Neil Young “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”

This record holds a very special place in my musical affections. In 1969, being still in the grip of the
Beatles, the British Blues Boom and the tail end of the psychedelic era, I hadn’t even heard of Mr
Young. One day whilst idling around London’s West End I strolled into the HMV store in Oxford
Street and heard the long central guitar workout from “Down By The River” playing over the PA. I
guess in my five decades of record buying I’ve bought an unknown album merely from hearing it
played in a store maybe four, five times; the most recent was Beth Orton’s Trailer Park about eight
years ago. Everybody Knows was my first such purchase. It’s still a mega-favourite.

Why did this record turn out so great? I think it’s a case of simple serendipity; everything seemed
just to fall into place at these sessions. Neil discovered exactly the right backing band, sympathetic
to his muse to an almost uncanny degree, as evinced by the unselfishly solid bass and drum
backing and the almost telepathic interplay between Young’s and Danny Whitten’s guitars. Neil’s
simultaneously fragile and potent voice has never sounded better, and the slightly ragged harmonies
are exquisite. The songs show their composer at a creative summit, and whilst they provide
prototypes for all of his future directions (the perverse electronica of Trans excepted), their variety
is surely unmatched on any single later album; from the distortion-laden proto-grunge of “Cinnamon
Girl” through the wry cod-Nashville of “The Losing End”, via the sparse, punky groove of “Down
By The River” with its crunching, wailing solos, and the understated acoustic beauty of “Round
& Round”. There’s a vein of sadness and despair that runs all the way through the album like the
lettering through a stick of seaside rock; in particular, Bobby Notkoff’s tremulous Klezmer violin work
on “Running Dry” should bring a tear to even the most jaundiced eye. And producer David Briggs
achieves a rare and gratifying symbiosis of warmth and clarity on the original vinyl waxing that the
latest CD reissue finally recaptures (earlier ones being less than perfect in this respect).

I know that I’m courting a flurry of comments by opining that Uncle Neil peaked this early in
his career, and that his second solo album is the best of his remarkable forty-year oeuvre. I’ve
subsequently absorbed pretty well all of his stuff from the simple, sunny country-folk of Old Ways
to the teeth-loosening fury of Ragged Glory, and I love and respect the man for the breadth of his
vision and his wilful, capricious determination to choose and change his own direction. However, for
me this one still holds the top spot. That said, anyone who wants to propose another Young opus as
the man’s masterwork is welcome to do so – with reasons given, of course. Over to you . . . .

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“Running Dry (Requiem for the Rock)”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Reprise | buy ]
:) Original Vinyl |  1969 | Reprise | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]


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15 Comments.

  • Dave Biagini

    Great Album! Neil has given us so many great albums to choose from. It kinda depends on what song starts rolling around in your head as to which album you want to hear. It’s kind of amazing that every song leads to wanting to hear an entire album most of the time.

  • Gary Frank

    Agreed. But, On the Beach and American Stars and Bars also rank similarly. Maybe even After the Goldrush?

  • Mick

    Zuma, Tonight’s the Night, Rust Never Sleeps….all awesome.

  • mark

    A great deal of words can be written in praise of this excellent work… certainly he has kept one wheel in the ditch and one on the track! This was my first Neil Young album. I discovered his work only after passing through the great albums by the Buffalo Springfield. I still crank it up (better speakers now than in 1981!) and try to absorb each note and each word!

    Somehow, I continue to question the possibility of a singer/songwriter, unaided by the artistic tensions of a group of highly charged, focused and intense musicians all searching along tangled threads, to put out an album that is remarkable in its entirety… well, this is one of the few albums that remind me that such creativity and discipline is possible. (I would include Gene Clark among those talented musicians) From song to song, it weaves its web with great clarity of the instrumentation and that intimate voice that I cannot shake from my head – it seems to resonate even through the corridors of memory.

