meta-scriptLiving Legends: Nils Lofgren On His Guitar Philosophy, Staying Sober & Meshing With Iconoclasts Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young | GRAMMY.com
Nils Lofgren posing for the camera
Nils Lofgren

Photo: Carl Schultz

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Living Legends: Nils Lofgren On His Guitar Philosophy, Staying Sober & Meshing With Iconoclasts Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music who are still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com sat down with Nils Lofgren, an inspired solo artist and key collaborator of Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

GRAMMYs/Feb 16, 2022 - 02:44 pm

Presented by GRAMMY.com, Living Legends is an editorial series that honors icons in music and celebrates their inimitable legacies and ongoing impact on culture. In the third edition, GRAMMY.com caught up with Nils Lofgren, a revered solo artist and crucial accompanist to Neil Young in Crazy Horse and Bruce Springsteen in the E Street Band.

Neil Young and Crazy Horse may have been in rustic, cozy climes while recording their latest album, Barn, but departed friends were heavy on their minds. From decades-long manager Elliot Roberts to luminous vocalist Nicolette Larson and beloved pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, Young's cosmology is populated with far too many lost colleagues. One of the cruelest losses was Danny Whitten, the Horse's brilliant first guitarist who succumbed to an overdose far too young.

Current guitarist
 Nils Lofgren is keenly aware he could have ended up like him.

"If you're struggling with issues like that, you only have three choices: You get cleaned up, you get locked up or you get covered up," the guitarist, accordionist and Horseman — who's played with Young for more than 50 years and been sober for almost 35 — tells GRAMMY.com. He cites fellow survivors Ringo Starr and Joe Walsh, who both wrested themselves from addiction, and remain healthy and creative in their 70s and 80s.

Of course, Lofgren is known for far more than cleaning up his act; he's one of the most evocative, graceful guitarists on the planet, and an inspired accompanist in the Horse and Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. But as per his blunt axiom, living clean has allowed him to flourish as an artist and human being. He speaks with palpable gratitude and humility, both crucial weapons for breaking vicious cycles. And the best part is: he's got more music in him.

With Barn and a new solo, live album, Weathered, out in the world, GRAMMY.com presents an exclusive interview with the guitar extraordinaire about his past, present and future. (The conversation occurred before Lofgren removed his music from Spotify in lockstep with Young over COVID misinformation.)

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Barn film made the sessions seem like a marked difference from the experience of making Colorado. While that experience was a little more exotic — you were at a 9,000-foot elevation — recording in the barn seemed much more comfortable.

"Comfortable" is a good word. Gosh, we all go back well over half a century together — as friends and fellow bandmates and musicians. 

Being in the middle of a pandemic and having everybody vaccinated and testing and safe, you knew you were in a safe environment. Which, in and of itself, was kind of an out-of-body experience at the height of COVID, when you were worried sick at home and spraying mail down. Of course, that was from pre-vaccination. 

It was pretty extraordinary. The initial intent was just to see each other and be musicians for a week or so. Neil thought he might have four songs — maybe five — but he kept writing and had more material.

We were sitting around, telling stories and just being grateful to be with each other — to go play for hours at a time and work on new music. It was an extraordinary 12 or 13 days — whatever it was. My wife Amy always says if I'm going to miss my birthday at home, she couldn't find a finer place or circumstance.

You've seen Neil's career from the very beginning to the most recent part. What does it feel like to come back to Crazy Horse with 50 years of experience?

It's an extraordinary level of comfort, gratitude and familiarity. We call it the Gold Rush upright — the same piano I played when I was 18, when I played "Southern Man," "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "Don't Let It Bring You Down." To sing on that at 70 — 52 years later — and be with people you've been through so much with, in the studio and on the road, just hanging out, in endless rehearsals over the years [is remarkable].

I did the first Crazy Horse album while Danny was alive, with Billy [Talbot], Ralph [Molina] and Jack Nitzsche. That history just brings a beautiful comfort level. We had cameras rolling in a drafty old barn — Neil set it up like a nightclub, so there's a stage looking out. We never put on a set of headphones once. It's the first album I made in 53-odd years where I didn't put headphones on. I got a kick out of that.

 It was a very comfortable, beautiful experience in the middle of a frightening pandemic. I thought Daryl [Hannah]captured it beautifully in the film. I'm really glad that's going to come out and be shown because it really does capture the comfort and familiarity, high up in the Rockies.

When you think back to the After the Gold Rush days, what comes to mind?

I met Neil when I was 17, at the Cellar Door. Shortly after I met him on Crazy Horse's first tour, I was out in California. I looked Neil up. True to his word, he took me under his wing. He introduced me to David Briggs, his producer. Long story short, after a lot of Hollywood misadventure, I moved in with David in Topanga Canyon. So, I saw a lot of Neil.

They were my big brother mentors at a very young age. They were very encouraging and very honest. I remember my band, Grin, became the house band at the Topanga Canyon Corral. Neil came down and jammed with us one night and we really hit it off and were playing great.

So, the next day, I was at his house with David Briggs. And we were feeling pretty good, you know? Neil and David were telling us how good the drummer was and how much Neil enjoyed playing with us. Being the hard-ass, show-biz, music-biz friends they were, they said, "The band's pretty good, but you need a better bass player."

I was crestfallen because we were a team — a family. But I was only 17, and I had Neil Young and David Briggs — who had moved me into his home with the plan of getting me a record deal and producing us — what are you going to say to that? "Oh, you guys don't know what you're talking about?" So, we got our bass player, Bob Gordon. Sadly, we lost Bob a number of years ago.

But it was just that kind of thing. There was comfort in their relentless honesty mixed with encouragement that I always felt working with Neil. We had many chapters — Tonight's the Night. In between that and After the Gold Rush, we did the Crazy Horse album. The Trans album and tour in the '80s. "MTV Unplugged" in the '90s. More recently, Colorado, and now the new album, Barn.

And how did you end up joining the E Street Band?

Through the years, I'd go see Bruce play a lot. And in '84, when Steve decided to go solo, to my great fortune, I had an audition —  I look at it that way; Bruce wouldn't call it that. But we jammed for a couple of days, and it was just five weeks before opening night. So, it was kind of a hairy thing. 

I remember I was 18, driving with David. We used to crank Creedence Clearwater driving through the hills of Topanga in a VW Bug. I remember saying, "David, it's so nice to not be a bandleader every day. There are a lot of nonmusical issues that go along with bandleading that disappear." 

So, I was very young when I realized [the value of] taking a break from bandleading and just being in a great band. Neil and Bruce, they're really hands-off. They don't direct you very much. They like you to come up with ideas. They might add a suggestion here and there, but there's a lot of freedom that's very similar between the two. They don't mind rough edges and seat-of-your-pants. Neil's maybe taken that to an extreme more than anybody.

Especially on Tonight's the Night.

That one was an anti-production record. David Briggs and Warner just said, "Stay down in it. We don't want you doing the songs too well, but you're still going to be singing and playing. And when Neil gets the right vocal, you're done. No one's going to be allowed to change the notes." 

It was a great, dark record. We kind of call it "the wake album," because all our heroes and friends were dying. It was a dark time, and I thought it was a very commiserative, healing project despite the darkness of it.

