Album review: Neil Young

Neil Young - Hitchhiker (Reprise Records)

Shakey in the mid-70s.

Shakey in the mid-70s.

SINCE SHAKEY opened up his archives, a treasure trove of magnificent, mostly live, albums, have been flowing out to us grateful fans over the past decade. The latest in this series is an unreleased studio work - Hitchhiker.

Hitchhiker has not quite gone down in legend like other unreleased Young works, such as Chrome Dreams, despite containing a treasure trove of material he would re-record for later albums, including 'Pocahontas' and 'The Old Country Waltz'. It was recorded in Malibu, California, at Indigo Studio in 1976, produced by David Briggs, with actor Dean Stockwell (Paris, Texas and Blue Velvet ) attending the sessions.

The pleasure lies in hearing these songs in their most intimate state, where they can reveal different aspects of themselves, providing an opportunity to hear them in a fresh context. Two tracks - 'Hawaii' and 'Give Me Strength' are released for the first time.

So why would this wonderful work have been shelved for 41 years? Its raw, off the cuff nature, gave it too much of a demo-ish feel, rather than it sounding like a completed work. Yet there are few better ways to hear Young, than when stripped down to the essentials of voice and guitar. His acoustic playing is full blooded and tough, and only he can invest the acoustic with a power and force we normally associate with the electric.

Yet, he also makes space for delicate and nimble touches to catch the ear ('Captain Kennedy', 'Hawaii' ), allowing folk tendencies more room to breath than usual. It has taken a long time for this album to have its day, but now it's here, and it is a most welcome release.


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