It's 1974. Neil Young is looking to release a new album. He has enough new music to fill two albums, but isn't sure which record should be next. He gathers some musician friends for a listening session in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Hollywood. The album that won the night was "Tonight's The Night." The one that didn't make the final cut was "Homegrown."
There are multiple reasons for releasing "Tonight's the Night." It was the more raucous, harder edged of the two albums. That made it different from "On the Beach" and "Harvest", Young's previous two albums. It was also less personal. Although "Tonight's the Night" theme was dealing with the drug overdose deaths of friends, "Homegrown" songs detailed the ending of his relationship with actress Carrie Snodgrass. Their five year partnership was coming to an end. In some songs, you can hear the pain of the breakup in Young's words and voice; while in others you hear a longing to possibly try again to salvage the relationship.
After shelving the album, he did talk about his reasoning for doing so. He told Rolling Stone's Cameron Crowe,"It was simply too painful. It was a little too personal. It scared me.”
Young once told his own father, “These are great songs I can live without.”
The music from "Homegrown" goes on the back burner for more than four decades...but not completely. Some of the tunes made their way onto other Young albums. "Love is a Rose" became known when it was covered by Linda Ronstadt. He's also performed many of the songs in concert.
So why now? What's the reasoning for Young to finally release this album?
First off, the relationship has been over for forty-six years. Since then Young had a thirty-six year marriage to Pegi Young, followed by another current relationship with Darryl Hannah. The anguish has certainly lessened, if not completely gone.
Next, Carrie Snodgrass died in 2004. The songs will no longer hurt her.
Plus, Neil Young loves to mix it up. He's always trying different things. He doesn't want to pigeonhole himself into a particular sound. His last album was the hard hitting, guitar-centric "Colorado", with the band Crazy Horse. The music on "Homegrown" is much softer. You'd never be able to confuse this with a Crazy Horse record. That's how Neil likes it!
Finally, if not now, when? Neil Young is now seventy-four years old. Although he's still very active, you just never know what is going to occur. What's a better time to release the music? Why let it wait until you're gone?
As for the album itself, while you can sit back and bask in the softer music, the lyrics are tough and hard. You can hear his angst in this album. It's not an easy listen.
Young surrounds himself with some of the finest musicians from that era. The Band's Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson play drums and guitar on a couple of songs. Emmylou Harris contributes her sweet voice on other tunes.
Neil Young has never been one to rest on his laurels. It would have been easy for him to make a career out of making records like his early "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" and "After the Goldrush." He followed in a totally different direction with "Harvest." That's the real story of Neil Young. He likes to do things like this to keep himself and his audience current, relevant and interested. That's why he does things like releasing a forty-six year old album. That's why Neil Young continues to be one the greatest musicians of his generation.
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