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Too little, too late?...
on 16 January 2005
So what have we here? Well, as a 5 star selection of Neil Young tracks there's little to fault this album - every one is top notch and together they cover a very fair cross-section of his often complex wanderings between folk, country and hard-rock.
Job well done then? Well not really. First off the selection itself is too limited, with only four tracks covering the last 25 years and with none after 1992. The man's had his ups & downs but his career is much broader than represented here and his post 1977 work includes a much larger number of truly excellent tracks than this compilation, with its heavy weighting to pre-1977, suggests. Odd... not least because, with only a small number of genuine single/album "hits" to his name, it's not as though there's any particular reason to limit it in this way through a "Greatest Hits" title.
Secondly, its sequencing, while strictly chronological, is bizarre. Do people who want to be introduced to an artist (as those at who it's directed at will be) really want to start off with "Down by the River" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" - two excellent but distinctly similar and lengthy hard rock work-outs. Sitting here as its first two tracks, they provide a less than helpful 20 minute opening for someone who probably only knows "Heart of Gold" and maybe a couple of other of Neil Young's more MOR outings.
Finally, 11 of the 16 tracks are already available on the only other sensible retrospective currently available, the excellent two CD "Decade" from 1977, which provides a much more comprehensive & interesting overview of the first 10 years of his 30 year plus career. Result? If "Decade" is the only Neil Young album you own then you're paying a lot for just five more tracks and if you buy this album first and then buy "Decade", as new recruits may well do... well, you're starting to understand the problem.
Someone needs to get on top of it because it's increasingly clear that Neil Young, who undoubtedly exerts rigid control over his releases, seems to have "missed the point" when it comes to overviews of his career. As a previous reviewer said, why didn't he give the whole lot to Rhino and let them get on with producing a more comprehensive and better sequenced effort. A 30 track double CD would have done it, leaving both his fans and his new recruits much, much happier. Brilliant though it is, "Greatest Hits" makes the chances of this even more remote, which is a great shame because his best work covers much more than what's on offer here and, as such, deserves much better treatment. A case of too little, too late?