Homegrown (Neil Young album)
|Studio album by|
|Recorded||November 1974 – January 1975 Quadrafonic Studios, Nashville, TN; Broken Arrow Ranch, Redwood City, CA; Village Recorders, Los Angeles, CA; London, England.|
|Genre||Country rock, folk rock|
|Producer||Neil Young, David Briggs, Elliot Mazer|
|Neil Young chronology|
Background, recording, and near-release
1974 would prove both a turbulent and productive year for Neil Young. With the unreleased 1973 album Tonight's the Night in the can, Young would record On the Beach in the Spring for a July 1974 release. He would convene Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at his ranch for abortive album sessions before launching an extensive summer stadium tour with the group. At Broken Arrow Ranch on June 17th, Young recorded "Through My Sails" with the quartet. "Love is a Rose," a reworking of his earlier "Dance, Dance, Dance" was recorded with bassist Tim Drummond on June 16th, as well as "Pardon My Heart." "Pardon My Heart" would receive backing vocal overdubs from Ralph Molina and Billy Talbot in August 1975 and see release along with "Through My Sails" on that year's Zuma album with Crazy Horse. On tour, Neil would pause to record another new song, "White Line," as a duet with The Band's Robbie Robertson That year, Young would debut seventeen new songs in concert.
After the tour, Young held recording sessions in Nashville, Los Angeles and at Broken Arrow for a new album. A December 11 session at Quadraphonic Sound Studios in Nashville with Levon Helm yielded "The Old Homestead." "Star of Bethlehem" and "Deep Forbidden Lake" were recorded two days later at the same studio. "Little Wing" was recorded January 21st at the Village Studios in Los Angeles.
The songs from these sessions are largely acoustic, with many of the songs being solo performances of Young on guitar and harmonica. Young has said that "Homegrown is the missing link between Harvest, Comes a Time, Old Ways and Harvest Moon." The songs are quite personal, and revealed much of Young's feelings on his failing relationship at the time with actress Carrie Snodgress. "It was a little too personal...it scared me" Young would later explain to Cameron Crowe in interview.
It was so near to being released that a cover had been created. At the last moment however, Neil Young chose to drop Homegrown and release Tonight's the Night, an unreleased album recorded in 1973 instead. Young stated that he had a playback party for Homegrown and Tonight's the Night happened to be on the same reel. He decided to release Tonight's the Night after that listening because of "its overall strength in performance and feeling" and because Homegrown "was just a very down album."
In his authorized biography of Neil Young, Shakey, author Jimmy McDonough offers descriptions of several of the performances captured during the sessions:
- "Homegrown" - "a goofy tribute to hemp recorded in a much higher version by the Horse."
- "Vacancy" - "a killer "Vacancy" features Young mangling guitar and harmonica simultaneously."
- "Homefires" - a "stark acoustic performance."
- "Try" - "in "Try", a faint ray of optimism that followed 'Separate Ways' in one running order for the album, Young paid tribute to Carrie Snodgress by adapting bits of her language into verse: 'I'd like to take a chance,' yelps Young over a rollicking piano, 'but shit, Mary, I can't dance.'" Emmylou Harris also contributed background vocals.
- "Love-Art Blues" - a "stark acoustic performance."
- "Frozen Man"
- "Separate Ways" - "the song begins in the middle of a doomy chord; Tim Mulligan lunged for the record button just as Young and the band dove into the song. Levon Helm rattles out a slow counterpoint as Ben Keith spins up a stark, bird-on-the-wire steel solo that has to be one of the lonesomest sounds ever recorded. "I won't apologize/The light shone in from your eyes/It isn't gone/And it will soon come back again," sings Young, sounding dead."
- "We Don't Smoke It" - "an inebriated blues vamp that would've sounded right at home on Tonight's the Night."
- "White Line" - "a bittersweet song that Young had recorded as an acoustic duet with The Band's Robbie Robertson in England a few days before CSNY's Wembley show."
- "Give Me Strength" - "on December 16, Young recorded "Give Me Strength. The lyrics catch him struggling to make the final break from Snodgress. It features a bittersweet chorus: 'The happier you fly, the sadder you fall/The laughter in your eye is never all.' Untrained singer Ellen Talbot sang along on harmony, providing a crazy edge more than suitable for one of the last Snodgress songs. The sound is almost mystical. Guitar and harmonica, plus luminous overdubs of a tinkling piano and a finger tapping a paper cup, add glimmers of color that come and go. An impressionistic sound, precisely constructed without losing any of its spontaneous feel."
