This was a $7 Used Kids pick up this past fall one day when I was on campus killing time before my Ed Law Research class (prolly the toughest class so far in my grad program).  It is Neil Young’s 4th solo album, the 2nd Neil Young album on this list, and like so much of Neil Young’s output, it came about pretty spontaneously.  As the legend goes, Neil Young was having back problems and he couldn’t hold an electric guitar, so he embarked on a solo acoustic tour which was being recorded for an acoustic live album (the only track from those concerts that actually made the record was “The Needle and the Damage Done”).  Well, at some point Young went to Nashville to make an appearance on the Johnny Cash Show.  While he was there, he put together some local session musicians, who he dubbed the Stray Cats, and tracks they recorded together wound up becoming this album.  Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor happened to be booked on the Johnny Cash Show that week as well, so Neil Young asked them to swing by the studio and sing back-up on a couple tunes (Neil always seems to get by with a little help from his friends).

So I’ve been to Nashville.  Last summer the Princess and I spent a week down there (and in a strange coincidence, the Last Boy Scout and his fiance happened to be in town at the same time).  All I can say is that I was impressed by the quality of the musicians down there.  Every band seemed to have an awesome rhythm section, and the singer/songwriter types down there were top notch.  I can certainly see how Neil Young was able to throw a band together and still have it be good enough to record.  This album has “Heart of Gold” on it, Neil Young’s only #1 hit, and a song I remember being on the radio a lot when I was a kid.  “The Needle and the Damage Done” still resonates to this day with they number of talented artists who die from heroin addiction, most recently including Philip Seymour Hoffman.  I even read an interview with Neil Young once where he said he wished he could have talked to Kurt Cobain about the whole drugs and rock and roll and fame thing after Cobain’s first suicide attempt.  I wish he would have been able to have that conversation too.  Oh well.  Back to the album…there are also a couple of seemingly random tracks with the London Symphony Orchestra, making this a bit of a hodge-podge.  But overall it’s really good.  And the sequel to “Southern Man” is on here as well…a song called “Alabama” which rips on: you guessed it, the entire state of Alabama…a song which just sounds so much sweeter on the eve of the first ever college football playoff.  Go Bucks!

Other lists: “Heart of Gold” is #303 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  See the entry for After the Gold Rush (#74) for Neil Young’s other RS accolades.

Ch-ch-changes: This album also dropped four spots from its original position at #78 due to the addition of CCR’s Chronicle and the rise of Radiohead’s Kid A, Paul Simon’s Graceland, and James Brown’s Star Time.

My favorite track: “The Needle and the Damage Done”

Honorable mention: “Heart of Gold”

Quote: “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done…a little part of it in everyone.”