NEIL YOUNG : EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE
As part of its ongoing music archives reissue campaign with legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young, Reprise Records has recently re-mastered the first four of his classic solo albums: Neil Young, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, After the Gold Rush, and Harvest. These titles are available either on regular CD (HDCD encoded), gold CD (in a box set), 140 gram vinyl (individual release), or 180 gram vinyl (also available in a box set). The limited edition box set is available here:
For this review, I focused on one of my favorites – Neil’s second solo album, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, the first of his albums I owned 40 years ago (thanks, Darcy). This release featured Neil’s first collaboration with the garage band he named Crazy Horse. The chiming guitar of Danny Whitten, driving bass lines of Billy Talbot, and backbone beat of Ralph Molina created an underlying emotional raw energy to Young’s songs that distinguished this album from his self-titled solo debut.
For those looking for the birthplace of grunge, you need look no further than this 1969 landmark of rock. A consistently strong album, this one is best appreciated as one long listen, not as single downloads. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere was recorded in Wally Heider’s LA studio and contains three of Neil’s most memorable songs: “Cinnamon Girl”, “Down by the River”, and “Cowgirl in the Sand”, all of which were written when Young had a 103 °F (39.5 °C) fever.
For comparison I had on hand the newly re-mastered CD, the previous CD mastering, the original US vinyl, and the 180 gram LP from the box set. While this will never be an audiophile quality recording, Chris Bellman of Bernie Grundman Mastering went back to the original analog master tapes produced by Young and the late David Briggs. The vinyl was pressed at the Pallas facility in Germany, which is known for producing consistently superb LPs. The gatefold cover is on heavy cardstock and is faithful to the original, except for Archives logos on the labels, spines and back cover. The pressing from the box set I received was perfectly flat, essentially free of marks, and played quiet. There have been some reports of defective copies, but mine played fine with just a few ticks. So… how does it sound?
I’m pleased to tell you that Bellman has succeeded in producing a wonderful mastering on this LP. From the churning guitar riff of “Cinnamon Girl” to the dueling solos of Young and Whitten during the culmination of “Cowgirl in the Sand” this vinyl cooks. Anything that sounds like you are in the room with Neil and “The Horse” is a treat – and this release will certainly fit the bill for practicing your air guitar. In comparison to the original record (my copy is a first pressing white label promo with 1A stampers), the re-mastered wax is very similar with a slightly better balance and no trace of harshness. Neil’s unique fuzz-tone and vocals remain intact and warm without any grain or bright top end that sometimes plagues reissues. In particular, Billy Talbot’s thundering bass tone comes through loud and clear without any muddiness. The wide soundstage is three-dimensional, as one would expect from vinyl playback, and the sound quality is stunningly believable with excellent tonality and ambience. The advantage the original vinyl has over this reissue is a slightly greater sense of presence. On the ’69 vinyl you can almost hear Neil’s swaying flannel shirt brushing against “Old Black’s” guitar strings.
By way of comparison, the new CD (mastered by Tim Mulligan) is louder than the previously available version (RE-2 on inner hub). Although there is greater clarity on the new disc, the sibilance that’s inherent on this recording has been tamed somewhat. The old CD is slightly warmer but lacks the instrumental separation and transparency of this new mastering. However… if you have a turntable, you owe it to yourself to hear the newly re-mastered LP – it’s essential for any analog “Shakey” fan and is one of the best sounding choices. Even if you have a 1A pressing this one is highly recommended as a back up.
Also worthy of consideration is Neil Young’s early career spanning Archives Volume 1 1963-1972 box set collection, which is available on CD, Blu-Ray disc and DVD. Whether the first four solo albums will be released on Blu-Ray is unknown at this time. -Randy Wells
See Randy’s Audio/Music Evaluation System Here.
(Photographer: Frank Bez)