Neil Young + Stray Gators from the album Tuscaloosa available on Reprise Records (by Steve Matteo)
Neil Young continues to issue previously unreleased material from his massive Neil Young Archives. Tuscaloosais the twelfth release from his archives and the fourth in what’s called the Performance Series. The music for the album was recorded in February of 1973 and is very much a companion piece to his 1973 album Time Fades Away. The performances that eventually made it to that release came later in the Time Fades Awaytour and unlike this new release didn’t feature drummer Kenny Buttrey. Buttrey was eventually replaced by Johnny Barbata. The rest of the group consisted of bassist Tim Drummond, pedal and slide guitarist Ben Keith and legendary arranger and producer Jack Nitsche on piano. The Stray Gators also included pianist Spooner Oldham in a later incarnation of the group. It’s sad to note that other than Young and Oldham, the other members of the group have passed on.
Tuscaloosa (Live) came amidst a rapidly changing musical evolution for Young. Before Time Fades Awaythere was Neil Young’s most accessible and popular album Harvest(1972) and the more obscure soundtrack album Journey Through the Past(1972). After Times Fades Away were the more straightforwardOn the Beach(1974) and one of his more edgy, idiosyncratic and critically acclaimed albums, Tonight’s the Night(1975). Tuscaloosa (Live) oddly features the more stripped-down approach of Harvest,while subtly pre-figuring what was to come on Tonight’s the Night.The album includes five songs from Harvest. From Time Fades Awayare the title cut and “Don’t Be Denied.” “Lookout Joe” and “New Mama” are from Tonight’s the Night. The album opens with “Here We Are in the Years” from his debut solo album and also includes the title track from After the Gold Rush(1970),which both fit nicely with this material.
It is interesting to note that only three of the 12 releases in the archive series weren’t originally recorded in the 60’s or 70’s, with the most recent release originally recorded in 1992 and the other two from the 1980’s. While some have wondered why Young didn’t include all the material from this concert (some recordings had technical issues and some Young didn’t like), this is another welcome archive release. It also adds further context to another key phase in his watershed 70’s evolution.
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