Album review: Neil Young – Songs For Judy

The album cover for Neil Young's Songs for Judy.

The album cover for Neil Young's Songs for Judy. - Credit: Archant

Does anyone need another Neil Young live album? Well, yes as it happens…

Young had spent much of 1976 on tour with Crazy Horse, but still managed to record an album that gathered dust for more than four decades and squeeze in a solo acoustic tour that November, from which this 22-song set of old favourites and new material is culled.

The opening track is a rambling address that gives the album its name, Young revealing legendary singer and actress Judy Garland was at his show earlier that day, before delivering a finger-picked rendition of the booze, drugs and love-fest Too Far Gone (some 13 years before it appears on Freedom).

Several songs have only seen release on the exhaustive Archive boxed set or other Archive Performance Series albums, while three are from Hitchhiker, itself recorded just three months before these concerts and only released last year – Reprise execs thought it didn’t pass muster without a band.

He clearly had other ideas, even if it took decades to prove it to those who missed the tour. To a clearly up-for-it crowd, Young delivers a pleasingly raw version of Harvest on acoustic guitar, and offers sprightly finger-picked banjo and harmonica in Mellow My Mind.

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The one unreleased song here, the searching and wonderfully melancholy No One Seems To Know, is performed on piano and a worthy inclusion to Young’s embarrassingly overstuffed canon.

Human Highway, which first surfaced with full backing band and chorus on 2016’s Earth, is here a looser and more playful version on banjo, rapturously received by the crowd.

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He misjudges A Man Needs A Maid – the graceful strings and dramatic brass are replaced with a grating Hammer Horror-style organ – but the rest capture the warmth and charm of Young at his best.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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