Neil Young - Time Fades Away (1973)

Neil Young is a prolific Canadian singer-songwriter who has been releasing records since the 60s.

In 1972 Neil Young released his most successful album to date - Harvest. It gave him his only #1 hit with the single "Heart Of Gold". Importantly, this commercial success earned him a host of new fans. They were all eager for the follow-up to Harvest, but if they were expecting more accessible, mellow country-rock, they were about to be shocked and dissapointed. It was the first of numerous strange career moves that would alienate many of his fans, and requires a little background to understand.
Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten was on a downward spiral fuelled by drug abuse. He was ceasing to function as a musician, despite the efforts of his friends and bandmates. As Young prepared to go on tour in support of Harvest, he offered Whitten a place as rhythm guitarist to flesh out the Stray Gators. However Whitten struggled to learn the material and was obviously not functioning properly. He was too far gone. At last an infuriated Young sent him home, with $50 and a plane ticket back to LA. Later that same night Whitten overdosed on a mixture of valium and vodka, and died. Young was seriously shook up, and on the eve of the biggest tour of his career.
The tour proved to be a ramshackle affair, with Young and the rest of the band (pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, pianist Jack Nitzsche, bassist Tim Drummond and drummer Kenneth Buttrey) inebriated and squabbling. To make matters worse, Young got a throat infection and had trouble singing. He called in Crosby & Nash to help out on vocals, causing more friction within the band. Eventually Buttrey grew so frustrated he quit, and Johnny Barbata was called in to replace him for the rest of the tour. Young was playing new, darker songs, which were not welcomed by the fans who had come to hear him play the Harvest material.
Young's next record turned out to be a live album taken from the tour, featuring all new material. The dark themes, shaky performances and often poor sound quality did not go down well. Harvest II it was not. Many people thought Young had lost it right on the brink of hitting it big. Time Fades Away was actually just the beginning of a low period in Young's life, the first in the famed 'Ditch Trilogy' of albums.
However, time has allowed it the chance to be seen in a different light, and it is now highly regarded among Young fans, often cited by other artists as an inspiration. The loose, raw vibe it exudes arguably adds to its charm. Whichever way you see it, its a worthwhile album and an important chapter in the history of Young's life and his music.

Harvest (1972) <|> Tonight's The Night (1973)
More from Neil Young


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