Over here at The Misread City we've been spending a lot of time lately mulling on what makes West Coast music distinctive. We were hoping to launch a poll of best West Coast rock album (Forever Changes? Pet Sounds? Sweetheart of the Rodeo? Wild Gift?) but realized that for some artists there's no obvious best album.
Neil Young may be the most extreme case of this. The Canadian associated with Topanga Canyon, who has long since moved to the northern part of the state, has put out so many good records it's easy to get lost in his body of work. (There are also plenty of clunkers in the '80s.)
So this week we honor St. Neil with a poll of his finest albums. I struggled over which ones to include -- for various reasons it's hard to do these polls with more than four or five options. I added Everybody Knows this is Nowhere after some unrest. That's not only the first Crazy Horse record but the first Neil album I ever heard -- blasting from record store speakers -- that showed me a side of him I did not know from the stuff overplayed on AOR radio.
There are so many good Neil records -- though the unmistakably great ones seem to be clustered heavily, if not completely, in the early '70s -- that I've had to restrict this category to studio records. So if you're asking where Rust Never Sleeps -- a real breakthrough that sounds, to my ears, less fresh than it did years ago -- that and others are disqualified be they are at least in part live albums.
With a poll like this there are always a few that must be left off to keep voting concentrated, and I do regret that there was no room for the blistering Ragged Glory and others.
In any case --- you can vote for as many of these as you like. So whether you like your Neil mellow, electric, folky, grungy... just vote!
UPDATE ON JUNE 3: AFTER A TIE BETWEEN TWO LPS AND A TIE-BREAKING VOTE, AFTER THE GOLD RUSH IT IS!
I'm a former LA Times arts and culture writer, sometime New York Times, GQ and Salon contributor, the co-editor of "The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles," and an enthusiast of film, wine, indie rock, retro culture, archtop guitars and California history.