[Review] Neil Young: After The Gold Rush (1970)

A journey through darkness with moments of sweetness, and some of the best songs over his long career.

Kronomyth 3.0: I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

Lemonade. That’s what Neil Young has made here. Not the life-hands-you-lemons kind, but the mix of tartness and sweetness in the music. It quenches your thirst and leaves you thirsty for more. It also stands as one of two unquestionably brilliant albums that Neil Young has made, Harvest being the other.

The genesis for many of these songs comes from the screenplay to a film that was never made, written by the actor Dean Stockwell and Herb Bermann (Safe As Milk). Other songs were written from Young’s life experiences (Only Love Can Break You Heart is said to be about Graham Nash’s breakup with Joni Mitchell). Again featuring members of Crazy Horse but credited only to Young, After The Gold Rush is an even better record than his last, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, with a more relaxed, countrified sound that invites comparison to Bob Dylan and The Band. Despite being recorded during Young’s association with Crosby, Stills & Nash, few songs recall his work with the group. Southern Man is in line with “Ohio,” a cover of Don Gibson’s Oh, Lonesome Me is similar to “Helpless,” and the opening Tell Me Why would have worked well in the context of CS&N.

The first thing you’ll notice when listening to this album is the quality of the songwriting. After The Goldrush, “Southern Man” and Don’t Let It Bring You Down all became AOR staples, and they weren’t even the singles. Like fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell, Young can speak volumes with just piano or acoustic guitar accompaniment. You get the impression that Canada breeds lonely, thoughtful artists. Both sides end with playful confections, glimpses into a lighter side before Neil Young draws the blinds on them: Till The Morning Comes and Cripple Creek Ferry. The latter might be the best idea The Band never had.

Neil’s third is also marked by profoundly sad and pretty songs: “After The Goldrush,” “Oh, Lonesome Me,” “Don’t Let It Bring You Down.” Young, like Mitchell, is a student of his surroundings. He sympathizes with lost souls and broken hearts and gives them a voice. Voices also play an important role on the album in the form of multi-part harmonies, which is where much of the sweetness comes in.

Nashville Skyline, Blue and this album all owe their power to one source: the solo artist. Danny Whitten, Greg Reeves, Ralph Molina and Nils Lofgren (whom Young assigned to the piano) are all top-notch accompanists, they just get lost in low-key arrangements. After The Gold Rush is raw, unadulterated Young. Prettified maybe, a bit contrived, yet the singular work of a single genius. No one else could have made an album like this, but that somebody had to seems obvious today. A world without this record breaks down eventually, parched for justice, unbearable heavy, bitter but not better for it. Neil Young makes the darkness bearable on After The Gold Rush by shining a light into it.

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Original elpee version

A1. Tell Me Why (2:54)
A2. After The Gold Rush (3:45)
A3. Only Love Can Break Your Heart (3:05)
A4. Southern Man (5:41)
A5. Till The Morning Comes (1:17)
B1. Oh, Lonesome Me (Don Gibson) (3:47)
B2. Don’t Let It Bring You Down (2:56)
B3. Birds (2:34)
B4. When You Dance I Can Really Love (3:44)
B5. I Believe In You (2:24)
B6. Cripple Creek Ferry (1:34)

All songs written by Neil Young unless noted.

Original 8-track version
A1. After The Gold Rush
A2. Till The Morning Comes
A3. Oh, Lonesome Me
B1. Tell My Why
B2. Southern Man
C1. Only Love Can Break Your Heart
C2. When You Dance I Can Really Love
C3. Crippled Creek Ferry
D1. Don’t Let It Bring You Down
D2. Birds
D3. I Believe In You

The Players

Neil Young (vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica, vibes), Nils Lofgren (piano, vocals), Ralph Molina (drums, vocals), Jack Nitzsche (piano), Greg Reeves (bass), Steve Stills (vocals), Billy Talbot (bass), Danny Whitten (guitar, vocals). Produced by Neil Young and David Briggs with Kendall Pacios.

The Pictures

Patches by Susan Young. Art direction by Gary Burden. Photography by Joel Bernstein.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette, 8-track and reel-to-reel tape on September 19, 1970 in the US, Australia and Canada (Reprise, RS/M5/M8/RST 6383 B), the UK (Reprise, RSLP 6383) and Greece (Reprise, RS 0314) with lyrics insert; reached #8 on the US charts (RIAA-certified 2x platinum record) and #7 on the UK charts. Ranked #74 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

  1. Re-issued on cassette and 8-track in the UK (Reprise, K4/Y8K8 44088).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1975 in Italy (Reprise, W 44088) with lyrics insert.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Reprise, P-10119 R) with gatefold cover.
  4. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in August 1977 in the US (Reprise, MSK/M5 2283) and Germany (Reprise, REP 44 088) with lyrics insert.
  5. Re-issued on cassette in Australia (Reprise, 61068-4).
  6. Re-packaged with Harvest on 2-for-1 cassette in 1982 in the US and New Zealand (Reprise, 4-23715).
  7. Re-packaged with Harvest on 2-for-1 cassette in the UK (WEA, K 464 044) [made in Germany].
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in June 1987 in the US (Reprise, 2283-2) and Germany (Reprise, 27243-2).
  9. Re-issues on compact disc on August 25, 1988 in Japan (Reprise, 20P2-2092).
  10. Re-released on remastered high-definition compact disc on July 14, 2009 in the US (Reprise, 517936-2) and remastered compact disc in 2009 in Europe (49790-1).

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