Cult Albums: #5 NEIL YOUNG & THE BLUE NOTES – This Note’s For You (1988)

Conventional wisdom has it that between the two diptychs of Rust Never Sleeps and Live Rust in 1979 and Eldorado and Freedom in 1989, Neil Young’s records were consistently useless. The decade was dominated by a series of genre albums (Re-act-tor = heavy rock, Trans = computer pop, Everybody’s Rockin’ = rockabilly, Old Ways = old time country etc etc) which, bar a handful of tracks, were all miserable failures, both artistically and commercially. Notoriously, Young was sued by Geffen during this period for making “unrepresentative music”. For once, conventional wisdom is pretty accurate. This Note’s For You is the one exception. It’s unfairly lumped in with all the other eighties crap, probably just because a) it’s another of the dreaded genre records, and b) it fits nicely into the ‘decade of dross’ scenario.

Credited to Neil Young and the Blue Notes when it was first issued (which led to legal threats, so it appears on the racks as just Neil Young these days), This Note’s For You introduced the world to ‘power swing’. In effect this was a cross between Buddy Guy’s sophisticated blues, the Memphis Horns and Grant Green’s soul-jazz. Maybe people just don’t like the brass. The title track typifies the up-tempo side of the music – an angry two minute tirade at corporate sponsorship in music (even more relevant today than it was twenty years ago) that has the feel of a pre-rock rhythm and blues blaster. The other side of the coin has Young in delicate, cool jazz mode on “Coupe de Ville” where he plays guitar like Wes Montgomery, and Tom Bray plays trumpet like Chet Baker. “Twilight” is a similarly down-tempo gem, and probably my favourite track on the record. In between the two extremes, there is the Stax-a-like of “Sunny Inside” which would probably work better with Wilson Pickett or Eddie Floyd at the mic, but is nevertheless a hugely enjoyable pastiche. There are a few fillers (“Hey Hey”, “Life In The City”), but what Neil Young album doesn’t have a few ordinary tracks?

At the time of its release, This Note’s For You was hailed as a return to form, and Young’s experiments with using a horn section were widely praised, so I’m puzzled how it’s so often dismissed these days, especially in comparison to limited, unambitious fare like Ragged Glory. If you have it sitting on your shelves, unplayed for years, give it a spin. I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

A1 Ten Men Workin’ 6:25
A2 This Note’s for You 2:04
A3 Coupe de Ville 4:15
A4 Life in the City 3:12
A5 Twilight 5:52
B1 Married Man 2:35
B2 Sunny Inside 2:33
B3 Can’t Believe Your Lyin’ 2:56
B4 Hey Hey 3:01
B5 One Thing 6:00

Originally issued in April 1988 as Reprise 925719.


2 responses to “Cult Albums: #5 NEIL YOUNG & THE BLUE NOTES – This Note’s For You (1988)

  1. okay clearly i stand alone supporting neil youngs eighties works.

    if you catch me drunk and belligerent enough i may even defend (someof) landing on water and everybody’s rockin’.

    certainly commercial failure but artistically? occasionally sometimes oftenally messy, confused, mad, genius,stupid, badly produced but nearly always always interesting. which in my badly written dogeared book is not an artistic failure.

  2. I did add the proviso “bar a handful of tracks”. I’m thinking “Shots”, maybe “Captain Kennedy” – then I’m struggling. I have to confess to having never heard Life or Landing On Water – maybe they have their moments. Having been daft enough to buy the others, I’m in no hurry to investigate.

    I usually like to kick against received wisdom, but in this case I really do have to concede to the concensus. Sorry!

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