Forty-six years after it was originally meant to be released, Neil Young’s Chrome Dreams finally sees the light of day.
Yes, Neil’s Archive Series just keeps rolling along.
A warning for young players…all but two of the 12 tracks featured here have already been released, some as far back as 1977’s American Stars ‘n Bars, some as recently as 2020’s Archives Vol II. And the two recordings that are previously unreleased are tunes that any Neil Young fan will be familiar with…Hold Back The Tears and Sedan Delivery.
So why finally release Chrome Dreams (which is no relation to Neil’s Chrome Dreams 2 released in 2007)?
Because that’s what Neil wants.
I’m sure the seemingly haphazard unloading of these archives can be daunting to the initiated…heck, I’ve been buying his records since 1971 and I still have trouble keeping up.
The album opens with a familiar lyric…”Aurora borealis, the icy sky at night/ Paddles cut the water in a long and hurried flight. It’s Pocahontas, one of the highlights from arguable Young’s greatest album, Rust Never Sleeps. This is the same version, sans a few overdubs, and it sets us up for, what I consider, the highlight of this collection, Will To Love, originally released on American Stars ‘n Bars where it sounded strangely out of place at the time, but now makes much more sense with Pocahontas leading it in and the Star Of Bethlehem following.
Listening to the vinyl version, we flip the record over and encounter the fury that is Like A Hurricane. Again, same version as appears on American Stars ‘n Bars but feeling different in this context.
An argument could be made that this album could be replicated simply by creating a playlist on your favourite digital platform, and there is some truth to that.
But hard core Neil fans (and I am one) will want to hear the unreleased version of Hold Back The Tears (sans Linda Ronstadt & Nicolette Larson) and especially this early version of Sedan Delivery recorded with Crazy Horse back in 1975. The familiar ‘punked-up’ version found on Rust Never Sleeps is certainly definitive but this slower, almost plodding, arrangement gives us an idea of what might have happen if Johnny Rotten and co hadn’t given Neil and The Horse a good kick up the backside.
This is a three-sided vinyl affair and the third side is the best…a cool Captain Kennedy, a winsome Stringman and a solo, acoustic Powderfinger. Powderfinger may be my fave Neil Young song, and this version only squeaked out on a 2017 Archive release titled Hitchhiker. It deserves a second chance and now it gets it.
Chrome Dreams closes with Look Out For My Love, originally found on Comes A Time.
Taken individually, most of these tracks (bar Sedan Delivery) are not particularly revelatory, but listened to as a whole, Chrome Dreams makes a case for one of Neil’s top ten albums.
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