American Stars ‘n Bars: Neil Young

Rating: 100%

American_Stars'n'Bars1977 and after scraping the Homegrown project, Neil Young released some of that material on “American Stars ‘n Bars.” This outstanding record is among one of my favorite Neil Young records. So you when I saw this on vinyl, I quickly picked it up. His backing band Crazy Horse is aided by the Bullet Band.

The result, is an record that pulls from the heaviness of Crazy Horse, mixing with Country Rock and a tad bit of Folk. That equals an album that is super raw, rich, tuneful, and melodious. I love the harmony and the feel of the tempo. It’s both sloppy and simple. The vocal work on the chorus is amazing. This is one of those albums that could have been one big hit. Although, as time has gone by “Like A Hurricane” is the one song that has stood the decades and has been a favorite at concerts.

The musicianship is at it’s best. From the steel guitar to the fiddle for that Country sound to the heaviness of riffs and lead solos that we call Hard Rock. It’s all well balanced and all accounted for here.

Track listing:

A1 The Old Country Waltz
A2 Saddle Up The Palomino
A3 Hey Babe
A4 Hold Back The Tears
A5 Bite The Bullet
B1 Star Of Bethlehem
B2 Will To Love
B3 Like A Hurricane
B4 Homegrown

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Ragnarok: Runaljod

Rating: 90%

Runaljod_-_Ragnarok.jpgSo, as many may know or not know, I am a huge fan of Viking and Folk Metal. After buying the acoustical album by Fintroll, I realized how traditional this neofolk music is. It’s deeply rooted in the old Nordic faith, folklore, and tradition.

The vocals are amazing. They’re huge, rich, and soothing. Even the chanting is the same way. This is the type of traditional music that has meaning and purpose. It really does speak to me. There is a mixture of male with some added female vocal work to it. Both, compliment each other and isn’t overwhelming.

Musically, the drums and other traditional instruments are very noticeable. The drum beats give this music a huge sound, while the other instruments compliment the overall sound, style, and feel. The horn is absolutely breath taking when you hear it mixed in with the tempo of the drum.

So, if you’re looking into a type of music to relax to after a very stressful day at work, this works well for me. It does lighten the mood.

Track listing:

1. “Tyr” Týr 6:30
2. “UruR” Urus 10:11
3. “Isa” Ice 7:13
4. “MannaR – Drivande” Man – Pushed 4:09
5. “MannaR – Liv” Man – Life 5:13
6. “Raido” Ride 4:46
7. “Pertho” / (Rune’s meaning still unknown) 2:18
8. “Odal” Patrimony 5:29
9. “Wunjo” Joy 5:20
10. “Runaljod” Runes reading 7:36

Neil Young: Neil Young

Rating: 85%

Neil_Young_(album)_cover.jpgIn 1969, Neil Young fresh out of Buffalo Springfield, went into his own direction releasing his debut solo record. So, I purchased this record for .25 thinking that I was getting the “After the Gold Rush” vinyl. I was surprised to see that this was in it when I got home. Nonetheless, it was a Neil vinyl that I didn’t have.

Musically, this album sees Neil Young learning how to fly. It’s rooted in Folk and Country Rock influences with a touch of the Psychedelic sound to this guitar. It’s an extension of the former Buffalo Springfield sound. Highlights include the “I’ve Been Waiting for You”, “The Old Laughing Lady”, “The Last Trip to Tulsa”, and “What Did You Do to My Life?”.

This album was a flop upon it’s release, but Neil Young a few months later, would release one of the all-time greatest albums with his new backing band Crazy Horse. Although, a flop, this album is very important as it marked the beginning for Neil Young’s career, and very long career at that.

Track listing:

Side one
1. “The Emperor of Wyoming” 2:14
2. “The Loner” 3:55
3. “If I Could Have Her Tonight” 2:15
4. “I’ve Been Waiting for You” 2:30
5. “The Old Laughing Lady” 5:58
Side two
6. “String Quartet from Whiskey Boot Hill” (Jack Nitzsche) 1:04
7. “Here We Are in the Years” 3:27
8. “What Did You Do to My Life?” 2:28
9. “I’ve Loved Her So Long” 2:40
10. “The Last Trip to Tulsa” 9:25

By the Sword of My Father: Folkearth

Rating: 90%

By_the_Sword_of_My_Father.jpgFolkearth is a side project band that brings musicians from all over the world together to play Folk, Pagan, and Viking songs. “By the Sword of My Father” is the second album released by the Folkearth in 2006. It features dozens of musicians, too many to list here. 31 musicians and vocalists to be exact. With that being said, each song is performed by different musicians.

If you respect different cultures and different style of Heavy Metal music in the Folk, Pagan, Black Metal, Death Metal, and Viking Metal, then this may be worth a listen. But, be warned, not all of the music here is strictly Black Metal or Heavy Metal. Some songs are structured after European Folk. It’s more of a collection of music that celebrates the different Folk cultures and traditions, mainly northern Europe and Scandinavia.