Bruce and Neil are highly iconoclastic, individualistic artists. What is it about your personality and musicianship that allows you to mesh so well with them?

This is also true with Ringo Starr, who I've been blessed to play with in his first two All-Starr Bands — I wouldn't be a musician if it weren't for the Beatles! I grew up playing classical accordion for 10 years. I'd probably be at a Holiday Inn Express lounge playing the quarter-box, doing hits of the day. 

But thanks to the Beatles — and the Stones are amazing, but at the top of the list is the Beatles — I found a crazy, lifesaving love of music that sustained me and still does. I think music is the planet's sacred weapon, really. Billions of souls turn to it.

On the Born in the U.S.A. tour, we went to a birthday party late at night with Ringo, and I got to jam with him. Late at night, having drinks, he gave me his phone number, so I began calling him every few weeks and establishing a friendship. Five years later, he called me in L.A. and told me about his All-Starr Band, so he could get back out there and be a drummer and sing and play. Kind of a round-robin thing.

But back to your original question: there's something they have in common. They quickly pull you out of "Oh my lord, I'm playing with a Beatle," or "Geez, Neil Young — look at his body of work," or Bruce. They're such natural "band" musicians. They're down in it. They're in the music. 

Again, because of the freedom that's given, it's positive pressure, like, "Hey, I don't know what we should play. Surprise me. Come up with something great." David Briggs used to say, "Just be great or be gone." Like, "We think you're great. Figure it out."

I love your touch with Crazy Horse — sometimes, it seems like you're barely touching the strings, offering a subtle power. What's your guitar philosophy?

I fingerpick a lot, and there's a gentleness you can get from your flesh. The thumb pick is like a bore — it's very thick, no give. There's a harshness to it. A flatpick has a gentler sound to it. So, I'll use my fingers to get the gentler sound. And with the thumb, you don't have to hit it too hard, and you get quite a percussive thing — which, of course, lends itself to some harmonic playing.

It depends on the song. If we're doing "Shut it Down," I'm starting to bang with the thumb pick, which is very percussive. Then, you turn around and have a beautiful song like "Green is Blue," which is one of the great climate-change songs ever written. Most of it, I barely touch the strings with the thumb pick. Most of it is played with my fingertips. Whatever the mood is.

What was it like to be around Danny? Neil's written very affectionately and effusively about him, sometimes calling him more talented than himself.

Danny was extraordinary. Neil's got such a great vibrato, but it was really Danny who sang with that shaky, kind of Bee Gees vibrato. You can hear it so well in "I Don't Want to Talk About It," from the first Crazy Horse record and in a lot of his singing in the early records with Neil. He was very powerful — kind of a surfer, California dude. A brilliant, soulful musician. Very game for anything.

Of course, Danny was getting better and more creative and getting ready to make the first Crazy Horse album. It was at that point I joined the band with Jack Nitzsche that [Danny] was getting more affected by alcohol and drugs. It was kind of sad to watch him in decline because he was this real musical hero — all of ours, including Neil's.

At one point, after we made the Crazy Horse record, Danny went back to Maryland. He and I were talking about joining my band Grin as another member. He lived with us for a while. I remember we were at Georgetown University, waiting to see Roy Buchanan. We left Danny; he didn't want to come into town. He was getting pretty sick back then.

We were in the audience waiting for Roy to come on, but the lights were still up. Someone comes to the mic and pages me. So, I go backstage, there was a landline. Our head of road crew, who was living in this funky place in the country in Urbana, Maryland, said, "Man, I'm so sorry. I lost Danny!" I'm like, "What do you mean, you lost Danny?" He was supposed to watch Danny.

Danny was roaming the Maryland countryside, looking for drugs. We were like, "Oh my god! If he walks up to the wrong home, someone's going to shoot him!" We rushed back out there, looked around and found him wandering around. It got to a point where I was like, "Danny, man… you're so ill. I don't think you can handle this schedule. We're on tour in clubs seven days a week. I'd love you to be in the band, but you've got to get well, man."

He understood and was bummed out, but it never happened. That was the great tragedy when we were making the album. Danny couldn't be bothered to tune his guitar. I tuned it for him. It was lucky that we got that great album done. Everybody, including Neil, wanted to give Danny a shot working on the Harvest record, but he just never did it.

Read More: For The Record: Why Neil Young's Commercial Breakout 'Harvest' Is Weirder & More Wonderful Than You Remember

He was, in the beginning, very confident. He challenged Neil on guitar. The interplay they created together — and Poncho [Sampedro] carried that on so great for 37 years. Neil and Danny wrote the book on that two-guitar grunge — and the pretty stuff, too. And then the voices together were just extraordinary.

At the end of the day, he just became a casualty of alcohol and drugs. It was a great loss to all of us.

I imagine people didn't understand mental health and addiction back then like we do now.

Back then, the rehabs were insane asylums. I will say that while we were making Barn — and same with Colorado — Danny, David Briggs, Ben Keith, Elliot Roberts — they were all fresh on our minds. Elliot was a sudden loss recently, which broke all our hearts — especially Neil's. Elliot was in the room when I met him when I was 17, all those years ago. 

That's part of life, of course, but it was a rough hit for all of us, [being] in a band with such powerful figures. You never quite get over it.

Neil's cosmology is populated with these departed, incredibly consequential figures.

It's just kind of endless. But that's life. It's a rough part of life, and you never get too great at navigating it. But it does really help to have the other guys there.

Ringo and I talk about the first All-Starr Band in '89, which might have been the greatest cast of musical characters in history. There's only a few of us left: me, Joe Walsh, Jim Keltner and Ringo. Dr. John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Rick Danko, Levon Helm… talk about a band!

From the Tonight's the Night band — minus Ben Keith — four out of five of us are still standing. That's pretty good for a bunch of old guys. 

Do you consider yourselves survivors? You mentioned Joe Walsh and Ringo — those guys could have gone the way of Danny, but didn't.

Ringo's been very open about his sobriety. On the tour in '89, I was just a year ahead of Ringo, cleaning up my act. I've been clean and sober for 34 years. 

The message is: If you've got a problem with drugs or alcohol, there's help. There's a lot more now than there used to be, but you ain't gonna get it if you don't look for it. I'm really proud of people like Joe and Ringo, who got the help and they're out singing and playing.

You can talk it around, talk it to death — but at the end of the day, if you're struggling with issues like that, you only have three choices: You get cleaned up, you get locked up or you get covered up. That's it. Every day, you pick one.

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21 Albums Turning 50 In 2024: 'Diamond Dogs,' 'Jolene,' 'Natty Dread' & More

Dozens of albums were released in 1974 and, 50 years later, continue to stand the test of time. GRAMMY.com reflects on 21 records that demand another look and are guaranteed to hook first-time listeners.

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2024 - 04:08 pm

Despite claims by surveyed CNN readers, 1974 was not a year marked by bad music. The Ramones played their first gig. ABBA won Eurovision with the earworm "Waterloo," which became an international hit and launched the Swedes to stardom. Those 365 days were marked by chart-topping debuts, British bangers and prog-rock dystopian masterpieces. Disenchantment, southern pride, pencil thin mustaches and tongue-in-cheek warnings to "not eat yellow snow" filled the soundwaves.  

