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A gui­tarist’s guide to the artists you need to know

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Af­ter The Gold Rush (1970)

1 The record that es­tab­lished Young as a for­mi­da­ble solo force. In Septem­ber 1970, Young’s era-defin­ing role in Buf­falo Spring­field was still fresh in the mem­ory and his de­but with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Déjà Vu, had topped the charts six months ear­lier. It’s not sur­pris­ing then that the pen­sive, coun­tri­fied po­etry found on the likes of the al­bum’s ti­tle track and Only Love Can Break Your Heart took the Cana­dian’s pro­file to new com­mer­cial heights, lay­ing the path for 1972’s ubiq­ui­tous mega-hit Har­vest in the process. Even amid this Dr Jekyll folksi­ness, though, there was ev­i­dence of the spik­i­ness so defin­ing of Young’s elec­tric Mr Hyde side: South­ern Man saw Young’s dis­torted, sear­ing wail parted by a one minute 40 sec­ond solo that of­fered all the protest, anger and sadness of the song’s lyri­cal con­tent. Rec­om­mended track: South­ern Man

Ev­ery­body Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

2 Young’s sec­ond solo record and the first to fea­ture his ‘garage band’ Crazy Horse con­tains some of his most no­table gui­tar work, brought to the fore by spar­ring partner Danny Whit­ten’s stac­cato rhythm work. The cen­tre­piece – ode to water­side mur­der, Down By

The River – ex­ceeds nine min­utes, yet still seems eco­nomic in its fret­work, with much of the open­ing solo riff­ing around a sin­gle note. In con­trast, Cin­na­mon Girl – one of the first tracks to fea­ture Young’s beloved Les Paul ‘Old Black’ – breezily flows into dreamy folk rock, while chan­nel­ing one of Young’s best riffs through a gor­geous crunch tone. It’s an al­bum alive with in­spired im­pro­vi­sa­tion. Stand­out track: Down By The River

Zuma (1975)

5 Young’s sec­ond 1975 ef­fort is rightly praised by the hard­core, but of­ten over­looked by ca­sual lis­ten­ers. This is a great shame for two main rea­sons. First, it rep­re­sents the in­tro­duc­tion of new Crazy Horse gui­tarist Frank ‘Pon­cho’ Sampe­dro, Whit­ten’s re­place­ment, and one of Young’s most en­dur­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors. Sampe­dro’s hell­fire per­son­al­ity and a hard rock play­ing style would help to cre­ate the ma­te­rial that drew grunge stars to wor­ship at the Young al­tar through­out the 90s, in­clud­ing a co-write on

Rockin’ In The Free World. The sec­ond rea­son? Fan favourite Cortez The Killer, hailed by Young as some of his finest play­ing and a com­pelling ex­am­ple of a rein­vig­o­rated artist at the peak of his pow­ers. Stand­out track: Cortez The Killer

Tonight’s The Night (1975)

3 An al­bum tainted by the drug-re­lated deaths of the afore­men­tioned Whit­ten and Young’s roadie friend Bruce Berry,

Tonight’s The Night was recorded in 1973, but its un­flinch­ing por­trayal of all-con­sum­ing grief was ini­tially con­sid­ered un­re­leasable by la­bel Reprise. The lat­ter party were no doubt still hold­ing a can­dle for Har­vest, but this ma­te­rial couldn’t be fur­ther re­moved from that warm acous­tic glow. In­stead, the at­mos­phere here is one of a seis­mic death party. The ti­tle track un­set­tles and ex­cites in its creepy an­tic­i­pa­tion of on­com­ing doom, while the band (in­clud­ing gui­tarist Nils Lof­gren) play like they’re in­hab­it­ing char­ac­ters from a Tom Waits song. Stand­out track: Tonight’s The Night

Le Noise (2010)

6 Many of Young’s post-90s al­bums have con­tained flashes of lu­mi­nes­cence, but are too of­ten bogged down in wor­thyyet-dry con­cepts (see 2009’s ode to the elec­tric car, Fork In The Road) or in­con­sis­tent writ­ing. Le

Noise, how­ever, saw Young team up with Daniel Lanois for an ex­cit­ing, har­mo­nious col­lec­tion that wrapped solo per­for­mance in lay­ers of dark, woolly fuzz and echo­ing vo­cals. Acous­tic­cen­tre­piece Love And War stands out in its quiet spa­cious­ness, show­cas­ing a spine-tin­gling vul­ner­a­bil­ity amid a record of tu­mul­tuous dis­tor­tion and un­set­tling sonic ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. A tonal mas­ter­class, the ef­fect is one of a dis­torted post-apoc­a­lyp­tic preacher. If en­vi­ron­men­tal di­a­tribes came pack­aged like this, peo­ple would lis­ten. Stand­out track: Love And War

Rust Never Sleeps (1979)


RustNev­erSleeps is of­ten hailed as the al­bum most rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Young’s two pri­mary artis­tic per­son­al­i­ties: the acous­tic bal­ladeer and the scyth­ing elec­tric wiz­ard. Formed around the over-dubbed bones of a live record­ing with the Crazy Horse col­lab­o­ra­tion, the al­bum sees side one made up of five acous­tic tracks, while side two is elec­tric.

Pow­derfin­ger marks a size­able step for­ward in Young’s lead play­ing, but the must-hear from a gui­tar per­spec­tive is closer HeyHey,MyMy

(In­toTheBlack). The bru­tal fuzz-cracked riff is Young’s finest and, dur­ing the era of punk rock, served as a re­minder that not all 60s di­nosaurs had lost their teeth. Stand­out track: Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)

Neil Young: a con­trary ge­nius who re­fuses to be de­fined by gen­res

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