Neil Young—ON THE BEACH (1974)

r-579392-1151781228-jpegAssigned by: Diabli Ben

Reviewed by: Victor Guimarães

Dear reader, do you believe in coincidences? I personally don’t, but the concept of it and its psychological implications had always amused me, as well as other related stuff, such as dé ja vu (which happens often to me). And being assigned a Neil Young album surely do fit my coincidence-meter.  It might need to be a bit calibrated, but ok. Easy, I’m going to explain why. But for now, can’t complain about the quality of the assignment, Neil’s a legend with his own star in Canada’s walk of fame with a strong discography that I’d recommend to anyone. But for now, let’s focus on this record, On the Beach.

July, 1974. Amazing days for music, which I haven’t lived, sadly. Ok, partially sad. Those times, Young released On the Beach, an album whose impact at that time wasn’t pretty – it’s got mixed reviews at best, sold poorly and is the second of the then-infamous Ditch Trilogy. Ok, today it’s well regarded, but I might imagine what it have been to Young, especially after the previous record, Time Fades Away (the first of the infamous aforementioned trilogy) was subjected to the same critics. Guess the public was in dire need of more Harvest-like albums, his last best-seller, which sounds indeed different from the trilogy. While Harvest sported a much more pop approach and easier to digest lyrics, the Ditch Trilogy had a slightly different tune on sound and way different lyrics. From the three, the first one, Time Fades Away is the most similar to Harvest, apart already far from it, and the last one released, Tonight’s the Night, might have been the most artsy and misunderstood, and On the Beach, the middle one, might can be considered a progression between these two. This two-sided, eight-track effort sports a crude sonority and a somewhat raw production that makes you feel like you’re listening to a live session. Expect great instrumentals. Not overwhelming great, but perfect matches between instruments, with the right notes and chords in the right tempo, in the right moment. The crudity of the record is powered by its amazing basslines and percussion, giving the whole record a kinda bluesy feeling to Young’s common folkish rock. While not sporting awe-inspiring guitar solos, guitars are solid. All songs are very pleasant to listen to, exhibiting good-to-great melodies powered by his amazing voice. Lyrics are quite pessimistic, which kinda fits the heavier, bleak, bluesy vibe of the record. And while most of Young’s 70s records are full of great finishes, I got the feeling that On the Beach is much more powerful and talented in from the beginning to the middle.

Coincidence or not, that pessimistic crudity is exactly what I was needing in the middle of a quite busy, hectic week, and, ironically, listening to On the Beach kinda lifted my mood in the midst of endless traffic and hard deadlines. I was familiar with Young’s work and this timely assignment plus the feeling of listening to it in this week situation gave me a curious, but comfortable feeling. Dé ja vu, huh? Hahaha! Of course, hard days are not needed to enjoy the discography of this canadian legend, and if you’re looking for a first-misunderstood-then-acclaimed classic with amazing blues-lite instrumentals you might schedule your next tour On the Beach.

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Author: Graham Warnken

I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me. Or you could just, y’know, load another webpage.

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