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Neil Young / Crazy Horse: Toast Album Review

Neil Young / Crazy Horse: Toast Album Review

“Goin ‘Home” and “How Ya Doin'” are similarly a piece with their final forms. The former, the only track on the original album that contains Crazy Horse instead of the MGs, sounds predictably like the same band playing the same song. The latter becomes a little less interesting in its Toast incarnation, and replaced the Tom Waits-like gravelly low register Young tried out Are you passionate? version with its usual clear tenor. It’s impressive that Crazy Horse was able to pull off the style of Are you passionate? so good, but their skill raises a problem. Some roughness around the edges may have made these previously released tracks a little more distinctive; their surprising smoothness means that there is little convincing reason to take them on over the more well-known versions.

Three songs from Toast sessions failed Are you passionate?, and they appear as studio versions for the first time here. “Standing in the Light” sounds like cheap beer and fast cars, with a silly and funny fuzztone riff and not much going on in terms of songwriting beyond that. “Timberline” is in a similar hard-rocking path, but with more interesting lyrics, sung from the perspective of a lumberjack who loses his job, and consequently his faith in God. “Gateway of Love” is the best of the unreleased tracks, a 10-minute guitar practice that differs from the many similar odysseys in the Horse Catalog with a Latin-feeling polyrhythm instead of their standard four-four-tramp. It’s easy to understand why Young felt that these songs did not fit into the mood in love Are you passionate ?, but they are all worth hearing at least once.

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The most compelling reason to give Toast a spin is “Boom Boom Boom”, it is 13 minutes closer. Structurally, it is not much different from “She’s a Healer”, the nine-minute version of Are you passionate?, which is among the most jazzy songs in Young’s canon, and rides between a threatening one-chord vamp and a more harmoniously elaborate instrumental chorus, with lots of group improvisation all the way. But its scheme on Toast is richer and stranger, joins forces with seasick piano and trumpet. And unlike the rest of Are you passionate? traces on Toast, Crazy Horse’s play is noticeably rawer and more exploratory than MG’s later grips, always on the verge of falling apart, without the glue from Booker T’s organ holding everything in place. The precariousness of the performance fits Young’s songwriting, which addresses his attachment to a woman who may or may not be ready to dump him. “There’s no way I let the good times go,” he sings repeatedly, a line that can strike an inattentive listener Are you passionate? as a straight forward invitation to celebration. On Toast, there is no doubt that it is something other than the desperate prayer it is.

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Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Toast

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Toast

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