Saturday, February 24, 2018

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Oh, Lonesome Me (1970)


The Rockets were a Californian psychedelic rock group, consisting of band members Danny Whitten, Leon Whitsell, Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot. They had been together since 1963, when they began as a doo-wop vocal group, of all things, called Danny and the Memories. After several name changes, stylistic changes, a Sly Stone-produced single and relative fame on Los Angeles' nightclub scene, they released a self-titled album in 1968, through White Whale records. With Whitten and Whitsell on lead vocals and also sharing most of the significant songwriting duties, it didn't sell very well, only managing to score about five thousand copies sold and no expressive charting singles. However, their luck began to change when, in late 1968, they got in touch with Neil Young, an old acquaintance they had interacted with in '66, when he was still a member of Buffalo Springfield. After leaving the aforementioned band a couple of times and releasing his first solo album early in 1968, he saw them perform at the Whisky-a-Go-Go club, and impressed with what he saw, Young invited the group for a couple of jam sessions, with Whitten, Molina, and Talbot accepting the invitation.

After those sessions, they received an offer to become his official backing group from then on, and so they did. Rechristened as "Crazy Horse", the three of them began the recording of Neil's second solo studio album, "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere", in early 1969. After released, in April of 1969, it became a hit, with songs such as "Cinnamon Girl" becoming AM radio staples, and managing to chart much higher than his previous studio LP. The album even featured a "tribute" of sorts to the deceased Rockets written by NY, "Running Dry", even featuring ex-member Bobby Notkoff on violin. As was the norm, they toured throughout the year to promote their album, with the special addition of producer and friend Jack Nitzsche handling the keyboard duties, and so they undertook their first North American tour together as a band. And then as early as August of the same year, they began recording on and off with Young, for a possible follow-up record. In that month alone, they recorded some eight new songs, with one of them even being a Danny Whitten original, and due to all that happening in the space of a year, the future looked pretty bright for them.

However, right around that time, Neil received an invitation, right around that time, to join Crosby, Stills, and Nash in their next gig, this little festival in the middle of nowhere called "Woodstock". That extended into an album and sold-out tour with CSNY, leading to him understandably not having much time to record his album, which led to all his activities with the Horse being put on hold for the time being, the LP obviously included. After he returned, in February 1970, things had changed. He decided to scrap most CH recordings and start anew, in a brand new direction. With a different backing group, he recorded the more personal and folksy "After the Gold Rush", that when released featured only three songs with the Whitten/Molina/Talbot lineup. As with its predecessor, it was a big hit, and cemented Young's reputation as a great artist of that era. The band, however, also used their newfound popularity to their favor, recording a new DW-led album, that featured songs such as the great "I Don't Wanna Talk About It", later covered by Rod Stewart. While both parts went their separate ways, for the time being, their second unfinished effort stayed in the vaults.

However, what many of us still wondered was: how could a second NY&CH effort have sounded like? First of all, we know of the working title of it, during the August 1969 sessions. It was named "Oh, Lonesome Me" after a Don Gibson cover they recorded, and was to be released in early 1970. Second of all, I believe it would have featured about twelve songs, as they did not record any other ten-minute epics, as was the case in Everybody Knows This is Nowhere. The group's influence and output in it would have also been bigger, I think, as shown by their live performances and sessions at the time, featuring Whitten-sung numbers and such. In addition to the eight songs from the 1969 sessions, live versions by them of Young-written songs will be included here, due to the unavailability of period-accurate studio versions of them, and the fact they would probably be recorded had the whole CSNY thing not happened. Some songs from the Crazy Horse album will be included as well, due to being recorded concurrently with ATGR and to the idea that their album would feature more input from them. Without stretching it any further than this, here it is:

Winterlong (Live at Fillmore East)
Look at All the Things (Crazy Horse)
Everybody's Alone (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)
Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown (Live at Fillmore East)
Wonderin' (Live at Fillmore East)
It Might Have Been (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)

Oh, Lonesome Me (After the Gold Rush)
I Don't Want to Talk About It (Crazy Horse)
When You Dance I Can Really Love (After the Gold Rush)
I Believe In You (After the Gold Rush)
Dance, Dance, Dance (Crazy Horse)
Birds (Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972)

