Keep on Rockin’ . . .

Oops, almost missed this one, but it’s still before midnight, so I guess we’re OK. Today is Neil Young‘s 64th birthday (if you’re reading this Thursday night).

In honor of this momentous occasion, we bring you Neil performing his biggest hit, when he was much younger than 64.

Great song. But I’m more partial to this. And this.%20And%20even%20this.

OK, time for some lists . . .

First of all, my five favorite artists of all-time: 1. Led Zeppelin; 2. Neil Young; 3. Beethoven; 4. Public Enemy; 5. Rolling Stones (or The Who or Bruce Springsteen, depending on my mood).

I had a chance to review a Neil Young concert a couple years back, and I hope the review appropriately defined what makes him such a significant artist:

Maybe it was during the sparse and haunting delivery of “After the Gold Rush.”
Maybe it arrived in the terse-yet-poignant notes of “The Loner.”

Maybe it came during the opening notes of “Cinnamon Girl,” with the seminal passion of a riveting guitar riff.

Whenever it was, there was an epiphany during Monday’s Neil Young concert at Keller Auditorium, and the epiphany was this: The secret to Young’s genius is his unrelenting humanity.

Sure, that might sound overly simplistic, and it might sound like a well-beaten cliche. But over the past 40 years, the underlying key to Neil Young has been his understanding of the human condition.

And now another list. Here are some songs I recommended along with the review in case you want to build your own Neil Young CD:

  1. “Mr. Soul” (1967): This isn’t Buffalo Springfield’s best song, but it has the heaviest Neil Young influence of any of their hits.

  2. “Cinnamon Girl” (1969): The most accessible of Young’s rockers, it remains a radio standard with an infectious riff.

  3. “Down by the River” (1969)

  4. “Cowgirl in the Sand” (1969): According to the liner notes from “Decade,” Young wrote “Down” and “Cowgirl” on the same day while suffering from a 103-degree temperature. And they sound as though he was drifting in and out of delirium. Both are extended, rambling, ethereal rockers, clocking in at more than nine minutes.

  5. “Southern Man” (1970): A bristling critique of racism, “Southern Man” led to one of the great answer songs in rock – Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.”

  6. “Ohio” (1970): The finest work of Young’s career, he wrote, played guitar and sang lead on this Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young meditation on the shootings at Kent State.

  7. “Heart of Gold” (1972): By far Young’s highest-charting single, this reached No. 1 on the pop charts.

  8. “Old Man” (1972): This plaintive generational ode ranks among Young’s most thoughtful songs.

  9. “Needle and the Damage Done” (1972): In this poignant acoustical number, Young explores the damages of drug use.

  10. “Sugar Mountain” (1977): A ballad about idyllic teenage years, Young wrote this when he was 19, but it didn’t appear on an album until the retrospective, “Decade.”

  11. “My, My, Hey, Hey (Out of the Blue)” (1979)

  12. “Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black)” (1979): On the concert album “Live Rust,” Young delivered an acoustic version and an electric version of the same song, long before MTV decided that having artists perform “unplugged” was a grand idea.

  13. “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989): After a decade of off- and-on experimental recordings, Young returned to straight-forward rocking.

  14. “Country Home” (1990): A year after returning to rock with “Freedom,” Young delivered “Ragged Glory.” The album lives up to its name, and it might as well have been a sequel to the earlier effort.

  15. “Bad Fog of Loneliness” (2007): Earlier this year, Young released an extraordinary live album that was recorded 36 years ago, “Live at Massey Hall 1971.” Along with many of his hits, it includes some previously unreleased songs such as this one.

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