Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ranking the Neil Young Discography

I have a tendency towards starting many projects that I never finish. Don't get me wrong. I finish a lot of them, but just as many end up getting placed on the back burner.

From Hank to Hideki? I'll get back to it eventually.

The Left Field 100? Stalled at about one-third of the way to completion.

I've even struggled with getting around to my year-end compilation the past couple of years. In fact, I've handed out a grand total of three 2010 comps to friends I've actually seen since I completed the playlist in February of this year.

That one I can chalk up to life-related excuses, though. Well, I guess I can use that excuse to cover other instances of slacking off as well.

Anyway, you get what I'm driving at. But, here is one project I promise to see through to completion. It might...uh, rather, it will take a few months, but I think it's time I tackled the concept of ranking the entire Neil Young discography.

Of course, these rankings will be entirely based on my opinion rather than viewed from a critical perspective. Well, because I'm hardly a music critic. So, there may be a few unconventional choices, but so be it.

I have a dilemma, though. That is, what to do with live albums and compilations. Obviously, live records that consist of previously unreleased material, such as Rust Never Sleeps and Time Fades Away, are as much proper albums as the studio releases. Then there are the live albums that capture a single performance—Live at Massey Hall 1971 and Live at the Fillmore East, for example—which feel like more legitimate releases than live compilations such as Live Rust and Weld.

Normally, the answer to the question of what to do with compilations of studio material is an easy one. That is, don't consider them. But, of course, with Neil Young it's not so easy. Decade, for instance, while primarily including his greatest hits from 1966 to 1976, also contains the previously unreleased "Down to the Wire," "Winterlong," "Deep Forbidden Lake," "Love is a Rose" and "Campaigner." And, then there's Journey Through the Past, the soundtrack to Young's bizarre film of the same name.

So, maybe there will be a critical element to my rankings, in that I'll probably rate the live albums in terms of whether or not the concert versions do justice to the originals or in any way are compelling re-workings of the songs. I'm leaning towards not considering the studio compilations at all.

Of course, I'm open to anyone's suggestions regarding methodology.


  1. No suggestions just a recollection. Saw Neil play Rochester in 1985. Oh man. Down by the river! I shot my baby!

  2. That's a loooong time ago, Casey. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I spotted a close-to-worn-out cassette of Decade at a garage sale in Columbia, South Carolina, in the early 1980s. I begged my uncle, a local antiques dealer, to buy it for me since I didn't have any cash on me. He turned up his nose at first, but when he saw how badly I wanted it, he caved. I subjected those spools to many more plays before the tape went all squibbly, and even then, I couldn't part with it.