Neil Young
   
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere - 2009 Remaster
   
   

Release Date: July 14, 2009
Original Release Date: 1969
Produced by: David Briggs and Neil Young
Format: CD

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11/11/2009
Mark Squirek


 

Four months after his first solo album was released in January of 1969 this shows up. And heads snap. Some say WTF and other say “this is the same guy who…???” Created from a fever and written during a period of physical setbacks that required some down time, the release shocked everyone and provided Young with his first commercial hit.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere immediately clears the room and separates the week from the strong and those with vision from those who are deluded.

It is also the album that made a lot of really bad guitar players think that playing guitar was easy. At the end of the sixties and into the early days of the seventies few could play like Clapton, Bloomfield or Beck but goddamit, almost anyone could play "Down by the River." At least that's what you think when you first pick up the guitar to try. Hardly anyone has ever said so much with so few notes as Neil Young. Almost no one has the indefinable quality of “feel” when they play like Young does.

Helping him along the way was a new band that no one had ever heard of before. Named Crazy Horse, the group proves themselves during the first crunch of the opening song.

Few albums have ever opened with the blast of joy that is "Cinnamon Girl." The needle goes down and guitars fly out announcing themselves with no questions asked. You know immediately that this is something different and you can either join in or get out of the way and be run over.

A distant cousin to Still’s "Bluebird," the song challenges Stills by never letting up. "Bluebird" went off into another part of the road (and is still a great song), while "Cinnamon Girl" moves straight ahead like a bulldozer.

And than it takes you higher than you thought a song could go. It occurs near the end on the “you see your baby loves to dance , yeah, yeah, yeah” section. The guitar solo matches the manic energy and than somehow one-ups it. Not satisfied with bowling you over  Young than repeats the solo and than fades out on the greatest “spontaneous riff added on at the end of a song” ever.

It is a perfect three-minute moment on vinyl. And considering how incredibly close Young had came to perfection before this ("Learning to Fly," "The Loner" and others), that is saying a lot. How do you up the ante after your best song? You follow with an existential country rocker that is thirty one seconds shorter. With  it’s perfect bending note on the opening La La La chorus, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" is both the perfect sing along and the perfect foot-stomper. The idea that we all want to escape is at the heart of rock n roll and Young somehow throws that concept inside a country blanket and rocks everyone. He is still playing it live today and it still sounds great.

After rocking hard for slightly over five minutes, Young takes a step back into the world of the folkie with his shared vocal with Robin Lane on "Round and Round (It Won’t Be Long)." Lane works well with Young as the sentiment of the song is well suited to it’s slower pace. This is an early run towards future collaborations with other female vocalists. Over the years he has shared the spotlight with Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and Nicolette Larson. Lane’s  presence on this song adds something that no one else could ever have. She adds a sense of warmth coupled with weariness to the futility of what Young addresses in the lyric.

After the quiet of that song, everything goes silent for just a second. And than it starts. The slight “chunk chunka chunka” rhythm of the guitar builds for a few beats and than a second guitar snakes in. "Down by the River" starts out slowly and it never lets up. The tale of madness and murder just keeps getting better. The harmonies of Crazy Horse perfectly set up the declaration of murder that Young admits to.

For all the notoriety that the song holds as a guitar showcase, it is Young’s vocal that really draws us in. Let’s face it, he shot his baby. No matter how nicely he tells the story, he is still a murderer. He is so unapologetic that he closes by reminding us that he shot her dead and than floats away on the word dead. He almost sounds amazed he did it. Even though it is murder, we follow him to the end anyway. It is an amazing combination of rock, folk and blues in slightly over nine minutes.

Side two of the album marches a little different than side one. (In this age of CDs it is easy to forget how important sequencing the songs actually meant to an album). 

This time Young starts with a slower song.  "The Losing End (When You’re On)" easily matches what Gene Clark was doing at around the same time. Like "I’ve Loved Her So Long" on his first album, the song could have been covered by the Gosdin Brothers or George Jones and sounded authentic.  "Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)" balances out the side the same way that "Round and Round" did on the first. It sounds like a timeless folk classic the firs time you here it. Unfortunately it’s place in history gets passed over due to what is going to follow.

"Cowgirl in the Sand," unlike the slow and seductive intro to "Down by the River," grabs you simply won’t let you go. Like a few other notable songs (you know what they are, we don’t need to mention them) it has entered our collective DNA and become part of us.

By working with a group that followed him without question and matched his own skill, Yong created his first masterpiece. No matter what anyone tells you the slow songs need to be on this album. Without them we wouldn’t have time to breath or a few years later, "Powderfinger."

My friend Martina sent her son Francis to guitar camp last summer. He is a talented kid who picks up on things with no problem. When Francis returned he was chomping at the bit  to show me that he had learned to shred. The notes flew from his fingers and when he finished he stood there with justifiable pride clutching his Strat. I felt great for him because I knew he could grasp the physical mechanics of the guitar. Now in another year or two he will be ready for "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere." When he hears this CD he will begin to understand the intuitive feel that is needed to play great guitar. Thank goodness I can hand him this remastered masterpiece when he is ready.

Since this is the second CD in the Neil Young Archives series, I wrote the following as a general note in reference to the remastering of all four releases. While each release has it’s own sonic quality, the following generally applies. I don’t mean to be lazy about the technical aspect, but for me the music has always been the central part of any release. I am just glad that Young finally had these cleaned up.

In 2009 the big question is “what does the re-release sound like?”. The answer is near perfect. Working in the HDCD format, the editing and mastering was done by Tim Mulligan. The tape restoration and analog transfer was handled by John Nowland. Each man has come through with flying colors.

This is the best this release could possibly sound. Even the traditional coldness of the digital age can’t contain the warmth in Young’s work and Mulligan and Nowland have found a way to showcase that warmth and humanity.

Also welcome is the restoration of the original graphics. The pictures of Whiten and Briggs, Molina and Talbot are a welcome site. Young spent the time to hand write some of his lyrics for the original sleeve and this is the first time that work has appeared on CD.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 



 
     
     
     

 

 

   
 
     

 

Copyright 2002-2009 Matthew Rowe.
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212 Frech
FC1810

"Even though most of the people I knew in my youth are gone, I still reach out to them..." Norman Maclean - Paraphrase

"...we should enjoy every sandwich." -- Warren Zevon
"Buy the ticket, take the ride." -- Hunter S Thompson
"...you best wake up 'fore tomorrow comes creepin' in...: -- Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad)
"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be." -- Kurt Vonnegut
"Because they wouldn't let me go for three..." -- Woody Hayes (OSU)
"Show me peaceful days before my youth has gone" -- Neil Diamond (Serenade)