21 Feb 2012

Neil Young - Cow Palace 1986 ( Review )

This quasi-legal European CD release will be passed up by a number of people because it's not an officially sanctioned release, and because it was recorded smack, bang in the middle of Neil's most maligned run of albums.
To address the first of these issues ; forget your perception of bootlegs being recorded on a dictaphone taped to the bottom of one of the audience member's seats - this is a high quality recording made and professionally mixed by KLOS FM and easily competes with any official release of the era in terms of sound quality.
As for the music itself, this show may have been recorded between the much derided Landing on Water and Life albums, but the performances of the songs from this era presented here go a long way to proving that the fault didn't lay with the songwriting, but with the studio production. Live, these songs are given a new lease of life and there's an obvious enthusiasm that's not immediately apparent on the studio recordings. I'll admit to being a closet Landing on Water fan, so I may be the only person around who's actually disappointed that there's only one cut from that album here. Violent Side is a bit of a lost classic in my opinion, and stripped of it's shiny studio sheen and child chorus back vocals it's given the chance to shine even more. As for the Life material, hearing these versions and comparing them to the official versions released the following year, it's almost like Neil was sick of this material by the time he made it to a studio to record it - these early road tested versions come up trumps every time.
We also get a couple of tracks from Trans, which seems to have been given a much needed reappraisal lately, and rightly so - Sample and Hold and Computer Age are both classics and the added punch of the Horse on these versions only reinforces this fact.
There's plenty here for the more casual fan too ; Cortez the Killer, Hurricane, Powderfinger and  Down By The River are all given passionate readings with lashings of raw Neil guitar. There's also a few nice acoustic moments with After The Gold Rush and The Needle and the Damage Done, and it's always nice to hear Neil revisit his Buffalo Springfield roots with Mr. Soul.
Required listening for Neil Young fans, and an essential piece which makes a whole lot more sense out of the puzzle of his eighties recordings.

Buy Neil Young - Cow Palace 1986 Here

Disc: 1
1. Introduction
2. Mr. Soul
3. When You Dance, I Can Really Love
4. Down by the River
5. Too Lonely
6. Neil s Mom Calls
7. Heart of Gold
8. After the Goldrush
9. Inca Queen
10. Drive Back
11. Opera Star
12. Sam Kinison Calls
13. Cortez the Killer
Disc: 2
1. Sample and Hold
2. Computer Age
3. Violent Side
4. Mideast Vacation
5. Long Walk Home
6. The Needle and the Damage Done
7. When Your Lonely Heart Breaks
8. Around the World
9. Powderfinger
10. Like a Hurricane
11. Hey Hey, My My
12. Prisoners of Rock n Roll

You can sample the second half of the concert from Computer Age on here : 


  1. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. This is out on vinyl at the moment. The TV broadcast shows Neil "into" the music like a crazy man, so I'm hoping that comes across in the audio!
    Landing on Water is a great album, fine songs played in an interesting setting, with great commitment. Trans is good live, and lets not forget Re-Ac-Tor, which is perhaps the closest album in spirit, to this show - this is like the Re-Ac-Tor tour that never was. When he played in UK after Re-Ac-Tor was released, he'd also done Trans, and we got the "Live In Berlin" show - so he played none of his latest album (Trans not being out yet, at that time.)