songwriting. That contrast between his tuneful vocal harmonies & chord progressions & those angry snarling guitars works superbly well here, especially on tracks like Cinnamon Girl, F*!#in’ Up & Powderfinger.

As good as the musical performances are though this record still trips over the same old stumbling block that every live album encounters; namely what works for a live show doesn’t necessarily work on a record. Some of the songs are drawn out too long & are then stretched out even further with interminable “concert” endings & even a bit of the dreaded crowd singalong. The 14 minute version of Like A Hurricane might have breezed by if you were there in person but sitting here listening to the album the song just drags & drags. I’m not against long tracks – both Love To Burn & Cortez The Killer run to 10 minutes & held my interest throughout, but tracks like Rockin’ In The Free World, Tonight’s The Night & Like A Hurricane just seem too one-dimensional to merit their extended running times. Similarly the overblown cover of Blowin’ In The Wind, complete with machine gun fire & explosions may have seemed a timely statement during the (first) Gulf War but I just found it as dull-as-dishwater. It might have worked OK as a final encore but as the third song in the line-up it just stops the show dead & destroys all the energy & momentum of those opening numbers (which I presume was his intention).

An enjoyable album – frustrating towards the end, but in this age of endless X-Factor & soul-less prissy pop, it’s a powerful reminder of what live rock music is all about.


Cowboy said...

Enjoying the run-down, certainly not an enviable task given the amount of naff Americana from the late-90's. Have to take issue with one small thing, though. This live album is worse than Fleetwood Mac's 'The Dance'? I'd say the latter is a very tired run-through, whereas some of Neil's songs sound better here than in the studio (and I quite like this version of 'Like a Hurricane') Either way, no accounting for taste and so on, looking forward to the next installments.

Alan Heller said...

Thanks very much for your comment Cowboy. Now that I think about it, I feel inclined to agree with you that this is a better album than Fleetwood Mac's 'The Dance'... unfortunately looking at my album scores this also means that I'm in danger of disagreeing with myself! I guess this is one of the drawbacks of trying to rate each track individually & then do an average score for the album; I mean, the best bits of 'Weld' are startlingly good, but perhaps its average score was let down by the sheer number of tracks, along with a couple of songs that I really didn't like. But I'd have to concede that if you put the best 10 tracks from 'Weld' up against the best 10 from 'The Dance', Mr Young would win by a mile. Certainly welcome your feedback anytime though - Al.

Viagra Online said...

Blowin' In The Wind wasn't pretty bad album, as a matter of fact after I bought it then all my brothers and sisters bought it too. I was like an epidemic stuff, and also very contagious.

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