Album Review – NEIL YOUNG – Hitchhiker (Repise Records)
Review by Geoff Jenke
Is Neil Young rocks most prolific artist? Since 1969 he has released 38 Studio albums, 8 Live albums, 3 compilations, 4 Soundtrack albums, one album with Stephen Stills and six Archive series albums. Of course, this doesn’t include releases with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. He is even rumoured to have recorded but not released, eleven other albums during the 1970’s and 80’s. Most artist don’t release this many albums in their whole career. He has been honoured also with over 20 Tribute albums.
Hitchhiker is the thirty-eighth studio album released by Neil Young but is not a new album in the true sense of the word. It was originally recorded in a single night on August 11, 1976 with just Neil and producer David Briggs. Most of the songs on this album have appeared on later albums, albeit from different sessions. Two songs, Hawaii and Give Me Strength make their first appearance.
Neil’s last great album was Psychedelic Pill (with his sometimes-backing band Crazy Horse). Since then his releases have been patchy to say the least. His last effort, 2016’s Peace Trail would rank as one of his worst albums ever.
Thankfully Hitchhiker restores peace with the Neil universe.
The album opens with Pocahontas and was recorded in just 20 minutes. It is probably the best version of the song ever recorded. Powderfinger is in its rawest form ever. The song became a live classic with Crazy Horse, often extended into a 10 minute plus jam and gave the name to one of Australia’s greatest bands.
Once the sessions started they only stopped when the singer needed to refuel on weed, beer and coke. This could have been the downfall of the album but it is far from a boozy, “druggy” calamity. Instead we get what is probably one Neil’s best albums ever.
The two unreleased songs, Hawaii and Give Me Strength are both stunning. Why have these songs never been released before? The title track, Hitchhiker was released on Neil’s 2010 Le Noise album, soaked in electric guitar. This original version is as far away from the electric version as possible.
Hitchhiker was recorded without overdubs or additional musicians and like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, show an artist at his prolific best.
With at least another eleven recorded albums unreleased, there is finally hope we may see them also released. It is a journey through the past and Neil does like to look after his fans.