Time To Face The Music: A Q&A with Nils Lofgren
To those less aware, it may seem odd to devote ten discs (including a DVD) and 169 tracks to an individual many know mostly as a sideman to the stars, albeit a stellar sideman at that. And while it’s true that Nils Lofgren is known mostly to the masses as a reliable sidekick — first for Neil Young in an early incarnation of Crazy Horse, and currently as chief foil for Bruce Springsteen in the E Street Band — it’s his lengthy solo career that’s clearly deserving of this extensive reexamination.
Consequently, credit the folks at Fantasy for giving Lofgren his due with the aptly entitled Face the Music. The music goes back to the beginning, some 40 plus years ago, with Lofgren at the helm of Grin and his subsequent tenure with an initial incarnation of Crazy Horse. However the bulk of the box spotlights a solo career that’s spawned such would-be, should-be classics as “Back It Up,” “Cry Tough,” “Shine Silently,” and perhaps the greatest paean to a fellow rocker ever written, “Keith Don’t Go” (the “Keith” in question bearing the surname “Richards.”) His associations with both Young and Springsteen serve as the crowning touches on his career, one worthy of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the other members of the E Street Band earlier this year.
We recently had a chance to talk with Lofgren from his home in Arizona and we took the opportunity to ask his thoughts on the box and his career.
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Nils Lofgren: Face The Music
Face the Music
4 out of 5 stars
Regardless of his many talents, it’s impossible to imagine this bulging nine CD (and one DVD) box existing if Nils Lofgren hadn’t spent the last few decades as one of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Band guitar sharpshooters. It’s still questionable why this beautifully packaged, detailed set with a 136 page book was given a green light when the Boss doesn’t even have a multi-disc comprehensive life spanning set. Nor do most other well deserving rock and rollers, although Neil Young seems to be trying.
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Song Premiere: Onward, Etc., “Crazy Horse”
The Song: “Crazy Horse”
The Band: Onward, Etc., a violin-toting punk band led by Rosco Wuestewald.
Fun Fact: Their new album, Sonder On boasts cameos from former members of Social Distortion, and Flogging Molly.
Songwriter Says: Get ready for a history lesson. “I recall as a young child growing up in Eastern South Dakota my father always taught me to stand up for myself and fight for what you love,” Wuestewald explains in an e-mail. “The way of life he taught me has stood the test of time and I still live by my fathers teachings. I wanted to write a song about just that but portray it in a different way. We used to vacation out West and spend time in Custer National Park and as a boy I remembered seeing the monument of ‘Crazy Horse’ and how beautiful it was. Later in life learning the story of The Battle Of The Little Big Horn I became even more inspired by this story. Crazy Horse led his army against 700 men in the U.S. Calvary. They were fighting for what they had loved. There land, there children, there beliefs and of course there life. The encroachment led them to become “crazy” and to stand up for themselves. This battle led to what is known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’ The courage inside this story reminded me of my father’s words and out spilled ‘Crazy Horse.’
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Billy Talbot Band: On The Road To Spearfish
Billy Talbot Band
On the Road to Spearfish
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Neil Young’s long time bass playing compadre in Crazy Horse isn’t the most prolific frontman; this is only his second solo album and it comes nearly a decade after his debut. It’s also a long way from sounding Crazy Horse-ish. Perhaps Talbot wanted to take a break from his full time job in the amps-to-11 Horse when he wrote these codeine laced songs enhanced by barely there drums heavily reliant on hushed tom toms and a funeral horn section with tempos best described as drugged out. But far from being a somnambulant ride, this is deeply affecting music which, when given a chance to sink in, displays Talbot’s heartfelt, emotional take on Americana.
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Neil Young: Psychedelic Pill
Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Rating: 3.5 stars
Like a mustang on the loose, it’s been difficult to contain Neil Young and Crazy Horse in the past year. Earlier in 2012, they released Americana, in which they put their own electric spin on classic folk songs and spirituals. Now they’re really running wild with Psychedelic Pill, an unhinged, jam-filled set that stretches over two discs even with only eight songs included.
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Great Quotations: Neil Young
Neil Young explains the impetus behind his new covers album, Americana:
I started this in about 1964, when I did the first five of the songs, and I was in a band back then, the Squires — before I even met [Stephen] Stills — and we did a lot of these kinds of songs. Never recorded them. And then I got together with Crazy Horse to make a record, and I just finished writing about that time with that band with this book that I’m writing, which is very random — part diary, part projection, part memoir, equal time for past, present, and future, all jumbled together. It comes and goes. So then I got back and went into the studio with Crazy Horse, and I didn’t have any songs of my own. So I said, “Why don’t we do these? I got a bunch of songs in my head, and we can just play them.” So we played them, and we had a great time.
Neil Young Readies New Concept Album Americana
Neil Young has teamed with his longtime band Crazy Horse for Americana, a new album of (mostly) American folk songs, dubbed Americana. The album, due out June 5 via Reprise Records, features songs like Tom Dooley, Oh Susannah, and “This Land Is Your Land,” as well as the British national anthem “God Save The Queen,” because hey, it’s Neil Young, and he does whatever he wants. Call it a nod to his punk rock roots (dating back to 1889, when the song was still sung on our shores.)