Hmmmm, “Greatest Hits”, eh? A bit of an oddity from a man who hasn’t been noted for frequenting the singles chart, but oddity is what Neil Young fans expect. There’s a note on the back of the case which explains the selection:
Greatest hits inclusion based on original record sales, airplay and known download history. – N.Y.
Well, that’s alright, then. What we have here is a chronogically arranged selection of Neil Young songs starting with Down By The River from 1969’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere album, with Neil joined by the almighty noise machine known as Crazy Horse. Now starting a “Greatest Hits” album with a nine minute murder song
Down by the river
I shot my baby
Down by the river,
Dead, oh, shot her dead.
might seem a bit perverse, but hey……
Throughout his career, Neil has moved between sweet, delicate acoustic folky material and some of the heaviest, most feedback-drenched, seriously LOUD rock ever made. He does both extremely well, sometimes in the course of the same album.
There are sixteen songs on offer here, incuding beautiful ballads like Only Love Can Break Your Heart and 1991’s Harvest Moon (the most recent track on the CD).
But for me, the highlights are
- Like a Hurricane, a simple love song with a ridiculously simple, but incredibly powerful guitar solo. Possibly nobody other than Neil could get away with this
- Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black), the seriously rocked out version of the song that brackets the classic Rust Never Sleeps album. Loud, heavy, glorious and joyous.
- Rockin’ In The Free World, again the loud version
There are two versions of this on sale – the usual CD and a twin pack of the CD and a DVD. The DVD has the same tracks in high quality audio (and silly visuals of records on turntables, but you can ignore those). If you have a DVD player wired up to a good sound system, it’s well worth getting the DVD version. The sound is really superb – even if there is something a bit odd about having such clear reproduction of some of the noisiest distored feedback around. Also on the DVD are the videos for Rockin’ In The Free World and Harvest Moon.
For fans who already own all the albums, there’s nothing new here other than having a good selection of the man’s work on one disc, but for those who are less familiar with his work, this is as good an introduction as you’re likely to get.
One day, Neil might finally deliver those archive box sets he’s been promising for the last ten years or so. In the meantime, this will have to do…
 One of the many things I like about Neil is the fact that I never know what the crazy old coot is going to do next
 A term of affection, obviously
 Long before Nick Cave……
 Hey, I’ve seen concert footage where he perfoms the song while being blasted by a wind machine, a clichÃ© that would get almost anyone else laughed off stage for such deranged Spinal Tappery