By James Calemine

Released in May 0f 2022, Toast was Recorded in San Francisco around 2001. Toast features Young’s legendary musical collaborators Crazy Horse. The seven song album includes different versions of numbers that were included on Are You Passionate, but the other three compositions are previously unreleased (“Timberline”, “Gateway of Love” and “Standing In The Light Of Love”). This is one of the legendary “lost” albums in Neil’s catalog he’s been releasing over the last few years.

Young wrote this on his official website about Toast: “For the past two decades, Toast has been whispered about in collectors’ circles in hushed tones. The music of Toast is about a relationship. There is a time in many relationships that go bad, a time long before the breakup, where it dawns on one of the people, maybe both, that it’s over. This was that time.”

Toast contains much more raw versions of the tunes on Are You Passionate, which indicates the well-polished group, Booker T & The MGs, served as the back-up band. Toast retains the loose Crazy Horse ragged glory sound. I believe John Coltrane also recorded at the Toast Studio in San Francisco. “Quit” (co-written with Frank Sampedro) retains a laid-back R & B vibe. “Standing In The Light of Love” emits the signature Crazy Horse wide-open, rocking sound that stands as one of the collection’s strongest songs. 

“Goin’ Home” resembles the version on Are You Passionate for the most part. “Timberline” emerges as another lost gem as Young sings “I saw you on the timberline/Walkin’ with your tools/I know you seen the times/I know you know the rules.”

“Gateway of Love” proves an interesting track with its Link Wray-ish lick and the long groove that Crazy Horse employs on songs like “Cowgirl in the Sound”, “Cortez The Killer” or even “Psychedelic Pill”.

“How Ya Doin” ranks as a dirge. It’s a slow blues that seems to reflect a setting sun as Young sings: “Where did all the feelings go/What about that happy glow/Was that so long ago/When we were first in love.” The final cut, “Boom Boom Boom” travels a gritty course that harkens back to the Sleeps with Angels album with the familiar genetic Crazy Horse musical code as Tom Bray plays a trumpet along with the band. Young makes it known on this closing track that “There ain’t no way/I’m gonna let the good times go…”

Toast serves as another interesting release in Young’s Archive Release Series.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Barn

Released last fall, Barn counts as Neil Young’s forty-first studio album, and his fourteenth with Crazy Horse. Recorded in Colorado during June of 2021, Young’s wife Darryl Hannah also filmed the sessions located in the Rocky Mountains that surrounded this old barn where Neil utilized “Le Mobile Remote Recording Studio”. The video serves as a nice companion to the album complete with behind-the-scenes shots and on goings.

Longtime Crazy Horse guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro retired, and Nils Lofgren filled in on lead guitar for these ten songs. Lofgren also played on Young’s dark 1975 album, Tonight’s The Night. Barn stands as testimony that ‘Ol Shakey’ and Crazy Horse can still keep it interesting. Drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot serve as the rhythmic glue on Barn.

On Barn, Young plays a little more piano and harmonica on the album compared to Toast. It’s a little more rocking, and acoustic in certain parts. Barn commences with the acoustic “Song of the Season”, which sounds like something off Harvest Moon as Young sings “I see that nature makes no mistake…”

“Heading West” picks up the tempo while Young tells a story of his youth by hanging around train tracks, old mills and his parents’ divorce. “Change Ain’t Ever Gonna Come” swings with a barrelhouse swagger as Young sings “Try to save the planet from a fuel burnin’ mob.” Like most of his new albums, Youngs avoids nostalgia and stays in real time. 

“Canerican” sludges along with the Crazy Horse march as Young sings about being from Canada, but “Came south to join a band/Got caught up in the big time/Travelin’ through the land”. “Shape of You” ranks as the most light-hearted ditty on Barn as Young tinkles the ivories. “They Might Be Lost” tells a story of a hard working stiff who still hopes for better days. 

“Human Race” slashes and burns in the way you know Young just plugs his guitar into the amplifier and starts blasting away with the Horse following in behind him, and they record every rendition. It seems overdubs were not a big issue on this record. “Tumblin’ Through The Years” counts as an acoustic love song that serves as a nice change of gears in the song sequence. 

“Welcome Back” exists as this writer’s favorite song from Barn. It’s a slow grinding groove that goes on for about eight minutes where Young plays a serpentine riff and repeats the line over and over, “Welcome back, welcome back/It’s just not the same.” This tune is worth the price of the album in my humble opinion. Barn ends with “Don’t Forget Love”, a piano-laced number that sounds like one of the songs he’s buried for years, but he ends the album on a positive note. We all should look look forward to Neil Young’s next musical journey…

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Neil Young’s soundtrack to Dead Man

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