Homegrown: Alright With Me
Ballyhooed as a classic but not entirely what it claims to be, Neil Young’s latest archival release is good on its own terms
In the spring of 1975, Neil Young was ready to stop running away from the commercial success of his 1972 international smash hit Harvest. After a series of sessions held at the same studios and featuring key musicians who played on Harvest, he had a finished album mixed, sequenced, titled, and with artwork prepared. He considered it a sequel of sorts, called Homegrown.
With release approaching, Young held a listening party to play Homegrown for close friends at his Malibu home. And then a funny thing happened.
Homegrown played in full, and when it ended, whether because the party-goers were too wrecked to stop the playback or because Young’s famous imp of the perverse was acting up, another album came on. By fate or intention, the tape containing Homegrown also had Young’s home copy of his then-unreleased album Tonight’s The Night on the back side, and the audience heard it in full — and acclaimed it the better album of the two.
Young made a snap decision to release his dark 1973 recording of 45 minutes of anguish rather than the sonic successor to Harvest. And that’s what he did.
Homegrown would remain in Neil Young’s vault for almost half a century, a rumor and a legend — until June of 2020, when it became his latest archival release.
But despite what you may read in the glowing reviews which greeted it, the album titled Homegrown released this month, though a fine record and a fascinating timepiece, is not the album he nearly released in 1975.
Neil Young is a master. In this author’s opinion he is the archetypal rock artist, combining lyric skills approaching Bob Dylan’s, the melodic craft of Elton John (John Lennon compared them), a lead guitar style that has influenced generations of players on a level comparable to B.B. King, Scotty Moore, or Jimmy Page, the prolific output of the Rolling Stones in their prime, and the rapid artistic evolution of…