Neil Young’s ‘American Stars ‘N Bars’ 35 Years On
Remember 1977? It was a mighty fine time for music, with lots of changes going on as the old guard was caught off-guard by the new guard. But Neil Young was plowing full speed ahead, and in June of that year, he released his classic ‘American Stars ‘N Bars,’ which featured ‘Like A Hurricane’ — one of his most beloved songs.
Even if the record was known only for that one song, it would still rate mighty high. But of course there’s a lot more to the story.
The album began life as a project called ‘Chrome Dreams.’ The original running order was to have included several of the songs eventually found on ‘American Stars’ including ‘Hurricane,’ ‘Will To Love,’ ‘Star Of Bethlehem’ and ‘Homegrown.’ Others from the aborted album would end up on later Young LPs, a practice not unfamiliar to the man with the guitar. The recordings of some of the songs here actually date back to 1974.
His determination to follow his own muse over the years has, more often than not, served him well. After the somber darkness of ‘Tonight’s The Night’ and the troubled masterpiece that was ‘On The Beach,’ Neil started to pull into more familiar territory with 1976’s ‘Zuma,’ another great album that yielded zero hits (unless you want to count ‘Cortez The Killer’ as a “hit”).
Simply put, the string of albums Young released throughout the 1970s is a simply stunning body of work.
On ‘American Stars,’ Young got some help on the sessions from the likes of Linda Rondstadt, Emmylou Harris and Ben Keith, not to mention the mighty Crazy Horse, who appear on about half the record. The result was an album full of variety, charged by a sort of reckless abandon. Songs like ‘Saddle Up the Palomino’ and ‘Homegrown’ resonate with a ramshackle looseness that sounds as fresh now as it did 35 years ago.
Most of the album carries a sort of country-influenced, guitar damaged rock and roll vibe to it. ‘Bite The Bullet’ is a lost Crazy Horse classic, and of course there’s ‘Like A Hurricane,’ with more than eight minutes of ragged guitar glory which has remained a staple on radio since its first airing.
‘American Stars ‘N Bars’ is but one of Neil Young’s many classic albums, and like most of them, the ravages of time have done little to diminish its beauty and power.