1974 was defined by uncertainty and chaos following a prolonged period of crisis. The ongoing OPEC oil embargo and the resulting energy shortage caused skyrocketing inflation, exacerbating the national turmoil that preceded President Nixon’s resignation following the Watergate scandal. Other major events also shaped the zeitgeist: Stephen King published his first novel, Carrie, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman slugged it out for the heavyweight title at "The Rumble in the Jungle," and People Magazine published its first issue. 

Musicians reflected a general malaise. Themes of imprisonment, disillusionment and depression — delivered with sardonic wit and sarcasm — found their way on many of the records released that year. The mood reflects a few of the many reasons these artistic works still resonate.  

From reggae to rock, cosmic country to folk fused with jazz, to the introduction of a new Afro-Trinidadian music style, take a trip back 18,262 days to recall 20 albums celebrating their 50th anniversaries in 2024. 

Joni Mitchell - Court & Spark

Joni Mitchell’s Court & Spark is often hailed as the pinnacle of her artistic career and highlights the singer/songwriter’s growing interest in jazz, backed by a who’s who of West Coast session musicians including members of the Crusaders and L.A. Express. 

As her most commercially successful record, the nine-time GRAMMY winner presents a mix of playful and somber songs. In an introspective tone, Mitchell searches for freedom from the shackles of big-city life and grapples with the complexities of love lost and found. The record went platinum — it hit No.1 on the Billboard charts in her native Canada and No. 2 in the U.S., received three GRAMMY nominations and featured a pair of hits: "Help Me" (her only career Top 10) and "Free Man in Paris," an autobiographical song about music mogul David Geffen.

Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown

In 2023 we lost legendary songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. He left behind a treasure trove of country-folk classics, several featured on his album Sundown. These songs resonated deeply with teenagers who came of age in the early to mid-1970s — many sang along in their bedrooms and learned to strum these storied songs on acoustic guitars. 

Recorded in Toronto, at Eastern Sound Studios, the album includes the only No.1 Billboard topper of the singer/songwriter’s career. The title cut, "Sundown," speaks of "a hard-loving woman, got me feeling mean" and hit No. 1 on both the pop and the adult contemporary charts. 

In Canada, the album hit No.1 on the RPM Top 100 in and stayed there for five consecutive weeks. A second single, "Carefree Highway," peaked at the tenth spot on the Billboard Hot 100, but hit No.1 on the Easy Listening charts.

Eric Clapton - 461 Ocean Boulevard

Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard sold more than two million copies worldwide. His second solo studio record followed a three-year absence while Clapton battled heroin addiction. The record’s title is the address where "Slowhand" stayed in the Sunshine State while recording this record at Miami’s Criteria Studios. 

A mix of blues, funk and soulful rock, only two of the 10 songs were penned by the Englishman. Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s "I Shot the Sheriff," was a massive hit for the 17-time GRAMMY winner and the only No.1 of his career, eclipsing the Top 10 in nine countries. In 2003, the guitar virtuoso’s version of the reggae song was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Second Helping

No sophomore slump here. This "second helping" from these good ole boys is a serious serving of classic southern rock ‘n’ roll with cupfuls of soul. Following the commercial success of their debut the previous year, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s second studio album featured the band’s biggest hit: "Sweet Home Alabama." 

The anthem is a celebration of Southern pride; it was written in response to two Neil Young songs ("Alabama" and "Southern Man") that critiqued the land below the Mason-Dixon line. The song was the band’s only Top 10, peaking at No. 8 on the Billboard Top 100. Recorded primarily at the Record Plant in Los Angeles, other songs worth a second listen here include: the swampy cover of J.J. Cale's "Call Me The Breeze," the boogie-woogie foot-stomper "Don’t Ask Me No Questions" and the country-rocker "The Ballad of Curtis Loew." 

Bad Company - Bad Company

A little bit of blues, a token ballad, and plenty of hard-edged rock, Bad Company released a dazzling self-titled debut album. The English band formed from the crumbs left behind by a few other British groups: ex-Free band members including singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, former King Crimson member bassist Boz Burrel, and guitarist Mick Ralphs from Mott the Hoople. 

Certified five-times platinum, Bad Company hit No.1 on the Billboard 200 and No. 3 in the UK, where it spent 25 weeks. Recorded at Ronnie Lane’s Mobile Studio, the album was the first record released on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. Five of the eight tracks were in regular FM rotation throughout 1974; "Bad Company," "Can’t Get Enough" and "Ready for Love" remain staples of classic rock radio a half century later. 

Supertramp - Crime of the Century

"Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer …" sings Supertramp’s lead singer Roger Hodgson on the first single from their third studio album. The infectious B-side track "Bloody Well Right," became even more popular than fan favorite, "Dreamer." 

The British rockers' dreams of stardom beyond England materialized with Crime of the Century. The album fused prog-rock with pop and hit all the right notes leading to the band’s breakthrough in several countries — a Top 5 spot in the U.S. and a No.1 spot in Canada where it stayed for more than two years and sold more than two million copies. A live version of "Dreamer," released six years later, was a Top 20 hit in the U.S. 

Big Star - Radio City

As one of the year’s first releases, the reception for this sophomore effort from American band Big Star was praised by critics despite initial lukewarm sales (which were due largely to distribution problems). Today, the riveting record by these Memphis musicians is considered a touchstone of power pop; its melodic stylings influenced many indie rock bands in the 1980s and 1990s, including R.E.M. and the Replacements. One of Big Star’s biggest songs, "September Gurls," appears here and was later covered by The Bangles. 

In a review, American rock critic Robert Christgau, called the record "brilliant and addictive." He wrote: "The harmonies sound like the lead sheets are upside down and backwards, the guitar solos sound like screwball readymade pastiches, and the lyrics sound like love is strange, though maybe that's just the context." 

The Eagles - On the Border

The third studio record from California harmonizers, the Eagles, shows the band at a crossroads — evolving ever so slightly from acoustically-inclined country-folk to a more distinct rock ‘n’ roll sound. On the Border marks the studio debut for band member Don Felder. His contributions and influence are seen through his blistering guitar solos, especially in the chart-toppers "Already Gone" and "James Dean." 

On the Border sold two million copies, driven by the chart topping ballad "Best of My Love" — the Eagles first No.1 hit song. The irony: the song was one of only two singles Glyn Johns produced at Olympic Studios in London. Searching for that harder-edged sound, the band hired Bill Szymczyk to produce the rest of the record at the Record Plant in L.A. 

Jimmy Buffett - Livin’ and Dyin in ¾ Time & A1A

Back in 1974, 28-year-old Jimmy Buffett was just hitting his stride. Embracing the good life, Buffett released not just one, but two records that year. Don Grant produced both albums that were the final pair in what is dubbed Buffett’s "Key West phase" for the Florida island city where the artist hung his hat during these years.

The first album, Livin’ and Dyin’ in ¾ Time, was released in February and recorded at Woodland Sound Studio in Nashville, Tennessee. It featured the ballad "Come Monday," which hit No. 30 on the Hot 100 and "Pencil Thin Mustache," a concert staple and Parrothead favorite. A1A arrived in December and hit No. 25 on the Billboard 200 charts. The most beloved songs here are "A Pirate Looks at Forty" and "Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season." 

