There are few performers that grew out of the sixties that are still providing the music world with a vital message, even the great Bob Dylan has had periods in which he went off the boil. However, one songwriter has managed to stay relevant throughout his career and can claim to be seen as one of the welcomed figures of rock looming at 2020’s door. Of course, we’re talking about Neil Young.
When Young released Homegrown this year he confirmed that if his songs from the past were to be released in the modern day, he would still be classed as an otherworldly figure in music. The album, released a matter of months ago but taken form his work during the prolific early moments of the seventies, proved that Young is truly one of a kind. If you needed any further proof of that information then we have got you covered with the most comprehensive Neil Young playlist we’ve ever found — all 936 tracks of it.
Following the wise words of Julie Andrews, we’ve always felt like the beginning is a very good place to start. It just so happens that Neil Young’s first moments on record are of such high esteem that he could’ve called it a day after the first Buffalo Springfield record. The band were a folk blues act like no other and as America began to wake up to the decade, Springfield were the band that everybody put on. So we start our playlist with their self-titled debut LP, a record which was a testament to the power the group had within its ranks. It wouldn’t take long before Young’s desire to be the main songwriter would outweigh the band’s success and he would leave the group, though it wouldn’t be the final time he’d join up with a band. The singer was also a part of a famed supergroup in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, of which we have included their studio LPs for a little reminder of just how great they are.
The volume of songs in this playlist, even accounting for the live performance repeats, is daunting. Few artists have been as prolific as Neil Young in their career. Never deterred by workload or expectation, Young has always been his own master and has made sure that everything he has done has been an accurate reflection of him. “I don’t like to be labelled, to be anything. I’ve made the mistake before myself of labelling my music, but it’s counter-productive,” Young once said in a quote which typifies his approach to music. “The thing about my music is, there really is no point,” he added, nonchalantly. “I just do what I do. I like to make music.”
It’s an attitude which has allowed Young to flirt between different styles, bands, stage set-ups and everything in between. Unbothered by others’ determination of him, Young writes his own rules and across 40 studio albums and he has delivered a solo career that many could only dream of. Whether it is Harvest, After the Gold Rush, Rust Never Sleeps, or Tonight’s the Night chances are it was created without thought for how it would sell or be received. Young only used his own yardstick when measuring up his work.
It’s an ethos which has seen him not only be a prolific writer but also a master craftsman. Once famed for using his entire barn as a speaker system when playing Graham Nash his new album, Young’s passion for his work is unmatched. Many stars from the sixties have found themselves dwindling in some decades, unsure of what avenues to pursue or what channels now best fitted their styles. Young has always done the opposite of that and provided the music he knew that he loved. It’s meant that throughout his inception in the 1960s, through the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and onwards, Young has provided a body of work that he can happily stand behind forevermore.
It makes for a truly holistic playlist and once again dictates Young as the uncompromising hero of the rock world. It was a trait that during the early nineties saw him labelled as the ‘Godfather of Grunge’ while in 2020 it has seen him be the authentic face of ageing rock stars. Whichever way you cut it, Young has always been at the top of his very own game. It’s something that has also improved his live shows immeasurably too.
Within the mammoth playlist, there are countless live LPs and they work as a breath of fresh air for anyone attempting to listen to the playlist from beginning to end. In these live moments, we see the fruits of Young’s labour come to bear as he and his always esteemed collection of players deliver his ionic songs with verve and vigour. It punctuates the point that while some are good studio bands and others monstrous live acts, Young has a happy habit of sitting in the middle.
The playlist ends with where we began our story, Homegrown. There’s perhaps no better album to end on than this one. Not only is it a recent release of his old music, which perfectly sums up the duality in all of Young’s work, but it’s also packed with instant classics and future favourites. It’s the kind of album that typifies an artist who has never played by anyone else’s rules but his own.
So, if like us, you thought you were a huge Neil Young fan but can’t quite place your finger on where the other 800 songs come from, then dive headfirst into this mammoth playlist for all your Neil Young needs.