Classic Albums: Ragged Glory – Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Posted: February 16, 2010 in Classic Albums
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Nobody strangles a Les Paul like Neil Young. I mean that in a good way. It’s tempting to say that this is the sole raison d’etre for his 1990 album “Ragged Glory”, because it’s what you take away from a first listening. Almost every song on this album is a vehicle for guitar playing that sounds like it’s wrenched from the depths of the soul with the Bigsby tremolo bar working overtime and a sustained feedback coda more often than not. And there’s no more suitable band to aid and abet him in this than Crazy Horse bashing away behind. Though firmly rooted in that fringe country/rock landscape where he dwells, this album is a prime example of why Mr. Young became known as the grandfather…er, godfather of grunge in the 90s.

It’s getting hard to remember if there even was a time when old Mr. Young didn’t sound like a crusty geezer with a heart of gold. True to form, the lyrics here are direct and pragmatic. There are no “hits” and there are times when several minutes elapse before the next verse comes along, but most of them are worth waiting for. Throughout the album we get observations about break ups, friends selling out, driving down the road alone and why does he keep f-!#in’ up. We also get love, hope, revelation and the sense that there are still some things that make life worth living, even pleasurable.

For example the first track, “Country Home”, which might have sounded like a benignly pleasant country ditty in someone else’s band, attests to how he’s not too put out by other environments but is happier living on the outskirts, thank you very much. “Love to Burn”, clocking in with two verses at ten minutes flat, captures painful details of marital dissolution and how if we want love we need to find it within ourselves. Overall it’s a hard-edged, life-affirming journey; rough magic for people of a certain age who may still like to play a bit of air guitar when no one is looking.

Those who are of the opinion that Neil Young is better represented by his more acoustic, Harvest/Moon side need not enter here. But if, like me, you also like him loud and live (though in the studio this time) this is the album for you.


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