Other songs from these sessions include "Barefoot Floors", "Bad News has Come to Town", "Tie Plate Yodel #3", "Kansas", "Mexico" (the latter two "solo Young performances—short, fragmentary and hallucinogenic") and "Florida" ("some cockamamie spoken-word dream [printed out, for reasons no one can remember, in the booklet for 'Tonight's the Night'], set to the shrieking accompaniment of either Young or Keith drawing a wet finger around the rim of a glass").
There has been much confusion and speculation as to which of these 10 songs were slated for the album's final track selection. Additionally, Young also had other songs like "Mediterranean," "Through My Sails," and "Hawaiian Sunrise" (aka "Maui Mama"), scheduled for a water-themed album; other songs, including "Human Highway," "Pushed it Over the End" and "Traces" were saved for the planned CSNY reunion album that would not materialize for another 14 years. Contrary to speculation, these songs were never considered for the Homegrown project.
Release of songs on later albums
On studio or live albums
In a 1975 Cameron Crowe interview for Rolling Stone, Young indicated a desire to release parts of Homegrown on subsequent albums, citing, for example, the "beautiful harmonies" of Emmylou Harris. Over the next few years many of the songs would be released on subsequent albums:
- "Star of Bethlehem" – released on American Stars 'n Bars in 1977 – 2:42
- "Deep Forbidden Lake" – released on Decade in 1977 – 3:39
- "Love is a Rose" – released on Decade in 1977 – 2:16
- "Little Wing" – released on Hawks & Doves in 1980 – 2:10
- "The Old Homestead" – released on Hawks & Doves in 1980 – 7:38
Several songs recorded during the sessions have been re-recorded or appropriated for other Neil Young projects.
- "Love-Art Blues" would see release live on CSNY 1974, a 2014 compilation of the 1974 tour with "Traces" and "Hawaiian Sunrise".
- "Homegrown" was re-recorded with Crazy Horse and released on American Stars 'N Bars in 1977.
- "White Line" was recorded with Crazy Horse in 1975 for the unreleased Chrome Dreams and again in 1990 for Ragged Glory.
- "Give Me Strength" would see release on 2017's Hitchhiker along with "Hawaii", another Snodgress era song. The album documents a 1976 solo acoustic studio session.
- "Bad News Comes to Town" would see new life, this time with a horn section, during Young's 1988 tour with the Blue Notes, captured live on 2015's Bluenote Café.
Additionally, the lyrics of "Florida" were superimposed over the credits for On the Beach on the insert that accompanied the original vinyl release of Tonight's the Night.
Songs covered by other artists
Unreleased songs performed live
Young would also resurrect several of the unreleased songs for live performance later in his career, and incorporate them into setlists in the 1990s and 2000s.
- "Homefires" appeared regularly during 1992's solo tour after its concert premiere in 1974
- "Separate Ways" would be performed regularly with Booker T & the MGs in 1993 and with Crazy Horse in 2014
- "Kansas" was played on occasion in 1999, 2007 and 2008
- "Mexico" was played a handful of times in 2007 and 2008
- "Try" was performed regularly in 2007 and 2008
In 2010, Neil Young's on-line newspaper stated that Homegrown along with other period unreleased albums were being "rebuilt" for inclusion in the second volume of his Archives project. Unlike similar unreleased collections from this period of Young's career, such as Chrome Dreams and the session acetates for Tonight's the Night, Homegrown has never been circulated in whole as a bootleg.
On November 21, 2019, an article was posted to Neil Young's Archives website announcing Homegrown as the first vinyl release scheduled for 2020. The article also included a short video of engineer John Hanlon overseeing an all-analog transfer of one of the album's songs ("We Don't Smoke It"). Near the end of the video a tape box can be seen with the following track order barely visible:
- Separate Ways
- Love is a Rose
- We Don't Smoke It
- White Line
- Little Wing
- Star of Bethlehem
- Thomas Erlewine, undated. All Music entry on Neil Young at mtv.com through archive.org. Accessed April 23, 2008.
- McDonough, Jimmy (2002). Shakey. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-679-75096-7.
- Sugar Mountain Neil Young Setlists  1974
- Rolling Stone  The Rebellious Neil Young By Cameron Crowe August 14, 1975
- Hyperrust, Rare and Unreleased Songs
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-01-04. Retrieved 2017-09-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)