Buffett embarked on a tour and landed some plume gigs, including opening slots for two other artists on this list: Frank Zappa and Lynyrd Skynyrd. 

Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway

Following a successful tour of Europe and North America for their 1973 album, Selling England by the Pound, Genesis booked a three-month stay at the historic Headley Grange in Hampshire, a former workhouse. In this bucolic setting, the band led by frontman Peter Gabriel, embarked on a spiritual journey of self discovery that evolved organically through improvisational jams and lyric-writing sessions. 

This period culminated in a rock opera and English prog-rockers’s magnum opus, a double concept album that follows the surreal story of a Puerto Rican con man named Rael. Songs are rich with American imagery, purposely placed to appeal to this growing and influential fan base across the pond. 

This album marked the final Genesis record with Gabriel at the helm. The divisiveness between the lyricist, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks came to a head during tense recording sessions and led to Gabriel’s departure from the band to pursue a solo career, following a 102-date tour to promote the record. The album reached tenth spot on the UK album charts and hit 41 in the U.S. 

David Bowie - Diamond Dogs

Is Ziggy Stardust truly gone? With David Bowie, the direction of his creative muse was always a mystery, as illustrated by his diverse musical legacy. What is clear is that Bowie’s biographers agree that this self-produced album is one of his finest works. 

At the point of producing Diamond Dogs, the musical chameleon and art-rock outsider had disbanded the band Spiders from Mars and was at a crossroads. His plans for a musical based on the Ziggy character and TV adaptation of George Orwell’s "1984" both fell through. In a place of uncertainty and disenchantment, Bowie creates a new persona: Halloween Jack. The record is lyrically bleak and evokes hopelessness. It marks the final chapter in his glam-rock period — "Rebel Rebel" is the swaggering single that hints at the coming punk-rock movement. 

Bob Marley - Natty Dread

Bob Marley’s album "Natty Dread," released first in Jamaica in October 1974 later globally in 1975, marked his first record without his Rastafari brethren in song Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. It also introduced the back-up vocal stylings of the I Threes (Rita Marley, Judy Mowatt and Marcia Griffiths.) 

The poet and the prophet Marley waxes on spiritual themes with songs like "So Jah Seh/Natty Dread'' and political commentary with tracks,"Them Belly Full (But We Hungry)" and "Rebel Music (3 O’clock Road Block)." The album also Includes one of the reggae legend’s best-loved songs, the ballad "No Woman No Cry," which paints a picture of "government yards in Trenchtown" where Marley’s feet are his "only carriage." 

Queen - Sheer Heart Attack

The third studio album released by the British rockers, Queen, is a killer. The first single, "Killer Queen," reached No. 2 on the British charts — and was the band’s first U.S. charting single. The record also peaked at No.12 in the U.S. Billboard albums charts. 

This record shows the four-time GRAMMY nominees evolving and shifting from progressive to glam rock. The album features one of the most legendary guitar solos and riffs in modern rock by Brian May on "Brighton Rock." Clocking in at three minutes, the noodling showcases the musician’s talent via his use of multi-tracking and delays to great effect. 

Randy Newman - Good Old Boys

Most recognize seven-time GRAMMY winner Randy Newman for his work on Hollywood blockbuster scores. But, in the decade before composing and scoring movie soundtracks, the songwriter wrote and recorded several albums. Good Old Boys was Newman’s fourth studio effort and his first commercial breakthrough, peaking at No. 36 on the Billboard charts. 

The concept record, rich in sarcasm and wit, requires a focused listen to grasp the nuances of Newman’s savvy political and social commentary. The album relies on a fictitious narrator, Johnny Cutler, to aid the songwriter in exploring themes like "Rednecks" and ingrained generational racism in the South. "Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)" is as relevant today as when Newman penned it as a direct letter to Richard Nixon. Malcolm Gladwell described this record as "unsettling" and a "perplexing work of music." 

Frank Zappa - Apostrophe

Rolling Stone once hailed Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe as "truly a mother of an album." The album cover itself, featuring Zappa’s portrait, seems to challenge listeners to delve into his eccentric musical universe. Apostrophe was the sixth solo album and the 19th record of the musician’s prolific career. The album showcases Zappa’s tight and talented band, his trademark absurdist humor and what Hunter S. Thompson described as "bad craziness."  

Apostrophe was the biggest commercial success of Zappa’s career. The record peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Top 200. The A-side leads off with a four-part suite of songs that begins with "Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow" and ends with "Father Oblivion," a tale of an Eskimo named Nanook. The track "Uncle Remus," tackles systemic racism in the U.S. with dripping irony. In less than three minutes, Zappa captures what many politicians can’t even begin to explain. Musically, Apostrophe is rich in riffs from the two-time GRAMMY winner that showcases his exceptional guitar skills in the title track that features nearly six minutes of noodling.

Gram Parsons - Grievous Angel

Grievous Angel can be summed up in one word: haunting. Recorded in 1973 during substance-fueled summer sessions in Hollywood, the album was released posthumously after Gram Parsons died of a drug overdose at 26. Grievous Angel featured only two new songs that Parsons’ penned hastily in the studio "In My Hour of Darkness" and "Return of the Grievous Angel." 

This final work by the cosmic cowboy comprises nine songs that have since come to define Parson’s short-lived legacy to the Americana canon. The angelic voice of Emmylou Harris looms large — the 13-time GRAMMY winner sings harmony and backup vocals throughout. Other guests include: guitarists James Burton and Bernie Leadon, along with Linda Ronstadt’s vocals on "In My Hour of Darkness." 

Neil Young - On The Beach

On the Beach, along with Tonight’s the Night (recorded in 1973, but not released until 1975) rank as Neil Young’s darkest records. Gone are the sunny sounds of Harvest, replaced with the singer/songwriter’s bleak and mellow meditations on being alone and alienated. 

"Ambulance Blues" is the centerpiece. The nine-minute track takes listeners on a journey back to Young’s "old folkie days" when the "Riverboat was rockin’ in the rain '' referencing lament and pining for time and things lost. The heaviness and gloom are palpable throughout the album, with the beach serving as an extended metaphor for Young’s malaise. 

Dolly Parton - Jolene

Imagine writing not just one, but two iconic classics in the same day. That’s exactly what Dolly Parton did with two tracks featured on this album. The first is the titular song, "Jolene," recorded  at RCA Studio B in Nashville. The song has been covered by more than a dozen artists. 

Released as the first single the previous fall, "Jolene," rocketed to No.1 on the U.S. country charts and garnered the 10-time GRAMMY winner her first Top 10 in the U.K. The song was nominated for a GRAMMY in 1975 and again in 1976 for Best Country Vocal Performance. However, it didn’t take home the golden gramophone until 2017, when a cover by the Pentatonix featuring Parton won a GRAMMY for Best Country Duo/Group Performance. 

Also included on this album is "I Will Always Love You," a song that Whitney Houston famously covered in 1992 for the soundtrack of the romantic thriller, The Bodyguard, earning Parton significant royalties. 

