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on 12 December 2016
New 2016 vinyl sounds fantastic. Compares favourably to the early '00s CD. Warm and rich and all analogue, just like nature intended.
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on 8 December 2017
excellent early neil young songs and easy going style, i love it.
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on 9 August 2010
Amazingly this Neil Young album, originally released in 1974 was not released on CD until 2003! It's a more sombre album than his other early 70s albums. As the natural follow-up to best-selling Harvest, it must have been confusing for fans weaned on those pretty country-style songs which made up the majority of that album, as this gloriously bleak album sees a man who is jaundiced, sick of the rock star culture of the 70s and the acclaim that goes with it. And yet, it's not a bore to listen to as Neil Young made an album which has definitely stood the test of time.

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.
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on 23 January 2008
Not much more to add to all the extensive reviews of this particular Neil Young. Readers will be aware of most of its history. Its unavailability in "regular" cd form, until very recently. This rather added to the album's cult status, which contrived to make secondhand vinyl copies seriously expensive. (Up to £100, apparently, through the more "unscrupulous" outlets.)

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.
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on 20 October 2008
Years ago, I bought 'Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere' on the recommendation of a trusted friend, who told me it was considered an idiosyncratic masterpiece in the vein of 'Astral Weeks,' though musically miles apart. Whereas I liked the album, I was never the biggest fan of extended musical jams, which 'Cowgirl In The Sand' and 'Down By The River' sounded like to me. In short, I couldn't love it, and I already knew 'Harvest,' 'After The Goldrush' and Youngs work with Buffalo Springfield particularly well. What I was looking for was that rare nugget that makes you fall in love with music all over again. Then, recently, I was drawn in by the effusive reviews of the reissued 'John, The Wolfking Of L.A.' by John Phillips, and it is a fairly consistent and good portrait of the West Coast scene of the early seventies, but once again, I couldn't think of it as this great lost masterpiece that others assured me it was. So, when I read the reviews of 'On The Beach' which mentioned Nixon, Manson, and a whole host of other themes in connection with this album, I was a bit sceptical. Then, someone said, listen to it first, before you part with your pennies, but I either want something or I don't have it, so I bought it last sunday, and suddenly my whole faith in the marriage of mind and music and lyrical genius was once again well and truly restored. Not only with this album, but also 'Tonight's The Night' which also looked chancey at first, but it is hard to separate the two as they're both so different in their way, but both leagues away from 'Everybody Knows...' in my opinion. Young has a genuine, honest voice, and a feeling for people and situations that most reminds me of Lou Reed in his most tender moments, though again, they are musically unalike. And to all those who took time to go online to say that 'Ambulance Blues' is one of the greatest 9 mins ever committed to disc, I'd have said before sunday that they must surely be exaggerating, but now I know different. The sustained wisdom and generosity of the song's narrator puts Young in the same league lyrically and musically as Bob Dylan at his very best. There is not one bad note on this album, and really I'm stuck for words to explain just why. But that is the beauty of music for you: you have to go out, buy this record, and listen to it over and over again until it all sinks in (probably two or three plays of this one) and before you know it you have found another favourite. Sheer class!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 July 2007
Some of the bands or artists I like I find it very difficult to be objective about. Van Halen, for example, could do anything they like and I`ll always love Eddie. Neil Young isn`t quite in that category; like Lou Reed ("Metal Machine Music", anyone?) he`s always keen to experiment, shock, annoy his record company etc. and can miss as often as he hits. Some of his output in the early 80s sounded like the products of a bored, disordered mind, such as "Landing On Water" and "Everybody`s Rockin`". Of course when Neil hits, he hits big...

