It’s been called the “missing link” of the “Ditch Trilogy”.
Neil Young’s 1973 Time Fades Away is one of the most remarkable live albums ever recorded.
Certainly at the time of release, it was almost unprecedented for an artist to release a live concert recording of previously unreleased material. Long out of print on vinyl, still unavailable on CD in the early 21st century and widely bootlegged, the album is considered to be the “Holy Grail” of all Neil Young albums.
In an effort to gain wider distribution of this essential Neil Young recording, fans have started a petition requesting that the album be officially released. Those interested in obtaining a legal copy of Time Fades Away are urged to sign the petition today.
In 2003, it seemed that an official release was near when four of the “Missing 6″ Neil Young albums surfaced. (On The Beach, one of the four albums released after a long hiatus, was also the subject of a fan’s petition drive which would eventually gather over 5,000 signatures from the Neil Young Internet fan community Rust and Human Highway.)
HDCD test pressings were circulated and have been widely bootlegged by fans without turntables and no other means of hearing the album. Searches on eBay regularly turnup worn out copies of Time Fades Away commanding top dollar in vinyl auctions. An autographed vinyl copy in excellent condition recently sold for $100.00.
Time Fades Away is the first installment of the trio of albums known as the “Ditch Trilogy” along with his two other early 1970′s materpieces Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach. The edgy moody darkness of recording and brilliantly erratic song selection offer the portrait of the artist undergoing a deep catharsis and unraveling simultaneously. The tension is so palpable on the recordings that most listeners turned away — or worse — ignored completely.
Rock historian Pete Long writes in Broken Arrow:
“There is a chapter in Neil Young’s history that is often referred to as his Dark Period. A time when his personal life appeared to gradually disintegrate amidst a series of mishaps and misadventures while critical career decisions seemed irrational and ill thought-out. Yet, paradoxically it has become recognized as one of the most artistically productive and critically, if not commercially, acclaimed periods of his life. A period that spawned a trio of outstanding released albums and a legendary unreleased album.”
“This is no desperate throwaway or quickie live album. Loud and dense but never heavy, singing with riffs concocted from the simplest harmonic components, it’s squarely country, yet it never hints at nouveau-rockabilly good times.”
The Time Fades Away tour took place in the aftermath of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten’s death. Whitten had been trying to kick a heroin habit and was fired by Young, who gave him an airline ticket home and fifty dollars. The next day Whitten was dead of an overdose and Young was devastated by the news. As the stress of the tour and grief over Whitten’s death sank in, Young’s concerts became more and more ragged and raw.
For many fans, the tour and album Time Fades Away, marked a turning point in their perception of Young’s music — either turning away from forever or towards it with ever greater appreciation. From long time fan Mike “Expecting To Fly” Cordova’s Albums in Order review series:
“I really don’t know how long it took me to understand the artistic statement Neil was making but I understand now and was starting to understand then that Neil Young was not someone who was going to let a public perception of him as some kind of laid-back hippie define the art that he was producing. He was following his muse, not the expectations of his record company or his fans, or the general record-buying public. He was making the music he wanted to make. I just loved that Neil was not in this to cash out on a few pop-star hits and fade away—he was in this for the long haul.”
It is against this backdrop that we can begin to understand Neil’s deteriorating mindset during the tour and how viscerally this comes across. Even 30 years later through the crackles of my well worn vinyl record, we can only imagine what audiences must have thought upon hearing these songs.
If you can, find it, listen to it and soak it in.
In the meantime, sign the petition today.