Neil Young: Homegrown (1975/2020)

In addition to releasing some of the must enduring albums of the 70s, Neil Young left behind a trail of legendary unreleased music. The notoriously prolific and peripatetic artist always seemed to be working on a number of projects with assorted band configurations (from CSNY to Crazy Horse to the Stray Gators to just Neil and his guitar/piano/harmonica). A number of times he'd abandon a project entirely, resurrecting stray songs for later releases. Some of his best albums are particularly interesting (or arguably frustrating?) because they sound cobbled together from multiple highly disparate sessions.  

Homegrown, recorded in 1974 and 1975, was one of the more elusive unreleased projects; unlike the better-known Chrome Dreams, for which multiple bootleg iterations existed, many of the presumed Homegrown tracks never leaked out. It was recorded during a particularly fruitful period, and Neil apparently viewed it as too downbeat and personal (it's largely a break-up album); though the album he chose to release in its stead, 1975's Tonight's The Night, ain't exactly puppies and buttercups, right?

Anyway, a mere 45 years late, it's finally here. And it's great. About half the tracks appeared on other albums or compilations (in the same or roughly similar versions), while half are brand new, making it a pretty essential pick-up for fans. It's a far more consistent-sounding album than some of his other work from the period, mostly restrained and acoustic, with the exception of a couple rockers -- the title track and the excellent, previously unheard "Vacancy." The gorgeous "Little Wing" soundd much better in this context than on the hit-and-miss Hawks & Doves, and the terrific "Love Is A Rose" and "Star of Bethlehem" (included in the Decade hits collection) finally find a compatible home. Of the "new" songs, "White Line" (previously heard in a live version) is stellar, as are the lovely, restrained Americana of "Separate Ways" and "Try." The bluesy, messy "We Don't Smoke It No More" sounds better suited for Tonight's the Night, but, hey, still a nice bit of fun in an otherwise often stark affair.

Homegrown slots in well with that great run of post-Harvest records, On The Beach and Tonight and Time Fades Away and Zuma, probably much closer to Harvest in sound than the others. Unlike the fantastic Hitchhiker release from a couple years back, another "lost" album which was made up largely of solo acoustic versions of songs that, at least in part, were repurposed for other albums, this one sounds like a proper 1970s Neil Young record that makes perfect sense in the decade's discography, rather than sounding like a collection of outtakes or demos.

Here's an audio rip of "Vacancy":
...and an audio rip of "White Line," performed live in 1976:
Here's a live "Love Is A Rose":