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Neil's Recent New Songs
(as of January 1999)

by Mike Cordova a.k.a. Expecting to Fly

Since May of '97, Neil has introduced nine previously unheard songs. No telling how long he's been sitting on some of these, but he never played these in front of paying audiences before the last couple of years. Some of these tunes have been with us for a year and a half, but it has taken me a long time to "digest" them because they are scattered on a wide range of shows.

I finally collected them onto one tape to listen to repeatedly which I've been doing for the last week or so. Here some of my thoughts on each one in the order I put them on my tape:

Distant Camera (Mtn View 10-18-98)
The intro sounds reminiscent of You And Me and Old Man. The theme appears to be that of a man struggling to express his love in a song..
    "All I need is a song of love,
    to sing for you."
This seems like background music; I'd never put this song forward to show Neil's great ability as a song writer.
    "Now forever we will be as one,
    floating in love's atmosphere.
    Love is a piece of dust
    shining in the sun."
Neil wrote that??? Elliott Roberts mentioned, I think in a Mojo article, that this song, as well as Buffalo Springfield Again and Looking Forward would not be in the album because Neil was writing more new tunes. This is good. I think it shows Neil and/or Elliott recognize this is a weak song.

Modern World (Santa Cruz 5-19-97)
Hmmm. Pretty catchy tune there. Nice to hum along.
    "We gotta change."
. . .
    "Oh yeah."
When I listen to this song, though, it makes me think Neil lost his lyric sheet and accidently picked up Amber's junior high journal and started singing the entries.
    "But under the stars above,
    We just don't recognize
    the power of love is free"
Yechhh. Indescribably sappy.

Buffalo Springfield Again (Mtn View 10-18-97)
I would trade this song and each performance of it, and the sentiment it represents, to have been able to see Neil join his old friends on stage at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame induction for Buffalo Springfield. I'm sure Stephen, Richie, Dewey, and Bruce would have been more impressed as well.

Okay, time out... More reviews in a moment (and they won't all be this negative). I even like some of the songs...

I remember back in '86 when I saw the Rusted Out Garage show at the Cow Palace and recorded it from the radio; I enjoyed for the first time listening to live versions of songs from an upcoming album. I really liked those songs a lot. So much, that I was a little disappointed when the Life album came out.

I didn't feel that the overdubs on the live songs on the album really added anything. And I continue today to prefer those purely live versions of Life songs.

And now, again I have had an opportunity to hear some songs which may show up on the next record. Let's continue with the song reviews...

Looking Forward (Mtn View 10-18-98)
Is this one about Neil's recent bout with writers' block? Maybe. It's also not a bad song. Not a centerpiece tune or a classic by any means, but not a bad song. Neil even pokes fun at his own songwriting:
    "Writing a song,
    won't take very long,
    trying not to use the word 'old'"
The tune leaves me wondering and longing for more.

Horseshoe Man (Santa Cruz 5-19-97)
I enjoy both the electric and piano versions of this song, but prefer it electric with the Horse. I don't know exactly who the "horseshoe man" is, but I like him and I like this song.

Out Of Control (Santa Cruz 5-19-97)
This is a difficult one. The melody and song structure are slow to build, and it has taken quite sometime for this tune to get through to me. Some of the lyrics remind me of Neil's career:
    "build myself up,
    tear myself down,
    build myself up again."
I think he has said as much about his approach to how he presents himself professionally. There is an empty sadness to some of the words here that are haunting:
    "Somewhere near the end,
    Lovers pretend
    Lose what they feel,
    Keep what they get from love.

    Start missing the drive
    Staying alive
    four out of five
    without the feeling of love"

This song does get to me and I'm glad it's been played. Might even make a good selection on an album.

Good To See You (Mtn View 10-19-97)
Lightweight sentiment meant for Pegi but played to us. A very minor song in Neil's catalog.

Time Out again...

I was thrilled to hear that Neil has been writing more. I thought that Broken Arrow was pretty weak in the songwriting department. To follow that album up with these nine new songs performed for the first time in '97 and '98 would have been a mistake I think. Still, there are some very good tunes amongst them...

Slowpoke (Mtn View 7-11-97)
Okay, I admit I cannot get over the similarity between this melody and that of Heart Of Gold. I do like this song, but I cannot imagine Neil idolizing anyone enough to wear all of his clothes and do what he does. "When I was faster I was always behind" would be a good slogan for a traffic safety campaign in the DC area where I live. Decent lyrics, ok melody, nice acoustic guitar.

Pictures In My Mind (Mtn View 10-18-97)
    "Pictures in mind:
    Rows of poppy fields,
    Harmony entwined,
    Changing gears that grind.
    Pictures in my mind.
    Pictures in my brain:
    Electrical energy,
    Fighting drugs with pain,
    There's a war inside.
    Pictures in my brain."
To me, powerful stuff. This is a great song.
    "Like visitors from space,
    It's hard to find a place,
    To blend in and go unrecognized."
Universal, hard hitting, won't let me go. Neil sings this one in his lowest voice and I think that gives it even greater impact. I sincerely hope this one makes the record.

That's it. I know songs come through differently for all of us; this is my take on them. I'm interested in seeing what the rest of you think of these tunes.

Expecting To Fly

Postscript (added March 9, 199):

I've now had the opportunity to listen to Neil perform some of his new tunes during his An Evening With Neil Young tour. So I'd like to add a postscript to my original comments.

I got to see Neil perform five of the songs above, over two successive nights: Looking Forward, Out Of Control, Distant Camera, Slowpoke, and Good To See You. All of these songs were delivered with energy and conviction not present in the earlier performances. They fit real well with the classics he played those nights. Of these, Out Of Control is a standout. I think it's a really fine song and I look forward the the release of this and all the other songs sometime soon.

In addition, he also played a song not previously performed before this tour began: Daddy Went Walkin'. This one is immediately likeable and is an instant classic for me. He sings about his aging dad and his late mom in a tune that has elements of a sort of bluegrass style. Very touching. I'm very much looking forward to the release of the next album!

Expecting To Fly

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