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.
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on 27 June 2003
On the Beach is finally issued on CD, with an emphasis on sound quality & relevant sleevenotes- though sadly it's not reissued with 1973's Time Fades Away, but the so-so American Stars'N'Bars (1977) & the more average Hawks&Doves (1980). & there are no extra tracks or outtakes- best left to the fabled Decade II set?
On the Beach was seen as the end of Young's Doom Trilogy- a set of albums which reacted to the deaths of Danny Whitten & Bruce Berry, along with the general drug-inflected fallout and the pressures of superstardom with C,S,N&Y. Its precedent was The Needle & the Damage Done (from bestseller Harvest)- Young taking a look at the living dead, the true cost of the hippie dream. Time Fades Away was a live album of new songs from the nitemare tour that followed the demise of Whitten & Berry and one that found Young at war with the rest of his band. TFA bombed (compared to Harvest)- Young coming across as a depressed madman on songs like Yonder Stands The Sinner, Last Dance & LA. Things got worse, next came Tonight's the Night- a set so depressing, it was only released under duress a few years later in 1975. Another album, Homegrown (as yet unreleased) was also rumoured to have been recorded around this point; On the Beach though, is the end of Young's 'Doom Trilogy' (which has been written on definitively by Allan Jones & Ian MacDonald in Uncut magazine in 1998- an issue worth its weight in gold!). Whereas TFA and TTN were painful confrontations with death and the surrounding depravity, On the Beach is an album that is looking towards a future (much like Screaming Trees' Dust- an album also recorded in a similar climate of casualties & OD's)- perhaps this is typified by the odd cover, where Young stares out at the horizon (while the title references a very scary novel/film about the end of the world). The album was rumoured to have been recorded with large quantities of dope- so it is a less tequila-driven assault/elegy like TFA or TTN and more external- a line in Motion Pictures (probably the worst song) "I know I'm gonna get out" typifies Young's spirit here.
A few tracks found their way onto the classic Decade-compilation- opener Walk On (which features the surviving members of Crazy Horse alongside Ben Keith) & the caustic acoustic oddity For the Turnstiles (is Young railing against the way everything's ben reduced to cashola? I expect so). These are far from the best tracks!- the spectre of Richard Nixon & Watergate are apparent throughout (Young had even been playing live with a Nixon mask on!). The zeitgeist is most definitely captured here- Revolution Blues alluding to the SLA & the Manson family, while Vampire Blues goes further out than the earlier LA (which predicted Bill Hicks' Arizona Bay. See also The Burritos'Sin City)- California a parasitic zone that fits with I am Legend, Angel & Radiohead's recent We Suck Young Blood (not to forget the Pumpkins "the world is a vampire").
On the Beach also features some wonderful guest players, as Young didn't have a band- The Band's Rick Danko&Levon Helm pop up, as does Graham Nash, Tim Drummond& Rusty Kershaw. See the Sky About To Rain is a sublime slide-guitar inflected slice of soul, easily up there with anything on Harvest and easily as great as Gene Clark's From a Silver Phial. The title track is a 7minute percussive day in the life of a messed up rock&roll star- though it avoids self-pity (The Walkabouts did a brilliant cover of this on the 1998compilation Death Valley Days- almost as great as the real thing). Young shows an interest in having a future: "the world is turning/I hope it don't turn away"- the so-so Motion Pictures (dedicated to soon to be ex-lover Carrie Snodgrass) continues this theme of escape and/or transcendence.
The best is saved for last- Ambulance Blues (not a blues song, more of a country rap!)clocks in at just under nine minutes (but still isn't long enough!). A gorgeous acoustic lull, with Young's distinctive voice & a great accompanying fiddle, it ties up the loose state of things wonderfully. Patty Hearst and Nixon are alluded to in Young's stoned stream of consciousness- at the end Neil cheerfully tells us "You're all just pissing in the wind/you might not know it, but you are/and there ain't nothin' like a friend/who can tell you you're just pissing in the wind". Young notes that there is little difference between him and the critics and parasites "we could get together for some scenes"!. On the Beach would lead to the way out- typified by the brilliant Zuma (1975); though Young would return to the dark stuff with the overrated Sleeps With Angels (1994).
On the Beach is one of the great stoned albums of the early 70s, alongside Exile on Main Street, Fresh!,Greetings from LA, No Other and Pacific Ocean Blue; it's also a major influence on everyone from The Replacements to Primal Scream to The Walkabouts to Wilco etc. I think it ranks as one of Young's finest albums, easily sitting alongside Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Harvest, TFA, TTN, Zuma, Rust Never Sleeps & Ragged Glory. At this price it's a bargain- one of the key albums of the 70s, whichever way you cut it...
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VINE VOICEon 18 June 2003
One of Neil Young's finest albums is (finally) on general release, and it's about time too. As part of his (in)famous 'doom trilogy', this album is a mixture of peaceful and thoughtful music ('See The Sky About To Rain') as well as his most vicious ('Revolution Blues'). Unlike 'Tonight's The Night' and 'Time Fades Away' which can be pretty heavy going at times, 'On The Beach' mixes personal and haunting lyrics with humour and wit, a quality that much of his back catalogue is bereft of. The album starts off with the unusually chipper 'Walk On', which is almost a riposte to some of the doom-laden material he was becoming notorious for after the untimely deaths of his friends Danny Whitten and Bruce Berry. After fighting his own demons and resolving to 'walk on', the opening song offers an olive branch to those listeners who had become tired and disillusioned by his drunken antics and loose performances in previous years, and musically represented a welcome return to form, and was a clear sign to his fans that he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The final song on the album is (IMHO) one of his finest songs of all. 'Ambulance Blues' is a simple acoustic ballad, almost a lament in places, but has hints of optimism thrown in amongst some bleaker imagery. The line 'an ambulance can only go so fast' hints at the agony he had felt when Berry and Whitten died, whereas 'I guess you'd call it sickness gone' hints at his emotional recovery and lends the album as a whole a much needed positive tone. 'On The Beach' is another 'quiet' song, that drifts by effortlessly. 'See The Sky About To Rain' is another magnificent track that easily ranks among his best work as well. The album may be short, but it is certainly not short on quality.
'For The Turnstiles' is back to a more country approach, and 'Vampire Blues' is much more of a proper 'blues' track than 'Ambulance...' is. Of the rockier tracks, the stand-out track is the brilliant and wicked 'Revolution Blues', and takes a heavy swipe at American culture ('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').
This album is a Neil Young essential, and even without the bonus tracks that appeared on imported versions, it still ranks as one of his very best. At this price, it is an absolute bargain. I just thank Reprise for finally getting their collective bums in gear and reissuing this fabulous album.
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on 30 January 2011
`On The Beach' is the third (although released as the second) of Young's `ditch' trilogy of the mid-70's.

