Friday, June 26, 2009

Album of the Day #158: TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT - Neil Young

While it is sad that Michael Jackson passed away, I have more important things to talk about another Neil Young masterpiece. However, you can go back to my review on Thriller, done back in August.

Artist: Neil Young
Title: Tonight's The Night
Label: Reprise
Year: 1975 (recorded 1970-1973)
Songs: Tonight's The Night/Speakin' Out/World On A String/Borrowed Tune/Come On Baby Let's Go Downtown*/Mellow My Mind/Roll Another Number (For The Road)/Albuquerque/New Mama/Lookout Joe/Tired Eyes/Tonight's The Night - Part II
Written by: Neil Young, except *by Neil Young & Danny Whitten
Produced by: David Briggs & Neil Young with Tim Mulligan, except "Lookout Joe" by Elliot Mazer
Thoughts: Although recorded before On The Beach, Tonight's The Night was actually released after it in 1975, so it truly is the second part of Neil's "Ditch Trilogy". This was his plan to literally deconstruct his fame gained from Harvest, and while it sort of worked (none of the three could really be called 'financially successful'), Neil could never have completely destroyed his fame.
These albums were also a response of the death of guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry. Tonight's The Night was this response to the extreme. The opening title track even mentions Berry by name, describing how he was a working man and all the things that he had done for Neil. All the stuff in between the two parts of "Tonight's The Night" is fantastic, but the album never seems to reach that high point again. It's not that they're all bad, though. I love most of the second half with "Roll Another Number", "Albuquerque" and "Lookout Joe" all of which could easily sit with his best work. The first half is severely lacking some liveliness, other than the 1970 live recording of "Downtown" with Whitten on vocals, which is bookended by the dull "Borrowed Tune" (from the Rolling Stones, so says Neil) and "Mellow My Mind".
However dull and slow some of these songs may be, Neil still gives an incredible vocal performance on every one.
The entire album together is really good, but the songs separately don't feel like they have much weight, aside from the title track(s). I wouldn't listen to it everyday, but you might have to revisit it frequently to remind yourself just how versatile Neil Young really is.

Next: The final part of the "Ditch Trilogy", "On The Beach".

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