Lucky Thirteen

Neil Young

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Lucky Thirteen Review

by William Ruhlmann

Geffen Records seems to have intended a straightforward "best of" compilation containing the singles released from Neil Young's five albums with the label between 1982 and 1987. Then Young himself became involved, and his version of a Geffen sampler naturally turned out to be more unusual. There were four songs never before released on a Young album: "Depression Blues" had been recorded for the first, rejected version of the country-ish Old Ways; "Get Gone" (a soundalike to "Willie and the Hand Jive") and the bluesy "Don't Take Your Love Away From Me" were live recordings with the "Shocking Pinks" rockabilly band that made Everybody's Rockin'; and "Ain't It the Truth" was a live recording from the Bluenotes tour that came just as Young was leaving Geffen. There were also an alternate version of "Sample and Hold" from Trans that ran an extra few minutes and a live take of "This Note's for You," the title song from Young's 1988 return to Reprise Records. None of these were revelatory, and Young's choices from the albums Trans, Old Ways, Landing on Water, and Life (there was nothing from Everybody's Rockin') were not the best he could have made. (Among the missing: "Little Thing Called Love," "Like an Inca," "Get Back to the Country," "Are There Any More Real Cowboys?," "Weight of the World," "Inca Queen," and "Long Walk Home.") Given that Young veered wildly from synth pop to rockabilly to country to rock during this period, assembling a coherent compilation was something of a challenge, and Young didn't even try, just picking his favorites and sequencing them chronologically. There are some interesting songs here to be sure, notably "Hippie Dream" (which runs an extra 15 seconds in this version) and "Mideast Vacation," but this summing up of Young's least impressive, most bizarre era, instead of rehabilitating that era, was itself bizarre and unimpressive, too. (Lucky Thirteen was Neil Young's first album since his debut not to reach the charts.)

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