12 settembre 2013

THE LOST PAIR: MEDITERRANEAN & HOMEGROWN

Free conjectures about two released albums that have always fascinated me among the many aborted projects by Neil Young.

Mediterranean: Neil’s Life Aquatic

“Young had water on the brain throughout his Amsterdam sojourn and, apart from voicing the need for a house boat, spoke eagerly of a batch of new songs with a common aquatic theme. Suddenly, it seemed appropriate to record them on an island. Ibiza was deemed a suitable choice and Elliot Mazer named as the probable produced. Young then went on to discuss six songs which he felt should be included on the “water album”: “Frozen Man”, “Star Of Bethlehem”, “Maui Mama (Hawaiian Sunrise)”, “Deep Forbidden Lake”, “Love-Art Blues” and “Vacancy”. The concept even had a ready-made title track, “Mediterranean”, which documented Young’s desire for a “vacation from fame”. Like so many of Young’s projects the recording of Mediterranean in Ibiza fell through because of what were later described as “technical problems”. Abandoning the “water album” concept, Young soon decided to record a completely new work.” (Johnny Rogan, Sixty To Zero)
Stefano Frollano in his italian book Neil Young Discografia Illustrata, adds “Daughter” to the songs possibly considered for this record; and maybe also “Through My Sails” (previously recorded with CSN) was in the can. Only Archives Vol.2 will throw light on Mediterranean’s concept and its recordings, if something was actually recorded.
The title-track is well-known to the fans; on internet is available a demo take where Neil is saying (maybe to Stephen Stills) that has finished Mediterranean just the other day. “I don’t know where the fuck it comes from. It’s one of those different.”
The album was soon aborted, so we can forget a release among the Archives Vol.2 surprises (Homegrown, Chrome Dreams and Oceanside/Countryside are announced). At least we will have an idea of the album if Archives contains some tracks or demo of that period.
Some of Mediterranean’s songs were considered later for new projects, as the following Homegrown, but they were bound to oblivion: just “Star Of Bethlehem” became part of an album (American Star ‘n Bars) and “Deep Forbidden Lake” part of Decade anthology.


Homegrown: back to the nest

“He also terminated his vacation after a month, returning to his ranch on 13 October [1974] in a final attempt to sort out his relationship with Carrie. […] The “Love-Art Blues” dichotomy that he had dramatized in song had virtually concluded with the art extinguishing the love.” (Johnny Rogan, Sixty To Zero)
Between the end of 1974 and the beginning of 1975, Neil recorded many songs and filled out probably his most famous unreleased album: Homegrown. After the “dark period”, this album with its traditional songwriting was ready to be a return to home for Neil, and the return to the old Harvest glory. Despite the strength of the songs, Neil himself said it was a “very depressed album” due to the separation from Carrie. It’s a well-known story: after listening it, he decided to put out Tonight’s The Night, which was accidentally on the same tape.
Homegrown is ready to be “recreated” and released on Archives Vol.2. Until that lucky day, we can just make conjectures about the song list. According to Rogan it should be: “Homegrown”, “Star of Bethlehem”, “White Line”, “Little Wing”, “Try”, “Four Walls”, “Separate Ways”, “Vacancy”, “Florida”, “Kansas”, “Mexico”.
But there are many other tracks of that era that could be considered for the tracklist. Frollano mentions “Chaning Highways”, “Daughters” “Love is a Rose”, “We Don't Smoke It”, “Pardon My Heart”, “Give Me Strength”, “Home Fires”, “The Old Homestead”, “Long May You Run”, “Tie Plate Yoddle #3”, “Love Art Blues”, “Deep Forbidden Lake”.
Only the session chronology, from an official source, will throw light on these songs, when they were recorded and for which album. But surely Neil in 1975 was embarking on an astonishing creative moment: three years of sessions, ideas, concepts, some completed and some other not. We can listen some live takes, and they are brilliant and intense.
Jimmy McDonough, author of Shakey – A Neil Young Biography, defines “Give Me Strength” as the “totem song of the period. The lyrics catch him struggling to make the final break from Carrie’s web. […] 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. Young was embarking on a musical experimentation that would culminate two years later on a song called “Will To Love”. […] “Mexico” and “Kansas” were solo Young performances – short, fragmentary and hallucinogenic”. “Florida” was some cockamamie spoken-word dream.”
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