Neil Young / Crazy Horse - ToastToast Music Album Reviews

Neil Young / Crazy Horse - ToastToast Music Album Reviews
Recorded in 2001, this previously unreleased LP from Young and his most recognizable accompanists is a surprisingly slick, fans-only affair.

Among Neil Young’s one-off genre-experiment albums, 2002’s Are You Passionate? enjoys neither the adoring cult of his foray into synth-pop sci-fi nor the infamy of the rockabilly revival act that got him sued for not sounding enough like himself. Perhaps that’s because Are You Passionate?’s animating conceit—a tracklist heavy on slow-burning ballads that nod in the direction of 1960s R&B, backed by the veteran soul men of Booker T. and the M.G.’s—seems like the sort of thing any number of Young’s boomer contemporaries might have attempted a few decades into their respective careers. It isn’t as outwardly experimental as the others, but it has its charms. One of Young’s many personae is the songwriter who can churn out a beautiful melody without much apparent effort, and the classic-soul trappings of Are You Passionate? seemed to bring that side out of him, with several unusually sumptuous tunes to distinguish it from his other efforts of the same era.

Not a bad record, but hardly anyone’s favorite Neil Young album, either. Which makes Toast, a previously unreleased seven-song collection recorded in 2001, over half of which eventually made its way to Are You Passionate? in marginally revised form, a decidedly fans-only affair. The hook: Before bringing the M.G.’s into the studio, Young recorded these songs with Crazy Horse, the band of brilliant rock primitivists who have backed him on many of his best-loved albums over the years. You might think, given that premise, that Toast would replace the in-the-pocket smokiness of Are You Passionate? highlights like “Quit” and “Mr. Disappointment” (retitled “How Ya Doin’” here) with Crazy Horse’s familiar unrefined squall. Instead, the alternate versions demonstrate that Young had the understated R&B of Are You Passionate? in mind before he ever hired the M.G.s to play it, and that Crazy Horse was better than anyone could have reasonably expected at delivering the sorts of grooves he was after.

The Crazy Horse rendition of “Quit” that opens Toast, for instance, is hardly distinguishable from the one the M.G.s laid down the following year, other than by its slightly darker recording fidelity. That isn’t exactly a mark against it. It’s a good song, with a lilting melody and a tear-jerking premise: Young spends the verses trying in vain to convince a partner not to leave, despite the pain he’s caused her, before a chorus that consists only of her stone-faced response: “Don’t say you love me.” The band is more than capable of conjuring the right atmosphere, which is something like a corner bar after the revelers have filed out and only the regulars remain. The rhythm section is appropriately laid-back; even the call-and-response backing vocal arrangement, the final version’s most overt homage to Stax-era soul, is already in place. As on Are You Passionate?, Young's scorched guitar tone and pleasantly meandering leads provide a welcome contrast, elevating “Quit” beyond pastiche and toward something more idiosyncratic.

“Goin’ Home” and “How Ya Doin’” are similarly of a piece with their final forms. The former, the only track on the original album to feature Crazy Horse instead of the M.G.s, sounds, predictably, like the same band playing the same song. The latter becomes slightly less interesting in its Toast incarnation, replacing the Tom Waits-like gravelly low register Young tried out on the Are You Passionate? version with his usual clear-throated tenor. It’s impressive that Crazy Horse were able to pull off the style of Are You Passionate? so well, but their adeptness raises an issue. Some roughness around the edges might have made these previously released tracks a little more distinctive; their surprising slickness means there’s little compelling reason to put them on over the better-known versions.

Three songs from the Toast sessions didn’t make the cut for 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 dumb-fun fuzztone riff and not much going on songwriting-wise beyond that. “Timberline” is in a similar hard-rocking lane, but with more interesting lyrics, sung from the perspective of a logger who loses his job, and consequently, his faith in God. “Gateway of Love” is the best of the unreleased tracks, a 10-minute guitar workout that differentiates itself from the many similar odysseys in the Horse catalog with a Latin-feeling polyrhythm instead of their standard four-four stomp. It’s easy to understand why Young felt these songs didn’t fit in with the lovelorn mood of Are You Passionate?, but they’re all worth hearing at least once.

The most compelling reason to give Toast a spin is “Boom Boom Boom,” its 13-minute closer. Structurally, it isn’t much different from “She’s a Healer,” the nine-minute version on Are You Passionate?, which is among the jazziest tunes in Young’s canon, cycling between a menacing one-chord vamp and a more harmonically elaborate instrumental refrain, with plenty of group improvisation throughout. But its arrangement on Toast is richer and stranger, piling on layers of seasick piano and trumpet. And in contrast to the rest of the Are You Passionate? tracks on Toast, Crazy Horse’s playing is noticeably rawer and more exploratory than the M.G.s’ later take, always on the verge of falling apart, without the glue of Booker T’s organ holding everything in place. The precarity of the performance is suited to Young’s songwriting, which addresses his attachment to a woman who may or may not be ready to dump him. “There ain’t no way I’m gonna let the good times go,” he sings repeatedly, a line that might strike an inattentive listener to Are You Passionate? as a straightforward call for celebration. On Toast, there’s no mistaking it for anything other than the desperate plea it is.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Neil Young / Crazy Horse - ToastToast Music Album Reviews Neil Young / Crazy Horse - ToastToast Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on July 14, 2022 Rating: 5


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