Neil Young: Homegrown

One of the things I appreciate the most about Neil Young is that he can go through the whole production process on an album and then just shelve it if he’s not feeling the final product. Over the years there have been a few Neil Young albums that have come out years after they were originally recorded. That is the case with his most recent archival release Homegrown.

Homegrown was completed 46 years ago, all the way back in 1975. When he finished it he chose to release another album he had sitting in can, Tonight’s the Night. That album is now considered one of Young’s strongest efforts and the final album of his self proclaimed “ditch trilogy” with On the Beach and Time Fades Away.

This album is informed by Neil Young’s separation from Carrie Snodgress, an actress who he had been dating and had his first child with. Interesting to hear these songs now that Young’s been married twice since they were written. The separation influences the album, but the songs that reference it are often at least somewhat positive. This album’s sound is similar to Young’s most acclaimed albums. Its similar to the folk rock/country rock sound that was a success with his album Harvest. Although he does plug in at times most notably on the song Vacancy, which is one of the album’s highlights.

If you are a Neil Young fan its possible that some of these songs could sound slightly familiar. Some of the songs on this record were eventually re-recorded for later albums. For example, the song White Line is played acoustically on Homegrown, but Neil would recorded an electric version with Crazy Horse for Ragged Glory in 1990. The title track (a welcome tribute to weed) for this this album also wound up electrified for the album American Stars ‘n Bars.

Young works with a few familiar talents, including both Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson of The Band. Emmylou Harris also provides some backing vocals on a couple of songs.

The album does have at least one dud in Florida, an odd spoken word story told by Young. Its the only song on the album I see as an easy skip.

Homegrown is definitely a welcome release. Its not as strong as Young’s best work from this era, but its a nice refreshment when compared to some of his current work, which is usually overloaded with environment and protest anthems. This is probably going to be one of my favorite albums of the year. I’ve probably already given it 5 spins or so. I’d give it a pretty strong 8 out of 10.