The Weekly Scalawag: Neil Young for his contempt for his fans
While the June 2003 Atlanta concert was a disaster for a number of reasons, including the lack of the Greendale staging itself as a framework for new songs,
Creative Loafing's Scott Henry awarded Neil Young his Weekly Scalawag:
"Eschewing the predictable for the sake of the new and experimental would ordinarily be deserving of patience and praise. And yet, with thousands sitting before him in the rain, their money already securely deposited into his account, Young turned on the audience. Halfway through an acoustic number, he abruptly stopped and growled, 'Too much noise.' Then he explained that he once tried playing a song in Las Vegas through the chatter and would never do it again. 'It's nice to see,' he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, 'there's a little Vegas right here in Atlanta.'
Noisy crowds at Chastain are nothing new, nor are complaints from artists who play there. But this was a rock show setup; there wasn't a tub of brie to be found. No, what pissed off Young was the audacity of the crowd to grow impatient with a set list that had all the musical variation of a 6-year-old on kazoo. Each song droned on with the same ponderous rhythm, and Young's electric guitar work, which had always been messy and glorious, now sounded like Santana on Valium.
One definition of scalawag is someone who shits where he eats; last week at Chastain, Neil Young took a massive dump. "
Wow. As one Rustie said: "Man, talk about harshing my mellow." This dude is seriously harshing Thrasher's mellow big time.
Many fans felt ripped off by the Greendale experience, not expecting new material and yearning for the hits of Crazy Horse. From Thrasher's Wheat Greendale Commentary page a poster named Coyote writes:
I saw Neil in Toronto in June and was greatly disappointed by the show. Neil played well, but for him to play 100 minutes of unreleased material before playing any of his older material was a total ripoff for more than a hundred bucks. As well, the t-shirts were $40. Last week at Lucinda Williams' show, they sold for $25. Although Neil is a great artist, it seems to me its all about self-indulgence and big bucks now.
BBC Greendale Review touches off a firestorm of comments
"This opus comes with a wealth of supporting ephemera (DVD; unfeasibly large CD booklet with drawings by hokey Zuma-era artist James Mazzeo; labyrinthine website with maps, lyrics, narration and even falsified photos for goodness' sake). Unfortunately it's a smokescreen. When you strip away all the merchandising you're faced with a series of desultory, lengthy two-chord strums with nary a tune between them. Crazy Horse, shorn of rhythm guitarist Frank Sampedro, do what they always do: Solidly plod through the material. Yet, where once this served as a bedrock for Neil's stellar guitar wrangling and impassioned voice, it now merely highlights his inability to set fire to the fuse. Despite the bullhorns and grungy harp it's barroom rock that should have stayed in the bar."
Feedback on the BBC review was voluminous and passionate. Here is a sample of the comments.
'Greendale' looks set to join the pantheon of great Neil Young records
"Greendale has already split critics and fans,' suggests reviewer Chris Jones. Well, that isn't quite right ' it's split fans from poor, baffled critics, more like. Neil doesn't make records for critics, or even his fans, he makes records for himself. And therein lies the core of the man's greatness. He is willing and artistically gifted enough to take huge experimental leaps. Sometimes they don't come off, but when they do, he makes music for the ages. It is early days yet, but 'Greendale' looks set to join the pantheon of great Neil Young records ' right up there with 'Everybody knows this is nowhere', 'Ragged Glory', 'Sleeps with Angels' and, yes, critically-maligned fan-favourite 'Trans'.
Mr Jones comes for quite a bit of stick here. That's a bit unfair. After all he works for the BBC ' how many times is 'Fake Academy' on this week? Lay off the guy, he's only following the corporate model unlike, say, Neil Young. Which brings me to the issue of 'half-baked truisms'. Umm, well, some of them certainly are half-baked ' but whose truisms are they? Neil's? Well, not really. Take the naive anti-corporate ranting of 'Be the Rain' ' that's not Neil ranting ' that's Son Green, a character in a Neil Young song. A pretty fundamental distinction that seems lost on many reviewers. Actually, Neil mentions Son Green's youthful strength of purpose in the supporting ephemera, and reflects sadly on how we lose that passion once we enter adulthood. Finally a word on Mr Jones 'supporting ephemera', in which he includes the terrific live DVD ' some ephemera! Would that every album came with a bit of fluff so compelling! "
Nigel Atkinson, Middlesbrough, UK "
Song story telling in the Homeric tradition
"Ultimately this is song story telling in the Homeric tradition and therefore the emphasis is on the lyrics rather than the music. Thats not to say that the tunes and motifs aren't quickly memorable. After a couple of listenings the characters and storey seemed to take over and CD becomes a swirl of characters, events and ideas. Who doesn't love Grandpa, cheer on Sun Green or ache with the pathos in Bringing Down Dinner? As others have pointed out, Be The Rain is sung by a young girl transformed via grief and anger into idealism. The reviewer hasn't seperated Neil Young songwriter, Neil Young singer and Sun Green character in his mind hence the cheap shots at Neil's expense. These songs are about narration/acting and shouldn't be judged in the usual way where the singer means his song (But as Neil wrote them he probably does). Its all on an extra level to the norm.
