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At the time of writing I’m only about halfway through this book but the reality is I seriously doubt I’m going to make it to the end. Like many other reviewers I have been a fan of CSN&Y for many years (who am I kidding, decades) and even had the opportunity to see Neil’s former colleagues in London when they toured in 2013. They were amazing, and their enjoyment of playing together, after all the highs and lows, was clear to see.
Consequently I was hoping that this book would be filled with background about one of the most influential bands of the past 40 years; how Neil met them, what happened the very first time they all sat down and played together, behind-the-scenes insights into life in the heady days of the ‘California Sound’ that gave us The Eagles, Steely Dan, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and many, many more. How they dealt with the pressures of having four accomplished songwriters and their egos in one room as they worked to produce a follow-up to the worldwide hit album ‘Deja Vu’. Stories of life on the road and of course, the stresses and arguments that led to the band’s final demise, and what happened next.
Well, amazing as it sounds, none of that is in this book. What Neil does discuss, and at great length I might add, is his love for old cars, building things (especially houses), Lionel Model Train Sets (of which he is/was a part owner), his project to develop electric cars and his goal to introduce a new quality standard to online music files that will surpass and replace the dreaded (to Neil anyway) MP3.
Now I’m very aware my disappointment that the book is not what I was expecting can hardly be laid at Mr Young’s feet; the illusion was mine and mine alone, but all the same is he really this detached from his audience? Mention ‘Neil Young’ to practically anyone and the first association they make is to CSN&Y. Despite his successful solo career after Buffalo Springfield (who also hardly get a mention by the way) it was those two ground-breaking bands that cemented his place as one of the greats and it’s hard to believe he doesn’t take a least a little time to acknowledge this.
I have to say I also found the writing style hard to engage with. Mr Carradine does a good job narrating but the overall effect is of a guy in a bar rambling away to whoever will listen. The narrative jumps about a lot, with many lines of dialogue suddenly interrupted by a random thought and then never returned to. He often reminisces about friends from the past who’ve since passed on, but gives just the briefest outline of who they were and the part they played in his life before diving off on another, usually unrelated, topic. And his shameless ‘infommercials’ for his ‘Pure Tone’ digital music format definitely cross the boundary of Mickey-Taking in my view.
The bottom line is that, with his decades of experience in both music and the harder realities of life itself, he must have a wealth of stories he could tell, but instead he chose to use the book as a platform for personal interests that frankly Mr Joe Public probably has little interest in. Such a missed opportunity.
That said Graham Nash has just completed his memoirs....
21 of 23 people found this review helpful
The subtitle "a hippie dream" sums it up really. Neil Young gives up the booze and weed, loses his musical muse and finds himself pondering the meaning of life in sobriety. On the wagon (hey -does that sound like a song title?) he rolls along dispensing product placement for his iTunes competitor, his link volt car, his toy trains and reviews his life, career and run-ins with his friends and co-musicians. As a fan, I came away a little disappointed with his shallowness. But sympathized with a man who exhibits contrition in his writing for waking up from a dream rather late in life. Keith Carradine tries nobly to inject enthusiasm into the reading of some rather dull ramblings. He is obviously a bigger fan than I am. It's shocking to see what The South Californian lifestyle has done to industrious Scots-Canadian Genes. Neil made a lot of money but didn't "quit this crazy scene" as Joni Mitchell once opined. It shows.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Keith Carradine?
This guy sounds more like a brainless cheerleader reading out loud a self help book than someone with balls to narrate Neil Young's autobiography. I cannot get over the pretended enthusiasm and complete lack of style and presentation, even after a couple of hours listening that usually does the trick. It just kills the story.
Maybe the book is an enjoyable read, though, I'll give it a try some day.