Record Rebound: Neil Young and Crazy Horse release live album ‘Odeon Budokan’

Some artists sound so pin-point live that there’s almost no point in opening your purse for their live LPs. On the other hand, we have artists so inaccurate and incompetent that we needn’t relive the live experience. Neil Young is a party to neither of these camps, and distinctly so. His lengthy career has enjoyed the spice of variety, and at every turn, a live compilation has thankfully taken stock of the remarkable journey.

Most famously, Young has attained the handle, ‘The Godfather of Grunge’, thanks to his innovative 1979 album, Rust Never Sleeps. The release is widely regarded as one of his finest, holding both studio and live recordings in a testament to the Canadian artist’s eclectic yet masterful approach. Today, we draw your attention to Odeon Budokan, another on-stage sensation captured during Young’s tour with his band Crazy Horse in March 1976.

The live album takes its name quite simply from the arenas of its genesis: The tracks on Side A were recorded during the tour stop on March 31st at London’s Hammersmith Odeon, While Side B was captured at Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo two weeks prior on March 11th. The strongest performances were taken from bulletproof setlists to create a “Best Hits So Far” live album of sorts, and the results are well worth a spin.

In London, Young and his Crazy Horse lineup, then consisting of Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Frank Sampedro, took on a rip-roaring set of country, folk and proto-grunge arrangements. The highlights put aside for Odeon Budokan include a loyal acoustic recreation of Young’s Harvest classic, ‘Old Man’ and a flurry of sentimental keys for ‘After the Goldrush’.

After rounding out Side A with acoustic and piano ballads, the Budokan side hears Crazy Horse step into gear to give a full-bodied rock sound. The raw, choppy proto-grunge guitar voicings associated with the band come into full swing in the 1969 Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere cut, ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’ before a comparatively gentle rendition of ‘Lotta Love’.

Young and the band seal things off in explosive style with a couple of highlights from the 1975 album Zuma. Following a pulsating performance of ‘Drive Back’, the album closes appropriately on a pitch-perfect recreation of the seven-minute epic, ‘Cortez the Killer’, Young’s artful reference to Hernán Cortés, one of Spain’s leading conquerors of Mexico and the New World.

Odeon Budokan is undoubtedly one of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s most enjoyable and all-encompassing live releases. The eclectic spread of piano and acoustic guitar-based balladry and roaring rock-outs leaves all bases covered. With crystal clarity of tone, they bring a satisfying nuance to some of Young’s greatest compositions without becoming tangential or misrepresentative.

On Friday, September 1st, Neil Young and Crazy Horse will issue the Odeon Budokan collection on vinyl for the first time. Before, the compilation was only available on CD as part of Young’s Archives Volume II box set. You can pre-order the live album here for $27.15.

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Odeon Budokan tracklist:
Side A
‘The Old Laughing Lady’
‘After The Gold Rush’
‘Too Far Gone’
‘Old Man’
Side B
‘Don’t Cry No Tears’
‘Cowgirl In The Sand’
‘Lotta Love’
‘Drive Back’
‘Cortez The Killer’

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