NEIL YOUNG AND CRAZY HORSE Live at the Fillmore East 1970 Reprise ★★★ On March 6th and 7th, 1970, Neil Young, fresh out of Buffalo Springfield, and now known as the Y in CSNY, played two concerts in New York with his crack new band, Crazy Horse: guitarist Danny Whitten, bassist Billy Talbut, drummer Ralph Molina and electric piano player Jack Nitzsche. Thus began a musical partnership that lasted on and off for the next three decades. These never-before-released recordings, the first in the Neil Young Archives Performance series, feature just six songs taken from this twonight stint. The album is short on songs but long on extended jamming – Down by the River is, characteristically, 12 minutes long while Cowgirl in the Sand clocks in at 16 minutes, almost a whole side of an old-fashioned LP. The time is taken up mostly with Young and Whitten’s signature guitar dueling and Nitzche’s distinctive honky-tonk organ lines. The album starts with the title track from the soon-to-be released Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, and, along with the classic Winterlong and Wondering, also features Come on Baby Let’s Go Downtown, written by Whitten. A great live band, for sure, but it’s hard not to feel short-changed by the dearth of tunes. www.neilyoung.com SUFJAN STEVENS Songs for Christmas Rough Trade/ Asthmatic Kitty ★★★★ VARIOUS Dave Fanning’s Fab 50 Vol. 2 EMI ★★★ Some (possibly alcohol-fuelled) night this December, you may end up inviting a baying troupe back to your house. Year round, Back to Mine and FabricLive compilations fulfil the musical requirements, but not at Christmas. People inexplicably start demanding hits, classics and nostalgic indie. Cue Mr Fanning, his 20-odd years of music ex- Recorded over five years on five EPs (Noel, Hark!, Ding Dong!, Joy, Peace), Sufjan Stevens’s Songs for Christmas is the Michigan Yooper singer-songwriter’s most idiosyncratic song collection to date. Traditional carols such as Silent Night, We Three Kings and Jingle Bells sip eggnog along with comic ditties Get Behind Me, Santa and Let’s Boogie to the Elf Dance, and aching ballads That Was the Worst Christmas Ever and Did I Make You Cry On Christmas Day?. Stevens’s occasionally ironic but mostly heartfelt juxtaposition of traditional and original songs manages to be both sincerely devotional and giddily festive. Complete with selfpenned short stories and extensive liner notes, Christmas stickers, and a Christmas songbook (with lyric sheets and chord charts), Stevens’s yuletide boxset is a genuine delight. www.asthmatickitty.com perience and the second of his triple-CD compilations. This year, the tracklist veers left of centre: Devo, The Dead Kennedys and XTC rub shoulders whileWire are sandwiched between Bob Dylan and Daft Punk. Irish contributions include Microdisney and Ash; iconic bands are often represented by atypical choices ( The Trader by The Beach Boys). With 50 genrespanning tracks, this will yield plenty of delighted, serendipitous gasps all round (Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You, anyone?). www.emirecords.co.uk/ FOO FIGHTERS Skin and Bones RCA ★★★★ VARIOUS John Peel’s Dandelion Cherry Red ★★★
while veal a hitherto hidden scope. You can take the man out of the metal, etc. www.foofighters.com After their quiet/ loud double album, In Your Honor, head Foo Fighter Dave Grohl decided to do a series of unplugged gigs at LA’s Plantages theatre. He expanded the core band of Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel and Chris Shiflett into an eight-piece and even invited former Foos guitarist Pat Smear to join the party. Though their reputation as a ferocious live band was already sealed, the Foo Fighters had to prove they could step out from behind their protective wall of distortion and cut it as a live acoustic act. Happily, Grohl’s done this sort of thing before with his former band, and his songwriting talents see the Foos through this 15-song journey through unknown territory. Well-known tunes such as Walking After You, Next Year, Big Me and Everlong shine under the softer light. But just because it’s unplugged doesn’t mean you could leave your earplugs at home. The band still get pretty raucous on My Hero, Skin and Bones and February Stars, Times Like These It’s something you will never, ever get with all this downloading lark: a symbiotic relationship with a record label run by people who don’t particularly mind if a record sells or not. DJ John Peel founded the Dandelion record label back in the less commercially aware late ’60s, when a certain level of jazz woodbine-induced optimism still held sway . Like most of these one man-one mindset operations (cf Belfast’s Good Vibrations), Dandelion was doomed to not succeed. Some of the acts were risible (Bill Oddie, Will Dandy & the Dandylettes), some were influential (Bridget St John), and a mere one or two entered into the mainstream (Clifford T Ward), even if only for a few years. Most were never heard of again (Beau, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, where are you?). What mattered to Peel and his ilk, however, was not measured in music industry terms but in the creative requirements of whether an act was interesting enough. The Dandelion spirit lives on in small labels too numerous to mention - but you could argue it was the same kind of pioneering venture that, say, Rich-
Westlife discounted: do we have the Grocery Order to thank for this?