Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Toast

Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Toast

It feels like Neil Young is having a bit of a spring clean – musically speaking, at least. He’s delving into his seemingly never-ending archive, releasing new live albums and lost albums. Considering he’s released (in the region of) 15 albums since 2019 the quality has been pretty consistent. His new ‘lost’ album ‘Toast’ was recorded with his mercurial backing band Crazy Horse in 2001. 

When I pressed play on ‘Toast’ I was expecting to be blown away with an explosion of sound. I was slightly surprised when ‘Quit’ opened with a melodic rhythm and sentimental guitar melody. Then Young’s vocals appear with the line “Don’t say you love me”. Then he croons “Hey baby / I’m your man / I know I treated you badly / But I’m doin’ the best I can…” As the song meanders you start to understand that ‘Toast’ might not be the usual Crazy Horse fare. Instead, Young has a lot get off his chest.

After the understated nature of ‘Quit’, ‘Standing In The Light Of Love’ does explode from the speakers. Neil Young, and probably his guitar Old Black, are raging and re-imagining the main riff from ‘Smoke On The Water’. Again, he is experiencing feelings of regret, remorse and all the things that come along when a relationship comes to an end. He sings, “I don’t wanna get personal / Why have you put me on the spot? / I don’t know how you feel / But for me it’s getting hard…” then he adds “Swimming in the deep blue sea / Marching in the big parade”. It’s clear that all wasn’t well with Neil Young when this album was written and recorded. It’s a brave, heart-wrenching album, and it shows another side to his songwriting. There are songs about falling in love and breaking up, but few songwriters can quite articulate that specific feeling of unease when you know something isn’t right, and it might be the beginning of the end. As the album continues, he wrestles with his feelings. You know, from experience, that he isn’t sure what to do so… he just soldiers on. Hoping for the best. 

The main downside to this release relates to the frequency that Neil Young is releasing his archive material. This is the 13th ‘new’ album in two years. It feels like there is a new one most months, and we aren’t really given a chance to digest them before another lost ‘classic’ is released from the vault. Hopefully there are still some lost gems in there and Young isn’t just releasing things for the sake of it.

Saying that ‘Toast’ is a good album but it’s not a classic. This might have been a reason why it was shelved for so long. There are sections when the album comes alive. It’s fresh. Vibrant. However, these moments are fleeting. At the end of ‘Boom Boom Boom’ we’re felt with the feeling that we’ve been here before. Which is totally understandable. Young has been releasing music since the 1960s. At its heart ‘Toast’ is a very personal, and sombre, affair about the breakdown of a relationship. As usual, he articulates his feelings in a way that few of his peers can – the problem is he’s done this before, and with better results. The main themes of the album are forgiveness, reassurance, and an underlying feeling that the party is over. While this might not be the most fun album to listen to, Neil Young and Crazy Horse deliver solid performances that elevate it from seven songs of despondency. And that, at least, is worth a toast. 

6/10

Words: Nick Roseblade

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