Sound Bytes

Neil Young Reissues

September 04, 2003
American Stars 'N Bars
  • American Stars 'N Bars

American Stars 'N Bars

On the Beach
  • On the Beach

Hawks & Doves

On the Beach

Re-ac-tor
  • Re-ac-tor

Re-ac-tor
Neil Young
Reprise Records

Along with the recent release of Greendale -- Neil Young and Crazy Horse's new critically lauded "musical novel" -- Reprise Records has also released four nearly forgotten Neil Young albums in CD format for the first time ever.

Hawks & Doves
  • Hawks & Doves

With the exception of Re-ac-tor, which has the familiar, overly indulgent guitar haze that renders most Neil Young and Crazy Horse albums almost entirely forgettable, these reissues are long-overdue treasures for the Neil Young fan whose vinyl collection never made it to the '90s.

American Stars 'N Bars (originally released May 27, 1977) has the flesh-raising "Star of Bethlehem," one of the truly great examples of Young's heartbreaking talent for scoring the timelessness of innocence lost. "Ain't it hard when you wake up in the morning/ and you find out that those other days are gone/ all you have is memories of happiness/ lingering on." The lesser known "Will to Love" sounds so fresh and sincere it almost feels like a portal through the past into a future free of irony, nostalgia and The Strokes. "I remember the oceans from where I came/ just one of the millions all the same," Young croons while what sounds like a fire crackles in the background. Lots of other seldom-heard jewels and the monster hit "Like a Hurricane" all make this a truly worthy reissue.

Like American Stars 'N Bars, Hawks & Doves (Oct. 29, 1980) has its classics and its rarities. "Little Wing" draws you into the album with the familiar and leads you to another inexplicably forgotten diamond in Young's oeuvre, "The Old Homestead." Almost shamanic in the way that Young is effortlessly able to plumb without falling off into clich, the surrealist language of dreams sounds exquisitely North American: "Up and down the old homestead/ The naked rider gallops through his head." Easily as monumental and expansive a mental journey as his better-known "Last Trip to Tulsa," this song is crushing, amazing. "Lost in Space" is another forgotten flower. "Captain Kennedy": folksy and political in a way that's been all but lost. "Stayin' Power": a juke joint rock 'n' roll love song The White Stripes only wish they could write.

You'll definitely want to get On The Beach (July 10, 1974) for its less-familiar tracks. "Walk On," and "For the Turnstiles" are its hits, but "See the Sky About to Rain," "Revolution Blues," "Vampire Blues," "Motion Pictures" and "Ambulance Blues" comprise what genuinely sounds like a brand-new album floating outside the time conundrum with baffling relevance.

The most baffling thing about these reissues, however, might be why it took them so long to reissue them. Maybe this is how far ahead of his time Neil Young was.

-- Noel Black

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