For What It's Worth-Mr. Soul / Rock-and-Roll Woman / Find the Cost of Freedom / Ohio / Southern Man / Are You Ready for the Country / Let Me Call You Sweetheart / Alabama / Words / Relativity Invitation / Handel's Messiah / King of Kings / Soldier / Let's Go Away for Awhile
by Steve Vetter (Farmer John)
Journey Through the Past is probably one of Neil Young's most underrated albums. Released in 1972, as the soundtrack to the movie of the same name and right after the massive success of Harvest, it was in many fans' eyes a letdown. In fact Journey Through the Past only offers one new song, and it is buried on side four between what is, in my opinion, a bunch of crap. The double album (still not available on CD) starts off with some classic live recordings of the Buffalo Springfield on old TV shows. Interestingly enough, you can hear the young girls go wild, just like the did for the Beatles' appearances. They do "For What It's Worth" and segue into "Mr. Soul." Following that is a throw away version of "Rock-and-Roll Woman." Closing side one is a performance of "Find the Cost of Freedom" that runs right into a version of "Ohio," which sounds very close to the original. Sides two and three are much better. "Southern Man" begins side two with a long, jam version in front of an audience. Following it is "Are You Ready For the Country" (or at least part of it), which segues into a group of teenagers singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." What comes next is my second-favorite part of the album. Neil and some of CSN take up a jam of "Alabama," and you can hear someone in the studio fooling with the mix. The best part of "Alabama" is Neil saying, "We should do a moving Oooooh..." What I like about this is that you can hear the creative process between Neil and CSN. You can also hear an event like this on the bootleg Touch the Clouds. As soon as the guys figure out what they should play they get right back into the groove. There is a bizarre section in which the music fades out and Richard Nixon is heard doing a singalong of "God Bless America," along with Crosby (?) talking about apple pie. I liked it until Crosby got in there.
The best is yet to come. Once you turn over the record you are treated to a *full* side of "Words." This is also in practice / jam style and is wonderful. If you sit back and close your eyes, you almost feel like you are with Neil and friends just working this out, jamming in the barn. Side four contains a bizarre sequence with Neil talking to a preacher about "Relativity Invitation," then there is a really long, irritating section of "Handel's Messiah." The music and the "King of Kings" theme is pretty interesting, but the singing is downright annoying. The only new song on this album is "Soldier," and it begins with an interesting intro not found on the Decade version. It had been a long time since I listened to this album and that was a welcome surprise. Concluding the side, and the record, is a song called "Let's Go Away for Awhile." It sounds lifted straight from the muzak system at the dentist's office. The only way to describe this album is unusual - the good stuff is exceptional and the bad stuff is awful. Sides two and three are the standouts - if you are into jams and cool grooves buy the album and listen to those two sides. The rest of it (save "Soldier") is throwaway material that did not translate well from screen to LP (including David Crosby screwing up part of "Alabama.") Neil has much better albums in his catalog, but Journey Through the Past should not be overlooked or forgotten. Fortunately, Neil won't deny fans the opportunity to enjoy it on CD when the reissue comes out.