Neil Young - Hitchhiker
It’s safe to say there’s a trove of beautiful gems in the vaults of Neil Young. We’ve been treated to stunning live sessions such as Live At The Fillmore, Live At Massey Hall, Sugar Mountain: Canterbury House and Live At The Cellar Door. The continual stream of releases from the Neil Young Archives continues with a mostly unheard session from a very fruitful period of Young’s career, the beautifully stoned Hitchhiker. It features Neil Young tossing off some of the best songs of his career in a seemingly unceremonious fashion as producer David Briggs made sure to capture them in their naked essence. They were recorded over a few nights in 1976 at Indigo Ranch Studio in Malibu as single takes, no overdubs, with Young pausing only for “weed, coke or beer.”
Interestingly enough, Young planned to release these songs as is, and perhaps as we are hearing it, at that time in 1976 but the Reprise folks thought of them as being just demos for full band recordings. While that was unfortunate, Neil Young thankfully saves everything and what we now hear as Hitchhiker is a stunning document of Neil Young in his prime as one of the greatest songwriters of the modern era.
Some of these songs did end up on records shortly after, either as a different performance or with a full band, such as: Comes A Time, Rust Never Sleeps, American Stars ‘N’ Bars and Hawks & Doves. The title track didn’t show up until 2012’s Le Noisewhich was re-calibrated as a fuzz drenched, cosmic loner anthem produced by Daniel Lanois. However there are two songs that are completely new to this release and only performed live by Young from time to time. “Give Me Strength” and “Hawaii” feature trademark Neil hooks and honest detail with beautiful accompaniment by his waning acoustic. When Neil utters “give me strength to carry on,” and “I was feeling kind of hollow,” it’s quite clear there was loss in his life but the priceless inspiration that came out of it is thankfully witnessed on Hitchhiker.
The stark nature of these songs, and the set as a whole, couldn’t be more perfectly suited for the takes selected by Young and Briggs. A full band couldn’t have captured the loneliness and stoic grace that was stowed away on these Malibu recordings. The rewards are fruitful on Hitchhiker and I am so thankful that this document exists and was salvaged 40 years later. With good fortune we’ll have more of this archival recordings from Young in the not-too-distant future. Absolute highest recommendation. (Dom)
Check out a track here.