Neil Young & The International Harvesters: A Treasure

Latest in the Archives series finds Neil in redneck mode.

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The winter of 1983 found Neil Young at the receiving end of legal action by his own label, Geffen, who’d rejected his last studio offering for being too countrified for its own good. Young responded in typically contrary style – rounding up a bunch of crack Nashville sessioneers and heading for the road to deliver hard-nosed honky-tonk and roustabout country at state fairs and halls along the prairie belt.

A Treasure, sewn together from a range of live shows across 1984-85, is by no means pristine, though that only adds to the gloriously raw feel of these fiddle-heavy, open-throated recordings.

There are at least a couple of throwaways, but most of these songs prove that Young was far from the spent force his mid 80s studio output often suggested. Amber Jean and Grey Riders, two of five unreleased tunes here, are terrific, the latter finding him in stampeding form, backed by what passes for a hayseed Crazy Horse.

Meanwhile, Are You Ready For The Country invests his old Harvest staple with some barn-burning licks, hi-steppin’ piano and a heady solo from fiddler Rufus Thibodeaux.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.