6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Maybe Marlon Brando will be there by the fire ...,
This review is from: Rust Never Sleeps (Audio CD)
Rust Never Sleeps was released in 1979 and was voted album of the year by Rolling Stone critics and readers. Those of us listening to it at that time must have all realised we were hearing something quite extraordinary - I had certainly never before heard guitar like that on the electric version of Out of the Blue ... Rust certainly brought Neil Young back into the public consciousness and proved to be a highly influential album.
The album opens with an acoustic version of "Out of the Blue", paying homage to Neil's early hero Elvis Presley (who had recently died - "The King is dead/but he's not forgotten"), through to Johnny Rotten and the English punk movement. I think Neil is saying that creatively he must change and move on. The line "it's better to burn out/than it is to rust" has become arguably more famous than Pete Townshend's "Hope I die before I get old".
"Thrasher" is next, a beautiful and extremely enigmatic song. Through the metaphor of farming and geographical landscapes Neil continues the theme of having to change musically and move on ... "But me I'm not stopping there/Got my own row left to hoe" ... I have read this song is also about the fading artistic glory of CSNY and that the "crystal canyons" is a direct reference to David Crosby's coke habit.
"Ride my Llama" is a strange little trippy story which leads nicely into "Pocahontas", a song Neil apparently wrote back in around 1976 about the terrible slaughter of the American Indians (reminds me of the film Soldier Blue). The violent imagery is nicely tempered with the amusing thought of Neil, Marlon Brando and Pocahontas sitting around the fire together.
"Sail Away" is also a beautiful little song exploring one of Neil's favourite themes, the image of the road as a metaphor for life's journey.
"There's a road stretched out between us/Like a ribbon on the high plain".
"Powderfinger" is next, and without a doubt the best song on the album, and one of Neil's finest - very, very strong imagery and a great tune which builds up to a spine tingling crescendo for the final verse. Like Dylan and Springsteen, one of Neil's talents is writing a story within a song. I have read that Neil actually wrote the song for Lynyrd Skynyd, based on a story they had told him about the old South. Like "Thrasher", this song is deeply obscure and open to many different interpretations - I believe it is either a Civil War incident or a bunch of hillbillies and a dope deal that went wrong.
I wasn't keen on "Welfare Mothers", which is quite a nasty little song with the slogan "welfare mothers makes better lovers" and "Sedan Delivery", seemingly about a down and out who gets a job, doesn't raise much interest either.
"Rust" finishes with an incredible electric, grungy version of "Out of the Blue". Sadly, the brilliance of this song has been ruined for me forever by a reviewer who points out that the backing vocals "Johnny Rotten, Johnny Rotten" sounds like the Muppets! Listen to it again and you will see what I mean!
Despite the inclusion of two poor songs and dodgy backing vocals this is groundbreaking stuff.