Toast by Neil Young with Crazy Horse


And so the hectic Neil Young release schedule continues. “Toast” was released last week and is the eighth of nine albums he has released in 2021-2022. It’s magnificent.

26.2.21Way Down In The Rust Bucketwith Crazy HorseLive 1990
26.3.21Young ShakespeareSoloLive 1971
1.10.21Carnegie HallSoloLive 1970
10.12.21Barnwith Crazy HorseStudio 2020
6.5.22Dorothy Chandler PavilionSoloLive 1971
6.5.22Royce HallSoloLive 1971
6.5.22Citizen Kane Jr. BluesSoloLive 1974
8.7.22Toastwith Crazy HorseStudio 2000
5.8.22Noise And Flowerswith Promise Of The RealLive 2019

In June 2019, Neil Young released an album called “Homegrown” which had been recorded in 1974 and catalogued the heartbreak and despair he felt when he split from his girlfriend, Carrie Snodgrass. The album was deemed too dark for release and so he released “Tonight’s The Night” instead. Neil Young said “It was a little too personal… it scared me“.

“Toast” is similar to “Homegrown” insofar as it concerns the breakdown of another of Neil Young’s relationships – this time to his wife Pegi, to whom he was married for 36 years. He didn’t divorce her until 2014 although this album was recorded 14 years earlier. Neil Young said “I couldn’t handle it at the time. I just skipped it and went on to do another album in its place.” The album that he released in its place, in 2002, was called “Are You Passionate” and 10 of its 11 tracks were recorded with Booker T & The MGs.

“Toast” was recorded at Toast Studios in Mission Street, San Francisco. Neil Young said “The music of Toast is about a relationship. There is a time in many relationships that go bad, a time long before the breakup, where it dawns on one of the people, maybe both, that it’s over. This was that time.” Breakup albums are often illuminating and emotional and say a lot about the artist. Bob Dylan’s take on the end of his marriage to Sara Lownds in “Blood On The Tracks” has been described as bilious. By contrast, Neil Young “takes the recriminating hit himself, a fuck-up pleading for another chance” as Nick Hasted wrote on “The Arts Desk”.

Quit” A different version appeared on “Are You Passionate”, recorded with Booker T & The MGs. When it was announced that a “new” Neil Young & Crazy Horse album was to be released, my expectations were of another “Like A Hurricane, “Fuckin’ Up” or “T-Bone”. However, the opening song, “Quit”, is more laid back and reminiscent of some of the gentler songs on “This Note’s For You”, such as “Can’t Believe Your Lyin’” or “One Thing”. Pegi Young is one of the background singers on this track and responds to Neil Young’s remorse by singing “Don’t say you love me”.

Standing In The Light Of Love“. A rumbustious workout between Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the opening lines “I don’t want to get personal or have you put me on the spot. Don’t know how you feel but for me it’s getting hot” seem to summarise all the misery and soul-searching apparent on all the songs.

Goin’ Home” This song appeared on “Are You Passionate”, recorded with Crazy Horse. It’s not clear whether or not this is the same take but it sounds brilliant here, whereas the later version (released first), sounds murkier. Lyrically, the song appears to be about General Custer but when it concludes, an all too short eight minutes later, it becomes clear that the scene described is a modern day battle re-enactment. Presumably, this is allegorical.

Timberline“. This is a song about a religious lumberjack who has just lost his job and turns on Jesus, or so Neil Young has written on his website.

Gateway Of Love” This song was listed on the sleeve of “Are You Passionate” but didn’t actually appear on the album. It is over 10 minutes long and includes several wonderfully melodic (but not blistering) guitar solos from Neil Young. The lines “If I could just live my life as easy as a song, I’d wake up some day and the pain would all be gone”. It appears easy for Neil Young to write superb songs and play them magnificently but, at the time, he was finding his personal life harder to manage.

How Ya Doin’?” “Mr. Disappointment”, which Neil Young spoke in a low growl (rather than sung) on “Are You Passionate”, is a reworking of “How Ya Doin’?”  “Let’s say you’ve got a habit, let’s say it’s hard to break. Let’s say we’ve got to do something, before it’s just too late.” His piano and guitar echo with hurt, his wife’s harmonies murmur in his ear, and he all but gives up. Crazy Horse’s rhythm section keep pace, until the line “Let’s say it’s not over, till it’s over.” appears to be a resigned, temporary halt to the battles he is fighting with himself and with his wife.

Boom Boom Boom” “She’s A Healer”, on “Are You Passionate”, is a reworking of “Boom Boom Boom” This song is 13 minutes long and typifies what Neil Young calls the “foggy, blue and desolate” mood of the album.

Neil Young wrote “I had forgotten about these songs, put them out of my mind and went on living my life. It must be said that here Crazy Horse shows a depth never seen or heard before on any other Horse recording. For the greatest group I have ever met – CRAZY HORSE, this is a pinnacle. Where they let me go, where they took me, was unbelievable. I couldn’t stay.”

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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