Classics: A quick look back
After the Gold Rush, Neil Young’s third solo album is an astounding vehicle for re-evaluation and consolation. Departing from the hardened rock aesthetic he championed on Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere, Young turned to a more introverted style of heart-rending folk tunes, angst-ridden country rock screeds and beautifully orchestrated songs that bared his soul for all to see. Throughout, After displays Young’s astute and deliberate use of the tools around him, never falling into overindulgence. “Tell Me Why” and “Birds” are stripped to a primary instrument (acoustic guitar and piano, respectively) and ornate vocal harmonies. Others utilize a full band, embellished by 17-year-old Nils Lofgren’s evocative piano motifs, filling out Young’s wide-angle songwriting with tight performances. Neil’s charmingly creaky voice is in top shape, which lends the most characterless song a lifetime of hard-earned humanity. Instead it’s combined with Young’s lonesome, plainly-spoken but brilliantly-formed lyrics. Though it’s best known as the vessel for the Lynrd Skynrd-baiting “Southern Man,” After the Gold Rush is a masterpiece and more: the perfect score to the moments after heartbreak and the anguished soundtrack to the furious drive home.