- Audio CD (14 July 2003)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: Original recording remastered
- Label: Reprise
- ASIN: B00009P1O0
- Other Editions: Audio CD | DVD Audio | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,776 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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On the Beach Original recording remastered
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Ask any Neil Young fan about his back catalogue and they'll always mutter darkly about albums never released on CD. There were, until now, at least seven major releases that have never seen the light of day. Suddenly Young appears to have (partly) relented and allowed a new generation to hear four of them (On The Beach, American Stars And Bars, Hawks And Doves, and Re-Actor). Yet only one of these albums has websites devoted to petitioning for its release. And only one has, over the years, come to rival Young's other searingly unguarded moment -Tonight's The Night - for the title of his greatest work. So after 30 years in the dark, does On The Beach live up to its reputation?
Whereas Tonight's... has the air of a drunken wake about it, OTB is more of a singular stoner's take on his life in relation to world events. It's a wake for a whole decade. As he says on the opener ''Walk On'': 'Sooner or later, it all gets real...' You have to remember that Young lived at the centre of many of the counterculture's greatest and worst moments. Not only had he been present at Woodstock (and refused to be filmed, due to his increasing suspicion that the revolution had been commercialized), but he'd known Charles Manson personally. He'd even suggested to Warners that they give him a recording contract! 1973 was a major crossroads in his life. His marriage to actress Carrie Snodgrass was on the skids; he'd still not come to terms with the loss of guitarist Danny Whitten; his label had balked at releasing his blitzed lament to lost friends (Tonight's...) and the huge success of CSN&Y had brought him no comfort. So it was, that Young, along with a disparate crew that included Levon Helm of the Band and the larger-than-life backwoodsman Rusty Kershaw (on fiddle and Dobro), proceeded to get wasted and tape what happened.
Nothing and no one is spared. Nixon (''Ambulance Blues''), global fuel conglomerates (''Vampire Blues''), Manson and the whole West Coast 'me' generation (''Revolution Blues''), the wife (''Motion Pictures''), but most of all himself. It's as if Young needed to lay it all out to really find out where he could go next. The title track pinpoints exactly the artist's need for validation, along with his need to remain apart from the pack (''I need a crowd of people, but I can't face them day to day''). It's as contradictory as Young's life itself has often seemed. But above all he realises his own place in the universe (''Though my troubles are meaningless - that don't make them go away''). Such a public catharsis scared both his audience and his label. It was the worst selling of his albums to date.
It was also entirely necessary in order for Young to retain his sense of integrity and move on. Within 12 months he'd reformed Crazy Horse and was headed for louder, rougher pastures. Thirty years on this remains an essential album if you ever want to get even the slightest glimpse of what makes Young an enigma and a genius. Raw, ragged, desultory: it's all of the above. It's also staggeringly moving and, yes, it's probably his best album. But don't take my word for it...Now can we have Time Fades Away please, Neil? --Chris Jones
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I can`t think of much by Neil Young that is better than this CD. I have listened to more or less everything by Neil Young, and during the early-to-mid 70s he released some seriously impressive records - such as "Time Fades Away" and "Tonight`s the Night" - and this sits alongside those classics. Not just chronologically, but in mood and feel and maturity too. It`s dark! Generally speaking, the frothy subjects in life don`t make good listening of course. The two "blues" songs on "On The Beach", "Revolution..." and "Ambulance..." might not sound like music from New Orleans, but I doubt if anyone has sounded more angry or bitter. I love them both; the lyrics on "Revolution..." are seriously twisted, and it`s hard to imagine a bigger departure from the hippy-rock of Buffalo Springfield. "Ambulance..." is just about as perfect as music gets. You`ll just have to listen to it as I can`t justify that claim using mere words!
The other songs are very strong too, of course. It`s pretty mellow in terms of volume but there`s such an underlying sense of menace and depression, "See The Sky About To Rain" quite nicely sums up the feel. "Walk On" is a wonderful opener, addressing a subject most of the other songs mention too - critics, opinions, fame. "Vampire Blues" contains the best one-note solo since "Cinnamon Girl". "Motion Pictures" is an ode to his then-lover Carrie Snodgress (the actress Young falls in love with in a "A Man Needs A Maid"). You get the feeling Neil is about to collapse mentally and physically. History tells you that he more or less did, and that`s all chronicled on 1975`s "Tonight`s The Night"!
You have to own this too.
For this album he assembled a motley crew of musicians, with the likes of David Crosby, Graham Nash (of CSN and sometimes Y fame), along with Ralph Molina (Crazy Horse), Rusty Kershaw, Ben Keith etc.
Walk On is a somewhat unremarkable opener, a standard issue Neil Young lope-along track, but second track See the Sky About to Rain is a wholly different kettle of fish. Notable for the heavy use of keyboards in it, it's a slow-burner of a song, with Young singing "played a silver fiddle, played it loud and then the man broke it down the middle. See the sky about to rain." It's kind of foreboding, but nothing like us foreboding as Revolution Blues. This song reportedly freaked out Crosby, Stills and Nash, with its insistent guitar pattern and `call-to-arms' style lyrics, lacerating the big stars of the period ("I see bloody fountains, And ten million dune buggies comin' down the mountains. Well, I hear that Laurel Canyon is full of famous stars, But I hate them worse than lepers and I'll kill them in their cars").
After this, the rootsier For the Turnstiles comes across as a relief, though again it's an uneasy listen, with Young's high-pitched, almost cracking vocals over banjo and dobro.
We settle into the second half of the album with Vampire Blues, another `lop-along' like Walk On, with a basic blues progression, and a sparse, one note guitar passage in the middle section. Young sings about how "good times are coming, but they sure are coming slow." The title track follows which is a much bleaker piece, featuring slow hand drums from Ben Keith, and great hesitant guitar from Young himself. He sounds totally bereft on this track, singing "though my problems are meaningless, that don't make them go away." The playing on this track is wonderful, it's perfectly paced with a wonderful sparse guitar solo in the middle.
Motion Pictures features Neil Young singing in a much lower register than usual, and it suits him quite well, over a simple descending guitar riff, accompanied by some nice harmonica. He carries this singing style through to the last track, the nearly 9 minute Ambulance Blues, which is a kind of low key epic, featuring a simple folky guitar part , joined by harmonica and Rusty Kershaw's rusty fiddle (don't know if it actually was, but I imagine it to be). There are some lovely touches here, like when the lyrics wonderfully reflect the music. He sings "burn-outs stub their toes on garbage pails" as he deliberately plays a deep note loudly on guitar that could be a bum note, except that it's in tune.
It's criminal that these songs are not better known, or indeed this album, as it's one of Neil Young's finest.
The cd issue faithfully recreates the original album's artwork, to make a very pleasing package. (Not just a crummy, little booklet.) For me, there are three of my all-time favourite Neil Young tracks. Firstly, "See The Sky About To Rain". Very downbeat, but extremely uplifting. It's followed by "Revolution Blues", which features one of Neil's most effective guitar solos and the succinct lyric "i hope you get the connection as i can't take the rejection". And there's the sublime title track. Some will feel it's bit whiney in style, i'm sure. But it's probably just an honest reflection of Neil Young's depressed state of mind at the time. It has a brooding magnificence, an economical, under-stated guitar solo and another favourite line: "The world is turning, i hope it don't turn away".
No selection of Neil Young cd's is complete without it, to use the well-worn expression. Those who aren't familiar with it, would be well-advised to invest the time and money into discovering it.