- 26 Feb 21
Ragged And Glorious
I know, you can't beat Neil Young and his acoustic guitar. I love Harvest too, and we were all delighted when he released the Hitchhiker session. That having been said, for my money, Young was going through perhaps the purplest of patches - in a career that is positively magenta streaked - in 1989/1990. First there was the Eldorado E.P., a Japan and Australia only release which was difficult to source back in those pre-internet days. Songs like the raw-as-eggs 'Cocaine Eyes' were worth the effort though. Three tracks from the E.P. showed up again, in altered form, on the brilliant, career-resuscitating Freedom album. This is the one with ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ on it, as well as some of his best songs in years, like 'Crime In The City' or ‘Wrecking Ball’ - although it could be reasonably argued that Emmylou Harris would go on to make that one her own - and it pretty much saved Young's eighties, just as the new decade was knocking at the gate.
And then he released Ragged Glory, a monumental slab of garage rock. With the help of the mighty Crazy Horse, Glory reached back to the louder side of Young’s seventies, including then unreleased songs from that decade in ‘Country Home’ and ‘White Line’. There's some sort of genius-like simplicity to big songs like 'Over and Over' where the repeated riffs roll over you like a steady moving and unstoppable herd of buffalo.
The sound of Ragged Glory probably cursed Young with the ‘godfather of grunge’ title forever, but never mind that, it’s still - possibly - his last great album, and it spawned the Weld live document, and – for the truly insane - the Arc feedback collage. Way Down In The Rust Bucket captures a full show from that Glory tour – Santa Cruz, 13/11/90 – and it is awesome.
Not only do you get eighty percent of Ragged Glory, expanded out to even greater, mind-blowingly hypnotic length - and songs like 'Country Home' and 'Over And Over' weren't exactly of a 'radio friendly' length in the first place - but there’s also ‘Like A Hurricane’ and ‘Cortez The Killer’, and thirteen minutes of ‘Cowgirl In The Sand’, if you spring for the DVD. It even manages the near impossible by making ‘Surfer Joe’ and ‘T-Bone’ from the distinctly ropey Re-ac-tor sound palatable.
The overall feeling – like the opening of ‘Cinnamon Girl’, for example, which clocks in with a relatively Ramones-ish brevity at only four minutes – is akin to having wet concrete poured over you, but in a good way. As Young says, during a fine run at Zuma’s ‘Don’t Cry No Tears’, “I just wanna sing a little more.” Marvellous, I really wish I’d been there.