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Tuscaloosa by Neil Young & The Stray Gators - Album Review


Shakey's live archive releases continue apace, coming after the excellent "Songs For Judy", (full review here) and the even better "Roxy: Tonight's The Night Live", (full review here). 

This time Neil treats us to excerpts from an Alabama show, (hence the title), from the 1973 tour previously documented on "Time Fades Away". Whilst a commercial success, the tour was fraught due to Young's grief over the drug-induced death of Danny Whitten that led to his masterpieces "Tonight's The Night" and "On The Beach", and his discomfort in translating his sound to the big arenas his success now found him playing. Neil has previously stated that "Time Fades Away" is his worst album. Those of us who have endured "Everybody's Rockin'" or "Landing On Water" might beg to differ....

Anyway another snapshot of that tour emerges here, and an altogether more lighter mood prevails. The autobiographical "Don't Be Denied" and the stomping country of "Time Fades Away" are the only tracks duplicated between the two sets.

Starting off with "Here We Are In The Years", from his debut solo album, with Neil accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and also featured on "Songs For Judy"; it feels a little superfluous as a result.

One of his most enduring, and updated throughout the decades, songs in "After The Gold Rush" follows before a personal favourite in "Out On The Weekend" sees Neil joined by the rest of the band.
I love the sense of sad isolation in this song which is amplified by the bare bones arrangement and playing. It starts a crowd pleasing run of four songs from the then current and huge selling "Harvest". These conclude with what must be his two most well known songs in "Old Man" and "Heart Of Gold" before we dive head first into the "Doom Trilogy" songs.

The aforementioned "Time Fades Away" rollicks along with Ben Keith diving in and out on the pedal steel to great effect.

"Lookout Joe" is one of the two peaks on the album. At the time of performance it was unreleased, and it's depth, alone with that of the following "New Mama" make the "Harvest" songs seem lightweight by comparison. They're not, objectively, but in the context of this album the pain and darkness in the "Tonight's The Night" material lends them a translucent nature that doesn't come across in their original format. "Alabama" is the exception to this in the same way it stands out on "Harvest". Given the location of this show it has an added piquancy. The guitars wail and Neil's voice start to strain; great stuff.
"Don't Be Denied" brings us home in a winding 8 minutes of autobiography. 

In conclusion, my only criticism of this release is that I could take more. At 53 minutes and 11 tracks I'd like to have heard more of, or in indeed all of, the show. Nonetheless this is another fine addition to the collection of archive releases.

"Old times were good times........"

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