Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Way Down In The Rust Bucket
This version and era of Crazy Horse is well-represented by official live albums – but Neil Young fans have loved passing around a bootleg of this particular show, now available officially as part of the never-ending story that is Neil Young’s Archives.
Crazy Horse had floundered in the 1980s – let down by mediocre music. They could always play Cinnamon Girl and Cortez The Killer and Like A Hurricane and any other band will of course fail to achieve the astral plane of rock’n’roll transcendence the Horse is so effortlessly capable of; their gallop is unique. But after a weird decade being petulant and rather lean and shitty Crazy Horse studio offerings 1990’s Ragged Glory returned Neil and The Horse to the magic – so perfectly names, equal parts Ragged and Glory.
The rest is (now 30 years of) history. Godfather of Grunge, etc. The first official document to capture the band just pulverising the fuck out of songs new and old was Weld – it’s almost just white noise (if you’ll pardon the pun) and so it’s not for everyone. Not even for every Neil Young fan – the era-specific reading of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind timed in protest of the Gulf War is an example of something just feeling lost and strange now.
So, Rust Bucket is the first run at performing the new songs for the stage and mixing in a few classics and some rather odd deep cuts. This is one of two shows performed in an 800-capacity club (the same one Neil played incognito at, going under the name The Ducks). As you’d expect Ragged Glory features heavily, a few more of the album’s songs are trialed live, not all of them making it to Weld or the live albums that have followed.
There’s nothing particularly revelatory about this – it’s just interesting to hear. Farmer John is a strange mess here, Fuckin’ Up doesn’t carry the clout it will just a few months later, but the big open-road jams of Love To Burn, Love And Only Love and Over And Over are all perfectly imperfect – a comb goes nowhere near their hair, they’re dressed in the clothes they slept in and it’s more than likely they slept standing up and for less than three hours.
Where Rust Bucket gets really interesting is in the deep cuts – strange choices like a double from Reactor (one of the shitty Horse albums I was referring to earlier). Surfer Joe and Moe The Sleaze kinda works, but T-Bone remains interminable. Just a bonehead song about nothing. Just knuckle-dragging nonsense.
Fortunately there are some really lovely things – seems crazy now, but this is the live debut of Danger Bird. It’s exquisite and was always meant to fly from the stage. And now it does. That flight started right here. That’s reason enough for many Neil fans to sign up for this record, right?
Also, Sedan Delivery is brutal and brilliant – as ever. And I’ll forgive them their stoned-over chuckling-off songs (Homegrown, Roll Another Number) for the inclusion here of Don’t Cry No Tears and Bite The Bullet as well as Glory cuts Days That Used To Be and Mansion on The Hill.
It’s a strong version of Hurricane – natch. Young chuckles that it’s their big production number. And the closer here is Cortez. Sometimes it’s the opener, sometimes it’s the closer, always it’s magnificent.
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