You can get ON THE BEACH here also, if you are wanting the complete trilogy. -Ian!
Anyone who has followed Neil Young’s career knows enough not to expect a simple evening of mellow good times when they see him in concert, but in 1973, when Young hit the road after Harvest had confirmed his status as a first-echelon rock star, that knowledge wasn’t nearly as common as it is today. Young’s natural inclinations to travel against the current of audience expectations were amplified by a stormy relationship between himself and his touring band, as well as the devastating death of guitarist Danny Whitten, who died of a drug overdose shortly after being given his pink slip during the first phase of tour rehearsals. The shows that followed turned into a nightly exorcism of Young’s rage and guilt, as well as a battle between himself and an audience who, expecting to hear “Old Man” and “Heart of Gold,” didn’t know what to make of the electric assault they witnessed. All the more remarkably, Young brought along a mobile recording truck to capture the tour on tape for a live album and the result, Time Fades Away, was a ragged musical parade of bad karma and road craziness, opening with Young bellowing “14 junkies, too weak to work” on the title cut, and closing with “Last Dance,” in which he tells his fans “you can live your own life” with all the optimism of a man on the deck of a sinking ship. While critics and fans were not kind to Time Fades Away upon first release, decades later it sounds very much of a piece with Tonight’s the Night and On the Beach, albums that explored the troubled zeitgeist of America in the mid-’70s in a way few rockers had the courage to face. If the performances are often loose and ragged, they’re also brimming with emotional force, and despite the dashed hopes of “Yonder Stands the Sinner” and “Last Dance,” “Don’t Be Denied” is a moving remembrance of Young’s childhood and what music has meant to him, and it’s one of the most powerful performances Young ever committed to vinyl. Few rockers have been as willing as Young to lay themselves bare before their audience, and Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.
Written and recorded in 1973 shortly after the death of roadie Bruce Berry, Neil Young’s second close associate to die of a heroin overdose in six months (the first was Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten), Tonight’s the Night was Young’s musical expression of grief, combined with his rejection of the stardom he had achieved in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The title track, performed twice, was a direct narrative about Berry: “Bruce Berry was a working man/He used to load that Econoline van.” Whitten was heard singing “Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown,” a live track recorded years earlier. Elsewhere, Young frequently referred to drug use and used phrases that might have described his friends, such as the chorus of “Tired Eyes,” “He tried to do his best, but he could not.” Performing with the remains of Crazy Horse, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina, along with Nils Lofgren (guitar and piano) and Ben Keith (steel guitar), Young performed in the ragged manner familiar from Time Fades Away — his voice was often hoarse and he strained to reach high notes, while the playing was loose, with mistakes and shifting tempos. But the style worked perfectly for the material, emphasizing the emotional tone of Young’s mourning and contrasting with the polished sound of CSNY and Harvest that Young also disparaged. He remained unimpressed with his commercial success, noting in “World on a String,” “The world on a string/Doesn’t mean anything.” In “Roll Another Number,” he said he was “a million miles away/From that helicopter day” when he and CSN had played Woodstock. And in “Albuquerque,” he said he had been “starvin’ to be alone/Independent from the scene that I’ve known” and spoke of his desire to “find somewhere where they don’t care who I am.” Songs like “Speakin’ Out” and “New Mama” seemed to find some hope in family life, but Tonight’s the Night did not offer solutions to the personal and professional problems it posed. It was the work of a man trying to turn his torment into art and doing so unflinchingly. Depending on which story you believe, Reprise Records rejected it or Young withdrew it from its scheduled release at the start of 1974 after touring with the material in the U.S. and Europe. In 1975, after a massive CSNY tour, Young at the last minute dumped a newly recorded album and finally put Tonight’s the Night out instead. Though it did not become one of his bigger commercial successes, the album immediately was recognized as a unique masterpiece by critics, and it has continued to be ranked as one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made.
-Mark Deming, William Ruhlmann, allmusic.com