Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Southern Pacific" by Neil Young & Crazy Horse

Song#:  0864
Date:  12/26/1981
Debut:  80
Peak:  70
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Whether he was part of Buffalo Springfield or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, or solo, Young marched to his own drummer. Diverse and experimental, he pretty much did what he wanted with his music despite any label, critical, or fan feedback. Revered by many rock musicians, Young's songs and performances have been influential and essential, which led to him being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice - as a solo artist and with Buffalo Springfield. Young's rock did not really lend itself to fitting in with the pop radio market (his only real chart hit was 1972's #1 "Heart of Gold"), but many of his songs became rock radio staples and that pushed most of his 70s album output to gold or platinum level. But as the 80s arrived, Young struggled alongside other artists who were big in the 60s and 70s. This brought about more experimentation on his part and in 1981 he issued "Re-ac-tor," an album that found him straddling the line between his 70s rock and the 80's new wave. The album was not well-received, but it did supply a rare pop chart single with this song. It would be his last album for his home label Warner Bros. before moving into a very tumultuous relationship with Geffen Records.

ReduxReview:  Okay, let the hatin' begin. I admit that I really don't care for Young's music. I appreciate his contributions to rock and there are some songs I do like, but overall I just don't connect with him. I'm also not a fan of his nasally, whiny voice. This song doesn't do much to sway me into the Young camp. It's like ZZ Top covering "Ghost Riders in the Sky" via Heart's "Barracuda." I don't quite get it. And his thin voice doesn't do much to sell it. Not my cup o' Neil.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Young often wrote topical songs such as 1970's "Southern Man" which dealt with racism. That theme was revisited two-years later in his song "Alabama." Many folks thought the songs put out a message that all Southerners resemble those depicted in the lyrics and that caught the ire of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Their big hit "Sweet Home Alabama" was a response to those songs (in particular "Alabama") and the lyrics call out Neil Young by name. You'd think this start some kind of feud like it typically does in today's music, but both Young and the Skynyrd band retained a mutual respect and understanding about the issue. Young has even covered "Sweet Home Alabama" in concert while Skynyrd members have donned t-shirts featuring Young's album covers. Young has even said that in retrospect, his lyrics for "Alabama" were not well thought out and could easily be taken in a manner he didn't intend. An odd side note to this is that singer Merry Clayton covered Young's "Southern Man" on her 1971 debut album and then later was the background vocalist for Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."


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