I must admit, I was delighted to hear that Neil Young was dipping into the vaults again to release another one of his “lost albums,” the legendary Homegrown. This release follows 2017’s vault release of Hitchhiker (recorded in 1976) which we just loved down here at B&V, LP Review: Neil Young’s Album From His Vault, ‘Hitchhiker’. I highly recommend any Neil Young fans out there to check out his excellent Archive website https://neilyoungarchives.com where you can stream literally anything from his vast catalog. It’s free during the Pandemic Lockdown although in normal times there’s a subscription fee. Homegrown comes out next month in June but in the meantime Neil has released the first track from the upcoming album, “Try.” I had actually expected to have Homegrown in my hands already and was holding off writing about “Try” because I’d expected this record in April… and then in May. I’m pretty sure the June date is a good one.
Neil Young is, if anything, a confounding artist. Where so many artists struggle to come up with material and wait years and years between albums, Neil has numerous albums that he recorded and then decided to shelve. The list of these “lost albums” that have either circulated as bootlegs or merely been whispered about is long: Homegrown, Chrome Dreams, and Homefires just to name a few. Neil was even so unhappy with his original taping for MTV’s Unplugged, that he went in and recorded a second one which was eventually released. No one knows what happened to the original recording… sitting in the vaults with all the other ones I suppose.
Homegrown was recorded in a very fertile patch for Neil, 1974-1975. He released the superb On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night, although admittedly the latter was recorded in 1973. He also toured with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the summer of 1974, put out Zuma with Crazy Horse in ’75 and recorded Long May You Run with Stephen Stills as kind of an answer to Crosby-Nash putting out a series of LPs (Artist Lookback: Crosby, Stills, Or Nash – The Essential Solo and Duo Albums). That’s a hell of a lot going on.
Unfortunately for Neil, at the time he recorded Homegrown in 1974-75, his relationship with his then girlfriend Carrie Snodgress was coming to an end. He pulled Homegrown from release and put out Tonight’s the Night instead as he felt Homegrown was “too personal.” While many of the tunes on Homegrown have come out in other forms – rerecorded with Crazy Horse or with slightly different arrangements – it’ll be fascinating to hear these tracks as he originally intended them. Like Hitchhiker I suspect that most of these songs will be acoustic based.
Considering this was an album recorded during a break up and Young described it as “too personal,” I figured everything on it would be, well, dark. But as I said, Neil can be confounding. The superb “Try” sounds almost hopeful. It’s a bit of a jaunty tune. It starts with a lazy drum and bass. The opening lyrics grabbed me, “Darlin’ the door to my heart is open, and I’ve been hopin’ that you won’t be the one to struggle with the key…” A man open heartedly asking for a reconciliation, I can relate to that. The song is light and airy. Over strumming acoustic Neil doesn’t sound forlorn at all. He quotes little sayings from Snodgress throughout the track. I love the lyric, apparently something Carrie said, “I’d like to take a chance, but shit Mary I can’t dance.” This is a great song, the melody just bores into me. Considering he released versions of many of the songs on Homegrown over the years, it’s hard to understand how this one stayed in the can.
If anything, this little taste, “Try” has whetted my appetite for even more from Homegrown. Neil seems to really be opening up the archives and that is a very good thing indeed… After last year’s great reunion LP with Crazy Horse, Colorado (LP Review: ‘Colorado’ the Return of Neil Young & Crazy Horse With Nils Lofgren!) this looks to be a great year for all of us Neil Young fans.