mon 15/08/2022

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Toast | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Toast

Album: Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Toast

Disinterred breakup blues is Neil at his emotional best

'A complete, conjured emotional place, Young and his faithful band in equilibrium as he confesses his wracked position'

Neil Young put Toast to one side in 2001, dismayed at its blue emotional terrain. Depicting his marriage to Pegi Young hanging by a thread, it was recorded with Crazy Horse in San Francisco’s Toast studio, where Coltrane once worked, but rats now crept in from the alley. “Toast was so sad that I… couldn’t handle it,” Young said recently, its sound “murky and dark”.

Dumped with his many “lost” albums, Toast now joins Homegrown (taped 1975, released 2020) and Hitchhiker (1976, 2017) in a restored discography. Convening Booker T and The MG’s and Horse guitarist “Poncho” Sampedro in a different studio, half Toast’s songs were anyway retaped on Are You Passionate? (2002), which 9/11 turned into an album about his hippie generation – marriages faltering, kids leaving home – in a still more embattled nation.

Are You Passionate? remains hugely underestimated by Young fans. Toast, though, is something else. Like Dylan’s Blood On the Tracks, it’s a breakup album foreshadowing the final break (Young divorced Pegi in 2014; she died in 2019). Unlike bilious Bob, Young takes the recriminating hit himself, a fuck-up pleading for another chance. Crazy Horse match every sorrowful step, with late-night, rueful, jazzy grunge.

“Quit” lilts, a soul reverie of mellow piano and rhythm guitar even before the MG’s reshaped it. Pegi Young is among the backing singers responding, “Don’t say you love me” as her husband states his case. “Standing in the Light of Love” is a stray shard of hard rock, pleading: “I don’t wanna get personal, or have you put me on the spot.” “Goin’ Home” was the sole Toast take on Are You Passionate? and a Horse epic, full of urgent, transforming visions, ranging from Custer’s Last Stand to modern betrayals, Young driven to his destination by war-dance drums, buffeted and blown on by the music.

“Gateway to Love” then adopts a Latin shuffle and twang – Santana meets Link Wray – as Young deepens his bereft theme. “If I could live my life as easy as a song,” he sighs, “I’d wake up some day, and the pain would all be gone.” This is music that states it isn’t enough. Paradise, too, is rejected, as Young elects to fight for love in the flawed here and now, his solo’s long, stately waltz its own compelling plea.

The sombrely unfolding electric chords of “How Ya Doin’?” recall Young’s first statement of disaffection, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969). “Let’s say you’ve got a habit, let’s say it’s hard to break,” he murmurs, talking straight. “Let’s say we’ve got to do something, before it’s just too late.” His piano and guitar ring with pain, as his wife’s harmonies whisper in his ear, and he all but gives up. Crazy Horse’s rhythm section keep pace, ploughing down a Sisyphean path. “Let’s say it’s not over, till it’s over,” is the best Young can find, temporary cessation in a tenderly wounded landscape.

Often vague or judderingly on the nose in his subsequent prolific, patchy 21st century, this music is a complete, conjured emotional place, Young and his faithful band in equilibrium as he confesses his wracked position. As his current release schedule bends and twists time, it connects with “They Might Be Lost” and “Welcome Back”, the ineffable mysteries on Neil and Crazy Horse’s new album, Barn. As with the beauty Toast mined from his pain, this cumulatively confirms that Neil Young goes on.

Young is driven to his destination by war-dance drums, buffeted and blown on by the music

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters