Thoroughly outstanding from start to finish, this is vintage Neil Young. Harder-edged than the follow-up (and more famous) "Harvest", "After The Gold Rush" contains some classic tracks, including the bitter 'Southern Man', Young's vicious swipe at racist attitudes in America's Deep South, which spawned an equally famous retort by Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd ('Sweet Home Alabama'). Obviously Neil Young didn't get the hint, since 'Alabama' (on Harvest) was equally scathing, albeit not as powerful as the brilliant 'Souhtern Man'. Young's legendarily off-beat, jagged solo guitar style was pretty much born on this track, and ensures that it will hold a special place in any Neil Young collection.
"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is a Young country standard, practically unparalleled in the rest of his career. With a real country 3/4 beat, and beautiful harmony vocals (presumably by, amongst others, Danny Whitten), it's almost a mournful lament of a song. (Later covered by St. Etienne to great effect on 'Fox Base Alpha')
Other highlights include the brilliant opener, "Tell Me Why", which really sets the scene for what you can expect from the rest of the album. "Don't Let It Bring You Down" is another top track, although lyrically a bit confused. Also, "When You Dance You Can Really Love" is musically a great song, but what the hell he's on about is a matter of debate! But it only goes to show that even if one part of a song is lacking, it is compensated by the sheer quality of another part. The result is that there isn't a weak song on the album. Even Young's cover version of country standard "Oh Lonesome Me" is thoroughly appropriate and fits right in with the rest of the album. Like the title track on the follow-up "Harvest", "After The Gold Rush" is a simple piano ballad showcasing Young at his most reflective and laid-back, and contains a great lyric which includes "Look at Mother Nature on the run, in the 1970's"
This was my first Neil Young album (I bought it because I had 'Fox Base Alpha' by St. Etienne!), and what a place to start. I loved it then and more than a decade later, it remains one of my top ten favourite albums of all-time. More so than "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" or prior albums, "After The Gold Rush" marks the true beginning of Neil Young the "legend", and no CD collection can be complete without it.