    I would also place a couple of his other albums in this category: Neil Young, After the Gold Rush, and Tonight’s the Night (my all-time favorite NY!)… yes, the early period certainly seems to be his high-water mark if I were just to judge his work based on the quality of the album as a whole; however, Rust Never Sleeps, Zuma, Comes a Time, Harvest, On the Beach are incredible albums! And lest I forget, somehow, This Note’s for You and Ragged Glory are cathartic experiences as well… and even now I am listening to Le Noise with great fervor!
    Thanks Len (and Thanks Neil)!

  • dividebytube

    I’m a latecomer to Neil Young, having dismissed his albums based on the hype and my then hatred of “70s rock”. But times and tastes change. EKTIN was my gateway album to the world of Neil Young and still remains my favorite.

  • Ian

    crazy memory with one: being with Fodee from Liberia with his kids asleep in the back, driving around late into the night around Tokyo, smoking the good stuff with this album on repeat, again and again and again and again and again, yessir, I shot my lady

  • greg

    Indeed this is a great album, but I would argue that his peak is captured in the period where the songs of Chrome Dreams were put on tape. So much great great material. Enough material to drive multiple albums.

  • cfletch11

    I think this album, after the goldrush and tonights the night are his best, but I love lots of his albums. These albums are special becuse they draw you in, that is the measure of all good art, neil has the ability to draw you in with his voice, rhythms and sad melodies.

  • Can’t help but agree with this review. There are a number of great Neil Young albums that lack the consistency of EKTIN. I’m very partial to After The Goldrush and On The Beach but they just don’t do it for me the way his second solo album does. And Harvest is also great but unfortunately there are a couple of crap songs on it amid the highlights. I saw Joe Walsh do a kick-arse version of Cinnamon Girl in the mid-80s – http://ladlitter.blogspot.com/2008/05/great-gigs-ii-joe-walsh-at-prospect.html – and it remains my favoutite Young rocker. Great opening track.

  • ogie

    Having heard the Buffalo Springfield and loving them, I found myself attracted most to the songs penned by Neil but hadn’t heard his 1st solo album when I had first heard this one…and it was a musical epiphany. I went back and listened again to the Springfield and dug up the 1st solo Neil Young. It was obvious from my first listen to EKTIN that it was going to hold a magical place in my musical education and to this day is one of my top 10 favorite albums.

    Your choice of Running Dry as a featured tune reminds me of why I liked this LP so much. The depth of emotion, the atmosphere that Neil was able to create with Crazy Horse matched so many of my confused emotions of the late 60’s growing up in America.

    Thank you!!

  • Peetio

    This is also my favourite. It is the second NY album I bought, After the Goldrush was my first. I played EKTIN so often I had to replace it. So some 30 odd years later I still come back to it again and again. I have most NY albums really love most of them. Tonights the Night is another great one.

  • DannyWhittenFan

    One cannot minimize the part Danny Whitten and Crazy Horse played in this recording. It was Whitten’s rhythm groove and backing vocals that filled Neil’s skeleton with the meat it needed.

  • Joe Roberts

    gotta say i think Tonight’s the Night was Neil’s opus – raggedy ass naked and simultaneously heartbreaking.

  • hey

    on the beach hands down, that album begins in a fury of fast paced songs until it beautifully looses pace on the jaw dropping and in my opinion career defining title track

  • The album “Everybody knows this is Nowhere” still has a very warm place in my heart.
    Specially the song Running Dry is etched in my soul.
    It was 1971 and I went camping with some friends.
    1971 meant at that time for me smoking pot and using LSD.
    One of my friends was in the possession of a cassette with the album on it.
    I was lying in my tent alone and I kept playing the album again and again.
    It could have been two times, twenty times – I don’t know and I don’t care. On LSD there is no time.
    What I remember most though is the wailing of the violin on Running Dry. It pierced my soul.
    I know now that the violinist is Bobby Notkoff and I surely would like to hear more of his music.
    So, if there is anyone who can help me with that?

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