Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Ragged Glory

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

Neil Young was 45 when he released this album, which doesn’t seem so old now. He toured with Social Distortion and Sonic Youth in support of the release, and a few years later recorded an album with Pearl Jam. I remember this was all reported with some degree of amazement. As a music fan – who admittedly does not listen to as much new stuff as I used to – it strikes me as weird that professional musicians – rock musicians – would stagnate and isolate so much in an artistic sense that when Young sought out contact with younger bands it was seen as further proof of his unique iconoclasm. Weird, but accurate, as I can’t think of many others in Young’s position who have done the same. Springsteen has played onstage with the Gaslight Anthem and sung on a Jesse Malin album; Petty toured with the Replacements. I don’t know – I think there should be more intergenerational mingling; it would be consistent with the spirit of rock.

What I Think of This Album

Ragged Glory is the perfect title for this album – this is the musical equivalent of the frayed cuffs on the best pair of jeans you ever owned. The guitars are loud and loose, and Young provides strong melodies once again.

The first four tracks are excellent: “Country Home” and “White Line” are apparently holdover songs from the ‘70s, and their inclusion here is welcome. “Country Home” kicks things off with a tidy lead line, and then goes on for another untidy and glorious seven minutes. “White Line,” far more countryish than the opener but no less catchy, is a quick and enjoyable (and perhaps slight) song; if only all filler was this fun. “F*!#in’ Up” (why so shy, Neil?) is all bewilderment and frustration, with Crazy Horse happily lurching in the background over Young’s hypnotic main riff; the middle solo is pretty great but could have been longer (I think Young says “fuck ‘em” just before it ends) and the ending solo is amazing; this has been covered by Pearl Jam and other bands in years since. “Over and Over” starts out with a lead line, featuring a great overdriven guitar riff, that goes on for over a minute before the first lyrics are sung, has a sunny group chorus, and then goes back to that main riff as the springboard for some excellent soloing.

“Love to Burn” stretches out for just over ten minutes, but I find the guitar work to be sort of uninspired on this song. The cover of “Farmer John” is annoying; this has more to do with the material than the playing (the original can be found on the Nuggets box set). There is a decidedly hippie vibe to “Mansion On the Hill,” but that doesn’t mean Crazy Horse doesn’t kick ass all over the place on it. Dylan’s “My Back Pages” is the inspiration for the verses in “Days That Used to Be.” “Love and Only Love” is another ten minute song, this one harder and rougher and serving as a superior showcase for Young’s fretwork. Hymn-like closer “Mother Earth (Natural Anthem)” – based off the old Irish folk song “The Water Is Wide” – cements the ‘60’s nostalgia (an unusual thing to pair with the distorted guitars and feedback that are the main characteristics of this album) with its environmentally conscious lyrics.

The Best Thing About This Album

All the solos (well, not in “Love to Burn”).

Release Date

October, 1990

The Cover Art

It’s okay. The use of the fisheye lens is another throwback to the ‘60s (see Mr. Tambourine Man and Are You Experienced).

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