Barry White - Can’t Get Enough

The distinctive bass-baritone of two-time GRAMMY winner Barry White, is unmistakable. The singer/songwriter's sensual, deep vocal delivery is as loved today as it was then. On this record, White is backed by the 40-member strong Love Unlimited Orchestra, one of the best-selling artists of all-time. 

White wrote "Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," about his wife during a sleepless night. This song is still played everywhere — from bedrooms to bar rooms, even 50 years on. In the U.S., the record hit the top of the R&B pop charts and No.1 on the Billboard 200. Although the album features only seven songs, two of them, including "You’re the First, the Last, My Everything" reached the top spot on the R&B charts. 

Lord Shorty - Endless Vibrations

Lord Shorty, born Garfield Blackman, is considered the godfather and inventor of soca music. This Trindadian musician revolutionized his nation’s Calypso rhythms, creating a vibrant up-tempo style that became synonymous with their world-renowned Carnival. 

Fusing Indian percussion instrumentation with well-established African calypso rhythms, Lord Shorty created what he originally dubbed "sokah," meaning, "calypso soul." The term soca, as it’s known today, emerged because of a journalist’s altered writing of the word, which stuck. The success of this crossover hit made waves across North America and made the island vibrations more accessible outside the island nation. 

Artists Who Are Going On Tour In 2024: The Rolling Stones, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo & More

Andrea Bocelli Press Photo 2023
Andrea Bocelli

Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Bocelli

interview

Living Legends: Andrea Bocelli On His Favorite Duets & What Keeps Him Inspired 30 Years Later

In an interview with GRAMMY.com, beloved vocalist Andrea Bocelli discusses his enduring success, the collaborative process, and releasing the deluxe edition of his new album, 'A Family Christmas.'

GRAMMYs/Dec 20, 2023 - 03:52 pm

As one of the world’s most beloved vocalists, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has built a legendary career over 15 solo albums, a regular schedule of blockbuster tours and five GRAMMY nominations, most recently for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Si in 2020.

Originally setting his dreams onto a career as a soccer player, life set Bocelli on a new path after a mishap playing the sport resulted in the loss of his vision. Worldwide stardom came after his musical success in his native Italy, and since the release of his debut album in 1994, he’s staked a claim as one of the best-selling artists of all time. 

It’s a legacy that continues with the recent release of the deluxe edition of his album A Family Christmas. Originally released to acclaim last year, it features his children Virginia and Matteo; the updated version is composed of 10 new tracks, including the single “Let It Snow.”

Bocelli spoke to GRAMMY.com about the new album, his current nationwide tour and the album that first turned him into a global sensation: “The result went beyond my wildest dreams.” 

A Family Christmas features your kids Virginia and Matteo. Over the years, you also recorded blockbuster duets with everyone from Tony Bennett and Beyonce, Ed Sheeran and Celine Dion, among many others. Can you point out the most memorable duet of your career?

I wouldn’t mention one in particular, to not offend the others. As you know, I love duets; mixing voices is a challenge, a wager, a meeting of souls. Singing together, either opera or pop music, is always a gratifying experience. In my thirty-year career, I have had the honor to sing with extraordinary artists, from the already mentioned Celine Dion to Barbra Streisand, from Stevie Wonder to the unforgettable Tony Bennett. In the lyrical world, I hold close to my heart the memory and privilege of making music with Placido Domingo, Jose Carreras, and Luciano Pavarotti.

You were nominated for the Best New Artist GRAMMY in 1999. What do you remember about that show, and your introduction to America in general?

I remember, with great emotion, the duet that my dearest friend, Celine Dion, and I sang together, interpreting that little masterpiece that was “The Prayer”, written by another great friend of mine, David Foster. A very intense relationship with the United States was taking shape at the time, and then followed a continuous upward curve, to the extent that today I consider it my second home. This extraordinary country immediately showed me love!

You're currently on tour, and are known for your epic performances and specials, whether performing in Milan's Duomo or riding horseback across the country. How do you come up with these ideas? Is the idea to go bigger and bigger, or did these just happen organically? 

The source of my inspiration is always the same, and I can summarize it in one word: love. Love across the board: sensual love, love for life, for beauty, for the brotherhood that unites us, and for He who created us.

I believe that there is a purpose conceived for each one of us. Every life is a story that reflects a specific plan. Every woman, every man is born with a talent that is a gift by heavenly design. It is up to our conscience, to our free will to cultivate and honor it or vice versa squander it.

I personally tried to honor mine, making my voice available to share values, such as love, optimism and brotherhood. After that, everything is in the hands of our good Lord, so what I do is look up to the heavens every day and give thanks, ask for help, pray and whisper, “Your will be done.”

Romanza is one of the best selling albums of all time. When you were recording it, did you feel it was going to be something special — or did its success take you by surprise?

I experienced alternating feelings of hope and disappointment. People appreciated my singing and proved it to me consistently. It was show business itself that didn’t consider me a marketable “product.” I was often told, “you better find a new job.” There were so many potential opportunities lost by a breath, and considering the fact that I was no longer a young artist, at times my expectations of transforming this passion of mine into a profession were truly dim.

How did that change?

When Romanza was released, I, of course, aspired to find my own audience, be it in pop or opera. The result went beyond my wildest dreams, beyond my rosiest and most passionate expectations. This recording project holds within it a very important part of my own personal and professional story. To date, I find it hard to understand the reasons for such an overwhelming success, despite realizing that its songs still today, after so many years, are capable of communicating intense, uplifting emotions.

Do you know right away how to musically interpret a song, or is there a process?

There is always a long, complex and challenging process of reflection and elaboration. There is a first phase of listening to the entire interpreted narrative of the song. Then comes the creative phase, alternating with an analytical phase for the end result, with a constant fine-tuning of the vocal and instrumental solutions.

I must say that I consider this deluxe version of the Christmas album, with extra songs, special for personal reasons. Mainly because I was able to work with my children. But also for its innovative recording, orchestral arrangements and the creative process. For each song, we started off with the piano using a felt to dampen the sound. Then it was overwritten by classical and pop instrumentation, always looking to create sculpted sounds for each individual piece. Everything was first sampled, then recorded with a full orchestra.

When it comes to putting the Christmas album specifically, how do you find fresh songs to cover and interpret?  The classics have been covered countless times.

After evaluating hundreds of songs, we chose [together with our record label team] the most intense; the ones capable of evoking the Christmas spirit we were looking for. It is, in some ways, an unusual selection, inspired by the sentiment of universal solidarity. It is a phonic kaleidoscope of international songs, alternating celebratory and festive tones with more intimate and reflective ones.

The album is the genuine musical product of a family dedicated to all families. In it are three voices, three stages of life, three inevitably different sensitivities (despite our strong emotional ties) competing in a mix of genres, but at the same time, looking to recreate that magical state of mind that Holy Christmas can give us. This is what A Family Christmas is about: an album that is markedly different from the one I released in 2009, because it has a more modern and diversified track, with original and bespoke arrangements, fully adapted to our different voices.

Speaking of covers, your version of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" is very unique. Can you tell me the story behind choosing that, and the arrangement?

The atmosphere created with this arrangement, and through the timbre and expressiveness of Matteo's voice offer a truly different, and I hope, interesting rendering. A decisive contribution to creating this and other songs comes from two extraordinary professionals, Ross Cullum and Stephan Moccio. Both worked in all of the vocal recording sessions, with meticulous and very refined precision on the choice of tonality, rhythm, dynamics, the vocal range of the scores, and orchestral colors.

