Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
by Neil Young

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Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere by Neil YoungNeil Young‘s second solo record, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, was the first of his string of classics. Released in May 1969, this album was also the first to include Crazy Horse, a backing group that Young would employ sporadically for decades to come. On this critically acclaimed album, Young bounces back and forth between rock, folk and country, landing a few times on a custom sweet spot nestled somewhere in between all three genres.

Young migrated from his native Canada to Southern California in 1966 and fortuitously found himself at the founding of the group Buffalo Springfield. After two years and two successful albums, he left the band to launch a solo career, releasing his self titled debut by the end of 1968. That fine psych-tinged folk-rock album was as much uneven as it is interesting. Young would later comment that his debut record was “overdubbed rather than played” and he immediately set out to make a better record.

Prior to recording Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, Young recruited a trio of musicians originally from a band called The Rockets to be the first incarnation of Crazy Horse. Young composed all the material, much of which was written in a single day while he was recovering from a high fever, and co-produced the album with David Briggs. However, the members of Crazy Horse did play a large role in the forging and recording of the songs, adding rhythms, backing vocals and a few long and loose instrumental jam sections.


Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by Neil Young
Released: May 14, 1969 (Reprise)
Produced by: David Briggs and Neil Young
Recorded: Wally Heider Recording, Hollywood, CA, January-March 1969
Side One Side Two
Cinnamon Girl
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)
Down by the River
The Losing End (When You’re On)
Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)
Cowgirl In the Sand
Primary Musicians
Neil Young – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Danny Whitten – Guitars, Vocals
Billy Talbot/strong> – Bass
Ralph Molina – Drums, Vocals

 

The album begins with the indelible “Cinnamon Girl”, an innovative combo of riff-based hard rock and pop/folk sensibilities. Along with the signature riff, guitarist Danny Whitten provides co-lead vocal high harmony with Young providing lyrics about a “city girl on playing finger cymbals”. The title track follows “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” features an innovative accident of Young including a temporary scratch vocal sung through the talk-back microphone with no further effects in the final mix. Thematically, this song has some deep influence from Buffalo Springfield.

“Round & Round (It Won’t Be Long)” slows things down as a country-esque waltz complete with exquisite vocals by both Young and guest Robin Lane throughout and some strategic chord changes placed within the consistent acoustic strumming. The epic “Down by the River” finishes off the first side as a classic epic in length and approach. This dark song about a crime of passion features some extended instrumental passages with Young leading the group with staccato-laden guitar leads.

Neil Young

“The Losing End (When You’re On)” is slightly psychedelic, but mostly country in approach and a much less interesting song than anything previous as it really doesn’t go anywhere unexpected and the words are delivered painfully slow, Diddo for “Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)” a reserved, haunting and dark folk tune featuring squeaky violin by guest Bobby Notkoff. The album wraps with the classic “Cowgirl in the Sand”, a true highlight for the rhythm section of Crazy Horse, namely bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina. In between the extended jams lie two well constructed melodic sections with nicely doubled lead vocals to accent the fine melodies of this song, which buttons up the album as a classic.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere peaked in the Top 40 in the United States and remained on the charts for nearly 100 weeks. During that time, Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash for the 1970 album Déjà Vu before resuming his solo career later in that year.

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1969 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1969 albums.

 

Test for Echo by Rush

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Test For Echo by RushRush evolved from the synth-drenched style of previous albums with the 1996 release, Test for Echo. The musical style delivered by the Canadian trio hearkens back to the hard rock sound of the group’s earliest years but with a definite diffusion of lyrical themes. At first listen, the songs may be a bit thick, but once you get through this opaque outer atmosphere you can hear the real underlying genius of this record.

Rush started to move away from its 1980s style with Presto and, to a lesser extent, on their early nineties albums Roll the Bones and Counterparts, both of which were produced by Rupert Hine. In each of these cases, it was evident that the band was attempting to forge a distinct and relevant sound.

Their sixteenth studio album and first one beyond the trio’s twentieth anniversary, Test for Echo was produced in collaboration with Peter Collins. Released three years after its predecessor, this album marked the first time that such a lengthy gap happened between studio albums as each of the band members embarked on outside projects. During this time, drummer Neal Peart studied with jazz great Freddie Gruber, which led to his radical decision to change to a more traditional grip from that point forward in his career.


Test for Echo by Rush
Released: September 10, 1996 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Peter Collins & Rush
Recorded: Bearsville Studios, New York & Reaction Studios, Toronto, January–March 1996
Album Tracks Group Musicians
Test for Echo
Driven
Half the World
The Color of Right
Time and Motion
Totem
Dog Years
Virtuality
Resist
Limbo
Carve Away the Stone
Geddy Lee – Lead Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Alex Lifeson – Guitars, Mandola
Neil Peart – Drums, Percussion, Dulcimer

Test for Echo by Rush

Test for Echo starts suddenly and dramatically with a strong but measured chord pattern that builds ever so subtly before erupting into a classic-Rush style rudimentary riff. Stylistically, this song seamlessly passes through multiple repeating sections, while thematically it is a somewhat poetic commentary on life. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and nearly topped the Canadian Singles Chart, making “Test For Echo” Rush’s most successful single in about a decade. The equally intense “Driven” starts with a hyper-tense riff in an odd-timing with a strategic verse break of Alex Lifeson‘s acoustic guitar to temporarily break the tension. Lyrically, this song explores the dangers of over ambition.

“Half the World” is another philosophical rocker with animated and entertaining music throughout. Here, Geddy Lee provides some of his finest bass work on the album, with Lifeson layering some great electric and acoustic guitar textures. “The Color of Right” has a heavy blues rock feel in the vein of AC/DC through the intro, while the rest of the song drives through with nice, upbeat textures, making it a fine listen, but just short of its full potential as it doesn’t unravel like it could. While including some of the regrettable eighties-style synths, “Time and Motion” does thankfully settle into a guitar-centric riff jam for the verses and choruses, while “Totem” features another musical jam, albeit a mocking tone lyrically against people of faith.

Rush, 1990s

While still an entertaining listen, the album becomes a bit disjointed and uneven from this point forward. “Dog Years” may be the nadir of the album lyrically, while “Virtuality” is the most grunge-centric musically with some very dated lyrics;

Net boy, net girl send your signals around the world…put your message in a modem and throw it in a cyber sea…”

Yikes!

The highlight of the later part of the album is “Resist”, which starts with moderate a piano and acoustic verses, accented with fine bass and lead vocals. This is a true change of pace for the heavy rock album and gives it some real depth overall. Following the bass-driven near-instrumental of “Limbo” with slightly comical elements, “Carve Away the Stone” closes things out with Lifeson’s majestic electric guitar and Peart’s lyrical theme about removing obstacles in life.

Test for Echo reached the Top 5 on the album charts and was followed by an extensive North American tour by Rush into 1997. However, personal tragedy in Peart’s life lead to a five-year hiatus by the group into the next century.

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1996 music celebration image

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1996 albums.