The first, `Time Fades Away' still awaits its release on CD and has, probably as a result, grown in reputation. In fact my ageing vinyl copy shows it to be a little over-rated (apart from the undeniably marvellous `Don't Be Denied' and `Last Dance'). The musical weakness of the album is perhaps inevitable given it's the sound of a man deciding he doesn't want to do what he's supposed to be doing.

The second (although released as the third) is the brilliant, spooky, `Tonight's The Night'; an album which can never be over-rated. Young mourns his dead friends and manages to capture not only his own grief at their physical death but also the death of the 60's; the hippy peace-and-love ideal has now degenerated into lies and tawdry sleaze, as symbolised by junkies killing each other (and themselves) for a fix.

`On The Beach' is slightly more reflective, Young realising that his problems aren't, in the whole scheme of things, that important, but that his purpose is to follow the music, no matter where it leads, and leave the world to it's own devices.

The opener `Walk On' is lyrically spot on, `Sooner or later it all gets real', but musically is standard mid-tempo stuff. The next five tracks are, however, right up there with his best. `See the Sky About to Rain' is a quiet, sombre acceptance of the ups-and-downs of life. `Revolution Blues' sounds to me the musical equivalent of Young pulling a sheet over his head and going `Woooooo!' at his Californian compadres, attempting to wake them out of their self-induced stupor. `For the Turnstiles' is a dark, state-of -the-nation piece, accompanied only by the late, and very great, Ben Keith. `Vampire Blues' is a stoned, and really quite funny, `attack' on possibly the oil industry or himself or who knows what; the guitar solo is particularly amusing. The beautifully meandering title track finds him pulling a bit of a Greta Garbo, he wants to be alone, although he'd still like people to listen to his music, just so long as they don't expect too much from him.