What songs get the biggest reaction on your current tour?

It's actually hard to give a ranking of my most liked songs. Of course, songs tied to the imminent Christmas festivities warm the heart and are received with joy. But warm reactions are also generated by my operatic repertory with its most famous and beloved arias, as do also my pop classics.

The U.S. public, that I have the honor to have frequented for a quarter of a century, is, to my mind, the ideal audience. It's upbeat, generous, ready to get involved. It's an audience that can still get emotional, can participate and be responsive to what is happening on stage. It can experience with healthy simplicity and enthusiasm the emotions generated by listening. 

You uniquely weave your charitable foundation in with your shows. What's it like trying to think of fresh ideas for your foundation? Do you have fun with it?

The Andrea Bocelli Foundation was established in 2011. With the mission to empower people and communities, we chose education as a true key to offer people and communities the opportunity to live to their full potential. We do so by trying to be innovative in approach and planning our work with a multi-disciplinary team of professionals and consultants coming from different backgrounds and aligned with global objectives, such as the UN 2030 Agenda. We use tools and informal disciplines like art or digital music and promote the development of cross-cutting skills. For this reason, the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations invited us to bring our expertise and best practices to the UN this December in recognition of our work as meaningful and innovative.

Justice For "The Chipmunk Song": 10 Reasons It Will Always Be A Christmas Classic

Rock Trends 2023 Hero
(L-R): blink-182, Phoebe Bridgers, Hayley Williams, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen

Photo: Estevan Oriol/Getty Images, Taylor Hill/Getty Images, Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The New Yorker, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images, Sergione Infuso/Corbis via Getty Images

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2023 In Review: 10 Trends That Defined Rock Music

Rock acts young and old helped the genre stay alive in 2023. Take a look at 10 of the genre's most prominent trends, from early aughts revivals to long-awaited reunions.

GRAMMYs/Dec 11, 2023 - 05:32 pm

The rock scene may no longer be the dominant force it once was — blink-182's One More Time... is the only Billboard 200 chart-topper this year to predominantly fall under this category. But 2023 has still been an interesting and eventful period for those who like their guitar music turned up to eleven.

Over the past 12 months, we've had the two biggest groups of the Swinging Sixties returning to the fray in style, a new European invasion, and a wave of blockbuster albums that may well go down as modern classics. And then there's the revivals which will no doubt spark nostalgia in any kids of the 2000s, a resurgence in all-star line-ups, and a residency that could possibly change how we experience live music.

As we gear up for the holiday season, here's a look at 10 trends that defined rock music in 2023.

European Rock Traveled To America

From Lacuna Coil and Gojira to Volbeat and Rammstein, the Billboard charts aren't exactly strangers to European rock. But 2023 was the year when the continent appeared to band together for a mini invasion. Italian quartet Måneskin continued their remarkable journey from Eurovision Song Contest winners to bona fide rock gods with a Best New Artist nod at the 2023 GRAMMYs, a top 20 placing on the Billboard 200 albums chart for third album Rush!, and a Best Rock Video win at the MTV VMAs.

Masked metalers Ghost scored a fourth consecutive Top 10 entry on the Billboard 200 with covers EP Phantomime, also landing a Best Metal Performance GRAMMY nomination for its cover of Iron Maiden's "Phantom of the Opera," (alongside Disturbed's "Bad Man," Metallica's "72 Seasons," Slipknot's "Hive Mind," and Spiritbox's "Jaded"). While fellow Swedes Avatar bagged their first Mainstream Rock No. 1 with "The Dirt I'm Buried In," a highly melodic meditation on mortality which combines funky post-punk with freewheeling guitar solos that sound like they've escaped from 1980s Sunset Strip.

Age Proved To Be Nothing But A Number

The theory that rock and roll is a young man's game was blown apart in 2023. Fronted by 80-year-old Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones reached No.3 on the Billboard 200 thanks to arguably their finest album in 40 years, Hackney Diamonds, with lead single "Angry" also picking up a Best Rock Song GRAMMY nod alongside Olivia Rodrigo's "aallad of a homeschooled girl," Queens of the Stone Age's "Emotion Sickness," Boygenius' "Not Strong Enough," and Foo Fighters' "Rescued." (The latter two will also battle it out with Arctic Monkeys' "Sculpture of Anything Goes," Black Pumas' "More than a Love Song," and Metallica's "Lux Aeterna" for Best Rock Performance.)

The eternally shirtless Iggy Pop, a relative spring chicken at 76, delivered a late-career classic, too, with the star-studded Every Loser. And Bruce Springsteen, KISS, and Paul McCartney all proved they weren't ready for the slippers and cocoa life yet by embarking on lengthy world tours.

Death Was No Barrier To Hits

Jimmy Buffett sadly headed for that tropical paradise in the sky this year. But having already recorded 32nd studio effort, Equal Strain on All Parts, the margarita obsessive was able to posthumously score his first new entry on the Billboard Rock Chart since 1982's "It's Midnight And I'm Not Famous Yet."

But he isn't the only artist to have recently achieved success from beyond the grave. Linkin Park reached the U.S. Top 40 with "Lost," a track recorded for 2003 sophomore Meteora, but which only saw the light of day six years after frontman Chester Bennington's passing.

Perhaps most unexpectedly of all, The Beatles topped the U.K. charts for the first time since 1969 thanks to "Now and Then," a psychedelic tear-jerker in which surviving members McCartney and Ringo Starr brought previously unheard recordings from George Harrison and John Lennon back to life.

The Giants Stayed Giant

Foo Fighters also overcame the death of a core member on what many rock fans would consider this year's most eagerly awaited album. Drummer Taylor Hawkins, who passed away in early 2022, doesn't feature on the poignant but vibrant But Here We Are. Yet the two-time GRAMMY nominated LP still proved to be a fitting tribute as well as an encouraging sign that Dave Grohl and co. can extend their legacy:lead single "Rescued" became their 12th number one on Billboard's Main Rock Chart.

The Best Rock Album category for the 2024 GRAMMYs proves that veterans were alive and mighty in 2023. Along with the Foos' latest LP, the nominees include another Grohl-affiliated band,, Queens of the Stone Age's first album in six years, In Times New Roman..., Paramore's This Is Why, Metallica's 72 Seasons and Greta Van Fleet's Starcatcher.. (Metallica's 72 Seasons also struck gold with its singles, three of which landed at No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, where lead single "Lux Æterna" spent 11 consecutive weeks on top.)

Of course, we also have to give a shout-out to U2. Not for March's Songs of Surrender album (for which they re-recorded 40 of their biggest and best tracks), but for the immersive, eye-popping Las Vegas residency at The Sphere which potentially reinvented the future of live music.

The Rock Supergroup Continued To Thrive

2023 spawned several new rock supergroups including Mantra of the Cosmos (Shaun Ryder, Zak Starkey and Andy Bell), Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee, and Better Lovers (various members of The Dillinger Escape Plan and Every Time I Die). But it was an already established all-star line-up that took the GRAMMY nominations by storm.

