In 1972, I was sitting in the passenger seat of my uncle’s cherried-out 1932 pick-up as we pulled into the parking lot of the Kartcher Mall, located in Nampa or Caldwell; whatever it is, it’s close to Boise, Idaho.
It wasn’t long after my uncle had returned from Vietnam, where, totally against his nature, he FOUGHT. We used to get letters from him that were splashed with mud, because his squad would often start taking fire while he was writing a letter in his foxhole.
In the mall parking lot, I stayed in the truck while he wandered off because I was working on a big butterscotch/caramel sundae.
Fifteen minutes later, my uncle returned with an album in his hand. He handed it to me and said, “Everyone’s going to buy this album.” I looked down and saw it was Neil Young’s Harvest. For the next three days, Harvest was playing continually, and that was just fine with me. That was my introduction to Neil Young.
Back to Neil Young’s albums: There’s Harvest (‘72), After the Gold Rush (‘70), Tonight’s the Night (‘75), written after his roadie died of a heroin overdose, Rust Never Sleeps (‘79), written my senior year of high school.
But the album I’m going to write about is Sleeps with Angels (‘94).
The album was written after a haunted Neil Young heard the line “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away” from his album Rust Never Sleeps was found on Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. Sleeps with Angels reeks with emotional intensity, especially with the title cut. It has long jagged guitar bridges and codas that remind me of old Young songs like “Down by the River,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand.” It also has a little comic release from all the intensity with the song “Piece of Crap.”
The album also has a brilliant concept of having songs spaced throughout the album that have the same music, but with different lyrics.
Neil Young, like the Stones and Dylan, has so many good albums you can get lost. I’m just worried this masterpiece might slip under the radar.