The Walking Rock Alphabet: C

I’m back! I bet most of you thought I had already dropped this whole exercise idea. Nope! I had no time to walk on Friday due to Live Ledge, and I had other things going on yesterday. Here I am today, though, braving the elements on this chilly Sunday afternoon.
I’m not cold, though, as one of my errands yesterday consisted of actually purchasing clothing conducive to this kind of activity. Shocking, I know! Instead of freezing my balls of during today’s romp, I was actually sweating a bit.
Enough about me – what about today’s soundtrack? Having a couple of days off made me go through the various albums that start with the letter “C”. My initial idea was the self-title Clash debut, and then I moved on to Paul Westerberg’s Come Feel Me Tremble. Ultimately, I went with one of the most under-appreciated albums by Neil Young, Comes a Time.
Why this album? Simple. Two weeks ago, I purchased Young’s new autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, and I finally started reading it a couple of days ago and am finding it impossible to put down. It’s not a typical autobiography. It’s not chronological, nor does it cover every little aspect of his life. It’s almost a cross between Keith Richard’s Life and Bob Dylan’s Chronicle…with one major difference.
Unlike almost all rock stars, Neil Young’s life is much more than his art. Like his art, though, he has an oar in many, many boats. Besides his steady pattern of record releases, Neil is also attempting to create new forms of audio playback, automobile fuel, and model train technology. He’s spending his own money on each of these innovations, but in his mind the need is more important than his personal fortune.
As a music fan, I’m most interested in his audio work. Young has long been an opponent of mp3’s, and has created a playback system called PureTone that is supposedly a format that comes close to recreating the original sounds created in the studio. Most of the promotion of his book, in fact, has been about PureTone, including unveiling a stereotype player on Letterman last week.
While a huge percentage of the early pages of Waging Heavy Peace is dominated by his non-music work, the music sections are fascinating as he jumps around from his work with Crazy Horse, CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, and every other musical lineup and genre that has been a part of his career. It’s also worth noting that Young wrote this book in the months immediately after quitting both booze and pot. Besides his recollections of his life, he also has worries about not only his health but whether he would be able to create once again after dropping those crutches. (The answer must be yes, as there is a new album, Psychedelic Pill, in three weeks.)
Back to Comes a Time. As I said earlier, it is one of the most overlooked albums of his career, but it is probably in my Top 5. Critics at the time complained that it was a second-rate rehash of Harvest, but in many ways I feel that it may be even better than that album. One reason is that for the first time in years, it feels like a coherent album instead of the multiple sessions and lineups of albums such as American Stars & Bars and Zuma.
Bookmarked by two great covers, Goffin & King’s Goin’ Back and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds, Comes a Time is the prototype album for an Americana genre that had yet to be named. In fact, I could see a band like The Jayhawks recording a song-by-song tribute to it. Country-tinged folk-rock, full of acoustic and steel guitars, and featuring some lovely harmony vocals by Nicolette Larson, the album turned out to be a surprisingly perfect album for a nice walk amongst falling leaves and fellow walkers.
So I have indeed made it to one of the letters in my name, and the plan is to carry on…for a little while, at least. What will be tomorrow’s musical accompaniment? It’s hard to say, as there are plenty of candidates in the “D” section of my library. Check the site out tomorrow night to see…or to just point and laugh at me.


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