|Year of release
“This album is the unheard bridge between Harvest and Comes a Time”. That’s the way the album is characterized. An album Neil Young wanted to release in 1975, following the impressive On The Beach, but was replaced by the equally great Tonight’s The Night.
Neil Young is working on his archives, which has led to multiple impressive releases, like the phenomenal Live At Massey Hall 1971, Dreamin’ Man Live ’92, A Treasure and Hitchhiker. Beautiful releases containing historic (mostly live) recordings. And now Homegrown sees the light of day, an album Young didn’t release at the time. Luckily he changed his mind, because even though some songs have been previously released, they have never been put out in these pure, at times naked versions, in the way it was originally intended.
At the end of 2019 Neil Young wrote about the upcoming release of Homegrown
I apologize. This album Homegrown should have been there for you a couple of years after Harvest. It’s the sad side of a love affair. The damage done. The heartache. I just couldn’t listen to it. I wanted to move on. So I kept it to myself, hidden away in the vault, on the shelf, in the back of my mind… but I should have shared it. It’s actually beautiful. That’s why I made it in the first place. Sometimes life hurts. You know what I mean. This is the one that got away. Recorded in analog in 1974 and early 1975 from the original master tapes and restored with love and care by John Hanlon. Levon Helm is drumming on some tracks, Karl T Himmel on others, Emmylou Harris singing on one, Homegrown contains a narration, several acoustic solo songs never even published or heard until this release and some great songs played with a great band of my friends, including Ben Keith – steel and slide – Tim Drummond – bass and Stan Szelest – piano. Anyway, it’s coming your way in 2020, the first release from our archive in the new decade. Come with us into 2020 as we bring the past.
Among Neil Young aficionados Homegrown is known as “the holy grail” of all unreleased albums. Neil Young has been hinting at the album’s release for a long time now. Fans have been hoping for its release for decades, so when Neil Young announced on his own neilyoungarchives in April of 2019, many were excited: “The real ‘Homegrown’ album is coming out after Tuscaloosa” (*). But, many were skeptical, for Young has a track record in withdrawing former announcements.
As far back as 2010, Young announced that Homegrown was to be “rebuilt” for inclusion in Young’s ongoing Archives project. It is said that Homegrown was part of a new batch in the NYA Special Release Series, consisting of Chrome Dreams, Homegrown and Oceanside-Countryside, three previously unreleased studio albums. According to rumor the live recording Odeon-Budokan was part of the same series.
In January 2020 Young published an image of a test pressing of Homegrown, on which a note by Reprise Records was stuck saying “This album is incredible!”, accompanied by a comment by Young: “this is the first time in our 50 years working together that I have ever received a test pressing with a message like this”.
Momentum was built expertly and the release had a tentative release date: the international Record Store Day on April 18th, 2020. When the event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the date was set to June 19th, 2020.
* Tuscaloosa is a live album released on June 17th, 2019. Also an archival release, the album contains recordings of a concert played on February 5th, 1973.
So, what’s the story of Homegrown? In 1973 Neil Young had recorded an album called Tonight’s The Night, which he could release instantly, yet he hesitated.
Next he recorded the phenomenal On The Beach, which was released in July of 1974. 1974 was a busy year, after recording On The Beach in the spring he reconvened for a new Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album. The sessions led to nothing, and the group subsequently left for an elaborate summer world tour playing in stadiums.
After the tour Young started recording sessions for yet another new album. Partially recorded at his own Broken Arrow ranch and Village Studios in Los Angeles, the core of the recordings took place at the Quadraphonic Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee in December 1974 and January 1975.
Young’s output was huge. His marriage to actress Carrie Snodgress was falling apart, which inspired him greatly. So much so, that Young said: “It was a little too personal…it scared me”. Many of the initial recordings were acoustic, but the album also contains contributions by members of The Band and musicians that also played on Harvest.
All signs were ago, even the cover design was ready, until one evening Young organized a listening session. The tapes also contained the recordings for Tonight’s The Night. He changed his mind. He opted for releasing Tonight’s The Night, due to “its overall strength in performance and feeling” and in hindsight he thought Homegrown “was just a very down album”. A rather remarkable quote, as Tonight’s The Night is still one of the saddest and most distressing releases of all time.
Since then not much was heard of Homegrown. Five songs were culled from the album that appeared on subsequent Neil Young albums, of which two were re-recorded. Several songs have been played live as well, starting to appear in setlists some 20 years after initially recording them.
It’s astounding to realize just how much fantastic Neil Young material hasn’t been released yet. Just like the release of the equally beautiful Hitchhiker illustrated, Young was in rare form during the 1970s. His music had something to say and was deeply moving. As is the case on this album as well. A must-have for Neil Young fans and general music lovers alike. Highly recommended!
All songs written by Neil Young.
- Separate Ways
- Love Is A Rose
- We Don’t Smoke It No More
- White Line
- Little Wing
- Star Of Bethlehem
- Neil Young – guitar, harmonica, piano, wine glass, narrator, vocals
- Ben Keith – pedal steel guitar, lap slide guitar, dobro, wine glass, narrator, background vocals
- Tim Drummond – bass, background vocals
- Levon Helm – drums
- Karl T Himmel – drums
- Robbie Robertson – guitar
- Emmylou Harris – background vocals
- Mazzeo – background vocals
- Stan Szelest – piano, Wurlitzer piano
- Joe Yankee – piano
The album is dedicated to Carrie Snodgress: for Carrie.
It seems some more interesting releases are planned for this year. Hopefully we’ll live to witness them soon.
Do you know this Neil Young album yet? What do you think? Let me know!