NEIL YOUNG is out there in the wilderness, travelling on his bus back towards his Canadian homeland. This literal journey into his past also seems a suitable metaphor for Young’s peripatetic 2022. Over the past 12 months, this most capricious of musicians has hurtled backwards and forwards through his history and the present day – from 1970s ‘bootlegs’ via mythic lost albums and powerful new recordings with his doughty lieutenants Crazy Horse before arriving, finally, at a 50th-anniversary edition of his celebrated album Harvest. In this exclusive interview, Young – accompanied by Crazy Horse and producer Rick Rubin – looks back over a prolific year and attempts to make sense of the different, sometimes contradictory Neil Youngs who have emerged along the way. “I got a lot of stuff to clean up,” he tells Damien Love. “I’ve got a big mess that I left behind”, in the latest issue of Uncut magazine – in UK shops from Thursday, December 8 and available to buy from our online store.
Neil Young is out there somewhere. The only problem is, nobody seems to know where. Two minutes before Uncut is due to meet Young on Zoom to talk over his astonishingly productive 2022, there’s a call from his team. “Neil asks can we put it back a little? He’s driving right now.”
No problem. Whereabouts is he?
“Yeah… Not actually sure.”
Some hours later, another of Young’s ground crew struggles heroically – but in vain – to hook up a connection. As various technical options are attempted then aborted, Uncut asks where Neil is right now?
“Uh, East Coast somewhere… I think.”
Eventually, we’re given the number of the phone Young carries in his pocket – a device, as he will later explain, that was fundamental in the creation of his remarkable new album,
World Record, his 42nd studio album and, significantly, the third he’s made in a row now with his most redoubtable collaborators, Crazy Horse. With a sudden quickening of pace, World Record has arrived less than 12 months after their previous album, Barn. In the stubborn on-off partnership that has endured for over half a century – and bears all the scars and passion to prove it – it’s the first time Young has ever gone into the studio with the band three times back-to-back like this.
“Yeah,” nods Horse bass player Billy Talbot when that’s put to him a few days later. He leans forward, raises his eyebrows. “Interesting, huh?”
The number works. Young is finally there, the sounds of the highway swishing by him. But where exactly is he?
“Where I am? I’m in Canada. I’m on my bus, in Canada.”
Not East Coast USA after all, then, but on the road, heading into the mythic landscape of his childhood. Hearing him say it – especially while considering World Record’s cover, which features a striking photograph of his father, the writer Scott Young, in earlier days – instantly brings to mind one of Young’s most fragile and forlorn songs: “Now I’m goin’ back to Canada, on a journey through the past”.
In one way, that’s what much of 2022 has been for Young, as he has continued the herculean project of wrangling his sprawling archive into an order that satisfies him, both at his extraordinary, ever-evolving online repository – neilyoungarchives.com – and via a series of physical releases. This year alone, in addition to making World Record, Young has issued four historical live albums – two from 1971, one from 1974, one from 2019; resurrected 1989’s hair-raisingly brilliant Eldorado EP, a maelstrom of electric guitar originally released only in Japan; and, at long last, revealed Toast, an album he cut with Crazy Horse back in 2000 and then immediately shelved, for clouded reasons. Unveiled 22 years later, it turns out to be one of the most magnificent things they’ve ever done.
“I knew Toast was great,” Young concedes. “I knew it would come out someday.
I mean – we finished it, y’know. We cared enough about it to finish it. So that says something right there. But it just didn’t seem, like, important for it to come out at that time. Or it would have.”
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