Consisting of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker, boygenius bagged a remarkable seven nods at the 2024 ceremony. Throw in a well-received headline set at Coachella, U.S. Top 50 follow-up EP, and even a "Saturday Night Live" showing alongside Timothée Chalamet, and the trio couldn't have asked for a better way to continue what they started together in 2018.

The Early 2000s Enjoyed A Revival

The cyclical nature of the music industry meant that the era of choppy bangs and super-skinny jeans was always going to come back into fashion. And following throwbacks from the likes of Olivia Rodrigo and Willow, the original punk-pop brigade returned this year to prove they could still mosh with the best of them.

Possibly the defining nasal voice of his generation, Tom DeLonge headed back into the studio with blink-182 for the first time in 12 years, with the resulting One More Time... topping the Billboard 200. Linkin Park ("Lost"), Papa Roach ("Cut the Line"), and a reunited Staind ("Lowest in Me") all scored No. 1s on the Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart, while Sum 41, Bowling For Soup, and Good Charlotte were just a few of the high school favorites who helped cement When We Were Young as the millennial's dream festival.

The Emo Scene Went Back To Its Roots

After channeling the new wave and synth-pop of the 1980s on predecessor After Laughter, Paramore returned from a six-year absence with a record which harked back to their mid-2000s beginnings. But it wasn't their own feisty brand of punk-pop that Best Rock Album GRAMMY nominee This Is Why resembled. Instead, its nervy indie rock took its cues, as frontwoman Hayley Williams freely admits, from touring buddies Bloc Party.

Paramore weren't the only emo favorites to rediscover their roots. Fall Out Boy reunited with Under the Cork Tree producer Neal Avron and old label Fueled By Ramen on the dynamic So Much (for) Stardust. And while Taking Back Sunday further veered away from their signature sound, the Long Islanders still embraced the past by naming seventh LP 152 after the North Carolina highway stretch they used to frequent as teens.

Country Artists Tapped Into Rock Sensibilities

We're used to seeing rock musicians going a little bit country: see everyone from Steven Tyler and Bon Jovi to Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis. But the opposite direction is usually rarer. In 2023, however, it seemed as though every Nashville favorite was suddenly picking up the air guitar.

Zach Bryan repositioned himself as Gen-Z's answer to Bruce Springsteen with the heartland rock of his eponymous Billboard 200 chart-topper (which is up for Best Country Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs alongside Kelsea Ballerini's Rolling Up the Welcome Mat, Brothers Osborne's self-titled LP, Tyler Childers' Rustin' in the Rain, and Lainey Wilson's Bell Bottom Country). Meanwhile, Hitmaker HARDY — who first cut his teeth penning hits for Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton — leaned into the sounds of hard rock and nu-metal on his second studio LP, The Mockingbird & the Crow.

But few committed more to the crossover than the one of country's greatest living legends. Dolly Parton roped in a whole host of hellraisers and headbangers including Richie Sambora, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, and Rob Halford, for the 30-track Rockstar — her first rock-oriented project of her glittering 49-album career.

Post-Grunge Reunions Were Abundant

Fans of the mopey '90s scene known as post-grunge had all their dreams come true this year thanks to several unexpected reunions. Turn-of-the-century chart-toppers Staind and Matchbox Twenty both returned with new albums after more than a decade away. Creed, meanwhile, announced they'd be headlining next year's Summer of '99 cruise after a similar amount of time out of the spotlight.

The insatiable appetite for all things nostalgia, of course, means that any band — no matter how fleeting their fame — can stage a lucrative comeback. Take Dogstar, for example, the unfashionable outfit boasting Hollywood nice guy Keanu Reeves. Twenty-three years after appearing to call it a day, the Los Angeles trio surprised everyone by hitting the Bottlerock Napa Valley Festival before dropping a belated third LP, Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees and embarking on a headlining national tour.

The New Generation Gave The Old Their Dues

Say what you want about today's musical generation, but they know to pay respect where it's due., Olivia Rodrigo, for example, doffed her cap to '90s alt-rock favorites The Breeders by inviting them to open on her 2024 world tour.

New working-class hero Sam Fender invited fellow Newcastle native Brian Johnson to perform two AC/DC classics at his hometown stadium show. While ever-changing Japanese kawaii metalers Babymetal debuted their latest incarnation on "Metali," a collaboration with one of their musical idols, Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello.

Whether new artists are teaming up with the old or veterans are continuing to receive their flowers, 2023 proved that rock is alive and well.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop

Neil Young performs in concert during Farm Aid 2023

Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images

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Inside Neil Young's 'Before And After': Where All 13 Songs Came From

The folk-rock titan's newest LP is a journey through the past — whether recent or decades in the rearview. But 'Before And After' is far more interesting than just an album of re-recordings.

GRAMMYs/Dec 7, 2023 - 02:56 pm

More than his fragile tenor, knife-twisting pump organ, swarming Old Black guitar, or any other aural hallmark, Neil Young is defined by his dogged, locomotive-like (and somewhat wackadoo) resolve to surge forward. Come hell or high water, Young will continue the mission.

Which doesn't mean innovate, necessarily — even though innumerable contemporary indie and Americana artists owe their livelihoods to him. It's just that the fire he ignited in 1966, when he wrote his first song as a Buffalo Springfielder, remains furiously burning in 2023.

"I don't care. I figured that's why they like it, because I don't care. It's what I have to do. I want to do this," the two-time GRAMMY winner and 28-time nominee told a tickled Zane Lowe last year, while promoting his latest album with Crazy Horse, World Record. "That's why there's 51, 52 albums: because I want to do this, and I can still feel it. I'd be crazy to stop."


All of a year after
World Record, Young is back with a new album, Before and After. (Would that be his 53rd? His recent cavalcade of archival releases renders the number hopelessly blurry.)

Before and After, out Dec. 8 is a collection of solo re-recordings of old songs; it shows that even with his foot on the accelerator, he tends to drift into a figure 8. Some tunes, like "Mr. Soul," are classics. Others, like the Trans outtake "If You Got Love," are exclusively recognizable to the real heads.

But despite his litany of stylistic detours, Young's essentially the same musician as when we met him; as such, this sequence is seamless. Which leads to another wrinkle; Young designed Before and After to be an unbroken suite of music.

"Songs from my life, recently recorded, create a music montage with no beginnings or endings," he wrote in a press release. "The feeling is captured, not in pieces, but as a whole piece — designed to be listened to that way. This music presentation defies shuffling, digital organization, separation. Only for listening. That says it all."

And another wrinkle: Although it's not billed as such, there are signs that the album was recorded live, with a few overdubs added in post — which he's done before, on albums like Rust Never Sleeps and Earth. Not only does the tracklist hew closely to the setlists from his West Coast solo tour last summer, but crowd noise is faintly audible in several spots, and the credits declare the recording location to simply be "USA."

As usual with this most mercurial of artists, Before and After seems simple, but there are layers of Youngian mystery. But where these songs initially hail from is no mystery at all. Here's a quick breakdown of exactly what we're hearing on Before and After.

"I'm the Ocean" (Mirror Ball, 1995)

A warts-and-all collaboration with Pearl Jam recorded in record time, Mirror Ball's actual songs have always had a hard time peeking through what Young described as "a big smoldering mass of sound." (Well, except the undeniable, immediate "Downtown" — perhaps the exception that proves the rule.)