In my view this is one of only a very few successful attempts at a concept album and, because of its strong cohesive story line possibly the most convincing. It would make a great stage show - but perhaps those in America who've seen the full thing know more about whether Neil has explored this. A modern opera for our times? Finally, its worth considering the impact of Simon Cowell (Pop Stars etc.) and the vogue for unduly agressive reviewing and comment. This is guaranteed to engender anger and controversy with the public(and maybe we're all Chris Jones's dupes in this regard)and is an obvious way for otherwise obscure people to get noticed and climb the fame ladder. Maybe we should have just ignored the t*ss*r and got on with enjoying the album!"
Greendale is boring, the Mountainettes are ruinous
"I think the reviewer is right on. I'm a long-time fan and Greendale is boring, the Mountainettes are ruinous, the ideas are half-baked and the lyrics are atrocious. I don't agree in the least with people saying this is his freshest thing in a decade. I think he has had a superb decade up to now. The more recent albums are dripping with passion, though you may have to possess an appreciation of,shall we say, subtlety, to realize it. Very good review. I appreciate a reviewer with backbone. The good thing is that Neil still has potential."
LAST unique musician on earth!
"I'm all for hippie values and Greendale is the best thing NY has ever done. I saw Neil live in July in California and he created an astounding amount of energy at his show. I admit, I gave up on him in the 80s with that crapass lovefest for Ronald Regan and I still secretly hope it was just a strange joke by Neil. But, in the past few years, he's found his way back to something sane...environmental preservation, civil rights and railing at the King and Queen like the Stones used to do. These aren't tired issues. They are our f*#%ing life! I love the raw, demo-style sound of Greendale and the content is something that really needs to be said more than it is. At the show, 'Be The Rain' was filled with energy and created what rock at its best always creates -- Community.
Long live Neil Young, the only and the LAST unique musician on earth!"
Kurt, San Francisco, CA, USA
Imagine Bob Dylan's most annoying song
"Don't listen to people who know nothing about music. I have studied music for many years and this is a terrible album. The songs consist of three chords played repeatedly no changes or bridges...nothing. Most of the songs are the same chord progressions too, just in different keys. Very simple progressions, I might add. Most are the tonic, third and fifth...bush league. I am a Neil Young fan, and I enjoy his Harvest and Harvest Moon albums very much. But this is a load of crap, and should come with a warning label. I just spent over 80 bucks taking my girl to see him and he came out with this bull sh*t, I don't know how he could do this to his fans! I feel if a performer wants to make a rock opera or musical, that's fine. But he should make it clear, and let us know what he would be doing. I feel tricked and as if Neil doesn't care to tell the public what he is going to do. People go to concerts expecting to hear a couple new songs and mostly hits. This tour is nothing but crappy songs, if you have never heard them imagine Bob Dylan's most annoying song. That should paint a clear picture for you."
What other artist would take such a risk?
"As a former musician and songwriter, I must say the guitar work and songwriting of Neil Young are both superb on Greendale. I saw the stage and crazy horse live show and bought the album/DVD a month later. I mainly could not get the guitar melodies out of my mind from the show. It is true that it takes several listens to allow the songs to really sink in - but like many a reviewer noted - you must give several listens and then you will find yourself having a hard time getting the melodies out of your head.
The only weak point I found was as follows: the megaphone is effective in the DVD acoustic concert, but not as effective or needed at all on the last two (CD version) songs with Crazy Horse - other than that - this is a fine piece of work. You will never hear this record on any radio station I know of - perhaps that is why the reviewer above (Chris) finds this material so foreign - I humbly submit if for no other reason than the excellent guitar work and unique concept - buy this album. What other artist would take such a risk and make such an investment in such an involved effort????? That alone should tell you something!"
Even the mighty Horse sounds like it's had it's knackers removed
"As someone who's sat through Human Highway, I'm no stranger to Young's inability to deal in proper narrative, but this is taking things too far. It's simplistic, dull and musically unadventurous. Even the mighty Horse sounds like it's had it's knackers removed. I'm also surprised that no-one noticed Postman Pat's hometown is also Greendale. Now, if Neil had turned his attention to telling the tale of a disgruntled local postman harbouring a secret passion for his little black cat, that would have been worth hearing. He could have even written a song about Pat's red van to add to all those other great car tunes he's done over the years..."
