It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Neil Young – Silver and Gold (2000)
There are a few albums from Neil Young’s 50-year career—After the Gold Rush, Harvest, On the Beach, Rust Never Sleeps, and maybe one or two more—that are generally viewed as his greatest achievements. Zoom out a bit more and you reach that next tier; the “near classics.” Albums such as Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, Zuma, Tonight’s the Night, and Ragged Glory come to mind, though an argument could be made for any of those to be placed in the middle of that first list.
I view 2000’s Silver and Gold as Neil’s most recent “near classic.” The material he’s released since then hasn’t been bad, necessarily, but it’s been sixteen years now and nothing he has released since comes close to matching Silver and Gold’s consistency, beauty, and raw emotion.
This is all my really long way of saying, if you like Neil Young—and who doesn’t?—you really need to hear Silver and Gold. It follows the same basic formula as 1972’s Harvest and 1992’s Harvest Moon, yes, but this is more than just, “Neil makes another acoustic record.” The songwriting throughout Silver and Gold is strong, the production is beautiful, and Neil’s melodies are as memorable as ever.
The album begins with the wonderful one-two punch of “Good to See You” and “Silver and Gold.” “Good to See You” is simple and straightforward, with Young playing a quick harmonica part between fast-paced verses. “Silver and Gold,” meanwhile, slows things down a bit as Neil delivers each line with a hint of hesitation; it’s almost as if he’s got this great song he wants to play, but he’s trying not to wake up the toddler sleeping in the next room over.
The next two songs are actually Silver and Gold’s weakest efforts, though each one examines a different part of Young’s life. So even though “Daddy Went Walkin’” and “Buffalo Springfield Again” aren’t my personal favorites, I do admire that he put these songs to tape. A lot of artists stop looking within at a certain age, but not Neil.
I pretty much love every song on the rest of the album, but I need to mention two specifically: “Red Sun” and “Razor Love.” On “Red Sun,” Young is joined by Emmylou Harris (!) and Linda Ronstadt (!!), with the three of them singing in unison. It’s a gorgeous song, and one that you’ll want to listen to again and again.
And “Razor Love”? It’s a masterpiece, dang it—heck, it might be the best song Young has given us since as far back as the late 70s. Young sings poetic lines over a mesmerizing guitar part for more than six minutes, occasionally just letting his harmonica do the talking. You really made my day, Neil sings, with the little things you say.
Like a lot of Young’s acoustic work, Silver and Gold is deceptively basic. The guitar parts are all easy to play, and there’s not a challenging bass line or drum part to be found anywhere. The emotion, though—the feeling—is absolutely off the charts.
If you’re a Neil Young fan, you really need to hear this one. It’s not in that top, elite tier of the man’s finest efforts … but it’s not far off.
(Note: The German pressing of this LP is available at a fair price if you look around online. I think mine was $25 shipped. Happy hunting!)
Listen below …