Friday, 15 July 2011

Neil Young ‘The International Harvesters’ ‘A Treasure’ - REVIEW

In recent years on several occasions, I've been referred to as the 'English Neil Young' and, as life-long fan of the artiste, I wanted to review his latest release Neil Young, International Harvesters, ‘A Treasure’.

I was pleasantly surprised to see an official Neil Young track, Grey Riders, come onto Soundcloud (the brilliant free music-sharing and promotion website) a month ago. The tune sounding to me like NY & Crazy Horse meets Country with its fiddle and Weld-type electric-guitar leads. The song buzzes along at almost 6 minutes long with the last minute filled with a searing Les Paul scream. Neil sings about the dog howling in true Dogman style and that had my antennae up high. Listening to the song was enough to encourage me to buy the CD, Neil Young, International Harvesters, ‘A Treasure’ which I now realise is a live album from a 1985 tour. In truth, as I already own every official Neil Young album, I would have bought this soon anyway.
Here's my official review of Neil Young, International Harvesters,
‘A Treasure’.

The album opens with a live announcement ‘Here’s Neil Young’ and then kick starts with Amber Jean, which I read from one of my many Neil Young reference bibles, is a 1985 sentimental tribute to his daughter. The fiddle-driven song with Ben Keith’s lap steel backing track, sets the scene for what is obviously a Nashville-theme album that comes from a time when Neil Young took the International Harvesters on the road for two years.  The second track, a live version of a hoe-down song from the Harvest album, Are you ready for the Country has him telling us what this album is all about. Harvest is one of his many fans favourite NY albums but is hardly pure country. I think I needed to ‘be there’ to really appreciate Neil Young in this style. There is a very cool Rolling Stones ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ style lap-steel lead in there that really caught my ear. The next song is It might have been is a rare cover from Neil Young credited to Ronnie Green and Hamet Kane. I choose to pass on this standard country tune.

The next track Bound for Glory is a song Neil Young said was his favourite and which was, ‘Written on the back of his bus whilst rolling and having a couple of beers’. This was released on his Nashville album Old Ways (a record that freaked David Geffen out - who promptly sued him for making a record that was ‘uncharacteristically Neil Young’). I bought Old Ways on CD years ago to complete my collection but if I am brutally honest I rarely play it.
Bound for Glory is followed by a previously unreleased song first registered in 1984, Let your fingers do the walking, a jaunty country track where he bites back at technology. Described as uproarious composition in Johnny Rogan’s Neil Young biography Zero to Sixty, I would say it’s more typical of the throw away songs he writes.
What then follows is a sweet version of Flying on the ground is wrong, that is clearly in sharp contrast. This is a real favourite Buffalo Springfield song of mine (along with Broken Arrow), that first got me into Neil Young as a teenager listening to pirate broadcasters, Radio Caroline.
The album then picks up steam with a 1980 song, Motor City, first heard on the album Re-Ac-Tor (1981) and Soul of a woman. I discover Motor City was first played live at a gig I attended at NEC Birmingham UK in the 1983 during Trans Tour. I clearly remember the voice-coder tunes Sample and Hold and Computer age but I don’t remember this song. I can see Nils Loffgren bouncing onto stage via a trampoline. I seem to also remember great live versions of Like an Inca and Cortez the killer (from the cracking 1975 album Zuma - a Neil Young & Crazy Horse venture) and hearing a stomping, Like a Hurricane, another live favourite taken from his American Stars‘n Bars album but I can’t hear Motor City in my memory bank.
I should perhaps apologise for that previous ‘memory lane’ distraction and continue with my review of International Harvesters, ‘A Treasure. Next up is Get back to the country also from Old Ways but this is a ‘Pure Nashville’ tune that is completely blown away by Southern Pacific also from Re-AcTor. A twice-released B side to other songs, this tribute to North American trains, ‘on silver rails’, bounces along with banjo and twanging guitar (Crazy Horse providing backing) and this is probably my other favourite from this album.
Nothing is perfect another story song slows everything down. This comes from 1985 the same as Grey Riders, which finishes the album. I am not going to say this CD is up there with my Neil Young solo favourites like After the Goldrush, Zuma, Tonight’s the night, On the beach, Rust Never sleeps, Comes a time, Silver and Gold and Harvest Moon, but it reveals the genre of music that is probably closest to Neil Young’s old heart. We all know he can do grunge, epic songs and gentle acoustic tunes. In the end, to sum up my review of Neil Young, International Harvesters, ‘A Treasure’ all I can write is ‘what’s not to like musically about Neil Young?’ Having reinvented himself through the decades the country ghost is now inhabiting his alter ego.

