Time Fades Away (no label)
Time Fades Away, Journey Through The Past, Yonder Stands The Sinner, L.A., Love In Mind, Don’t Be Denied, The Bridge, Last Dance, Last Trip To Tulsa
Neil Young collectors speak about the live album Time Fades Away in almost reverential tones. Since it has never been released on compact disc and is not currently available, it is referred to as a “holy grail.” When it was released in October 1973 critics lavished praise for its sheer naked emotion and the gall that precedes it. Most live albums serve as catalogue filler, something to sell while waiting for new product, and usual contain live duplicates of the hits.
This album breaks that mould. It features all new material with a new band (The Stray Gators) just starting to jell. Young’s voice is weak leading him to enlist David Crosby and Graham Nash to lend backing vocals. And the context of the tour, following the overdose death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, was the impetus for frayed nerves and songs dripping with depression and cynicism.
Young has said, “My least favorite record is Time Fades Away. I think it’s the worst record I ever made – but as a documentary of what was happening to me, it was a great record. I was onstage and I was playing all these songs that nobody had heard before, recording them, and I didn’t have the right band. It was just an uncomfortable tour. It was supposed to be this big deal – I just had Harvest out, and they booked me into ninety cities.”
In 1996 Reprise planned on finally giving an official release on HDCD and some copies of the compact disc were actually pressed and promo copies were distributed to select radio stations before it is pulled for reasons unexplained. There are currently no plans to release it and even a two and a half year, ten-thousand signature online petition hasn’t swayed either Young or Reprise to budge from their position.
The dislike of the album is such that these songs have been ignored on greatest hit collections like Decade and only two, “Journey Through The Past” and “Don’t Be Denied,” were ever played after 1973. It is this considerable void this new no-label release fills.
A previous release is Time Fades Away / Chrome Dreams (CD XY207), but the new release use one of the HDCD discs as it source and the sound quality is simply phenomenal. It contains all of the songs and also includes “Last Trip To Tulsa,” the B-side to the single “Time Fades Away” (Reprise 1184). The bonus is copied from a vinyl copy and the sound quality isn’t up to the standards of the rest.
Most of the songs were recorded during the sixty three date, three month tour in early 1973 Harvest tour except for “Love In Mind,” which comes from the January 30th, 1971 show at UCLA in Los Angeles on the Journey Through The Past tour.
The Stray Gators, who effectively replaced Crazy Horse on the tour, consisted of Ben Keith (steel and slide guitars), Tim Drummund (bass) and Jack Nitzsche (piano). Drummer Kenny Buttrey played from the beginning of the tour through the February 15th show in Louisville. Johnny Barbata replaced Buttrey when he asked for more money! Barbata’s first show was on February 18th Baton Rouge, which is also the date of the recording for “Last Trip To Tulsa.”
The first song “Time Fades Away” comes from the March 1st show at The Myriad in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This ballad of drug addiction has a vague narrative with “fourteen junkies / too weak to work” being reduced in the final verse to “thirteen junkies.” Did the one escape, or did he die?
“Journey Through The Past” comes from the February 11th, 1973 show in Cleveland. The performance features Young alone at the piano and was played on the solo tour two years before. “Yonder Stands The Sinner” was recorded on March 17th, 1973 in Seattle and features Crosby and Nash on backing vocals. The band punctuates the self-accusatory lyrics with howls and Young himself shouts out “SINNER!!” in the songs final verse.
“L.A.” is taken from the same show as the title track on the album. “Don’t Be Denied” was recorded on March 28 in Phoenix and again features Crosby and Nash on background vocals. This cynical autobiography was also a regular inclusion on the Trans tour in 1983. “The Bridge” is a pretty piano based ballad written about the same time as “Journey Through The Past.” The song, which gave the name to Young’s school in California, was played only three times. The first was on February 27th, 1971 and the final is this one on April 1st, 1973 in Sacramento. It is a rare upbeat song and serves as an uplifting prelude to the finale song on the album.
“Last Dance” dates from the March 29th show in San Diego recalls the daily hassles of repetitive jobs answered by a coda that contains repetitive “no’s” chanted over a constant back riff. With Crosby and Nash on backing vocals, it is a tour-de-force reaching almost nine minutes long. This is packaged in a simple jewel case with a reproduction of the Joel Bernstein photo on the front with no indication of any label. The bottom line is that this is one of the most raw, brutal, and honest albums in the Neil Young catalogue and until it is officially released, this version is very much worth having.