NEIL YOUNG  - Journeys
Cinematography by Declan Quinn
Directed by Jonathan Demme
USA 2011

Some songs listed by Neil: Helpless, Ohio, Down By The River, Rumbling, Love and War, Leia, After The Gold Rush, I Believe In You, You Never Called, Walk With Me.

America has never been seen as an important cog in the wheel of progressive, or innovative music. Some groups have come up, and touched up, and then disappeared. You can name one group, and their next album does not fit. This is the way it is in America with its corporate style controls of music ... that prevents the folks that are not in it for the money to do something else. Regardless of what kind of music it is, though some music styles tend to suffer more than others when this happens. The individual work by many folks ends up in the back of the CD store and only a handful of folks that are music fanatics, regardless of what it is, will ever appreciate ... the rest!

The tradition of folk music, is the main source of inspiration here for Neil Young, with its outspoken ways and views, is one of those things that will never die, in any country, and somehow, always manages to be seen, found, appreciated ... and loved. The country of origin, is not important ... but when you listen to it all ... it's like you are there, you know the place, and you live and die with it all. Nowadays, this work will, inevitably, be electric and then some.

Many people come and go ... times passes by ... your favorite albums change ... and we don't give a damn anymore.

When I moved from Madison, WI to California, I took 10 albums under my arms, because I could not let them go any other way ... they meant something to me, that was valuable, and perhaps that was the musical sensibility that has stood with me all my life ... 40 some years later. It might not mean anything to you ... but as I sat here in front of my computer, listening to this DVD ... I realize how strong, true, and valuable these words are, specially at for a location like  ProgArchives (board for Progressive Music), for the care, appreciation and love, that some of us had ... for something, that eventually ... and in time ... became cynical, stupid and sometimes pathetic. And worst of all ... not recognized as a valid feeling or inspiration. Life ... is not music, so to speak!

For some of us, those words were important ... it spoke what you wanted to say. Or I wanted to say.

"Journeys" is a trip back to the place where Neil spent a lot of time as a kid. And got his start in music. What it does not show anyone, is ... how a kid out of nowhereville, ends up with such an experience and such an ability to play, and then sing ... and let us know how we feel, amidst all the daily everything that is going on in our lives. In 1969 and 1970, in Madison, WI and then just later with the bombing of the building on the campus, there were a lot of things that you were next to ... that were really screwed up ... and then you heard this voice out loud ... and you could not help feel good, right, and know ... it was right, it felt right, and it was valid! This stuff REALLY happened ... unlike so much of the music out there these days, that is inconsequential and basically selfish and meaningless in the middle of the real issue!

Progressive music had its inception in these times. It was almost as a result of these things ... the music was more complicated because these situations were not easy ... they were very difficult. The Chicago 7 was an attempt to indict all the different variations of youngsters that the "society" didn't like in America ... but in the end, these folks, were all cleared and the very folks that tried to jail these people as our "leaders" were actually more corrupt than the folks they had arrested for subversion and many other things. And the corruption did not stop in Chicago and more than it did in Los Angeles, or other places! And many of these artists and musicians were spokespersons for a lot of these events, in their own way ... so when you hear Neil sing Ohio and show you the 4 people that died, you must realize ... this is not just a song ... this is a sentiment that many of us felt, and it also scared us silly! Many of us did not want to see this Police State doing what we just saw!

Sadly, and more often than not (specially today), we don't care ... you have your lollipop and you suck on it! So what?

This is a solo concert, of Neil and his instruments, on the stage ... and that's it. No frills, no dancers, no backup singers, no drummers, no bull ... and the result is incredible and fascinating, and you know right away, when he hits the chord ... just wrong ... that this is pure, honest feeling ... the kind that you can not buy on the stores anymore because of all the polished studio stuff that smells so hard of Windex, or Pine Sol that you can't stand even looking at it! It's insipid and ugly and is only trying to sound better and prettier than it really is! Sort of like adding perfumes to hide the stink under it all. Or hide it under slick production, so we think that you can play it all and are a better musician than anyone else.

There was one thing here, that I loved. And it was that while watching this, I kept thinking of Peter Hammill ... and how he is so uninhibited when he was solo and did his own thing ... the albums were all incendiary, strong and out there ... and Neil is the same way.

What was even better, and really shows how much of a progressive musician Neil actually is, but we will never state or think so, comes out when you see him doing these old songs by himself, all 4 or 5 parts mixed into one, and he sings on it by himself. And guess what? ... it's still good, and still shines!

If there is anything here, that too many folks fail to see, is that ... there is an answer as to what the music is for. For some, it is ... LIFE ... a veritable painting of who the person is, and this film is directed magnificently by Jonathan Demme as such, and deserves the credit for allowing the stuff to show as it is, and not do any dubs or cuts ... which ... for all intents and purposes, shows one thing that is hard to fathom ... this guy is still with it after all these years. And in the end, it was not only him that "believed in you" ... it was us that also believed in some great work, that was not selfish, idiotic, megalomaniac, or simply ... radio crap. And this guy has shown everyone that you can not beat ... the pure music of the heart ... regardless of what it is called.

Absolutely beautiful cinematography by Declan Quinn, in what should be a film that everyone should see and appreciate. Honesty, directness and care, does not come any clearer, stronger, and more beautiful than that!

Maybe, what "progressive music" (or any other music for that matter!) is missing these days, is its soul ... instead of ideas of what it is supposed to be. And for that we probably have to go back to the start and learn ... what it all meant ... so we have an idea! All I could say in the end was ... Thx Neil ... it was one of the very first, and most loving looks, I have ever seen at a time and place, and at least one of the folks that helped it all come alive. Not many of us will ever be lucky enough to experience that in their lifetimes!

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More observations about the film.

I like the fact that he is sometimes out of tune ... it's one of the endearing things in this film, that brings his words and work closer to you and I ... we're not perfect, when doing these things, and here is a famous guy that is not afraid to not do it "right". I'm of the opinion that there is no "right" or "wrong" to how you feel ... or I feel ... even if it is slightly misshapen, and it is not shaken, or stirred!

Too much of the music we discuss and evaluate is cleaned up so much, that you wonder where the person is in the middle of all that, or if any of this music is meaningful ... beyond the part that you love, and sounds like magic to your ears or the lyric that you like, or the sound that you like ... where is the soul behind it? Is this just an idea? ... or is this a reality?
 

 

   

      

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