x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A Neil Young treasure trove of 1985 tour gems

Neil Young's new album relives his rollicking tour of 1985, with five new songs to boot.

A Treasure

(Reprise)

****

In 1985, Neil Young's contrarian spirit was well to the fore. His record label Geffen had wanted another rock release, but instead it got the rootsy country record, Old Ways. It was a purposefully defiant act from Young, the work's title chiming with his concerns of the time. That same year he would help inaugurate Farm Aid, an annual benefit concert for the impoverished family farmers of the United States. Now, some 25 years on, A Treasure - named for the description the co-producer Ben Keith applied when unearthing the master tapes - documents Young's barnstorming, summer 1985 tour of venues such as Gilley's Rodeo Arena, Pasadena. The winning, audibly sparky performances are much enlivened by International Harvesters, a team of country music greats assembled by Young. With Rufus Thibodeaux on careworn fiddle, and Spooner Oldham and Hargus Robbins on "saloon-bar piano", the prevailing impression is of a heart-warming, rough-edged hoedown. Grey Riders, though, sounds almost apocalyptic, Young's feral electric guitar bucking like a bronco. Aficionados will be delighted to know that the record packs five previously unreleased songs. Among them are the aforementioned Grey Riders, Amber Jean (which Young wrote for his daughter), and Nothing is Perfect, a fine country waltz that wouldn't sound out of place on The Band's Music From Big Pink.