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Five Best Neil Young Albums

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More memos from headquarters. "Neil Young's birthday is November 12, 1945, making him 62 and deserving of his own list."

Crap. At this rate, I'll be "Remembering Toto" in a few months.

But we like Neil. We do. He's so weird. He's written so many songs, made so many albums and been such an integral part of what people smarter than me call the "great fabric of American Music" that it warms my heart to know it all started in Canada. For this alone, their Canadian nickels should be worth more than the U.S. counterpart. And bring on the socialized medicine while you're at it!

Anyhow, Neil's made a zillion albums, only a few are horrible. Most have at least one moment where you scratch your head and say "Dang!" Narrowing it down to five isn't easy. But then no one said this job was going to be easy. They said I'd never last a week, but they never said it would be easy.

Five Neil Young Albums You Wouldn't Mind Hearing Again:

Neil Young: So good he named it after himself. His first solo album and filled with the kinds of songs he later forgot how to write, or decided he didn't want to. Orchestrated pop tunes with Jack Nitzsche lending a guiding hand and even a long rambling acoustic number ("Last Trip to Tulsa") where Neil thinks he's Bob Dylan for nine minutes.

After the Goldrush: Neil went on his hot streak early in his career, which prompted a later record label to sue him for not making albums representative of "Neil Young" TM. This is what I think the label meant when they were trying to get him to sing without a vocoder or as a rockabilly dude.

On the Beach: Side two is practically two chords back and forth and entire legions of indie rockers have tried to build careers on it. Neil tried it for one album and got bored. But when he did it, it was unlike any boredom I've ever experienced. Helps if you like Valium a lot.

Tonight's The Night: This is pretty much an acknowledged classic since it's about two guys who died of drug overdoses and what's more rock n' roll than that? Besides, Young himself sounds so wasted that the sheer miracle that the album begins and ends in one piece is pretty impressive. He repeats a song and you wonder if he even noticed! And the pictures inside were as inscrutable as his handwriting.

Freedom: Neil made a bunch of "uneven" albums in the 1980s, which is to say some great tunes tucked away on albums that didn't quite hang together. A lot like everything he did in the 1990s and 2000s--and even some of the stuff from the '70s. So, Freedom wins by default, since it's less uneven than his other work from the era and includes several tunes that had been kicking around forever. And like Tonight's The Night and Rust Never Sleeps which would belong on this list if there were six choices, it begins and ends with the same song because Neil was convinced you'd forget!

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