Neil Young: Homegrown Essentials

Neil Young: Homegrown Essentials

neil young, 1974
Neil Young, 1974. Photo by Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns.

Neil Young’s vast catalogue of music is a journey through genres, from delicate folk, country rock discordant psychedelic grunge and all that falls in between. Over the past five decades, he has released a prolific amount of music as a solo artist, and as a member of iconic bands like Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But no matter where his mood leads him, there is a continuous thread of stark honesty running trough his entire body of work, turning it collectively into some sort of almanac of inescapable truths that, while not always comfortable to hear, are good for the soul. 

In June this year, Young released what is technically his fortieth album, Homegrown, but it’s far from new. The 12 songs were recorded between June 1974 and January 1975 and originally intended to come out in 1975. But Neil cancelled the release, deeming the album too personal. In a 1975 Rolling Stone interview, Young described Homegrown as “the darker side” of Harvest – not a particularly upbeat album in itself – and told him: “A lot of the songs had to do with me breaking up with my old lady. It was a little too personal. . .  It scared me.”

Homegrown features some music’s biggest stars of the era, including EmmyLou Harris and Robbie Robertson, and immortalises a moment in time when Young and his CSNY bandmates were learning the lessons of success and consequences of excess. Now, after 46 years, the wounds have healed (enough), and Young has finally released the mysterious ‘lost’ album that has achieved legendary status over time, with fans left to wonder about the album too emotionally raw for an artist iconised by his rawness. 

Opening track, “Separate Ways” is a meditation of acceptance with a timeless theme of moving on. As the story goes – after learning that his wife had taken off on a five-day Hawaiian boat trip with another man, Young threw his heartbroken self into a 24-date tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash, that would ultimately be coined “the Doom Tour” by David Crosby. Despite being one of the highest-grossing tours of all time, thanks to an endless list of expensive indulgences, it earned the group very little money and strained already tenuous relations further. 

Neil Young | “Separate Ways” 

Mostly the album is compiled of stripped-back love songs, a far cry from the unapologetic discordant distortion of 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps, but as equally shaded by light and dark, and perhaps even more menacing for its restraint.   

Neil Young | “Kansas”

On the other end of the spectrum is “Florida,” a two and a half minute spoken-word number where Young tells a story about visiting a sunny town, where everyone’s wearing “nice pants” and drinking pop until a free-falling hang-glider crashes into a family and Young rescues their baby… or so he thinks. 

Neil Young | “Florida”

There's also a stack of classic sounding tracks like “Love Is a Rose,” “Little Wing” and “White Line” that have all appeared as alternate versions on other albums over the years. 

Neil Young | “White Line”

“Sometimes life hurts,” Neil Young wrote in a blog post announcing the release of Homegrown. “This is the one that got away.”

Until now. Pre-order Homegrown on vinyl, here. 

Listen to Homegrown on Spotify:

Listen to Homegrown on Apple Music:

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