The musicianship is hard to gage since so many were used. But, the all of the vocalists are good in their own genres. There is a balance between clean and harsh vocals. It has some big choir style chorus lines. All of the guitarist and other string performers are excellent. Several guitar leads and fills are on this album and they are good. On certain songs, you’ll hear the violin, harp and others string instruments. Other traditional instruments are used from bagpipes to hurdy-gurdy. Drumming and other percussionists are excellent as well.  Musically and song structures, this is a very solid effort and strong album.

Track six is an excellent instrumental that features a classical style harp and acoustic guitar that introduces the listener to what Folk music is about. After that, you get the banging of the drums and tambourine which explodes with the electric guitar solo and bagpipes. Track 15 is another outstanding acoustical piece that includes some damn good vocals.  Track 10 is a cover song originally written and performed by Falkenbach. Folkearth uses this song to pay tribute to mythology of the gods that were once part of Heathen Culture.

Track listing:

“Introduction” — 4:24
“The Lady’s Gift” — 3:48
“By the Sword of My Father” — 5:26
“Naglfar Sets Sail” — 5:18
“The Death of Beowulf” — 6:04
“Instrumental” — 4:24
“Skaldic Art” — 4:04
“Domain of Darksome Ravens” — 5:39
“Returne to Waelhalle” — 4:41
“Heathenpride” — 8:43
“Elves” — 1:29
“Invictus” — 6:08
“Wisdom of Wolves” — 2:50
“Sailing A’Viking” — 2:08
“Tribute to Viking Gods” — 4:04
“Journey Ends (outro)” — 3:23

Led Zeppelin III

Rating: 100%

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_III.pngIn 1970, Led Zeppelin III was released. Leaving some of the Blues influences behind, you the group incorporating lots of Folk elements and some Country influences into their music. The result was Led Zeppelin III. This record will influence what would become Folk Metal and Viking Metal in the late 1990’s – 2000’s. This record also leaves behind much of the hard electric riffs and moving into a more acoustically structure that is still just as powerful. The group is expanding musically and this record is proof of that. The result was another very good record that still influences musicians today.

Not is is gone when it comes to Heavy Metal/Hard Rock guitar riffs. “Immigrant Song” is a great example of the heaviness of what Led Zeppelin has been known for up to this point. The Blues influences that this album lacks, is still there. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a great example of the Blues style of Hard Rock that Led Zeppelin is known for.

Just like the previous albums, Led Zeppelin delivers great musicianship. The song structures are pieced together flawlessly. The harmony and melody is there. This record contains some great riffs and leads that only Jimmy Page could manufacture. Vocals by Robert Plant are again, done wonderfully. He has plenty of range and just wails on this record. He has established what a front man should be in Heavy Metal music. John Paul Jones and Jon Bonham again drive the music home with their playing and setting the tone and tempo of the music.

Track Listing:

Side one
1. “Immigrant Song” 2:26
2. “Friends” 3:55
3. “Celebration Day” 3:29
4. “Since I’ve Been Loving You”7:25
5. “Out on the Tiles” 4:04
Side two
6. “Gallows Pole” Traditional 4:58
7. “Tangerine” 3:12
8. “That’s the Way” 5:38
9. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”  4:20
10. “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” Traditional 3:41

Harvest: Neil Young

Rating: 100%

NeilYoungHarvestalbumcover.jpgNeil Young over the decades has proven that he can play just about any style of music from Country, Grunge, Heavy Metal, Blues and yes, Folk. He has also proven that he can play the guitar like no other with his famous dropped down D tuning. He plays piano, organ, harmonica and yes, banjo.

It’s no surprise that 1972’s release “Harvest” was one of his best records. After his successful debut in 1968 and then again with Crazy Horse in 1969, what would you expect Neil Young to do with his fourth release? “Harvest” was the answer.

“Harvest” is a collection of Folk and Country Rock songs. This album features a string of hits that are among Neil Young’s best from the title track “Harvest”,  to “Heart of Gold”, “Old Man” and  “The Needle and the Damage Done” which was written about Crazy Horse front man Danny Whitten who died from a heroin overdose.

This album is also holds part two of two swings at the American South. In 1970, Young wrote the song “Southern Man” which dealt with the issues of Slavery and Racism. On this record the song “Alabama” was released dealing with the state that Alabama was in.  In 1974, Lynyrd Skynyrd answered Neil Young with their hit song “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Musically, this album is among one of Neil Young’s all-time best. He is a great performer and the mixture of music that was produced on this record is fantastic. It contains a little bit of everything. Mild to upbeat tempos, great song structures that are not overdone. “Words (Between the Lines of Age)” features a great guitar jam session that Neil Young has always been known for. The musicianship behind the backing band the Stray Gators is very tight. All of the musicians work so well with one another. no wonder this record is among the top all time best.

Track Listing:

Side one

1. “Out on the Weekend” 4:35
2. “Harvest” 3:11
3. “A Man Needs a Maid” 4:05
4. “Heart of Gold” 3:07
5. “Are You Ready for the Country?” 3:33

Side two

1. “Old Man” 3:24
2. “There’s a World” 2:59
3. “Alabama” 4:02
4. “The Needle and the Damage Done” (recorded in concert January 30, 1971) 2:03
5. “Words (Between the Lines of Age)” 6:40