He gives the finger to all of the people who just want to hear his hits again
"My exposure to Greendale began at Neil Young.com the night before I went to the concert. I was intrigued to say the least. I think Neil is at his best when he gives the finger to all of the people who just want to hear his hits again and again. I went to the show with high expectation. When I saw the set I have to admit that I was afraid this show was going to come off like a bad highschool play. All doubts were set aside about 15 seconds in the first song. The crowd (at Merriwether outside of DC) loved it. We knew we were witnessing Neil taking a huge creative chance. And he soared.
After the show, I wanted to get the CD but hand to wait one agonizing month. I got it this weekend and have been listening to it non-stop. I have played it for all of my friends we are unanimous (normally we can;t agree on anything!) that this is a Neil classic which may only be appreciated once people stop expecting him to redo Harvest for the umpteeth time. This is deep music without being preachy and great storytelling. I think Neil should charge $100 for this CD just to scare away all of the kids who are too shallow to get it."
Ralph Molina sounds like he's bashing away on upturned biscuit tins
"Sorry but I think Greendale is a very weak album. Is this really the Neil Young that gave us 'Thrasher' and 'Look Out For My Love'. The lyrics and concept of these songs just aren't in the same league. Not to mention the awful production, Ralph Molina sounds like he's bashing away on upturned biscuit tins. Neils guitar is just plain dull. I saw two of the accoustic shows in the spring and felt the same about them. I've lived and breathed NY since 1969 and seen him each time he's come to the UK with the highlight being Hammersmith in 1976. I hang on to those moments. Give Greendale a few plays then stick it at the back of the collection and get out 'Rust Never Sleeps' and remember the good times.
quiet slipstream, Wolverhampton
Three cheers for the only one left from the 60's still doing it right
"I've seen Neil over 20 times and have all his material. I have such a passion for his 'classic rock' sound, but enjoy Greendale as much as anyhting I've heard from him. That to me speaks volumes for an artist. To be able to have material stand up to the classics says something about his abilty to create. As Neil as said about the 80's material 'they are paintings on the wall' this is another. three cheers for the only one left from the 60's still doing it right. Although Dylan has been good again recently too. I can't imagine you knocking Silver and Gold either Chris??? The man still matters! Neil is number one in my book and will always be. But, I can be judgmental. Broken Arrow was lackluster to me, but this blows it away. Keep'em coming Neil!"
Jim, Michigan "
Cliched and drippy
"Maybe the lyrics strike a chord in America, but to this British ear, they DO sound cliched and drippy, and this from an artist I've always applauded for avoiding both."
Leigh, Birmingham UK
Greendale inspires truth seeking
"Neil is a very poignant social critic and Greendale hits the mark on many of the frustrations the people of the US face today. He focuses on the runaway, conservative, bullying media. Greendale inspires truth seeking. Get your news from someone other than CNN or FOX and you might see things as they really are. It is about the story and the truth, always has been with Neil, and I hope it always will be."
SRM, San Francisco
A call to arms
"The album IS a bit plodding but the live acoustic version on the DVD is much better. Neil Young is making some very serious points about Bush's America, not just about the environment.The album is a call to arms, and despite the easy dismissal of Neil Young as a 'hippy' by sneering cynics the fact that he still has ideals should be applauded."
"I think this is Young's strangest (and strongest) album in quite some time. For me, it plays better if one forgets the narrative and simply allows the music and images to flow in their surreal stream of consciousness manner. Heard this way, Greendale sounds like an album length version of the songs Last Trip to Tulsa or Ambulance Blues. Trippy, goofy, and (I think) quite powerful in the end."
Jerome Langguth- Newport, KY USA "
Last of a dying breed
"I think the albums is is great. Nice to see Neil Young get his head out of butt and put the passion back in his music. On the album he quotes Lennon and Dylan who are the only 2 above him when it comes to song writting. Neil Young is the last of a dying breed."
An artist at the top of his creativity
"Exhilarating, Stunning, Confusing,Courageous, Disturbing, in short an artist at the top of his creativity with a unique perspective on the state of America and human problems. To say that 'He seems to revolve around ecological issues' is arrogantly dismissive! Young does not allways hit the spot but please ignore this review as this is(live at least)pretty close to his finest hour! If like this reviewer musically your tastes extend to more instant gratification then I recommend ABBA's Greatest Hits wholeheartedly."