The last two tracks get a lot of love from most on here, but are, for me at least, a serious let down. `Motion Pictures' is deathly dull stuff, sounding as if the drugs have taken a little too much hold. `Ambulance Blues' I can see the attraction of, I can see it's an important song for him, I just don't like it!

He'd finally got it all off his chest and shaken off any chance of mainstream acceptance, now it was back to re-forming Crazy Horse and onwards and upwards with `Zuma'.
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on 20 July 2011
"Good times are comin'/but they sure comin' slow" - or are we all "pissing in the wind?" This 1974 album finds our Neil somewhat world weary, cynical and, let's face it, as stoned as a fart.

"On The Beach" shares its name with the novel by Nevil Shute, in which the last survivors of a nuclear war await the inevitable radiation cloud. There is certainly something apocalyptic about this album. which is, in part, a lament for the end of the 60s. The hippy dream was long gone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison were all dead, the violence of Altamont had killed off the "summer of love", a President lies to the nation and Charles Manson and four other members of "The Manson Family" were jailed for life in 1971 for the Tate/La Bianca murders.

So Neil cobbled together a bunch of musicians (including Levon Helm and Rick Danko from The Band) for his first studio album since "Harvest" and tapped into the zeitgest. The drug of choice was "honey slides", a potent mix of marijuana and honey, giving most of the album a lovely mellow feel.

A great opener, "Walk On", is almost funky, and is aimed at his critics: "I hear some people/been talkin' me down" and looking back at the good old days when the money was "not so good/but we still did the best we could", when he could play for a few dollars a night and not worry about the pressures of record companies.

"See The Sky About to Rain" is a lovely delicate melody. Neil did not wear the mantle of fame easily and he must have felt his life was getting out of control: "Locomotive, pull the train/whistle blowin' through my brain".
There is a sense of impending doom. He sounds vulnerable and fragile and helpless.

Then just as we are being seduced by the first two gentle songs, suddenly we are thrust deep into the twisted psyche of Charles Manson, with "Revolution Blues". A brave choice, and probably one of the most scarey songs ever committed to vinyl. "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."
Dave Crosby initially did not want this song recorded: "It's not funny, Neil ...". The Manson trial had only finished three years before and California was still reeling from shock. The wealthy residents of Laurel Canyon hardly needed to be reminded about arguably the most dangerous man in America at that time. The song is not without dark humour: "you remember your guard dog/I'm afraid that he's gone/it was such a drag to hear him/howling all night long/woooooo".

"For the Turnstyles" follows, a country/folk song pared down to just vocals and banjo. A very strange song that is said to be another rant at the record industry but to this reviewer the lyrics are incomprehensible. Sorry Neil, it just doesn't work and should not have been included on this album. In 30 years' time fellow Canadians The Be Good Tanyas will do a cracking version ...

"Vampire Blues" is not without charm, having a cynical go at the oil industry and its false promises of riches.

The title track, "On The Beach", is wonderful ... Neil feels trapped by the record industry and the loneliness of fame. Janis Joplin famously said "on stage I make love to 50,000 people but I go home alone". Neil certainly felt isolated and abandoned ... "I went to the record interview/but I ended up alone/at the microphone ..." Lovely guitar just sending you off into a dream. He sounds desperate with the ending refrain "Get out of town/think I'll get out of town", he wants to "follow the road" yet doesn't know where the road will take him ...

Moving on past "Motion Pictures" which is the weakest song, the album closes with the magnificent "Ambulance Blues," containing Neil's most enigmatic lyrics, a nine minute marijuana-fueled stream of consciousness, with references to Nixon ("I never knew a man/who told so many lies") and Patty Hearst ("pay off the kidnappers") as well as a nostalgic trip back to his musical roots in Canada - "Isabella" is the street in Toronto where he used to play in "The Riverboat". The most analysed of any of Neil's songs and a work of genius.

To summarise, Neil's voice has never sounded better or more varied, he has moved away from self-introspection to another level ... a brilliant piece of work that is surely one of the defining albums of the 70s.
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