Neil Young, On The Beach (1974)

Ask me to name the best Neil Young album, and my answer will depend on when you ask.  Sunday morning?  Definitely kicking back with After The Gold Rush.  Saturday night? Raving up with Zuma.  (Or, if I'm feeling a little schizophrenic and can't figure out what kind of mood I'm in, there's always the half-acoustic, half-electric Rust Never Sleeps.)

But nearly as great, yet seemingly often denied its due, is On The Beach.  Presumably this is due at least in part to it being largely out of print for the first few decades of the digital era.  Plus it was closely followed by the tight, somewhat more commercial Zuma and the brooding, intense Tonight's the Night, which could definitely lead to the more varied-sounding Beach kinda getting lost in the mix.

But it's the variety which makes this one so interesting.  You get the downright poppy "Walk On" leading things off, followed by the gorgeous ballad "See the Sky About to Rain," and then the dark, rocking "Revolution Blues," which sets Charles Manson to music.  As a three-song opener, it's pretty remarkable.

Towards the back-end, you get the slow and moody title trap, wrapping up with the extended folk rock journey "Ambulance Blues."  (In between are some lesser Neil tracks I can do without.)

I may not reach for it as often as some of those other albums, but it's got as many timeless Neil classics as many of his better-known albums and is definitely one that merits more attention.

Here's a lovely, sprawling acoustic performance of "Ambulance Blues," with backup from R.E.M. (I was there, it was awesome!):

Here's a more recent performance of "Revolution Blues":

Buy it on Amazon.