There are phases to being a Neil Young fan. There are the giant songs you first hear. Helpless, Ohio, Old Man or Heart of Gold. These you could have heard of classic rock radio anytime during the last 40 years. That might draw you into CSNY or Harvest or After the Gold Rush beautiful folksy music that sounds as great today as it did when it sold millions of copies. That might lead you to the rest of the 70’s where he is trying to find meaning through his music, trying to account for a world filled with addiction, Vietnam, lost friends, and what fame at a certain level really is. These records are beautiful and an artistic peak, but also bleak and permeated with sadness. This brings you to the 1980’s where he experiments with different sounds and ideas. A mishmash of many things come to the forefront. Again he is a man attempting to find meaning in a world gone mad. Watch the movie he wrote, directed and starred in 1982 ‘Human Highway’ if you want to see a man trying to figure things out in real time. That brings me to his newly released live record from 1990 Way Down In The Rust Bucket recorded before the Ragged Glory tour as a warm up in Santa Clara. The record itself is a loose meandering affair consisting of songs mainly from the same time period. It isn’t what you would call a tight performance, but it sounds great in the disjointed way that only Crazy Horse can. In 1990 Neil Young and Crazy Horse had something that was often missing in the past. Joy. The performance isn’t confrontational or elegy. It is joyous. Sure there are songs of a darker tone like Cortez the Killer, but the man and the band sound like they have come out of the dark. I suppose that is why it is my favorite Neil Young period. I am grateful to have this live recording from it.
Gene G. McLaughlin 2021