Neil Young, ‘Grey Riders’ – Song Review
After the release of the Dave Grohl-enhanced version of 'Sign of Love' earlier this week, Neil Young fans already have another new single to preview, 'Grey Riders,' the initial offering from Young’s new archival live album.
The material for ‘A Treasure' was recorded on Young's 1984 / 1985 tour with his country-influenced band, the International Harvesters. The group featured Young’s longtime wingman Ben Keith on steel and slide guitar, Rufus Thibodeaux on fiddle, Spooner Oldham and Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano, Tim Drummond and Joe Allen on bass, and Karl Himmel on drums.
Geffen, Young's label at the time, was so upset with his constantly changing musical directions that they eventually sued him for not delivering more traditional rock albums. Ever headstrong, Young set out on the road with the Harvesters without an album or any tour support from the label.
Listening to ‘Grey Riders,’ it’s hard to understand why his label was so concerned about Young's country-rock sound, because the song sticks closely to the familiar, and successful, Neil playbook.
As the track opens, the band's shuffling backbeat and Thibodeaux's fiddle makes you think you walked in and found an unknown country band playing at your favorite roadside bar. The jaggedly fuzzed-out guitar at the one minute mark suddenly makes you realize that Neil Young is leading the band. It’s the first of several feedback-drenched moments that Young unleashes as 'Grey Riders' stretches out over nearly six wonderful minutes.
Young would eventually release some of the these songs on his 1985 ‘Old Ways’ album, but a good portion of the material remained on the shelf. ‘A Treasure’ finally presents the opportunity for fans to hear 12 tracks, five of them previously unreleased, from this tour.
As good as it sounds on record, you can only imagine how good it would have sounded to be in the audience hearing it live on that night. If ‘Grey Riders’ is any indication, ‘A Treasure’ is aptly named and will be a great piece of listening for Young fans, sandwiched perfectly in between Young’s recent Le Noise tour and the mouth-watering prospect of the Buffalo Springfield tour dates that lay ahead.