But although its songs were written entirely in the span of the four-day recording session, the passage of time and a fair amount of dedicated listening — will bear out their merits. The Before and After version of "I'm the Ocean" is proof positive: What sounded a bit like an interminable garage-rock workout reveals itself to be a "Thrasher"-esque folk epic.

"I'm not present/ I'm a drug that makes you dream/ I'm an aerostar/ I'm a Cutlass Supreme," Young evocatively sings. "In the wrong lane/Trying to turn against the flow/ I'm the ocean/ I'm the giant undertow."

"Homefires" (Neil Young Archives Volume II: 1972-1976, 2020)

No doubt, it was a treat to hear Homegrown, one of Young's whitest whales. Recorded in 1974 and '75, it was shelved until Young finally released it in 2020 — the tip of the spear for a lot of unreleased material in its wake.

But for those steeped in Young lore, it seemed like there was a lot missing: where's "Give Me Strength"? Where's "Frozen Man"? Where's "Homefires"? Clearly, he didn't forget about the latter; there's a perfectly lovely version here.

But take it under advisement to seek out the original recording, which is deliciously vibey and aching as so much early Young music was.

"Burned" (Buffalo Springfield, 1966)

All these decades on, the bond between Young and his Buffalo Springfield/CSNY partner Stephen Stills is ironclad: if nothing's changed since early 2023, the musical brothers still get together to jam every Wednesday.

Young's devastated, precocious "Burned," from the eponymous first Springfield album, has lost none of its sting; it's downright thrilling to hear Young lay into it. Buffalo Springfield may have come out 57 years ago, but burned out on these tunes he is not.

"On the Way Home" (Last Time Around, 1968)

The studio recording of the yearning "On the Way Home" always felt a little incongruous with its sunshine-pop production; the solo, acoustic version on 2007's Live at Massey Hall 1971 always seemed like the take.

While that possibly remains true, this version acts as a worthy bookend, the after to the before: "Though we rush ahead to save our time/ We are only what we feel," Young sings, summing up his entire career.

**"If You Got Love" (dropped from Trans, 1983)**

Decades of snickers later, the electronic Trans has been redeemed in the critical aggregate.

It was never a thumbed-nose, label-baiting genre excursion like some of his other '80s albums. Rather, it was an honest response to parenthood of a nonverbal son. (And, it must be said, his burgeoning love of — bordering on a fixation on — Devo.)

While outtake "If You Got Love" lacks the aggressive vocoder of its Trans brethren, it remains shockingly commercial and soft-rock for this artist: Young himself called it "wimpy."

While your mileage may vary on the OG version, Young's Before and After take corrects that perception; performed alone on his trademark, rickety pump organ, reveals it to be blindingly pure and simple, a harbinger of Young's hymnlike, borderline childlike material in the new millennium.

"A Dream That Can Last" (Sleeps with Angels, 1994)

The largely muted Sleeps with Angels might be the most underrated album in Young's catalog. In terms of evocative songcraft, brooding atmosphere, and smoldering performances from Crazy Horse, it belongs near the top of the heap.

Two of its highlights are its bookends, both on sonorous tack piano: "My Heart" and "A Dream That Can Last." And this version sounds as emotionally naked as its predecessor, as Young revisits his vision of heaven: "The cupboards are bare, but the streets are paved with gold."

"Birds" (After the Gold Rush, 1970)

This slightly deeper cut from After the Gold Rush has followed Young around forever; perhaps the simplicity and companionability of this piano ballad has rendered it timeless.

And as always, it's moving to hear a 78-year-old Young still drawing power from something he sang as a twenty-something in coffeehouses.

Indeed, lines like "When you see me fly away without you" feel poignant in light of the numberless friends and loved ones — many indispensable to his creative arc — that Young has said goodbye to. When comparing original Horseman Danny Whitten to steel guitarist Ben Keith to his ex-wife, Pegi Young, "Birds" still feels elegiac to the maximum.

"My Heart" (Sleeps with Angels, 1994)

The aforementioned "My Heart" kicks off Sleeps with Angels with capacious canyons of silence and windswept lyrics: "When dreams come crashing down like trees/ I don't know what love can do/ When life is hanging in the breeze/ I don't know what love can do."

In reverse order, these two Sleeps with Angels tunes still carry potency and import — although nothing beats the dramatic arc of the original album, which all Young fans must seek out if they haven't.

"When I Hold You in My Arms" (Are You Passionate?, 2002)

Eyeballing the title, this writer figured "When I Hold You In My Arms" was a deep cut from Storytone, his 2014 paean to new love — and now wife and frequent collaborator — Darryl Hannah.

Rather, it's from 2002's Are You Passionate?, Young's curious team-up with Booker T. and the MGs. (Before tracking that one, a handful of its songs — some under different names — ended up on the long-shelved Toast, which Young finally released in 2022.)

But it could just as easily exist on that album-length tribute to new love: "When I hold you in my arms/ It's a breath of fresh air/ When I hold you in my arms/ I forget what's out there." And that's partly what renders this deeper-than-deep cut still resonant on Before and After.

"Mother Earth" (Ragged Glory, 1990)

Back in 1990, the chief ecological concern arguably wasn't global warming, but the hole in the ozone. Still, "Mother Earth" feels prescient — not only due to current climate woes, but as per Young's catalog itself, which has come to be saturated with climate-centric songs.

But Young's topical songs have always been most powerful when they sound deeply personal, too — and this fragile, organ-led version of "Mother Earth" sounds like a devotional by the Lorax.

"Mr. Soul" (Buffalo Springfield Again, 1967)

Like fellow Buffalo Springfield stone classic "Burned," "Mr. Soul" still feels bluesy and badass, best delivered with a heavy dose of spite. (Young's solo version on 1991's Unplugged, for which he was in the mother of bad moods, is stormy and unforgettable.

The kinder, gentler version on Before and After, though, is no less indispensable, for how ancient it sounds behind the organ — as if Young dredged it from the earth as a young man and it shines eternal.

"Comes a Time" (Comes a Time, 1978)

The ambling "Comes a Time" and its attendant, eponymous album have always been fan favorites: that rootsy 1978 album is where Young crossed a rubicon of earned maturity.

And despite Young's declaration that "I don't want to come back and do the same songs again" on said West Coast tour — if, in fact, this was drawn from that — "Comes a Time" feels like a requisite greatest hit. Which doesn't mean it's not good to hear it — quite the opposite.

"Don't Forget Love" (Barn, 2021)

Young bringing out an aged and grizzled Crazy Horse for three albums in a row — 2019's Colorado, 2021's Barn and 2022's World Record — might come across as a declaration to rawk

But paradoxically — as Young has always been — these albums have featured some of the most restrained performances by the Horse since Sleeps with Angels

Colorado concluded on a whisper-light note with "I Do," and Barn does the same, with the dreamlike "Don't Forget Love," performed here on upright piano.

These 13 songs may span seven decades, but Young is immutably Young — and if he gets to add more decades of work to his voluminous songbook, he will remain so. That's the thing about this prestige artist: most of us celebrate the Before, but the After is arguably even more interesting.