Young and Whitten performing live, March 1970

Our album begins with "Winterlong". It was first recorded during the Horse sessions, but that take remains unreleased. A studio version was recorded during sessions for "Tonight's the Night", being released on Decade. In here, however, we will use a live version from March 1970, as it features the group and is from the same time period as Gold Rush. Up next is Whitten's It Might Have Been, an oddity in here as it doesn't feature Neil playing or writing in it. However, its justified by the fact that in those same sessions, the group recorded a version of the tune, and it remains unreleased. Instead, we'll use the "Crazy Horse" LP's version of it. As track number three, we have "Everybody's Alone". Recorded by both Young and the Horse and as a group effort between him and CSN, we will use the original version of it, tracked by the band, and found on his "Archives Vol. 1" anthology release. Afterward, the live "Come on Baby Let's Go Downtown" comes. Found on both "Tonight's the Night" and the March 1970 gig, we will use it as opposed to a studio version without Neil from the Horse LP, due to featuring the group's frontman, and being good enough for a different album.

As the fifth tune, we have "Wonderin'", introduced in the live album as "from my new album, when I record it". Despite being written way back then, the first studio version of it fans ever saw was recorded on 1983's "Everybody's Rockin'", in a surprisingly good rockabilly arrangement. Instead of that, we will use a live version of it, from the same gig as the other two tunes before it. A Jo London cover, "It Might Have Been" finishes off side one, then again as a live performance, but this time from an unknown venue in April '70, found on the Archives release. They did attempt a studio version, but as NY kept screwing up the lyrics on those takes, it was then rendered unusable. Starting side two is our title track, itself being a cover too, by Don Gibson. The studio version that was released on "After the Gold Rush" is our pick in here, also being one of my favorites from the Aug. '69 sessions. The surprise posthumous hit "I Don't Want to Talk About It" comes next, being written and sung by Whitten. Being the best song on the "Crazy Horse" LP, I think that it would most certainly be included on the album as it is, and due to that, we will use that version in here.

Serving as the eighth track on our reconstruction is "When You Dance I Can Really Love". Probably one of the best songs on the album, it was included on ATGR as recorded by the Horse, and would probably be released as one of the singles off this particular version, based on sheer quality. Up next is the final of three songs in here to be sourced from his 1970 album, "I Believe in You". It was also recorded with CSNY during sessions for their first album, but obviously, we will use the group version of it. Recorded and included on the Horse's album, but written by Young, "Dance, Dance, Dance" is sung by drummer Ralph Molina, and that's the version of it we'll use this time around. It was also attempted with the frontman, but then again nothing came of the tune with him, leading us to use this one. As the final track on this album, "Birds" is also the shortest song, clocking at more or less one and a half minutes. It was released as the b-side to the "Oh, Lonesome Me" single, and was later re-recorded to be used on his Horse-less album. For that, we will use the original CH take, found in the Archives collection, finishing off the album in a very beautiful way, as it should be.

Clocking in at about 42 minutes, in more-or-less evenly timed sides, "Oh, Lonesome Me" is a solid country/rock affair, being almost like a bridge between its predecessor and the hit that was to come afterward, 1972's "Harvest". In addition to all that, the non-Neil compositions and covers give this a sort of "spontaneous" feel to the LP and as a showcase for his now famous backing band, with its contrast between live and studio material. I also don't think the inclusion of live material is too far-fetched, as they have in the past released studio/concert hybrids, such as "Rust Never Sleeps", leading us to believe this could also be the case. Due to the fact that Neil is the king of unfinished albums, this particular lost LP doesn't have the same fame and mythology as "Homegrown", another of his non-projects. That is undeservedly so, because it plays a very important part on NY's discography, and helps us understand his later work. Due to it being Whitten's final work before his heroin addiction spiraled out of control, this album's release would make an album like "Tonight's the Night" a much more poignant statement about one of his greatest friends who died so tragically.

Sources:
- Live at Fillmore East, March 1970
- Neil Young - After the Gold Rush
- Crazy Horse - Crazy Horse
- The Archives, Vol. 1 - 1963/1972

6 comments:

  1. As promised, here's my second post of the month, to compensate for a reconstruction-less January!

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    1. Thanks! I love the updated version of this album!

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  2. This is a phantastique sequence. I dig it brother.

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  3. Can you please re-up this? Thanks, jimg

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