Since Crazy Horse first came to public attention as the backing band for Neil Young in concert and on his albums Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Gold Rush, it makes sense to expect that the band on its own would play something similar to the hard guitar rock and country-rock heard on those albums, albeit without Young's distinctively quirky singing and songwriting, and that is what one hears to a large extent on the debut album Crazy Horse. (Although this is their first recording under that name, core members Danny Whitten, Billy Talbot, and Ralph Molina have appeared previously on record as part of the doo wop group Danny & the Memories and the rock band the Rockets.) But there is more going on than that. Also joining in, as singers and songwriters as well as sidemen, are veteran arranger/producer Jack Nitzsche and guitarist Nils Lofgren, while Ry Cooder adds slide guitar to a number of tracks. The result is a varied group of songs that range in style from rock and country to blues and folk. The overall quality of those songs is quite high, starting with Nitzsche and Russ Titelman's "Gone Dead Train," previously heard being sung by Randy Newman on the soundtrack to Performance. (Nitzsche and Titelman also contribute the pop-ish "Carolay.") The country hoedown "Dance, Dance, Dance" is a good Young cast-off, while the driving "Beggars Day" and "Nobody" were penned by Lofgren. These contributions serve as the supporting material for Whitten's songs, however, as his five numbers are among the album's best, whether he's rocking out on the ominous "Downtown" (which appears to be about scoring dope) or sadly crooning the heartbreaking ballad "I Don't Want to Talk About It." (After being revived by Rod Stewart on Atlantic Crossing in 1975, the song was a chart single for him and went on to become a minor standard with covers by Rita Coolidge, Everything But the Girl, and Ian Matthews, among others.) Crazy Horse made the case for Whitten as a major talent and for the band as a strong act apart from Young.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann