TC – 9 – Neil Young – Sleeps with Angels / Freedom

Tape Chronicles:


Yup, Neil Young again. I’m going to guess that I got most of my Neil Young out of me in the first ten tapes but hey, his catalog is massive so who knows. I know Weld has to be waiting for me, can’t wait.

I won’t’ be able to review this tape because while I have the Tape holder, I don’t have the tape. Probably in another tape holder, misplaced by foolish hands.

Luckily Amazon Prime has both of them so I can stream them to hear what my tape would have had to offer me.

Side A:  Sleeps with Angels

The album leads off My Heart, followed by Prime of Life. My Heart is a soft sweet song that would have felt in place on Harvest.

Sleeps with Angels is the fourth track, and as I heard it for the first time in years I remembered how grunge it sounded. A quick look at the Rolling Stone review reminded me that it was written for Kurt Cobain. This LP was released in 1994, Cobain committed suicide in April of 94, so Neil must have written and produced this fairly quickly after his death.  If I knew that Cobain referenced Neil Young in his suicide note I had forgotten. This is what Rolling Stone had to say:

APPARENTLY THEY missed each other by a matter of days. Early last April, Neil Young tried, through the usual managerial channels, to get in touch with Kurt Cobain. It was a gesture of concern and support following the Nirvana guitarist’s near-fatal drug overdose in Rome the previous month. But Cobain never got the message. Instead, he left behind one of his own, a suicide note of graphic pain and rambling logic that pointedly quoted one of Young’s most famous lyrics: It’s better to burn out/Than to fade away.
Young – who’s had plenty of experi- ence writing hymns for the dead and dying (Ohio, The Needle and the Damage Done, Tonight’s the Night) – surely never meant those words to be taken so literally. But “Sleeps With Angels,” written by Young in quick reply to Cobain’s ghastly misinterpretation and the centerpiece of this extraordinary new
album, is not a song of either grief-driven anger or stinging self-rebuke. On its surface, it’s startlingly matter-of-fact, a short, simple totem marking the loss with an almost paternal delicacy: She was a teen queen/She saw the dark side of life/She made things happen/But when he did it that night/She ran up phone bills/She moved around from town to town (too late/He sleeps with angels (too soon).”

Western Hero followed, and as the soft notes flowed around me, I remembered this song and how much I always liked it.

I don’t have the patience anymore for the fourteen minute Change Your Mind and skipped it after three. It is a good song, but I’ve never been much of a fan of long song treatments.

Enjoyed Train of Love

This is a good Neil Young LP, not a great one. Piece of Crap is a hoot because my wife went through her QVC stage and it drove me crazy, all the crap we acquired.  Still not a song I’d listen to again.


Side B: Freedom

Released in 1989 after eight years of Reagan and the beginning of the Bush era, Neil was not happy with the decade that had just been completed.

Freedom is the sound of Neil Young, another decade on, looking back again in anger and dread. The songs are populated by the walking wounded and littered with dashed hopes and drug paraphernalia. The ties that bind — faith, love, charity — are coming undone, and betrayal is the norm. Then Young throws all this hurt at you, and it hits like a bucket of ice water in the face. You register shock at first, then indignation and finally a kind of vengeful exhilaration. As with Rust and Everybody Knows — and with other contentious classics like On the Beach, Tonight’s the Night and Re*ac*tor — Neil Young’s tour of Freedom‘s wasteland leaves you feeling both exhausted and invigorated, dismayed at what we’ve wrought yet determined to set it right.

The LP opens with an acoustic version of “Rocking in the Free World” and ends with an electric version of the same song. They are both dynamite and offer the best of Neil Young from both spectrums.

I love this LP from beginning to end.  Unlike “Sleeps with Angels” I must have listened to this LP over and over because as each song came up on the playlist, it washed memories over me that could only happen with repeated listening.  Might be one of my favorite Neil Young albums.



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