If you enjoyed my review of Neil Young, International Harvesters, ‘A Treasure’, and are a true fan of the folk-country-Rock King, you might also like my music.  My new Dogman album, The cat that solved the String Theory (and other stories) released by Expat Records in May, includes Neil Young inspired tunes like Small acts of kindness.  See the official video for Small Acts of Kindness here

To hear more of my recorded material, check out my soundcloud page

I really don’t mind that they call me the English Neil Young. It’s a great compliment to link me with my all time solo musical inspiration. One day I am hoping to speak to him face to face and tell him about my tribute song - written for him, Like an Inca (forever young), to be released on my ‘Dogman goes ambient-electro’ in a side project, The Crossbreed.  Teaspoon, the lead singer in the fabulous Queen and Country band says this aspect of my music should be called ‘High Energy Ambient’, possible a new genre! A full length Crossbreed album is due to be released by Expat Records later this year.

David Sands aka Dogman July 2011


Small acts of kindness
Dogman explains how this song from his new album was inspired by real life sad stories

The photograph, taken by Dogman in the beautiful hill countryside close to his home, was not posed. The couple were simply enjoying the sunshine and the incredible view and were not aware a picture was being taken.
‘Small acts of kindness’, as an expression, was the inspiration behind an idea - not to use people’s names - but to use a phrase that would say everything about them. The song was first a simple Dogman poem that, when it was first read out loud, brought tears to his wife. She even insisted that it should remain as a poem and not become a song but Dogman could not resist suing it as a lyric. The song melody came quickly to him, in part inspired by the music of Neil Young, and was the subject of an emotion about bullying.
Dogman was saddened by the story of East Lancashire teenager Sophie Lancaster who was so brutally killed and her partner seriously injured when drunken youths attacked them in a park. All, can anyone really believe, because they were dressed in Goth-style clothes. That bullying can go on in school, in work, in relationships upsets Dogman because, like many children that experience a dysfunctional childhood, he was once bullied.
Small acts of Kindness which first appeared on the Dogman ‘The Whisperer’ album is loved at Dogman live concerts. It is often quoted as a favourite track on his new album when its theme is explained. Incidentally, the brief guitar lead is played by Dogman’s son, Jonathan Sands, a Liverpool based musician who was visiting the studio during a recording session. It’s played on Dogman’s favourite Guild acoustic. Friends, family and fans who bought his new album, ‘The cat that solved The String Theory’, have sent in photographs, many with dogs, cats and pets, with the album and these have been used in the Expat Records video which can be viewed here:

Saturday, 2 July 2011


We know how it ends (Let’s make a film of our lives)
Dogman explains how the happiest song from his new album turned into a fun studio session

Camera’s rolling - come on friends
Lights - action - we know how it ends!”

So starts this popular Dogman song, appropriately, the last main track on the Dogman album ‘The Cat that solved The String Theory’ has attracted many ‘happy track’ comments on Soundcloud. The banjo introduction was first brought into the arrangement in a Dogman-Mikans (The Crossbreed) demo when Mikans suggested a Sufjan Stevens feel to the song.

The song is again about Dogman’s love affair with his wife, “ You be Bergman I’ll be Tarantino,”  and playfully singing, Who plays me - who plays you and who rescues who?”

Martyn (studio producer) kept a small camera rolling throughout the various booth recordings and for the group-singing for the chorus, Let’s make a film of - our lives - we can dream it in colour - or dream it in black and white. Let’s make a film - of our lives.  First love, Happy - Tears - it’s our lives!”  The cast are listed in the video []. 

It is Matt Pawson, ace guitarist in the Dogman, who shouts ‘It’s a wrap!’ at the end of recording.