Sunday, June 15, 2014

Neil Young - Chrome Dreams

Neil Young – Chrome Dreams

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

Side A:

1.  Pocahontas
2.  Will To Love
3.  Star of Bethlehem
4.  Like A Hurricane
5.  Too Far Gone

Side B:
6.  Hold Back The Tears
7.  Homegrown
8.  Captain Kennedy
9.  Stringman
10.  Sedan Delivery
11.  Powderfinger
12.  Look Out For My Love

By overwhelming request, this is a reconstruction of the famous unreleased 1977 Neil Young album Chrome Dreams.  Originally compiled from material recorded between 1974-1977 and slated for a release after an acetate was allegedly compiled, Young withdrew the album and restructured it into American Stars ‘n Bars.  This reconstruction collects all the best possible source tapes into the sequence generally accepted as being Chrome Dreams.   It is banded as a cohesive album and attempts were made to create a large dynamic range between the acoustic Young songs and the full-band Crazy Horse songs.   While my reconstruction isn’t necessarily anything that hasn’t been heard before, it attempts to be as close to a finished album as possible with the best possible soundquality, an improvement on circulating bootlegs.

Ups and downs and an epic back-catalog of recordings were Neil Young’s modus operandi throughout the 1970s, the true seeds of what would eventually become—and then not become—Chrome Dreams.  So epic in fact, that Young simultaneously worked on different albums and collections of songs thought the mid 70s, in as much as cultivating numerous projects that either never materialized or were shifted into something else, often completely unrelated to each other.  After his triumphant success with 1972’s Harvest, Young attempted to undo the very success he initially strived to reach by recording his “Ditch Trilogy”—the more challenging Time Fades Away, On The Beach and Tonight’s The Night albums—partially instigated by the death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten.  As well as “The Ditch Trilogy” albums, Young also composed a set of ‘Water Songs’ meant as a concept album about, well, water, which was never realized and the songs scattered to other projects.

Aside from those three albums and abandoned concept, Young also offered a slew of originals for the reformed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album Human Highway which never materialized either (but of which this blog has already tackled).  And still aside from those five projects Young also recorded an entire folk/country album concerning his separation from his wife Carrie Snodgrass, entitled Homegrown.  That project nearly saw the light of day as the second album of the ‘Ditch Trilogy’, but Young scrapped the more somber and painful Homegrown for the more raw and immediate Tonight’s The Night (which the label put on hold making it the third album of the Trilogy).  Young’s classic 1975 album ZUMA collected some of the scattered leftovers from the six mid-70s projects, following it with a duet album with Stephen Stills, 1976’s Long May You Run.

Finally bringing us to Young’s next project in 1977, it was to be a hodge-podge of new material and leftovers that dated back to the unreleased Homegrown album.  Titled Chrome Dreams, it was to be a fairly schizophrenic record, jumping from Nashville country-rock, solo acoustic folk and full-blown Crazy Horse rock anthems, all tracks simply culled from his personal vaults, recorded between 1974-1977.  The few that have heard Chrome Dreams commented that it could have been one of his strongest albums of the 1970s.  But for reasons unknown to this day, Young scrapped the album and recorded a completely different set of forgettable songs as the meat of American Stars n Bars, which was released in Chrome Dreams’ place in 1977.  While this completely new set of mediocre songs occupied all of side A, four of the original songs slated for Chrome Dreams found its way onto side B, giving the second half of the album a hint at the greatness Chrome Dreams could have been.

A few of the Chrome Dreams songs—“Pocahontas”, “Sedan Delivery” and “Powderfinger”—were re-recorded for Young’s triumphant finale of the 1970s, Rust Never Sleeps.  Aside from a few more trickling out over time and mediocre follow-up albums, Chrome Dreams was never a shared dream with anyone outside Young’s inner circle.  Its reputation grew over time, accumulating to an officially released sequel in 2007, Chrome Dreams II, a completely new set of songs by a Neil Young not without a sense of humor.  Luckily a few acetates of the original tracks have leaked out into the bootleg market as well as an alleged copy of the album’s tapebox (although denied as being accurate by some close to Neil, but never necessarily confirmed).  With all of the material existing either on bootlegs or the original 1970s albums, we will be able to reconstruct one of the great Neil Young albums that never were.

Side A begins with the original acoustic version of “Pocahontas”.  While the official version on the Rust Never Sleeps album features subtle overdubs, this is the unadorned version found on the bootleg Chrome Dreams “GF Rust Edition”.  Following are three songs all taken from the album versions of American Stars n Bars: the eerie and ethereal “Will To Love”; “Star of Bethlehem”, a track salvaged from the Homegrown album; and the epic “Like A Hurricane” which became a hit for Neil Young.  “Too Far Gone” releases the tension built up from the hurricane blast, this being the original unreleased version taken from the Black Label bootleg of Chrome Dreams rather than the re-recoded version from 1989’s Freedom.

The longer Side B starts with “Hold Back The Tears”, which was re-recorded for American Stars n Bars; presented here is the original acoustic version taken from the GF Rust bootleg.  "Homegrown" from American Stars n bars is next, a re-recording of the allegedly acoustic title track from the unreleased Homegrown album.  My personal favorite “Captain Kennedy” is an alternate unreleased mix as compared to the version from Hawks & Doves,  also taken from the GF Rust bootleg.  I used it here as it is in true stereo and matches the mixing of the other acoustic songs on the album, probably sourced from the same tape.  My own remaster of “Stringman” from the GF Rust bootleg creates a smoother intro to the song which was otherwise too loud, a track eventually re-recorded for Young’s 1993 Unplugged performance.  The unreleased original studio versions of “Sedan Delivery” and “Powderfinger” follows, taken from the GF Rust bootleg.  Closing the album out is the official album mix of “Look Out For My Love” from Comes A Time.

The last task of our reconstructed Chrome Dreams is an original artwork by LCM, representing the original conceptual artwork for the album: an anthropomorphic grill of a 1955 Chrysler as “a beautiful chick”.  When set alongside Young’s 1970s discography, Chrome Dreams shines brilliantly over its own dull replacement American Stars n Bars, and can fend its own against Young classics ZUMA and Rust Never Sleeps.  According to the man himself, a reconstruction of Chrome Dreams (as well as Homegrown) will appear on Archives Volume II, set to be released later in 2014… allegedly anyways, knowing the vast length and improbability of ‘Neil Young-time’.  Until then, we can only dream.

Sources used:

American Stars n Bars (2003 Reprise CD remaster)
Chrome Dreams (bootleg, 1993 Black Label)
Chrome Dreams (bootleg, 2008 Godfather Records)
Comes A Time (1988 original CD master)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Goldwave and Audacity --> flac encoding via TLH lv8

*md5, artwork and tracknotes included